“Love is an exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies.”
I once watched a Thai movie called The Love of Siam where the manager of the protagonists’ boy band dismissed their songs and said that they must write a song about love in order to sell more records. In other words, he was trying to say that love sells. In popular culture, romantic love has always been marketed as the most surreal and sublime emotion in the world. The obsession with romantic love has also given rise to a widespread perception that people who have not experienced it are missing out on something supremely important in life. In order to dismantle this notion, this Valentine’s Day, thousands of people gathered in Mumbai to shout “Pyaar Ek Dhoka Hai” and celebrate singlehood.
The event was a culmination of what had initially started as a meme, created and shared by the popular comedy group AIB. Once the meme went viral, the makers capitalized on its popularity and began publicizing “Pyaar Ek Dhoka Hai” as a movement. A lot of millennials became a part of, what was being touted as, a “movement” by uploading pictures and videos of themselves shouting “Pyaar Ek Dhoka Hai” with their friends in college playgrounds, buses, cafes and so on. This campaign became an outlet for a lot of single people to express their distress and anguish over the concept of romantic love on an occasion which demands its consumerist celebration through the purchase of chocolates, cards, roses, teddy bears and other frivolous indulgences. Thus, love literally sells?
Consumption of culture on the internet is much like Jean Piaget’s sensorimotor stage of cognitive development in children. According to Piaget, this stage begins at around 18 months and lasts up to 24 months in children. For children, during this stage what is ‘out of sight’ is literally ‘out of mind’. This explains viral trends and memes on the internet that is susceptible to lack, or absence, of object permanence because this is exactly what is happening today. Last month, it was Anant Ambani who became a national meme after he delivered his first speech as the new generation of Reliance Industries. He was trolled heavily by millennials on the internet because of his constipated enunciation and evidently rote-memorized speech. This month millennials are impressed with #PyaarEkDhokaHai and Priya Prakash Varrier’s eyebrow gymnastics at the same time. They have converted one to a “revolution” and have catapulted the other to the pedestal of a national crush.
Once any trend goes viral, there will inevitably emerge people who will be quick to take offence at the same. The organizers humorously referred to the “Pyaar Ek Dhoka Hai” event as “a joke gone too far”. They came under the radar for this and had to defend themselves by saying that it was just a “celebration of self-love” because everyone deserves to be happy. Simultaneously, a complaint was filed against the song “Manikya Malaraya Poovi” starring Priya Prakash Varrier by a few members belonging to the Muslim community because they felt that it affected their religious sentiments. Nevertheless, these viral trends have a clear market value associated with it and during this Valentine’s Day, love became the selling point for meme-makers. This time they tapped into the sentiments of both lovers and non-lovers because they always seem to be at loggerheads somehow. I have always wondered so as to why people can’t let each other be. After all, love is also a matter of choice. You may or may not be anyone’s Funny Valentine.
The internet will, however, not let you be in peace. It will force you to take sides and prove yours better than the other, but it is also difficult to figure out what people are up to on the internet. This is intrinsic in the fact that, on one hand, people were vociferously chanting “Pyaar Ek Dhoka Hai” on the internet, and, on the other hand, they were also vigorously sharing clips of Priya Prakash Varrier’s viral video. This would make one ponder over how people put up a facade of their emotions on the internet because at the end of the day we are all just part of a consumer culture. We feed off of viral content on the internet and then comfortably forget about it in a week or so, because as long as the meme economy flourishes, nothing else seems to matter.
Written by Ankita Adak
Image by Joy Malsawmhlui