Border Bros: Bees Saal Baad

Pop Culture

Border Bros: Bees Saal Baad

Illustration: Akshita Monga

I

f J P Dutta’s Border set fire to our averagely patriotic hearts 20 years ago, it would have burnt us to a crisp had it released now in the Year of Saffron and Cow.

The movie, neither anywhere close to a war epic nor a watershed production in the history of Indian cinema (as some thumping hearts will have you believe), was an honest attempt at juicing every red-blooded Indian for as much patriotic fervour that could possibly be juiced in three hours. (I’m amazed it didn’t enter the Guinness Book of World Records.)

Now, 20 years after its release, we know that the movie can never be classified as good, but it can at least be called astute. Border not only summarised for us the five kinds of soldiers we saw protecting our battlefields in the ’90s, but it also predicted the role of cyber soldiers men who would be protecting our social-media feeds, and chasing off seditious, malicious, anti-national elements by DMing them “Ayyyy Presstitute” with the alacrity of a coked-up bot. It’s now that we realise that J P Dutta wasn’t aiming so much for a war story circa 1971, but a crash course in the patriotic battlefield that would be Twitter India circa 2017.

Don’t believe me? Read on.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist Dharamveer

We begin with Akshaye Khanna’s good-boy-turned-war-machine character Dharamveer, whose father was a former war veteran and whose fiancé was feisty AF. His character arc in the movie starts off just like his character arc in cyberspace – quietly. He comes across as a politically agnostic creature who quietly nods through the right-wing leanings of his family and friends. The key trait of Dharamveer, both online and offline, is that he disagrees with certain behaviours, but he does not go for the kill because it makes him queasy. If you bust out Mitronome at a party and start dancing, Dharamveer will not point out that the song is satirical.

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Akshaye Khanna’s character arc in the movie starts off just like his character arc in cyberspace – quietly.

Courtesy: JP Films

Dharamveer doesn’t really believe that Maharana Pratap defeated Akbar; he will not tell Priyanka Chopra off for wearing a dress in front of our Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modiji 4eva, but he will silently judge her the whole time. He has all the makings of a proper patriot, he just hasn’t been radicalised yet. In the movie, it took some vomit and a bunch of his friends calling him lily-livered; in real life, it takes one divisive issue for the Dharamveers of the internet to tell you to go back to Pakistan for being sickular. In fact once he is radicalised, Dharamveer will transport you to Pakistan himself on the back of a peacock that would make all the peahens in the world weep with lust.

The Dreamer Bhairon Singh

The Bhairon Singhs of the world, the lovers, poets, and romantic dreamers are all over social media. Like the unintended yodelling of Suniel Shetty’s character in Border, the Bhairon Singhs of the internet are good-natured, right-leaning people. You know something’s off about them from the get go. They share their love for the land in cheesy Whatsapp pictures that they later repost to Facebook and then DM Anupam Kher and Baba Ramdev on Instagram. They’re in love with this country like it is their own mother, even while their mums feel abashed at the misplaced Oedipal complexes of their children.

In the movie, Suniel Shetty suicide-bombs an enemy tank (because who cares about protocol when you can YOLO); the Bhairons of the internet react in the same way when confronted with a less than positive argument about the motherland. One explosive tweet and it’s all up in flames, people. Unlike the Dharamveers, they don’t need no education about what is patriotic and what isn’t, and unless you agree with their version of the truth, prepare to be bombed in a series of unfortunate tweets that will leave your self-esteem blown into smithereens. The switch from pleasant to pissed off takes place faster than it takes for you to type hashtag democracyfail, and will send you and your ungrateful tweets up in a flurry of flames. Sweaty, sandy, angry as fuck but also unnervingly sexual kind of flames.

The Extra Mathura Das

The third one is “that guy”. The guy that neither side particularly cares for because they can never fully ascertain what he actually thinks. This guy is the Mathura Das of the people on your newsfeed. In a typical Mathura Das fashion, wherein he rubs the vacation he’s been sanctioned in the faces of platoons as they ready for battle, the Mathura Das of the interweb posts wholesome cat memes, as a Twitter fight is blowing up.

