Salman Khan is back. Heralding a new world for the Hindi film hero. Not only can you be pushing fifty and still ruling the roost – so what if you have to romance Shotgun’s daughter while doing so – you can also mark the end of an era. An era of hairless men. What we call maakhundo in Bengali.
In the last decade and half, our heroes had suddenly started sporting faces with not even some stray fluff on their smooth-as-a-baby’s-bottom faces. After Jackie and our own human-grizzly mix, Anil Kapoor, all the heroes who’ve followed have displayed a strange mix of bulging biceps, perfectly coiffed locks and no facial or body hair.
But no longer is the moustachioed hero relegated to Kollywood. The moustache seems to have wormed its way back on to the faces of our heroes, when we weren’t looking. Now you can glean the genre of a film simply by whether the actor sports a moustache or not. And the kind of moustache he has. Just like the sight of a “deglamourised” heroine — which basically means she’s not wearing micro-minis and stilletoes in a village and will wear natural makeup and have perfectly tweezed eyebrows — signalled that a Hindi film is slightly hatke, almost borderline indie cinema. Now, the giveaway sign of a hatke film is the sight of one of our Hindi film superstars sporting a moustache. The moustache can be to the Hindi film experimental hero, what the cotton saree and natural makeup is to the crossover actress.
Everyone noticed the Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi poster because of SRK’s pencil-thin moustache. Followed by Arjun Rampal’s moustache in We Are Family – but then the film along with his moustache sank without a trace. But now the hirsute hero seems to be back. So we had Saif sporting a funky although ugly one in Tashan, and then one in Kurban — because how can a terrorist not take the time out to shave his fancy angular goatee and pencil-thin moustache every day. Not to be outdone, Rampal again sported a moustache in Chakravyuh, because all cops must sport a moustache. Otherwise how would we know Rampal wasn’t playing a playboy in the film? And then there was Salman Khan in Dabangg followed by Aamir Khan in Talaash followed by the return of Sallu in Dabangg 2.
After studying these moustaches closely, I’ve realised they are all hybrids of the Dali and Hitler family of pencil-thin and droopy moustaches. Why is that? Why are there no bushy, can’t-see-my-lips-at-all moustaches a la Groucho? Also, how come the hirsuteness is extending only to the face now? It’s very disconcerting to see a hero sporting a moustache above and a waxed chest below. Of course this might be because the sexual behaviourists who are consulted while writing scripts in Bollywood, have realised that a shaved chest can indeed help men attract women.
Makes for a disturbing visual but it seems to be working for our actors.
And despite what Gillette would have us believe about the women of India preferring men with no facial hair, what do they know? After all, some of India’s most attractive men have sported moustaches. From Rajnikanth to Raaj Kumar. In fact, it’s the Raaj Kumar moustache which seems to be the favourite amongst the stars – from Shahid Kapoor in Mausam to the biggest star of them all Salman Khan in Dabaang. So is the moustache back? Will all the men about town stop working out at the gym a la Sallu and John Abraham, and instead start spending hours shaving and making sure their moustaches are just the right length, thickness and angle?
Is this a new hairy age of cinema we are witnessing? The good thing is that since most of the films which our moustachioed heroes have featured in have tanked at the box office – other than Dabanng and Rab Ne…- we might not have to suffer this very localised hair growth which our actors are sporting for much longer. Or maybe this is only the beginning, and in the next decade our actors will start looking like real men who have follicles in their bodies and start sporting goatees and french beards, and finally bring back the doormat chest hair which we all grew to love on Anil Kapoor. Till such time, we’ll make do with Sallu’s Hitler-meets-Raaj Kumar tribute.