The 20th issue of Open Axis explores popular culture. We question how popular culture is framed, why it is both dynamic and malleable. Almost everything that we do – friends we make, conversations that we have, places that we travel to, media that we consume – is predicated upon the prevailing cultural trends around us. This issue will attempt to understand how culture is framed and made to interact with society, politics, and technology. Further, this issue will also encompass our designated theme to respond to the biggest headline in the world right now.
In the early hours of 24th February, the world woke up to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of war against Ukraine. Heroic tales of Ukrainian defiance began to be shared through social media. Meanwhile, diplomatic and geopolitical experts took over television panels and editorial pages. The world moved on almost in suspended disbelief, with a new war to discuss. In doom and in calm, Open Axis persists in analyzing the world around us.
Following our theme of popular culture, Reya Deya is in conversation with her mother and grandmother as they react to the newly released Gehraiyaan, and talk about on-screen sex, sexuality, and sensationalism.
Continuing the conversation around intimacy, Maahira Jain and Lakshya Sharma interview Aastha Khanna, the first Intimacy Coordinator of India and intimacy director behind Gehraiyaan. In an insightful podcast, she talks about her journey and the importance of her work in today’s world.
In a day and age where attention is few and fleeting, art and popular culture remains that which unites and creates. Shree Bhattacharyya explores whether originality is present in popular culture today, and how the act of plagiarism has taken on a new and confusing role.
With Ashoka University starting offline classes on campus again after two years, OpenAxis asks the Ashoka student body what they will miss about online classes.
In this issue, we also explore how the pandemic transformed how we occupy space around us, as Jaidev Pant writes about how the pandemic altered our relationship with the outdoors.
Maahira Jain writes about hybrid work culture in the pandemic brought well being and employee development to the forefront of organisational policies
Studying another aspect of popular culture, Biplob Kumar Das writes about how Hindu Nationalism is influencing popular culture in India since 2014.
In a photo essay, acclaimed filmmaker and photojournalist Kalyan Verma journeys through the ancient rocks and rainforests of Southern India’s Western Ghat range to document the spectacular Macaques.
Lakshya Sharma explores the case of Chitra Ramakrishna, CEO of the National Stock Exchange, who got tricked by a Himalayan sage and writes about how people have faith in such self-proclaimed sages, but how blind faith can lead to catastrophic consequences for people.
Neelim Mahanta’s street art is recognised widely in Assam. In an interview with him, conducted by Biplob Kumar Das, he opens up about his work, his beginnings, and his thoughts on art and life.
On the Russia Ukraine crisis, Saaransh Mishra, Research Associate in Observer Research Foundation, writes about what are the options that Ukraine has in responding to an invasion by their militarily superior Russia.
– Lakshya Sharma, Shree Bhattacharyya, Jaidev Pant, Maahira Jain, Rutuparna Deshpande, Reya Daya & Biplob Kumar Das
Illustrator of cover image: Rutuparna Deshpande