Arya Iyer, is the main lead of the new Netflix show Decoupled. One of the things Arya loves to do is to typify people. People hate being typified. Typification takes away from them something they felt was exclusively theirs. Typification also gives a sense of predictability to people and makes them look uninteresting. Arya Iyer loves to typify people, because he loves to irritate those who take themselves too seriously.
In the show, these ‘types’ are presented as characters. Mr. Basu, the kind of person who is associated with academia and activism, but living the south Delhi lifestyle. The therapist types who are in love with the misery of other people. The nationalist types who connect everything quickly to national pride. The ‘driver type’, who know the rich they are serving can’t stand them and in turn hate the rich. When not shown as characters, Arya typifies people through his one liners — the art film type, the type who publicly surprise their wives, the NDTV type people, etc. In that sense, what type of a person is Arya Iyer?
What type of people typify others as a form of self amusement, and sometimes as a form of livelihood? Probably, some kind of writers, who could range from ethnographers to gossip column writers. Arya in the show is the second best fiction writer. The best author is Chetan, a type of bestseller who writes mushy romantic stories for the masses in simple English.
Arya belongs to the tribe that likes to think of themselves as ‘authentic’. They’re simply social misfits, who confuse their weakness for what they think is ‘uniqueness’ or a sense of ‘individuality’. They think having no friends or not being invited to social gatherings is a manifestation of their honesty. They believe they speak ‘truth’ at the expense of being insensitive.
By truth, they obviously mean their opinion. They’re desperate to appear neutral, and one way they do so is by being secular about their insults. They are people who like to repeatedly say that ‘I do not subscribe to any groups and like to think on a case to case basis’. They are the kind of people who complain about ‘political correctness’.
And yet Arya is the kind of person who secretly loves the attention of the very people he publicly denounces — the feminist type. Imagine what would Arya do, if you take away the people he makes fun of?
The problem with Arya Iyers is that they cannot have our direct attention. They are neither heroes nor victims. They’re not particularly ugly, and yet they are not very good looking. They aren’t failures, in fact one can say they are moderately successful. And yet they are not the Chetans of their world. They are that point of grey, which someone may just ignore. And they hate being ignored. So their way of drawing attention to themselves is to make unpopular opinions.
Now the platform of doing so may vary. If you are an early stage Arya, you may be doing this with your best friend over drinks or as notes to self. Alternatively, through a low stake blog or opinion piece. If you work hard and become a little old, you might even get a Netflix show. They think they hate people who like Dravid, because Dravid is an art film. But they actually hate people who like Dravid, because Dravid was the second best, and they are too egoistic for accepting the consolation prize of secondness.
But the question is why do Arya Iyers behave the way they do? Arya Iyers are born out of resentment and jealousy. They are victims to unfair distribution of attention, success and accolades. They are people who deserve much more, sometimes objectively and sometimes in their heads, but the system works in a skewed way. The reason Arya Iyers develop multiple theories about the world is to explain away their failure to be Chetans. And yet they are always around more successful people, to see their backstage personalities and devious ways in which they maintain power. Arya Iyers do not leave any chance to take digs at such nasty colleagues.
Everyone hates bad people, but Arya Iyers particularly hate the ‘good’ ones. They are too twisted and wounded to believe in happy stories and good people. Arya’s missing parents from the plot suggest a subplot about his lack of relationship with them. They would hate to hear it, but like everyone else, they also want to be loved, but don’t allow themselves be vulnerable. So they choose to be wicked and witty instead.
Decoupled is more like a documentary on the Arya tribe and their customs. This is the reason, many people, rightly so, do not find the plot particularly interesting. From a narrative point of view, it suffers from what Arya Iyers would call putting ideology over any real story. It’s like one of those social science research papers, where there are quotes in the vernacular attributed to rural women, that the researcher wants them to say, only to fit his favorite French postmodern theory. Arya Iyers are the type who would hate the term ‘subaltern’, but they are a kind of subaltern within the circle of the elite and in the fictional world of popular entertainment.
Despite Arya representing the voice of common sense and instincts, the limelight is usually taken away by ‘serious men’ proposing grand schemes. Lack of representation in mainstream spaces makes Arya Iyers an endangered tribe. And thus it’s very progressive of Netflix to be supporting this minority, especially so at a time when people seem to be too passionate about their views. It is bringing in a kind of skepticism, and perhaps cynicism that Arya Iyers aspire the world should be full of.
When some people feel that the world is getting polarized, with two extremes trying to over-shout each other, Aryas are making notes to the self about how stupid and same both sides of the coin are. Arya Iyerism is a manifesto, which the left liberals may hate more than the right conservatives, probably because more left wingers have a Netflix subscription.
Gautam Bisht is pursuing a PhD in Learning Sciences at the Northwestern University, USA. He is the founder of Sinchan Education and Rural Entrepreneurship Foundation. His interests include cinema and culture.