He sidesteps the actual mud-slinging, name-calling, and CAPSlocking but comes back to join his friends when they get schooled by strangers in a hate tweet off to support the troops like the patriot he is. He does this through a series of subtle retweets and favourites, so he can share a little bit of the glory from the epic showdown that goes down. But shit gets real when homeslice gets singled out because if you can’t be the warrior that blows up the tank like Sunny Deol asked you to, you will be the collateral damage whose decimation will spur Sunny Deol into action. It also gives an opportunity to the aforementioned Bhairon Singhs of the internet to rain down on the wreckage of Mathura Das’s Twitter timeline by liberal mud-slingers, and sexualise, from scratch, how cool it is to be a martyr for this country. Whether it’s on the field or on Twitter, this guy is as dispensable to the narrative as Sudesh Berry was to the cast of Border.

The Hungry Subedar Ratan Singh

The fourth one is the homeboy you do not want to mess with, who simultaneously does not want to mess with you. The Subedar Ratan Singh personality type has a primary interest in food and a secondary interest in nothing else. When this guy posts a “Pizza Is My Valentine” meme, you know he’s only partially lying, and his girlfriend did leave him because of an acrid fight over who gets to eat the leftover food (it was him, obvs). But his voice is his biggest asset. All he has to do is yell like a proper Subedar in his gravelly voice for order to be restored, and then it doesn’t matter what side you’re on, you shush up real fast. If there is an honest-to-god Facebook or Twitter war, he’ll join it to throw a few comment and tweet-shaped punches here and there, but he’d rather be eating and Instagramming pictures of his food.

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Kuldip is the guy whose five senses are heightened by his sixth sense –  patriotism.

Courtesy: JP Films

The Kool Kucks-Killer Kuldip

The last but hardly the least character that Border acquaints us with is the one-man patriot parade that makes presstitutes shiver in their libelous skins. Inspired by Sunny Deol’s Kuldip and channeling Bobby Deol levels of naiyyo, this screechy, #notallmen guy is the bane of anything that goes against the grain of what he believes is our culture.

Kuldip is the guy whose five senses are heightened by his sixth sense –  patriotism – to the point that he can see Jackie Shroff flying at least 20,000 feet above his head and salutes him in the acknowledgement of his service on the battlefield. Well, because nationalism travels faster than the speed of light. Nothing gets past him; he is insurmountable, diligent, and has an insane amount of lung capacity. It really sucks to be you if you get into a fight with him. If you try to talk about how the current right-wing tendencies are killing open discourse, he will come at you with every Congress scam ever recorded, with sides of conspiracy theories about how the Taj Mahal was actually a Shiva Temple and how the Gandhi family is a bunch of KGB operatives, and that the US wants a Muslim-dominated India because they want to colonise this country. It is as ridiculous as it is incessant and there are no victors in this battle, only survivors.

If you somehow manage to keep the debate on topic, there’s nothing you can do about the lengths they’re willing to go, just to be able to end a tweet with that coveted hashtag: #micdrop. If you’re a woman on the internet fighting the good fight for logic, reason, and your own political leanings, he will call you “Barkha Hatt” and his friends will all RT it. At which point you will drink a tall drink of water with vodka as a mixer, watch the dictator, and drunk dial your ex to tell him you will always be a liberal. Then you will cry, delete your Twitter account, and go back to bed. Or something like that not based on a true story of any sort. Shut up.

While the Battle of Longewala was a truly heroic chapter of Indian war history, its picturisation has taken the diverse range of emotions that soldiers carry with them to the field and cold-pressed them into easy-to-digest stereotypes. But we’re not here to critically analyse the movie because the movie is now 20 years old and like most 20-year-olds, it is set in its ridiculous ways that no amount of well-intentioned critiquing can remedy. But to the Twitter heroes: Take a deep breath, drink some peacock tears, and don’t be a social media warmonger. No amount of Twitter takedowns will give you Sunny Deol’s beautiful skin and Suniel Shetty’s radiant youth, and Narendra Modi will not drop by your residence to shake your hand and forcibly hug you for your service.

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