The occurrence of the ‘tension not, have a shot’ syndrome on screens these days.
My memory of the first time I got very, very drunk at some ‘cool person’s party’ in college is hazy after the last shot of the night because I basically blacked out. Thankfully, I was surrounded by friends who, not only witnessed my apparently hilarious antics before I puked on myself but also got me home intact. The experience that night, I have to admit, was NOTHING like the fun-ness they show on American sitcoms and it was a very long time before I went ahead and partied again. But even after this sickening first occurrence, watching my favourite TV characters drink on screen further fuelled in my head the idea that at some point in my life, drinking was going to become fun. Which it did, but only for a short while.
I finished binge-watching “Four More Shots Please” on Amazon Prime two days ago. The show, as the title suggests, loosely deals with four women who face life’s challenges every day and drown their sorrows in alcohol every evening at ‘Truck Bar’. I’m not entirely sure why I decided to watch it in the first place, but midway through the pilot episode, I felt like I’d need a bottle of vodka and a pack of cigarettes just to get through the show.
So, before I go any further, I take this opportunity to ask: what came first? The drinking habits in shows that influence the audience or the audience’s drinking habits that make for fun viewing? I do not have the answer to this, but with the addition of “Four More Shots Please” to the range of web series hitting the Indian market like “TVF Pitchers” and “Baked” that glorify inebriation, I’m sure it’s about to get more confusing. I for one, have transitioned from regularly spouting the famous catchphrase, ‘Tu beer hai!’ from “Pitchers” to pretending I don’t know where it came from. Because the world we live in now follows the simple principle, ‘tension not, have a shot’. If your life is crap, don’t fret. Hit the bar and watch your troubles dissipate in the cigarette smoke that curls around your head like a halo.
I never really watched “Sex and the City” religiously, but it was “How I Met Your Mother” that led me to believe how much fun hanging out at bars would be and marked the beginning of my very scandalous vocabulary. Even the doctors on “Grey’s Anatomy” had wild, alcohol-fuelled parties, sometimes because of work, sometimes because of bad relationships, bad sex encounters or when they killed a patient. Watching the protagonists settle at the bar every evening after work or indulging in day-drinking, to discuss their sad, sad lives seemed like the most uplifting activity to me, someone who had seen how alcoholism had ruined my family as a child. These guys were never really inebriated and continued to go to work and have a life despite all the drinking. To me, then it seemed that alcohol, if consumed with friends could have a life-altering impact on your soul. I too, like them, would continue to be successful and funny and being a horrible person sometimes would just pass because these friendships would last. This is, I have learned now, absolutely untrue, though the glamour of it tempts me on and off every now and then.
But, here’s the thing. This drowning of sorrows post work is something I did for two whole years at my favourite adda in Versova and I almost emptied my non-existent bank account doing that, let alone the blinding hangovers that weren’t a pretty picture the next morning. I occasionally went with my friends, but mostly with my colleagues and a major part of drowning our sorrows entailed long, abuse-filled conversations about love or the lack of it, work, cockroaches in the sink etc., but we actually spent most of our time answering emails and phone calls from our bosses, blurry eyed and slurred, trying to arrange meetings with loud music blaring in the background because 9 baje office se nikle par the kaam must go on! A lot of the conversation also centred around bitching about said bosses. By midnight, every drunk person was on the dance floor, gyrating against other drunk strangers from lack of space and not once did we ever look as dazzling as those on screen, with our rum infused auras and clothes stained with patches of sweat. I have, since then, given up those daily shenanigans, opting instead for controlled house parties every other month because I realised that daily trips to the bar are injurious to not only your health (obviously) but also your pocket (which you won’t realise while you’re busy yelling, “Drinks on me!”).
With the flush of web-series hitting the Indian market over that last three years, there is constant pressure to generate content that the youth would relate to. Yeah, we all rolled over laughing over films like “The Hangover” which hyped the need for alcohol and made hangovers funny (Ugh!), but is it really necessary to show relationships between lovers, friends, colleagues progress over alcohol? Because, as far as I know, I’ve always forgotten the next morning whatever meaningful stuff I may have said or heard while drinking and frankly, sometimes you’re just hanging out with some people because of the alcohol. You could always question whether the characters you model yourselves around would actually be friends if they didn’t have their bar to settle at and drinks to consume. After all, even Prateik Babbar’s, Jeh in the first episode of “Four More Shots Please” reminds the women that they are together because of the bar when they vandalise the sign outside after a night of copious drinking. And although you may sincerely believe that drinking makes you a better, wiser, more talkative person, with the progression of time, I’m not sure if what we think is a solid conversation over drinks is actually that or just crap that sounds really intense.
The point I’m trying to make here is: drinking isn’t as charming as it is shown on TV and in films. It screws with your head and your health over time and opposite to what these shows portray, your friends will distance themselves from you if you think you can drink every day and keep your wits about you. And, to top it all off, you won’t even realise when and how drinking becomes a crutch. At the end of it all, if you have a problem and think alcohol is the solution, I’d suggest you kick the bottle and have a conversation with someone close instead. It costs nothing. Trust me.