Hrithik Roshan's Kaabil act shows Hindi cinema is exploring new professions for characters

Devansh Sharma

Jan,23 2017 15:16:13 IST

The recently released promo of Sanjay Gupta's revenge drama Kaabil explores the professional life of Hrithik Roshan's character, a visually challenged man. He is a dubbing artiste and is seen lending his voice to a cartoon character and imitating the voice of Amitabh Bachchan.

Hrithik Roshan in a still from the new promo of Kaabil. YouTube

Hrithik Roshan in a still from the new promo of Kaabil. YouTube

If we look in the rear view mirror, it is the same voice that narrated the popular dialogue from R Balki's Cheeni Kum, "Khana banana koi pesha nahi hai. Ye duniya ki sabse badi kala hai." Pesha (profession) has often borrowed from art. But in the new millennium, art is returning the favour as well. Hindi cinema has explored a myriad range of professions from the chef in Cheeni Kum to the dubbing artiste in Kaabil.

Last year, Alia Bhatt played a cinematographer and Shah Rukh Khan played a psychiatrist in Gauri Shinde's slice-of-life drama Dear Zindagi. How many times have we seen a female cinematographer on the sliver screen? In fact, Shinde's last film English Vinglish also had Sridevi playing an 'entrepreneur', who sells homemade laddoos to customers. Assigning such a profession, which was hitherto male-dominated, to a woman does not contribute to the central narrative as much as it does to character development.

It is rather strange that filmmakers seldom borrow professions which are present in close geographical proximity to them. We rarely see a film editor, a music composer or an action director played by a lead actor in Hindi films. The most memorable exception would be Sonam Kapoor who played an art director in Punit Malhotra's I Hate Love Stories.

Otherwise, the scope is only limited to an actor playing an actor, an idea so done to death now. Maneesh Sharma's Fan is a recent example of such a debacle where Shah Rukh Khan merely played himself. Maneesh, however, is also responsible for introducing a relatively new profession onto the screen in his debut film, Band Baaja Baaraat. Ranveer Singh and Anushka Sharma not only played wedding planners to a tee, they made organised wedding planning a streamlined profession.

We saw a glimpse of wedding planning, though played by a character artiste, Rati Agnihotri in Kunal Kohli's 2002 romantic comedy Hum Tum. However, that was probably the first and the only time that we saw a lead actor in Saif Ali Khan play a cartoonist. The metrosexual Khan followed it up with playing a chef in Siddharth Anand's 2005 romantic comedy Salaam Namaste, paving the way for Bachchan to don the chef's hat three years later. In the same film, Preity Zinta played a radio jockey, in turn, paving the way for Vidya Balan to announce 'Good Morning Mumbai' in Raju Hirani's Lage Raho Munna Bhai the next year.

Hindi cinema has often broken its character stereotypes by borrowing inspiring stories for real life. That is why the 'biopic' genre seems to be the order of the day these days. Had it not been for that genre, we would not have seen the ace Hindi actors play a female boxer, an athlete, an air hostess, a hockey coach and an item girl. Though it opened multiple doors to future writers, all these professions were central to the primary narrative of the film.

What we were left to desire for were characters that happen to be say, an animator, a stand-up comedian, a sports manager, an automobile designer, an actuarian, a sports manager, a chartered accountant, some professions that may be either creative or technical but have not been explored in Hindi cinema yet. These are all girl/boy-next-door jobs which may not form the crux of the story but bring certain traits to the character that make it more intriguing.

For example, last year, Karan Johar's Ae Dil Hai Mushkil saw all characters, except Anushka Sharma, nurture artistic professions or have a creative release. Ranbir Kapoor was a singer, Fawad Khan a DJ, Shah Rukh Khan a painter and Aishwarya Rai a poetess. Their art reflected their persona, their incomplete selves which yearned for love.

Thus, one's profession does not only attribute traits to the character but also reflect the personal space of the character. Speaking of Ae Dil Hai Muskil, Karan Johar admits that instances in the film are heavily borrowed from his personal life.

Thus, it is only when Hindi cinema liberally incorporates a plethora of professions in its stories that it will reflect our times accurately.

Updated Date: Jan 23, 2017 15:16 PM