Tuesday, November 13, 2007

And then there were boys

13th Nov 2007

I can’t wait to see Om Shanti Om. I am thrilled that finally, there’s a movie about the seventies, my favourite era — it was an era where men were men. Whether it was Shashi Kapoor’s flamboyance, or Vinod Khanna’s arrogance, or Amitabh Bachchan’s simmer, or Dharmendra’s bravado, or Feroz Khan’s panache, or even Shatrughan Sinha’s bellowing, or Sanjeev Kumar’s melancholic drama, there was one thing in common. They were all men’s men. They were men your dad celebrated, brother emulated, sister had a crush on and mum adored (I know mine had a deep fondness for Amitabh Bachchan and Manoj Kumar — wonder what they had in common)

Even the villains had flair. Whether it was Prem Chopra in his sharp suits and designer mufflers, with that gleam in his eye, or the clean chested Ranjeet in his micro-briefs, who, for some reason was always lounging on a float in a swimming pool surrounded by a bevy of very svelte babes in bikinis, when he usually got a phone call that got him to say “What?” in annoyance.

For someone like me who grew up in a topography that just about made it to the Bombay map, movies and books were my window to the world. We didn’t have a TV till much after the Asian games. And Star &Style was a piece of work to be taken very, very seriously.

When I was operated for tonsilitis as a kid, I was asked to name whatever I wanted to make me feel better about the fact that I couldn’t talk for two days. I asked for a supply of Picture Post, a delightful movie digest with lots of stills and glossy portraits and bios of movie stars. Believe me, it felt better than the ice-cream.

And what do we have now? If I look around moviedom today, I find the masculinity so manicured, it is not even lech-worthy. There are no men, only boys ( some descendants of the aforementioned) desperately trying to be men, but no amount of jackets, guns or SUVs is helping. Neither are glossy stunts and stylized dance moves and the waxed chests and the woven hair. There are no villains either, as the good guys are also the bad guys. And no vamps, as actresses are ready to break into cabaret-like gyrations.

The 70s was also a time when movies had real sexuality — even if we only saw a symbolic fireplace and torrential rain in the tacky back drop, a dropping of blankets, flowers nodding in unison, thunder for sound effects — the point is, one could feel the sex on screen. When was the last time you saw great chemistry between a man and a woman on the Bollywood screen in the last five years? Think hard.

Yes, the men are metrosexual and yes, they have the moves, good hair and biceps, an occasional cleavage and six packs and all that. But even when they turn 45, they will still be boys. And that to me, is not a great thing.

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