Afterlife of the Nineties Romantic Film Song in the Virtual Public Sphere
In this post, Abhija Ghosh, one of the researchers who received the Social Media Research grant for 2015, introduces her proposed work.
In this project, I am interested in observing the popularity of nineties romantic cinema and music across several internet media streams such as video sharing platforms, online radio music channels, nineties fan sites and lists in order to map the registers of popular memory, affect and pleasure that mark an emerging cultural afterlife of this decade of Hindi cinema. Social media fan pages like All About 90s evoke cultural associations with the decade by regularly alluding to nineties media forms such as cassettes, video tapes and their object lives, or television broadcasts and their aesthetic convention, however it is the nineties romantic film song that seems to occupy a special space of nostalgia in the collective memory of such internet communities.
Similarly, another form of music circulation takes places through retro online radio channels and music video playlists. Radio Mirchi Pehla Nasha Non Stop 90s (taking after the popular nineties romantic song “Pehla Nasha” from the film Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992)) is dedicated to feed such nostalgia by providing uninterrupted streaming of nineties film songs, along with sharing options across social media. The songs are interspersed with anecdotal references to modes of media access and collective memory such as how these songs featured on television request shows or how their cassettes were acquired, played repeatedly and shared with friends and neighbours. Alternative to such acts of affective remembering and virtual sharing, there is also the emergent trend of lists on content generation and news compilation websites like BuzzFeed and ScoopWhoop which playfully cite or humorously reference the iconography and affect of the nineties romance genre by linking together series of images, gifs, memes and videos under categorized lists . While such fan, cinephiliac or independent creative activity around nineties cinema actively create and constitute online cultures of remembering and memoralizing cinema, recent celebratory social media news activity around films like Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994) and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) on completing twenty years, indicate how patterns of social media behavior not only contribute to reactivation of public memory but also converge with the mainstream print and electronic media industry . Moreover, these processes of engaging and referring to the nineties romantic cinematic imagination, while addressing the popularity of this moment, also help keep the original films alive in public memory and in circulation.
Alongside such dispersed and multiple social media practices around nineties romantic cinema and music, I propose that it is important to observe how the official YouTube channels of film and music companies have entered this domain appropriating the role of the independent user/uploader, claiming ownership over film and music content thereby initiating the aestheticizing process of the online video archive. For this project, I intend to critically engage with the official YouTube channels of film and music production companies such as Rajshri, Yash Raj, T Series, Tips, Venus as well as Hindi entertainment channels like Star Plus, Sony and Colors to observe how these companies exercise ownership over nineties film and music content, on one hand ostensibly identifying, recognizing and facilitating fan nostalgia, while on the other hand, appropriating affective discourses and cultural memory to repackage and categorize the romantic cinema and songs they produced in the nineties. Moreover, the interface with television marks the location of another site where the nineties love song has travelled, which is in the titles of the prime time serials and further as the background scores in the romantic encounters of their lead pairs. While film, music and television companies attempt to exercise their copyright over their content by uploading original videos on their respective channels, it is this film music content that complicates the ownership claims of television channels on the internet. To elaborate, film and music companies upload and re-present their content through the language of nostalgia and popular memory but television serials like Itna Karo Na Mujhe Pyaar and Meri Aashiqui Tumse Hi evoke the romantic imagination and affective codes of the nineties romance films by resituating the original songs to new narrative and visual contexts. This reworking of the visual aesthetics of nineties romance into the glossier extravagant template of prime time television generates another affective virtual universe of fan uploads and fan made videos complicating both the official processes of original film and music uploads as well as news feed compilations.
