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Bhadralok Army versus BTS Army

K-pop may confound them, but even the bhadralok can’t deny the Korean invasion of the cultural landscape, writes comedian Vikram Poddar

Vikram Poddar | Published 25.08.22, 06:57 PM
Don't know what this sign means? You are in the minority

Don't know what this sign means? You are in the minority

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As a Gen Z Millennial Gen X Boomer (The truth is somewhere in the middle), nothing is more annoying than the humble yet condescending ‘k’ in online chats. For the longest time, I thought K-pop was a service to assassinate any of these ‘k’ dropping self-righteous pr… (the truth is somewhere in the middle).

But no one can deny the Korean invasion of the cultural landscape around the world, from K-pop to K-serials and not the kind of K-serials where the noble bahu is turned into a fly by an evil spell, while a newspaper headline mentions the plot “Simar bumps into Jhanvi and drops the spoon. Will Jhanvi notice the spoon?” (Any sanity between these two plot lines is somewhere in the middle).

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Now there is nothing overtly new about the phenomenon of K-pop. Many years ago, Psy introduced us to Gangnam Style, a song that went on to become the most viral video on the internet and the go-to song for bachelors with two left feet to dance at their best friend’s wedding. This is, of course, not a story from personal experience, nor was I muttering the mis-heard version of the lyrics “Open condom style”. Apparently, it’s “Oppa is Gangnam style” where Oppa is big brother and Gangnam is a district in Seoul, South Korea, of which the song is a satirical take. The equivalent would be Oppa No-shirt style by Sourav Dada at Lords

But no one could have foreseen that the song by Psy would go on to become a full on psy op fuelled by self-actualising Korean marketing company “Big Hit entertainment”, that transformed the humble “Bangtan boys” into the global phenomenon known as BTS. I must admit I am more beholden at this moment to my Bartan Bais than the Bangtan boys as any bachelor surviving on his own would confirm.

Marwari parents wanting to ensure their kids are friends with the right families might well be dismayed that the names of their children’s new best friends are Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook. In all fairness, at least that’s better than Bengali nicknames like Tultul and Titli.

According to the Holy Bible of Wikipedia, after launching in 2013 with their single album 2 COOL 4 SKOOL, BTS respectively released their first Korean-language studio album, Dark & Wild, and Japanese-language studio album, Wake Up, in 2014. Any parent battling to get their teenager up and running for school/college in the morning would resonate with all three titles.

But, perhaps, what would make many parents scratch their heads is their Gen Z children running around calling themselves BTS Army. “Wasn’t the Korean War over in the 1950s?”, wonders Mr Saraogi in Hindustan Park, as his grandson insists he is Dynamite (their Grammy-nominated single).

But BTS is the most well-known and savagely followed band. There are others known less to the general public, but followed religiously by the more hardcore K-pop fans. Some of the fans (including yours truly) gravitate towards bands like Stray Kids — whose hit singles like Maniac have lyrics like:

Maniac

Going crazy, like I have a loose screw maniac

Spinning, going crazy

Maniac walk like Frankenstein

Maniac, maniac (Ha-ha)

Maniac (Oh)

The song is now staple for senior managers attempting karaoke after three drinks at the company off-site.

But one continues to feel for the parents going out of their minds at their children self-identifying as Korean even at a Durga Pujo pandal. “You live in a nice house, have a good education and I just bought you an H&M jacket. So why the heck are you going around telling everyone you are a ‘Stray Kid’???” a bewildered Mr Biswas in C.R. Park on his 15-year-old daughter’s Instagram post.

There is, of course, the dark side of the industry, like any other pop culture marketing phenomenon. From gruelling schedules to pressure to confirm and exploitation of minors. It is rumoured that agents of K-pop marketing companies literally stand outside schools looking for cute-looking guys and girls. Even Marwari arranged marriages planned from birth are less creepy than this phenomenon.

But say what you will, K-pop has captured our imagination. So, as a Gen Z Millennial Gen X Boomer, who also identifies as a “Stay”, I leave you with these lyrics from Stray Kids’ Venom:

No escape, I have lost all my senses

Can't feel my fingers

I got caught, you got me wrapped up

Around your fingers

I'm drunk off your touch that captivated me

I want it more, I need it more

This spreading venom, this addictive poison

Any sensе of feeling threatened has disappeared now

The author, Vikram Poddar, is a Marwari investment banker turned corporate comedian. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

Last updated on 25.08.22, 06:59 PM
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