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1994: The Year We Saw The Sign!

Sepia-tinted memories

Admit it. In 1994 you weren’t watching Friends, you were watching Raveena Tandon dance in Mohra

Friends 1994

Its nice right now to wax nostalgic about 20 years of Friends and 20 years of Andaz Apna Apna;  and to reminisce where you were when you first saw these cultural milestones, but the truth is that most of us that year were busy learning the moves to TCBHM2 from Mohra.

And that’s the power of nostalgia. Time and distance make you paper over your worst impulses and create a version of you that’s perfect in the way you want it to be. Because the past twenty years haven’t been particularly kind to Mohra or Krantiveer or Ace Ventura: Pet Detective;  it is easy to pretend that you were really awed by Pulp Fiction and Bandit Queen at that time(after all, no one need to know how many times you listened to the soundtrack of Main Khiladi Tu Anari). But without the benefit of hindsight when we are there in the moment, too young to find the fashions hilarious (and are probably rocking the same mullet yourself), things are a little more complicated.

That is why for the next 4 weeks , MBRB will look back at the most popular entertainment from the 1994,1999,2004 and 2009 to see what stands the test of time, and what remains little more than a signifier of that time that year. Join us in this journey as we look at the best of times, and the worst of times from ye olde days.

Before we begin this walk down memory lane, go ahead and select for your background music the song that was blaring from every radio that year!

Bollywood

What’s aged well:

Akshay Kumar. He is near timeless in his ability to churn out 5 movies a year and look good while doing so (this was the year of Mohra, Main Khiladi Tu Anari, Yeh Dillagi, AND Suhaag). One does wish he would stretch his actorly muscles a bit more occasionally, but we can’t complain about his near-vampiric agelessness.

Yeh Dillagi

Madhuri Dixit’s smile: The rest of Hum Aapke Hain, Koun..! seems adorably quaint in retrospect, not least Salman’s Khan’s fledgling biceps which are now a force of nature in themselves, but Madhuri Dixit- even in that multicoloured monstrosity on roller-skates- remains flawless.We need the name and number of her dentist, stat!

Madhuri DIxit Smile

What doesn’t age well:

Saif Ali Khan’s sense of humour: the slightly gawky, unfairly cocky Saif in Yeh Dillagi was our favourite version of him. Since then he’s tried to reinvent himself multiple times with varying degrees of success. If only he could lighten up and go back to being plain entertaining again.

The ‘Action': 1994 was ruled by the angry energies of a young Akshay Kumar, Suneil Shetty (Gopi Kishen, Waqt Hamara Hai ) and Ajay Devgan (Dilwaale, Vijaypath). We can’t be more glad that the era of bone-cracking, muscly mayhem is over.  After the release of The Matrix in 1999, all action even in the most masala of movies has been sanitized and choreographed to bits so that it looks more dance than fight, and we -for one- are glad for that.

One of our favourite time travel tricks is to see who won the Best Debut Award at the Filmfare’s that year and in that regard 1994 doesn’t disappoint. Between Tabu and Sonali Bendre this was clearly a year with great taste, even if Tabu was making her mark doing this.

Tabu Ruk Ruk Ruk

The Books

A quick look at the books of 1994 reminded us of some of all-time favourites, Captain Correli’s Mandolin-which was subsequently ruined by the movie,  the Wind-up Bird Chronicles- long before Murakami became a mainstream success, and one of the lesser John Grishams that ended our teenage affair with him- The Chambers. But the book from that year we’ve revisited most often is Romesh Gunesekera’s Booker-nominated Reef. A love letter to Srilankan food, its coastline, and a quiet way of life, reading this book remains a visceral and thoroughly beautiful experience. It is also a stark reminder of Sri Lanka 20 years ago, still in the first throes of its long and bloody civil war. If you haven’t read it yet, even twenty years later it remains quietly devastating and gorgeous.

I was trapped inside what I could see, what I could hear, what I could walk to without straying from my undefined boundaries, and in what I could remember from what I learned in my mud-walled school

 ‘Western’ Movies

Yes yes. Shawshank Redemption. Blah Blah Blah. The only way to judge how the year affected you is to close your eyes and ask yourself who you are. Are you someone who believes that Life is like a box of chocolates or someone who believes that The path of the righteous mind is beset on all sides by iniquities? Tarantino’s hyper-verbal Pulp Fiction and Robert Zemeckis’  hyper-emotional Forrest Gump are the two movies from that year that have impacted the most films in the years to come. And there’s no better way to revisit 1994 than with Travolta and Uma Thurman’s electric dance to Chuck Berry’s Never Can Tell.

A close second for our favourite scene from the year would be John Hannah reading out Auden’s Funeral Blues in Four Weddings and a Funeral.  Slays us every single time.

Things We Learnt from 1994

Every year has its ups and downs. And even if you don’t recognise how seminal Andaz Apna Apna is at that time (since you’re busy mooning over Saif Ali Khan’s hair cut), and even if it will be years before Friends come to your shores, even if the fourteen year old you is predominantly pre-occupied with dreaming about Dylan McKay ; there are lessons to be savoured for life. And there’s no better legacy of 1994 than this priceless quote by John Berendt from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,  a book we were fortunate to borrow and read when it first released.

“Rule number one: Always stick around for one more drink. That’s when things happen. That’s when you find out everything you want to know.”

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