From Popular to Viral: The HAHK-DDLJ Media Swirl
This is the third research note from Abhija Ghosh, one of the short-term social media research fellows at The Sarai Programme.
In mid 2014, a range of online film news content focused on two big blockbuster family romances of the nineties, Hum Aapke Hain Koun and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, marking twenty years since their theatrical release. While Rajshri Productions’ uploaded videos of interviews with the director and lead actors on its YouTube channel, marking these under the hash tag #20YearsofHAHK, a few months later Yash Raj Films’ launched its media celebration with a new trailer of their film, deleted scenes and extra footage on YouTube, as a lead up to other public media events surrounding the film’s completion of 1000 weeks at the theatres. However, the discussions around these films trended on social media through the rest of the year with several fan blogs, lists on songs and dialogues, memes, gifs, video spoofs and criticism feeding into a media swirl  around two of the most popular romantic films of the nineties decade.
Social media news websites like ScoopWhoop and BuzzFeed significantly fed into these online trends, even as these portals compiled and reported on such online activities. For instance, the video of the new Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge trailer was lodged in a SW post with a headline redolent of fan emotion – “YRF Just Released DDLJ’s New Trailer As It Completes 1000 weeks. Stop Everything and Watch it Now!”. Posts like this, simultaneously relaying such news as well as participating in online fan enthusiasm around it constituted much of the content related to the two films on these websites, some posts also took on the form of direct responses to such fan nostalgia, like “Here’s Why I Don’t Care About DDLJ Losing Its Throne To MSG At Maratha Mandir. Seriously, Move On”. Therefore, while these portals continued to share videos  and other online visual and news  materials related to these two nineties romances, especially on DDLJ, their own content began to somewhat replicate the registers of fan nostalgia and even affectations circulating on the virtual sphere.
What had initially looked like online promotional bids for HAHK and DDLJ, presented in a language of nostalgia by their respective production houses, now had turned into somewhat of an internet phenomenon with fans and users not only sharing existing online content around these films but generating newer content  using, referencing, reworking available knowledge and online material on the film. ScoopWhoop and BuzzFeed perhaps made the most of this trend with regular updates, by gathering memes, gifs, fan videos, opinions and retorts on these films, and embedding these in categorized or curated lists or posts with attention grabbing headlines on social media. Gifs and memes, exhibiting an expressive, mocking potential within its three second graphic or static image-text format, sometimes created by the content editors but mostly sourced from across the web, have been remarkably popular features of the list format on social media. When lists on Hum Aapke Hain Koun and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge featured these visual snatches from moving images, it not only tinged the much publicized nostalgia and romance with self-reflexive humour and sarcasm, but also managed to embed a lot of these dispersed visual references in direct relation to the films. Therefore, these lists not only displayed online media trends of a particular time but also managed to curate and archive online fan and user cultures within their media selections. Further, through the bits and fragments of visual material, these lists also rode the social media trend of nostalgia and celebration surrounding these films by alluding to popular public memory.
A suitable example to elaborate this is a list on ScoopWhoop, “10 Reasons Why Hum Aapke Hain Koun was a Super-Duper Hit” which compiles ten gifs, fragments of memorable scenes from the film, under ten comments laced with subtle sarcasm but is nonetheless indicative of the film’s status in popular cultural imagination. While the emphatic appeal of the post lies in highlighting the ironies of this family romance through the combination of image-text commentary format, such cinephiliac activity on social media also carries the potential of reactivating the film in popular memory in diverse ways. Further, in the specific case of nineties cinema, the cinematic idea of romance becomes the object of both, cinephiliac parodying as well as fan nostalgia. For instance, the eighth comment/reason on this post refers to the romance between its lead pair with a hint of sarcasm, complimented by a gif of Madhuri Dixit’s eyes coyly hiding from Salman Khan’s boyish stare, fragmented from the song sequence of Mai Ni Mai Munder Pe in the film; It reads as follows:
“The whole idea of secretly falling in love captured the imagination of an entire country. The idea wasn’t novel. But it had been done with such innocence and style, that the modern Indian girl still believes in true love. All thanks to Hum Aapke Hain Koun.”
