Chennai: On 22 September 1994, a miracle happened on TV when we saw Monica, Rachel, Joey, Chandler, Ross, and Phoebe waltz into that tiny apartment in New York. 25 years later they still continue to be a part of our lives.
I met FRIENDS through an incredible ‘friend’ of mine at work. I was a new guy in office, new to journalism, and everything seemed scary. But I saw her watching FRIENDS and in weeks, we ended up watching the series together while having our lunch, post edition hour. In a way, it marked the beginning of our friendship.
Something resonated within me when I watched this sitcom of six friends, talking about life, love, relationship, career, and sex.
For starters, I was bowled over by Chandler’s casual sarcasm. I got drowned in fits of giggle by Joey’s obsession for food and loved Phoebe’s adorable innocence (Smelly cat! Smelly….cat!). I worried about Ross’ love for Rachel and for Rachel’s confusion over Ross. I admired Ross’ craze for dino bones and Rachel’s transformation from a spoil brat waitress into an almost successful business woman. Monica’s OCD for perfectionism and bringing order from chaos gave me the chills.
I eventually figured that I was an ardent FRIENDS fan myself when I saw the six everywhere. Like the ‘friend’ at work who introduced me to FRIENDS often spoke to herself while writing articles or waved her hands across to prove a point like a Pheobe. And when she introduced me to her college buddies, they turned out to be a bunch of Phoebes, Monicas and Rachels themselves. Clipped with a wicked sense of humour and sass, I had a tough time to stifle my laughter in their presence when they cracked tales about their family, friends, relatives and secret crushes. We would go to a cafe – Cheese n Freeze – which became a Central Perk for me.
When someone tries to grab my food, I do my best to give a ‘Joey stare’ or while hanging out with my school friends, I jump up and down in excitement like Joey and Chandler hugging or dancing by their apartment door. While in deep conversation with a cousin or a friend, a very cautious FRIENDS reference often wades into my speech. Speaking about relationship never passes without ‘How you doin’?’. For breakups, it’s, ‘You’re over me? When you were… under me?’
I was 22 when I passed through the rites of passage, last year, to officially call myself a FRIENDS fan. Now I imagine how it must have been to people who actually grew up watching the show from 1994 to 2004. It defined a generation and gave birth to heavily inspired and acclaimed babies; How I Met Your Mother, New Girl, The Big Bang Theory. It inspired a whole new breed of screenwriters, gave a platform for new actors and directors.
Maybe that’s why drama films and TV series often lead most awards race across the globe. We see ourselves in drama and humour. We see how vulnerable a character can get in this genre. We are dazzled by their conviction as they come across obstacles that often mirrors the lives we face. We crave for laughter in a world that is flooded by darkness. TV and films have this incredible power to tap deep into our hearts with characters that we come across every day, yet fail to notice, until they are depicted on silver screen.
Sure, action genre does spark goosebumps while horror makes us feel vulnerable. But when it comes to drama or humour, we are slammed by its power to make us cry, laugh and smile – execute a plethora of emotional rainstorm all at the same time. And when a creative piece of art or a novel or a motion picture speaks about love – the most complex human emotion of all – we’re bound to fall head over heels.
FRIENDS taught us what it meant to love our dudes, our family, our job, our dreams, our hopes, and aspiration, right from the moment, we heard The Rembrandts singing ‘I’ll Be There for You‘ in the opening credits. Every time I see FRIENDS, I inevitable think about that incredible person who introduced the series to me. I think about the laughter and joy we had while watching together over lunch and while exchanging subtle puns like Chandler or Joey. We sometimes find TV/movie characters in others or ourselves. That’s cinema, that’s TV for you.