Cinema: Triumph of the Independence Movement
It was a proud moment for the Tamil film industry when Vetrimaaran’s thought-provoking crime drama Visaranai became India’s official entry to the 2017 Academy Awards. Whenever we talk about “Indian cinema”, our minds are almost always overshadowed by the glamorous cinematic mammoth that is Bollywood. It is forgotten how regional cinema caters to the audience’s more immediate cultures, given that we are a nation with so many voices and languages co-existing. Only of late have regional films begun to receive due recognition. Even big production houses today are backing regional films. Take for instance the 2013 Tamil film Pardesi backed by Kashyap’s Phantom Films, or the 2015 Telegu film Baahubali backed by Dharma Productions. Baahubali in fact went on to become one of the highest grossing films of 2015, no small feat for a non-Hindi film, and also won the National Award for Best Feature Film. If we take a closer look at National Award winners for Best Feature Films over the last decade, except for Paan Singh Tomar (2012) and Ship of Theseus (2013), it has mostly been bagged by non-Hindi films. Equally constant have been the official entries to Oscars over the last five years: Abu, Son of Adam (Malayalam) in 2011, The Good Road (Gujarati) in 2013, Court (Marathi) in 2014, Visaranai in 2016. As for the Bengali film industry, Kaushik Ganguly’s recent directorial Cinemawala earned him a UNESCO Fellini Award this year, a first for any Indian filmmaker. Indeed, there has never been a better time to be a fan of Indian cinema. And, 2017 seems full of promise. There’s Marathi director Ganjendra Ahire’s cutting edge film The Silence which deals with three women’s struggle to overcome fear surrounding rape and child abuse. Then there’s another Marathi-language drama from Killa director Avinash Arun titled Boomerang. One of the most awaited theatrical releases would perhaps be debutante M.S. Prakash Babu’s 90-minute existential road movie Attihannu mattu kanaja (Fig Fruit and the Wasps). A joint venture of the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) and Bayalu Chitra, it is being talked about for its filming which has been done using a 5D camera.
— Srija Naskar
Music: Streaming Out
Independent music has been on the rise both globally and within India in 2016 for a few primary reasons, and is expected to evolve further in 2017. There has been a shift from record labels to online streaming which has empowered a myriad of artists to publish and publicise their own music. Furthermore, music festivals and gigs in pubs and cafés have created ample space for visibility. The independent scene, especially within India, has seen a cross of genres due to the symbiotic bonding between organic and electronic music. Indian musicians have produced a massive variety over the year with artists like Prateek Kuhad, Nicholson, Nucleya and Sandunes. In 2017, the expected evolution of independent music is bound to be a further utilisation of all available modes within technology. The possibilities are infinite. First could be utilisation of live platforms which have multiplied over the year and have been useful in creating influential surges among fans. The second would have to be video evolution with the coming of 360-degree video works, which could help create better consumer experience. Overall the hope is also for an improvement in the modes of monetization over the Internet. An expectation in terms of output would have to be finer qualities of experimentation with a variety of organic and electronic material available.
— Keith A. Gomes
Money: The Game of Zeroes & Ones
The demonetisation drive in India, which was both applauded and opposed in equal measure, is paving the way for a plastic economy. From a local chaiwallah to five-star eateries, everyone is going the cashless way. 2017 will see a further upsurge in the use of digital money across the board. Digital wallets will likely become more popular than ever. And who knows, we may even see digital currencies, like Bitcoin, gaining momentum. Independent of any central regulatory authority, the Bitcoin has a dodgy history. Most of the Dark Net deals, for instance, are carried out using this form of money. Bitcoin accounts are totally anonymous and in theory, people can hoard as much Bitocoin as they like without leaving any traces. But the whole point of government-sanctioned digital money is that all transactions be traced and, more importantly, taxed. No one is sure at the moment how tough this forced migration from cash to digital will prove for the common man. But one thing is certain — in 2017, money will become more of an abstraction for all us than it already was.
— Bhumika Popli
Fashion: Ethnic Chic
2016 has set high standards in fashion. It was a year that was marked by creativity and innovation in terms of styles that reflected Indian craftsmanship blending with contemporary designs. We also witnessed an emergence of weaves in Indian fashion. In ethnic outfits, from Parsi Gara embroidery design to Rajasthani Gotta Patti embroidery, Indian designers chose to revive their age-old cultural heritage in their apparels. As the New Year commences, fashion trends that are expected to stand out would be these: retro will come to the forefront; tribal designs from states like Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya to indigenous designs of Kerala will be in vogue; also, e-commerce will continue to flourish with international designers collaborating with Indian designers to bring new techniques and looks to Indian apparels. Wearable gadgets,too, might see a rise in their popular appeal this year. But most importantly, hand-woven textiles will dominate the Indian fashion scene in 2017.
