The force is still strong
May 4 is celebrated as Star Wars Day. At a time when Game of Thrones and The Avengers seem to be all the rage, we speak to four fans of the franchise to find out where George Lucas's epic saga stands today
Shoot us if you want, but this writer is one of those people who hasn't seen a single episode of Game of Thrones. It's not that we are smug and trying to be cool about going against the grain. It's just that when the series released in 2011, we missed the bus and haven't hopped on to it yet. And even with the Marvel Cinematic Universe — which, like GoT, is all the rage at present — we are far from completing the ride, making us further hang our head in shame.
But Star Wars is one franchise we have gone the distance with. We entered "the galaxy far, far away" rather late in life, in our 20s, and there was no looking back once our foot was inside that door. The universe that George Lucas first built in 1977 was so far ahead of its time that the director was initially ridiculed for conceiving such a fantastical epic.
But his detractors had to eat crow since the series endures to this day, even at a time when it's jostling for the attention of fans with multiple other series such as Batman, Superman, Star Trek and, of course, GoT and the Marvel movies. So, on May the fourth — which is unofficially celebrated as Star Wars Day taking off from the catchphrase, "May the force be with you" — we speak to four Mumbai-based fans across ages to find out what makes the franchise tick.
The future is here
When 27-year-old musician Nathan Patra first watched a Star Wars film at the age of 12, he hadn't seen any series apart from Harry Potter and bits and pieces of Lord of the Rings (LOTR). "So, this was completely different for me because LOTR is set in an ancient timeline, while Harry Potter is about the present. Star Wars, on the other hand, is technically in the future. And the whole timeline of the movies was really intriguing to me," Patra says, adding that to hear the robotic character C3PO talk to you is a big deal for a child, and the movie eventually became a sort of "gateway drug into space sci-fi" for him. But he feels that the newest films in the series — those that released after the turn of this century — are mediocre compared to the first three. "It may be that my expectations were so high that it morphed my understanding of things," he says, drawing a parallel here with The Avengers series, which he is also a huge fan of. "I saw Captain Marvel yesterday and I was unbelievably disappointed because it makes no sense. It's just a stupid spin-off movie that no one should care about, and I feel that that's what happened to an extent with Star Wars as well."
50 shades of grey
Like us, 18-year-old student Esther Fernandes hasn't seen a single episode of GoT. But she's seen all Star Wars films barring the most recent one, The Last Jedi, which released in December 2017. Her favourite character is Anakin Skywalker, who eventually transforms into Darth Vader. Skywalker is, in fact, a binary personality, in the sense that he is portrayed in the prequels as a protagonist but then circumstances turn him into the chilling antagonist that Darth Vader is. And this conflict of accepting the shades of grey inside every human being is the biggest lesson that Fernandes has learnt from the series. "I think that there is a force governing all of us, and it depends on you whether you choose the good or the bad side of that power," she says.
Past forward in time
Here's one of the most intriguing things about this epic franchise. The series is structured in such a way that you move further back in time with each successive movie, as the stories of the characters are revealed. But even as the plotline starts delving into the past of that imagined universe, technology in the real world hurtles forward at a rapid pace. And that duality is something that 38-year-old guitarist Rohan Ganguli finds fascinating. "The thing is that since the story is going backwards while we move ahead in time in the real world, the plot somehow seems to get more detailed with modern technological inputs being added to the movies," he says, adding that he's not one to frown upon the later movies, considering them to be a pale shadow of the first three films. "A lot of Star Wars fans don't like The Attack of the Clones, and I can't understand why that is since I find it to be brilliant," he says, though he adds that that's not the same reaction he has to GoT, which "sucks" according to him.
Cutting across ages
The first Star Wars film, A New Hope, came out in 1977. The next one, The Rise of Skywalker, releases in December 2019, over 42 years later. What does that mean? It means that the franchise has fans spanning from baby boomers to millennials. And 31-year-old advertising professional Sneha Bendre puts that in context when she says, "It's a movie that I can discuss with my parents' generation because they grew up watching it, and it's something about which I can have conversations with my nephews and nieces, too." But she also adds that science fiction isn't everyone's cup of tea. "First of all, you have to like fiction. Then within fiction, you have to like sci-fi. And within sci-fi, you might not like the representation of good vs evil. So, there are lots of reasons for people to pick it up, and those same reasons apply to others not taking to it. But it works for me because it represents a journey of the last 15 to 20 years," she says, adding that unlike TV shows, Star Wars doesn't come out every six months or so. "You will have to wait years for the next one and read up on the theory. So, there's a lot of time invested."
One for the fans
Geek Fruit is a podcast and the people behind it are organising a Star Wars-themed event at The Cuckoo Club at 4.30 this evening. It will involve a live podcast, a special pop-up kitchen with dishes inspired by the franchise, such as Chewbakalava, and fun games with prizes to be won. Head there if you are a fan and want to meet like-minded people.
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