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Star Wars Day: Mumbai superfans are marking the event with subdued celebrations

Updated on: 04 May,2021 04:45 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Nascimento Pinto |

From small suburbs to outer space, Star Wars fandom has travelled far and wide. Two superfans talk about how they will commemorate their favourite celestial saga even as the city stays locked down

Star Wars Day: Mumbai superfans are marking the event with subdued celebrations

Riddhi Puntambekar's collection of Star Wars figurines. Photo: Riddhi Puntambekar

Almost every one of us has come across at least one Star Wars fan who goes on about the movies and their sequence and their favourite characters — Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader. Their level of fandom is further evidenced in how they rearrange sentence to sound like Yoda or end conversations with “May the Force be with you”. It is enthusiastic fans such as these who once popularised a clever pun on that phrase—“May the Fourth be with you”—and began marking May 4 as ‘Star Wars Day’.

In Mumbai, the celebrations are not at full scale for many followers of the franchise who typically go around meeting fellow aficionados on this day. They use the occasion to relive their childhood Star Wars experiences, which in adulthood have translated into serious investments towards acquiring branded games and figurines. City-based creative professional Nikhil Fernandes was introduced to the franchise by his father as a child and has been a steadfast fan since 1994. That has meant collecting every kind of action figure from the movies, 50 Lego toys, receiving memorabilia as gifts and souvenirs, and playing the Return of the Jedi game on his Gameboy. He has even grown to identify closely with the subject matter. “We are creative people so we are like Jedis. Just like Jedis, you have to empathise with the world to be creative,” he explains.

Nikhil Fernandes's lego droid as a part of his Star Wars collection. Photo: Nikhil Fernandes

“Every year, I have a ritual where I revisit all my posters, reminisce about all the games I’ve played, arrange my Star Wars Lego collection of toys, movies, comics and also watch a movie. I also build something in Lego and use the hashtag to post it on Instagram,” says the 36-year-old. While Fernandes usually meets his friends who are similarly passionate about Star Wars on this day, he cannot do it this time due to pandemic restrictions. The superfan, who has briefly moved to Ahmedabad to live with family, will be following the activity online and watching reruns of The Mandalorian.

Riddhi Puntambekar, another city-based fan, was sucked into the Star Wars universe a little over 12 years ago. She meticulously amasses Star Wars action figures and uses them to recreate memes or movie scenarios. Puntambekar says, “I first watched Star Wars when I was 17 after being influenced by early internet culture at the time. It’s been an important part of my life all this while.” While she does not have a fixed ritual, she commemorates the occasion in some way or other every year. “Earlier a bunch of friends would gather and we would try to do the six-movie marathon. A bunch of times I’ve dressed up in character too,” says the 29-year-old social sector consultant. “Last year, I posted a lengthy Twitter thread of fun trivia and lesser-known facts about Star Wars.”

Riddhi Puntambekar dressed as Sith to watch The Last Jedi in a cinema hall in the city. Photo: Riddhi Puntambekar

However, 2021 is different. “This year, the energy just feels low and I don’t feel big on celebrating. But some friends and I have put together a Star Wars quiz which we’ll be playing later in the evening,”  Puntambekar adds. “I will also be watching Star Wars: The Bad Batch, which releases today.”

Fernandes and Puntambekar are two among millions of fans around the world. While Star Wars Day is all about them and their fandom, it was actually a political incident that led to its origin. While there is no official date set by George Lucas and Lucasfilm, the creator of the franchise, the history of the day can be traced to back to 1979, two years after the first film Star Wars. London Evening News used the phrase, ‘May the Fourth be with you, Maggie. Congratulations.’ on May 4, as it was the day when Margaret Thatcher was appointed as the English Prime Minister. The advertisement was reportedly placed by her political party celebrating her appointment.

It took off from there for all followers of the franchise around the world. The day was officially recognised by Disney only in 2013 after they bought Lucasfilm the previous year. The occasion is celebrated annually with a variety of festivities at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Since it is not possible this year, they have commissioned fan art which will be visible on Disney+ till May 9. The pop culture surrounding Star Wars is not limited to Earth alone; it was taken into space not long ago. In 2015, astronauts Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko and their crew were reported to have celebrated Star Wars Day by watching the Star Wars film in space on the International Space Station.

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