— Preeti Singh
Books: Complete Overhaul of the Gutenberg Mind
A 90s movie buff would remember the Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks classic You’ve Got Mail for its strong commentary on the future of physical bookstores, how technology and business giants like Starbucks (which was inching closer to world domination during the time) would determine human relationships and attitudes towards letter-writing, a vibrant reading culture, and all things old-world. With demonetisation and digital literacy paving the way for how the current regime in this country would want its citizens to evolve, it could not have been a better time for the publishing industry in India to experience a complete overhaul with the launch of Juggernaut books. A mobile-first digital platform for the Indian reading community, Chikki Sarkar and Durga Raghunath’s new publishing start-up, Juggernaut Books, is being considered a major gamechanger. All you need to do is download the app, pay a small fee through your credit, debit, or PayTM account and just read. Some of the reasons that had gone into the making of Juggernaut, as stated by Sarkar in various interviews before the launch, were untimely payments from distributors, lack of good booskhops in the country and low sales of what are considered “popular” books. According to a Frankfurt Book Fair white paper, titled “The Business of Books 2016”, the most exciting challenge for book publishers active in the Indian market may come from its digital development — this refers not necessarily to digital books, but much more broadly to eCommerce and purchases made with mobile phones. And this obviously goes on to explain why Amazon is so big today. The biggest category on amazon.in, which started as an online bookstore, but soon diversified, is literature and fiction. It also goes without saying that today, the maximum number of trade sales in the Indian book market have been accounted by only English language titles, with reports like the Nielson Book Report estimating sales of books in Hindi to be only 35% of the total, and all other Indian languages clubbed together under a miniscule 10%. While the newly launched Juggernaut Books is currently focusing on Hindi and English titles, Amazon, in the first week of December, updated its Kindle tablets and Android and iOS apps to support Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati and Malayalam texts in India. But hopes are pinned on the not-so-widely known publishing startups such as the ebooks and mobile app Dailyhunt, and the self-publishing platform like Pratilipi, which are aiming to bridge the gap between vernacular content and the general reader.
— Srija Naskar
Cars: Faster, Safer & Cleaner
The world of cars is changing faster than we think. The Indian auto sector is embracing newer technologies and the differences are very evident. 2017 will see a big shift towards these technologies that will make our cars safe and easier to spend time with. Japanese car makers like Toyota and Suzuki have taken the lead in giving us cars that run on hybrid technologies with cars like the Maruti Ciaz and the Toyota Camry hybrid. 2017 will see more such wheels on the road, including the new Prius, the largest selling hybrid in the world. Now who would mind a fuel efficiency of almost 40 kmpl. Safety features as standard is an area where India was lagging far behinzd the rest. The year will see a shift towards safer cars. Till now most car makers would offer optional safety features but this year a lot of cars will come with such features as standard. While Honda has announced that all its cars will have dual airbags as standard by April, Volkswagen’s Polo and Vento will also get ABS as standard on all variants. In 2017, many new cars will embrace the automated manual transmissions technology and this will begin with the Maruti Ignis that will be launched on 13 January.
— Shams Naqvi
Visual Arts: Making it Newer than Ever
One of the purposes of art is to challenge viewers’ sensibility by offering them new interpretations of the world. Lately, it has been noticed that artists are fusing traditional methods of painting, sculpture and photography with digital technology. The resulting experimental artwork is often breathtaking. With the help of specific software and the mastery over their respective artform, artists have given a new twist to contemporary art. There are no rules. What’s at work here is an amalgamation of the arts and sciences. Unlike the classical school of painting, the tools in digital technology are a set of commands. The specific commands, if learned well, can turn anyone into an artist. Many people are creating great works with the help of technology and popularising it through social media. Besides, digital technology has created new channels for artists to showcase their work. This new wave of artists is not immune to the influence of social media on the life of people. Various apps like Instagram and Pinterest have become an alternative to museums for art lovers. In 2017, we are likely to see digital technology take centrestage in the world of art, and not least in Indian contemporary art.
— Bhumika Popli
Technology: Learning to Become Smarter
Technology in 2016 has been influenced by one key factor: the skyrocketing increase in user devices. Furthermore, with the rise in the amount of user data collected, there have come to be many innovative ways of processing information which tries to create individualised experiences for users, quite easily visible in the suggestions segments of YouTube, Spotify and Netflix. On the other end, where only the network of devices is involved, we have a rise in research and applicability of the Internet of Things — the network which exists among a group of a single user’s devices themselves. Thus devices have become smarter and can engage with each other to provide the user with a better experience; the Apply Family has been a pioneering leader building to this. In 2017, we can expect large amounts of effort in terms of security of devices and information. We are also bound to see leaps made in Virtual- as well as Augmented-Reality applications which reached a new level in 2016 with Pokémon Go. In India we will surely see a market for “on-demand” services expanding, given the rise in the number of users for various daily needs and delivery applications. There is also a possibility of learning through technology to increase, since 2016 has shown many such efforts through apps and videos which might climax in 2017.
— Keith A. Gomes