Where are the shuddh desi heroes?
And now, I will let you in on a little secret - if you watch Shuddh Desi Romance backwards, you’ll see what director Maneesh Sharma has cleverly hidden in his Indian Born Confused Desi romantic hodgepodge of a movie: the obituary of the Bollywood hero.
In Greek mythology, heroes are usually the result of a Greek god getting down and dirty with a mortal, creating a half-human, half-God, full badass child… at least that’s how it’s explained on Percy Jackson, so let’s roll with it. These heroes then go on to do great deeds, like finding the Golden Fleece, beheading Medusa, destroying the Titans and creating feta cheese; all very worthy achievements, especially if you like salad. A hero has since evolved to become a man who does great deeds and whose statues we erect all over our cities because pigeons deserve Sulabh Shauchalays too.
Hero is also the name audiences give Bollywood’s male leads, which, until the 2000s, was a title most of them bore with panache. Rajesh Khanna’s dashing, vivacious charmer; Amitabh Bachchan’s angry young man; Shahrukh Khan’s romantic, vulnerable loverboy — these were all heroic in their own way. Flawed, yet inspirational characters who tried to do the right thing despite circumstances, lost souls who found their way in the end. Likeable, relatable and often echoing the sentiments of its audience, these were our heroes and they were the best that you could get while avoiding any awkward sexual transactions with Greek Gods.
And now, I will let you in on a little secret - if you watch Shuddh Desi Romance backwards, you’ll see what director Maneesh Sharma has cleverly hidden in his Indian Born Confused Desi romantic hodgepodge of a movie: the obituary of the Bollywood hero. Every time Sushant Singh Rajput opened his mouth to say something, I imagined a Sebastian The Crab-like Hitch character weeping in the background. Sushant’s Raghu Ram can only be described as the best case you can make for a vasectomy. He was lazy, indecisive, and weak and it was never clear as to why two smart, spunky and beautiful women wanted him. One of whom he’d even left drinking thanda at their shaadi mandap as he bolted out the bathroom. Guess those deodorant ads don’t lie, huh?
In Cocktail, Band Baaja Baaraat, I Hate Luv Storys, Vicky Donor and even in the Besharam trailer, I’ve seen shades of this guy. A smart-talking, overconfident wuss with no redeemable qualities, who has to be led kicking and screaming to an epiphany, like Shahid Kapoor to grammar school. Yet inexplicably, he gets the girl and rides off into the sunset.
It’s either that or we have the superhero caricature (Salman Khan in any movie) who masquerades as a mortal, spitting acid, farting chemical weapons and doing wheelies in mid-air. He has no fear, no doubts and no physics stopping him from making a very confident fool of himself. (This applies to Salman Khan in real life also.)
As a woman who actually loves how progressive all the new generation of female characters are, this is a tad disappointing. It’s as though as soon as our actresses were allowed to become true heroines, we were introduced to the catch – we also had to watch as they lowered their standards and settled for total losers.
Since so many directors and writers claim to speak on behalf of the youth of the country, let me spell it out for them before they start their next great foray into the muddled minds of the 20-somethings – the one thing we aren’t muddled about is that this country deserves better heroes. We need men with more gumption, more conviction, more self-confidence and less todu dialogue baazi. Because if you have the first three, the last one sort of takes care of itself.
And while you’re at it, give them killer abs too, because if I recall my Homer correctly, you can’t be a hero if you don’t have a surfer dude’s eight pack.
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