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Saturday, March 2, 2024

The Archies vs Rang De Basanti: A Peppy and Political Retro Pop Blast

Zoya Akhtar’s latest creation, “The Archies,” is more than just a star-studded debut for Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter Suhana, Amitabh Bachchan’s grandson Agastya, and Boney Kapoor’s daughter Khushi. This Netflix feature, wrapped in the festive ambiance of Christmas, unfolds as a peppy and political narrative, reminiscent of an era gone by and a reflection of the contemporary Indian socio-political landscape.

Set in the fictional town of Riverdale, “The Archies” unravels the frustration of citizens facing a spineless media, corporate takeovers, and journalists on payrolls. The storyline mirrors the India of today, echoing the sentiments of a populace angered by a local council resolution that threatens to erase carefully nurtured shared history. Amidst the Christmas cheer, the film delivers a powerful message of young rebellion against systemic threats.

While the casting of star kids fueled early criticism, Zoya Akhtar steers away from responding to her detractors, instead focusing on challenging the system through her narrative. “The Archies” serves as a call to action, asserting that revolution can begin in unexpected places, even a cafe.

Akhtar’s storytelling prowess shines through as she melds retro pop elements with contemporary commentary on Indian society. The film explores historical context while maintaining a present-day voice, hinting at an impending nightmare with a dreamy tone.

The film’s political undertones resonate deeply as it addresses topics such as apolitical stances, the sense of home for minorities, governance, democracy, corruption, corporate control, and environmental issues. Akhtar successfully blends velvet-gloved aesthetics with a hard-hitting punch, making “The Archies” both visually engaging and politically charged.

In the fictional town of Riverdale, the film’s politics seamlessly align with the reality of India, providing a rich and relatable narrative. The climax of “The Archies” draws parallels to the iconic moments in “Rang De Basanti,” as a group of awakened teenagers leads a revolution, unapologetically fighting to preserve their vision of India.

As Archie’s father remarks, “To make art, you don’t have to go out; you’ve to go in.” This sentiment echoes a reminiscent appeal from R Madhavan’s character in “Rang De Basanti,” emphasizing the need to actively engage with the system for change.

Zoya Akhtar’s “The Archies” emerges as a truly global film, not merely showcasing the world as it is, but envisioning what it could be. Beyond asking what one would do with life’s lemons, Akhtar invites audiences to accept the role of politics in shaping their realities, making “The Archies” a vibrant and thought-provoking addition to her filmography.

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