This inquiry forms part of my ongoing PhD research where I trace the travels of this nineties romance genre through the persistent aural presence of the nineties love songs, whether in its entirety or traces, in the material as well as virtual public sphere. While the nineties romance genre emerged in the late eighties and grew into a significant cultural phenomenon and industrial force through the decade, it also coincided and circulated with the emergent technological sphere of the video and audio cassette boom , informal and formal cable, and satellite television networks. Significantly, as the genre invested in constructing and cultivating a modern romantic imagination of urban and youthful display of heterosexual love, its circulation and popularity through various media formats gained parallel momentum through the romantic film song. Lastly, whether located as a liminal form in the early nineties, or as the spectacular Bollywood form towards the end of the decade, the nineties romance genre and its affective overtures have remained marginal to the concerns of Indian film studies. However, given its extensive life and circulation across older and newer technological and media formats, this recent energized activity on various social media platforms around this decade of cinema and music creates the possibility to address this curious and ubiquitous presence of nineties romantic imagination in the contemporary cinematic public sphere.
 These lists are not necessarily specific to the films but often GIFs or memes taken from these films feature under broader social media topics such as college lifestyles, childhood memories, notions about love, friendship and family. A common pattern of compilation is the ‘top ten things’ format evoking common memories or experiences but by relying mostly on internet humor. For instance, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is referenced across ScoopWhoop and BuzzFeed under different categories of news feed and lists (see the links below); I hope to engage in a detailed study on the activities of these lists in relation to nineties films in a forthcoming post.
– Isha Jalan. 2014. YRF Just Released DDLJ’s New Trailer As It Completes 1000 Weeks. Stop Everything and Watch It Now! ScoopWhoop, December 25. Available at : http://www.scoopwhoop.com/entertainment/new-trailer-ddlj/?ref=search
– Karima Khan. 2014. 20 Essential “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” GIFs For Life’s Important Occaions. BuzzFeed, December 8. Available at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/karimasanela/the-gif-that-keeps-on-giving
– Gaurav Arora. 2015. Move Over SRK And Salman, It’s DDLJ Vs HANK On Twitter. ScoopWhoop. February 21. Available at: http://www.scoopwhoop.com/entertainment/ddlj-vs-hahk-on-twitter/?ref=search
– K.V.L. Akshay. 2015. Here’s Why I Don’t Care About DDLJ Losing Its Throne to MSG At Maratha Mandir. Seriously, Move On. ScoopWhoop. February 19. http://www.scoopwhoop.com/news/bye-bye-ddlj/?ref=search
 See IANS. 2014. Salman Khan, Sooraj Barjatya Celebrate 20 Years of ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun’. Times of India. August 5. Available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/hindi/bollywood/news/Salman-Khan-Sooraj-Barjatya-celebrate-20-years-of-Hum-Aapke-Hain-Koun/articleshow/39676376.cms and Paromita Chakraborti, 2015. Love, Actually. The Indian Express. March 22. Available at: http://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/bollywood/love-actually-17/99/
 See Trina Prasad. 2014. Rewind: 10 Things that Salman and Madhuri’s epic Hum Aapke Hain Koun Taught Us. NDTV.com. August 8. Available at: http://www.ndtv.com/offbeat/rewind-10-things-that-salman-and-madhuris-epic-hum-aapke-hain-kaun-taught-us-646956
 See India Today. 1990. Young Love Blooms. May 15; This issue provides a detailed coverage on the film industry’s turn to romance films following the huge success of Maine Pyar Kiya (1989). At the time of this cover story, there were reportedly sixty romance films at various stages of production. Available at http://indiatoday.intoday.in/calendar/1052/1990/magazine.html
 Bishakha Dutta. 1990. Exit the Disc, The Times of India, 18 November. This is a thorough report on the changing production scenario in the music producing industry and delineates a moment of flux in the early nineties, with increased sales of film music on cassettes, threat from pirate markets and the upcoming digital compact disc poised to make its entry. Also, very interesting in this context is a print advertisement by HMV announcing the sale of thirty lakh cassettes of the Maine Pyar Kiya music album, which depicted the breaking of the record disc in graphic art; the iconography of a smashed record becomes emblematic of the cassette boom.