It’s true that we cannot relive the days that are closest to our hearts, but what if someone wields the magic wand and takes us on a stroll down those lanes where we can see our childhood take shape? Films and TV shows have that power, and some of them are offering content that pays a happy tribute to the past. Think about this: if action, thriller, drama have become celebrated genres over the years, why can’t nostalgia carve a place for itself there?
If Enid Blyton gave birth to the “detective” in you, if Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge made you wait for a real-life “palat” moment or if Stephen King scared the daylights out of you, these are the Netflix shows you must catch up:
The show has taken us back to the ‘80s and what a tribute to Stephen King, Steven Spielberg and all our favourite authors and movies from that era this show is! There are obvious references to E.T the Extra-Terrestrial, the 1982 classic that recounts the story of a child striking an extraordinary bond with an alien. The backdrop of ET is the suburban San Fernando Valley, whereas Hawkins is the quiet countryside town where all mayhem takes place in Stranger Things. Darkness looms large in both the show and the film, and there are detailed sequences of kids riding bikes on deserted lanes.
The Earth is an alien place for the creature in ET, and Eleven too is scared and lonely when she escapes from her confinement. Both try to explore the unknown, both find their friends and confidantes in kids and both find joy in discovering human emotions. “Friends don’t lie”, Eleven keeps repeating this till realisation dawns on her that human emotions are very very grey. Even the consistent use of flashlights (strongest in the sequence when Erica tries to make her way through the duct) are present in both Spielberg and Duffer Brothers’ worlds.
Even the consistent use of flashlights (strongest in the sequence when Erica tries to make her way through the duct) are present in both Spielberg and Duffer Brothers’ worlds
Will’s character is heavily influenced by the young girl Carol Anne in Poltergeist. Carol communicates with otherworldly objects through her family’s television set, while the walls of Will’s home serve as a gateway to another world or the Upside Down. Both of them are trapped in an in-between state, and rescue comes in the form of family. Will’s mom Joyce opens the ‘door’, beyond which inhabit strange and terrifying creatures. The irony in Stranger Things is that Joyce actually buys film tickets for Poltergeist before uncanny powers possess Will.
Did you know when Erica said, “Commence Operation Child Endangerment”, Stephen King almost fell off his chair laughing? A big fan of Stranger Things, King himself has been very appreciative of the tributes paid to him on the show. Let’s dig up some of the references to King’s novels.
Mr Baldo’s description fits Pennywise the clown from It. Every child in that novel had a demon inside him/her, and the clown was born out of that fear.
Remember Bob Newby, the guy who sacrifices his life to save Joyce and the kids? He narrates a story about a clown to Will, who fears the Upside Down and feels claustrophobic in trapped spaces. He said how a clown named Mr Baldo freaked him out at a fair and gave him nightmares for days. However, Bob realised it was all in his mind and he managed to ward off his fears. Mr Baldo’s description fits Pennywise the clown from It. Every child in that novel had a demon inside him/her, and the clown was born out of that fear. Season 1 comes closest when it comes to drawing parallels with King’s works, and Under the Dome has to have a special mention. The setting of Stranger Things is eerily similar to this book.
The list is never-ending when it comes to Stranger Things and the ‘80s, but I leave you with a last thread that connects the duo – Ghostbusters. Now, the most in-your-face reference are the proton pack costumes that Will, Dustin, Mike and Lucas don for a “fancy dress” event. But look closely and you will spot a “Ghostbusters Certificate of Anti-Paranormal Proficiency” certificate hanging on Dustin’s wall. Also, Lucas says the exact same thing as Stantz and Winston – It’s Judgment Day.
Why don’t you come up with your favourite list of references?
When it comes to Sujoy Ghosh, you can be assured of one thing – there will be a heavy dose of nostalgia in his work. Kolkata blossomed to life in Kahaani, and his latest web show Typewriter perfectly encompasses the sights and sounds of Goa. The first chapter is titled Four Kids And A Dog. Now, does that ring a bell? Yes, Enid Blyton. The author who shaped our childhood and gave wings to our imagination. Like the children and dog Buddy in Typewriter, Julian, Dick, Anne, Georgina, along with their dog Timmy sniff mysterious incidents in and around them. Georgina’s place or other buildings that are almost a hundred years old, house uncanny secrets and tunnels. An age-old mansion, Bardez Villa, forms the crux of supernatural occurrences in Typewriter, and four “detectives” form a ‘Ghost Club’ to solve the riddle.
Sameera, Nikhil, Devraj and Satyajit tamper with the school clock to accomplish their “mission” and their actions are reminiscent of The Secret Seven. Unlike other Enid Blyton series, this one takes place during the school term as the children go to the day boarding.
Not just Blyton, the Remington typewriter is a priceless antique piece that has been passed on through generations. Last, but not the least, the character of Amit Roy (essayed by Jisshu Sengupta in the show). The protagonist of Rabindranath Tagore’s Shesher Kobita is also named Amit Ray and none other than Sujoy Ghosh could have paid such a lovely tribute to Kabiguru.
Yeh Meri Family
On a sunny morning a radio blares out the news. It’s followed by the melodies of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Set in 1998 Jaipur, the series (airing on Netflix) is replete with old memories. We see the life of a middle-class family through the eyes of a teenager, Harshu.
Landlines were lifelines during that time as communication with friends during vacations was impossible without those heavy and ‘uncool’ sets. Harshu complains about the holidays to his friend Shanky, but the latter has a sage response, “Arre summer koi season nahi hota, woh ek festival hota hai (summer is not a season, it is a festival).” As Harshu breaks the fourth wall to explain what the summer ‘rituals’ are like, yours truly, a ‘90s kid herself, recalls her summer holidays. “Purna shringaar aur tullu pump se snaan ke baad, cooler devta ki sthapna hoti hai (After completely decking up and taking a bath under a hand-pump, cooler God is set up).” Then comes the custom of soaking ripe, juicy mangoes in water before devouring them. All the “jails or schools are closed then”, adds Harshu.
I am sure you all will agree that a nightmare existed in the form of a Keo Karpin- lathered tuition teacher, who would proclaim to churn out “sanskari bachche”. Harshu’s plight is no different. Not as studious as his elder brother, he has to face the wrath of his mother.
It was the time when Amitabh Bachchan’s Mrityudaata became oh-so drab because Karisma Kapoor lit up the screen in Raja Hindustani and there was a “smooch scene” too!. Birthday parties in school meant wearing colourful caps and distributing eclairs to the staff and classmates. And, drinking tea meant the skin getting tanned
I saw my teenage self in Harshu’s complaints - loving Bournvita while despising milk, wanting to go out with friends rather than sulk at a boring birthday party and playing with the sibling because, who studies? It was the time when Amitabh Bachchan’s Mrityudaata became oh-so drab because Karisma Kapoor lit up the screen in Raja Hindustani and there was a “smooch scene” too!. Birthday parties in school meant wearing colourful caps and distributing eclairs to the staff and classmates. And, drinking tea meant the skin getting tanned.
An era might have gone by, but this slice-of-life show brilliantly captures ordinary frames and turns them into a treasured album.
Can you see the little you in all these shows? Amidst all the worries, sorrows and distractions of adulthood, these are the comforts we would love to fall back on.