It is perhaps in the format and content of these social media lists that such creative contestations between parody and nostalgia, critical commentary and cult fascinations, even and conventional news report and social media news streams are revealed as well as blurred. As the social media trend around HAHK and DDLJ gathered momentum, the succinct and witty pattern of the lists became another complimenting trend across online news media platforms. NDTV published a similar list on Hum Aapke Hain Koun online in its offbeat section. The list titled “Rewind: 10 Things that Salman and Madhuri’s Epic Hum Aapke Hain Koun Taught Us” echoed similar tones of humour and nostalgia, evoking the film’s popularity through listed gifs, memes and videos. A few months later, NDTV also ran similar evocative lists on top dialogues and favorite songs of another Rajshri’ hit film, Maine Pyar Kiya, marking twenty five years since its release. It is the list on the songs of Maine Pyar Kiya that caught my attention with its clear address to the readers- “Maine Pyar Kiya is 25 today and even if you haven’t seen the film – for some unearthly reason – you may have heard the songs. In the unlikely event that even the songs have passed you by, get help. And listen to them here. You can thank us later.” The emotional tenor of this list not only resonated with conventional articulations on film music expressed on fan sites but also singularly featured song videos from the film. It pointedly mentioned the popular presence of the songs in cultural memory and presented a curated list of song videos from Rajshri’s YouTube channel. With this act of relaying, redirecting readers/listeners to video links and reactivating the memory of Maine Pyar Kiya through its songs, this list seemed to associate more with the pleasures of the film through its music. Finally, it also underscored the increasingly popular compilation format of lists, both on mainstream news portals as well as social media news sites, as yet another possible video sharing platform.
In my last research note, I had suggested that the much of the nostalgia surrounding nineties film and music was also fed by reminiscences of accessing that content on older media and technological forms. In the fall of 2014, when the media swirl around nineties cinema seemed to be thickening through an array of social media practices, collective memory and experiences of the viewing these nineties films seemed to spill over the internet. While the aforementioned social media lists represented an emergent, unconventional, virtual form of remembering, there were also comparatively conventional articulations memoralizing these films, mediated through opinion and commentary pieces in blogs and print media. One such instance is the case of a photograph of Liberty Cinema in Mumbai showing Hum Aapke Hain Koun at the time of its release. While a blog post  reminiscing on the experience of viewing the film in Coimbatore upon its delayed but much awaited arrival, credits this image to the Twitter handle, Mumbai Heritage, this image circulating uncredited and unidentified on other social media platform created quite discussion among users, with several of them identifying with the image and recalling their memories of the theatrical release of the film.
Interestingly then, both these media practices not only seemed to energize the cultural afterlife of these films across the internet, but their content further gestured towards the journey of these to films, whether as whole or as digital fragments and traces through various old and new formats. Further, this interface of mediated content and memories brought together by the persistence of hash tags trends online significantly complicates the virtual afterlife of these films. While it still might be possible to envisage film anniversaries, televised re-runs and fan nostalgia to direct audiences to the films in their entirety, the emergent nature of social media, and fan and cinephiliac cultures online increasingly exhibit more dispersed consumption of cinematic material.
These blurred territories of film memories and visual culture on social media are what I’ve tried to elaborate on in this post by reflecting on the frenzy of online activities around HAHK and DDLJ. It is pertinent to note therefore, that most examples in this post exhibit fragmentation, extractions and re-appropriations of the visual cinematic material, with the actual videos of nineties films and songs remaining peripheral. Moreover, the marked absence of the aural features of the nineties films seem to characterize such hybrid visual trends on social media. I conclude this pondering upon this absence; If so much of nineties cinema can be re-imagined through cultures of online humour and parody thereby rupturing registers of film nostalgia and romance, then where does that leave the nineties romantic song?
 I borrow the term “media swirl” from Carol Vernallis in Unruly Media: YouTube, Music Video and the New Digital Cinema, Oxford Univessity Press, 2013. Vernallis attempts to map the aesthetic shifts in moving image cultures influenced by online video forms and digital sound technology, thereby generating a rapid flux of media content and genres which constitute the “media swirl”.
 See Isha Jalan. 2015. These People Remembering Their Very First Time Watching DDLJ is Nostalgia at its Best!. ScoopWhoop, December 12. Available at http://www.scoopwhoop.com/inothernews/1000-weeks-of-ddlj/
 See 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/
 See Swetambara Chaudhary.2015. You’ll Never Look At DDLJ the Same Way After Watching this Pretentious Film Review. January 6. Available at http://www.scoopwhoop.com/humor/pretentious-movie-review-ddlj/
 See Paromita Chakraborti, 2015. Love, Actually. The Indian Express. March 22. Available at: http://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/bollywood/love-actually-17/99/ . This article reminisces the idea of growing up while imagining herself to be in love with Prem, name of the ideal male protagonist/son in Rajshri’s cinema, usually played by Salman Khan in the nineties.
 See Twenty Years of Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! A Trip Down Memory Lane. 2015. Blog post available at: http://madaboutmoviez.com/2014/08/05/20-years-of-hum-aapke-hain-koun-a-trip-down-memory-lane/