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How connected do Indians feel to Barbie?


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How connected do Indians feel to Barbie?

The much-awaited Barbie movie is set for a blockbuster opening in cinemas this Friday and it seems like everyone on the planet is excited to watch the film.

With how much marketing and buzz there has been surrounding it, it’s safe to say that the Greta Gerwig-directed film is one of the biggest releases of 2023 alongside Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. After the LA premiere, the first reviews of the movie only hype up the film even more, with many naming the film as Gerwig’s best work yet.

While both films will face off in theatres in probably one of the biggest movie wars ever, early box office projections show that Barbie might be winning. That is, in most countries. According to multiple sources, India is the only market where Barbie is behind Oppenheimer by a huge margin. The movie commenced its advance booking very recently, reportedly selling 54,000 tickets already across major chains for opening day. On the other hand, Oppenheimer sold 90,000 opening-day tickets.

Of course, there had to be Twitter discourse about this, and people have polarizing opinions. Some believe that the film lagging behind is telling of India’s patriarchal views – that most of the audience still cannot comprehend women-centric films. There are also opinions that many still perceive the film as too ‘girly’ and juvenile. Although Barbie is a kid’s toy, it is pretty apparent from the PG-13 rating and the trailers, who the film’s target audience is – adults who grew up playing with the dolls.

On the contrary, Nolan has a huge fan base in India. He has shot two of his films in the country, and also has, on multiple occasions, expressed deep appreciation for Indian films. So it is not surprising that the majority of Indians are more aware of Oppenheimer than Barbie.

“I used to play with dolls – but I’ve never really been aware of Barbie as a brand. For me, they were just dolls, and I’m not sure if they were even actual Barbie dolls or just rip-offs. I’ve never felt that connect with Barbie where it was like I NEED to have the latest collection and everything,” said Krutika (25) about her excitement for the film. She admits she isn’t looking forward to Oppenheimer either, instead choosing to watch Mission Impossible: Fallout this weekend.

“I never had Barbie dolls as a child but I absolutely loved the animated films. When we had DVDs in our house, films like Mariposa, Princess and the Pauper, are all I used to watch on repeat,” said Shreya (20). “But mine was a majorly English-speaking household and my parents watched Hollywood films too. A lot of my friends never really grew up watching these films, and many of them don’t feel a connection to Barbie.” she continued.

Riya (22) echoes Shreya’s sentiments. She did not have dolls growing up, she mainly played with teddy bears and soft toys. “I did love the characters in the films because they looked pretty, but beyond that, they never resonated with me,” she says.

Barbie dolls were fairly expensive for an average Indian family, so the Margot Robbie starrer might not be the nostalgia-fest that it is aiming to be, for viewers here. As a child, the closest I got to Barbie was the animated movies and those incredibly loud play phones you would find on street fairs that would play Dhoom Machale at a volume high enough to burst your eardrums. And it is only as I write this that I’m realizing, those phones probably had nothing to do with Mattel anyway.

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