If it's the generation that's most immersed in social media – it is millennials and the Gen Zs. Their experiences are defined by the perpetual presence of social media. Vacations must be documented, clothes must be worthy of a GRWM or 'Get Ready With Me' shoot, and the places you go to should be Instagrammable. Even your significant other needs a soft launch on your Insta or Snapchat. It's a lot to keep up with. Sometimes, it's difficult to actually realise when life became inseparable from social media.
Arjun Varain Singh's latest, 'Kho Gaye Hum Kahan,' with Adarsh Gourav, Ananya Pandey and Siddhant Chaturvedi in lead roles, captures this integration authentically. An unrequited lover is documenting everything she does on her Instagram just to seek someone's attention. The endless comparisons have turned someone’s life upside down to an extent that they forget to enjoy the smallest moments. Dating app swipes are draining the soul out of someone, leaving them running away from their emotions.
It's our story!
These could be stories of different characters, or just different versions of ourselves, battling the tsunami that is the modern world – where the struggle to stay afloat is real, thanks to the relentless urge to be online.
It's a generation so dependent on social media that entire careers sprout from it. I often come across Instagram reels where people joke about regretting not starting making videos for the internet four years ago, envisioning an escape from their current 'boring' 9-5 job. It's the same generation from where I also see reels encouraging people to cease wasting time online and return to meaningful pursuits in their lives. We live in a world full of contradictions, and those contradictions are embedded within us. This is what Kho Gaye Hum Kahan also tried to show, and was honestly quite successful with it.
The recent Netflix special is earning praise, striking a chord with viewers. It is as real as the urge to apply an Instagram filter and share it on your story after clicking a photo. It follows the journey of three friends in their twenties, navigating the complexities of an age group where everyone is trying to 'figure things out,' all while grappling with the pressures of social media. The constant reminder that one isn't "enough" is palpable, mirroring the trend of showcasing only the best parts of life, as rightly highlighted in the trailer for the film.
What makes it special is that it not only dives into the world of social media but also explores the essence of modern friendships, ambitions, and love. Being in my twenties, whenever my friends and I chat, three common themes pop up: concerns about love, careers, and friendships. There's this feeling of not having it all figured out yet, but this rush to make sense of it all before hitting a certain age, and the characters in the story are on the same page.
The urban life and it's struggles
What I enjoyed about the movie is how it effortlessly portrays three young people trying something new. One is a stand-up comic, another aspires to train celebrities as a gym trainer, and the third, an MBA, leaves her full-time job to start something on her own. Just a decade ago, this wasn't common in films. Movies used to focus on people pursuing their passions beyond regular careers, like in "3 Idiots" or "Tamasha." Now, it's not such a big deal, which is a relief. It was refreshing to see a father equally invested in his comedian son's career as one would be in his engineer son's.
The real essence lies in the complications of urban life that unfold. While the film depicts Bandra's cool kids, even someone in Bareilly's small town might relate to similar struggles.
The film touches on online trolling, however, I personally felt that it feels somewhat incomplete. The character Lala, an influencer, isn't very likeable. Therefore, you might not empathise much when she faces online trolling after her ex-lover shares personal details. Contrast this with the unfortunate incident of Pranshu, a 16-year-old makeup influencer from a small town in Madhya Pradesh, who tragically took his own life after hurtful comments on his Instagram post. The assertion that only individuals grappling with sad or frustrated lives turn into trolls felt like an oversimplification. Trolling may also be rooted in inherent malice, ignorance, or simply because the person is mean.
The intimacy game
A significant theme of KGHK is also the 'intimacy' game. Even though finding a connection is as easy as a swipe, it doesn't magically erase the emotional gaps; sometimes, it even makes people feel more distant. In one scene, Imaad, played by Siddhant Chaturvedi, literally blocks a woman he later described as ‘cute’ after leaving her house in the morning, despite sharing good times the previous night. In another conversation, Kalki and Siddhant talk about the superficiality in people's eyes, especially in the photos she takes for a Tinder project. "It's the digital age," she says, capturing the struggles of our times perfectly. “Sirf lagta hai ki hum connected hain, par shayad is se zyada akele kabhi nahin the” (it seems like that we are more connected, but perhaps we were never more alone). Talk about truth bombs!
Trigger Warning, as the next point delves onto instances of child abuse. The film also explores the impact of child sexual abuse on one's perception of intimacy regardless of one's gender. Siddhant Chaturvedi's character, Imaad, embodies the traits of a 'fuckboi,' but if you look at it, it may have been stemming from profound childhood traumas that reshape his understanding of sex and intimacy. Initially, you see Imaad as just another guy on dating apps exhibiting emotionally unavailable traits. Despite finding someone he likes, he remains active on Tinder and also questions his friends' dating choices in his comic act. However, as the film progresses, it becomes apparent that his behaviour is rooted in deep childhood trauma. His fear of intimacy seems to be a manifestation of a painful past where he was abused by an adult male. Having known many people who went through similar experiences, it makes his fear of intimacy relatable, evoking empathy for his character. It really hits home. I've seen this happening with people I know. Consider something as basic as using sex toys. I've witnessed couples in relationships struggling to be open about their sexuality due to childhood traumas. It manifests differently for each person – some engage in casual encounters, some suppress their feelings, and others bury that desire deep inside. For Imaad, humour becomes both a coping mechanism and an outlet. It's in the midst of his stand up comedy act that he delivers a heartfelt monologue, laying bare the depths of his traumas.
Interestingly, a friend labels him a 'sex addict' during a heated argument, which also brings me to take note of how realistic their friendship is.
It is a mix of conflicts, mutual reliance, confrontations, and the ability to serve as devil's advocates or offer a reality check. In this imperfect yet genuine dynamic, friendship proves to be a crucial support system, capable of rescuing each other when you feel like drowning.
The movie paints a picture of an era where getting closure involves having breakup sex. The revenge bod and revenge dress are real, like when Ananya Pandey’s character Ahana rocks a stunning red saree to meet her ex after a long break.
What's intriguing is how self-aware our generation is, even though we sometimes pretend not to be. Ahana, for example, knows exactly why she is doing post-breakup antics—to tease her ex. But when asked by her friend, she insists it's all "for herself."
The film employs powerful visual metaphors, such as Ananya Pandey at a spiral staircase in one scene while checking her ex’s Social media, mirroring the descent into the social media rabbit hole. Similarly, the opening song is literally a montage of social media footage of these three friends having the time of their life, while in reality they carry deep wounds within.
Amidst many questions, the film attempts to unravel why online trolling occurs, why we often perceive others as more successful, and why the constant urge to compare ourselves to others prevails; it also addresses the phenomenon of shaping every aspect of our lives for the sake of our social media image, even personal celebrations like birthdays. The film aptly captures the nuances of influencer culture and its shallowness.
What I found tolerable about it, though , was its "in your face" approach to the narrative. While it's very entertaining and relatable — the two words I've been hearing from most people — it's also slightly loud in its approach and may sound a bit preachy to some, especially with the monologues. However, it is true that the film has its heart in the right place. Barring a few technical or cinematic loopholes, I am sure it will help the current generation look within and start a conversation.
About the Author
Unnati is your friendly neighborhood wordsmith, doubling as a classical music enthusiast. She's into all things gender, pop culture, and cinema. Oh, and don't be surprised if she drops some political wisdom – she is heavily into national politics and current affairs too. With a liberal arts background, she brings that extra flavour and nuance in her writings.