I haven’t watched the latest blockbuster Chennai Express yet. But from all reports, it is certain that it is “right on track” to set a few collection records. SRK can now relax and breathe easy after his last few tame “derailed” outings as per his standards. Though Rohit Shetty’s pudding this time is not a rehash of a South movie (that’s what I believe), it has all the trappings of a typical masala potboiler of Tamil or Telugu. Watching the trailer was enough to get to this supposition. This means that here’s another movie joining the now getting longer list of Ghajini, Dabang, Singham, and Rowdy Rathore, … which are basically pregnant with “Southisms” but have impressed the Bollywood movie goers by far. Another point to note is that these have been big grossers not just in B and C Centers (Small Towns and Villages in Film Trade lingo) but also in A Centers like Mumbai, Pune, Delhi,…
That brings us to the main question I want to raise through this blog outing, which is – “Is the Angry Young Man” of yore getting back with a vengeance in Bollywood?
Salim-Javed (Salim Khan-Javed Akhtar) the famed writer duo of Bollywood is credited with the creation of the original “Angry Young Man” in Indian cinema thro Amitabh Bachchan in the 70’s. This was when the films in which they penned the screen play like Zanjeer, Deewar and Sholay,… were super-duper hits and had Amitabh playing the protagonist taking on the system and not necessarily playing by the rules. This led to many observers conjecturing that the “Angry Young Man” (let’s call it AYM) was a reflection of those times. The youths of that time were getting restless with the joblessness and issues like that and were preparing to take the system head on unlike in the past. Incidentally I must add here that in one of the recent interviews (Walk the Talk with Shekhar Gupta), Javed Akhtar candidly admitted that they had no clue that they were mirroring the society or such thing like that with their main lead characterisation and that they were frankly amused by the various theories that emerged out regarding those movies and the characters. Watch that interview here if you like.
Since it is not uncommon for movies to just follow a trailblazer, scores of films ensued with the AYM theme in Hindi with other actors as well. And not surprisingly this trend crossed state boundaries and soon we started seeing the “Angry Young Man” in Tamil (Rajnikant), Telugu (Chiranjeevi) and “even” in Malayalam (Mohanlal) (I say “even” since generally Malayalam cinema is associated with serious literary influence and low budgets) And like any trend which gets flogged to death, the AYM story also got beaten to death and soon faded out in Hindi. Another point is, by this time Amitabh Bachchan though may be angry was certainly not young! One hears from the knowledgeable that the period (80’s) when the Angry Young Man was on his way out, was a black-out dark period for Hindi films when originality hit a rock-bottom in Bollywood. And the AYM times eventually made way for the romantic Yashraj era in the mid 90’s and with that the quintessential “I am Rahul (IAR) era with SRK bbbbbegan!!!
But this was not the case in South. The AYM never really cooled his heels. The mantle of AYM got passed on from one star to another but the theme itself never failed to reverberate with the masses. For example in Tamil movies from Rajnikant to Vijaykanth to Vijay the AYM flame continues to burn to this date. Same in Telugu.(Chiranjeevi to now his son Ram Charan Teja starring in the Zanjeer remake by the way). In Hindi the wannabe “Angry Young Man” – Sunny Deol couldn’t keep the temper alive though.
In the last few years, as I wrote in my earlier blog The “Punch”ing of Bollywood,( you can read here) a reversal of trend is seen happening. That is of South film makers, technicians and accordingly South styled films making a punching impact in Bollywood. My point was that increasingly we could see the South way of film making in Hindi films characterised by “Punch” Dialogues (“Ek baar maine jo commitment kar di, phir main apni bhi nahin sunta”), Loud villains (Prakash Raj), Louder sickle wielding henchmen (Ghajini), lead character with a moustache (Rowdy Rathore/Singham/Dabang), unbelievable but breathtaking action sequences(Rowdy Rathore,Ghajini), Garment flapping choreography (made popular by Prabhu Deva – Just closely watch his choreography and you will notice that the dancer will flap one garment or other for sure),…,… But one main thing I missed in that hypothesis was the presence of our “Angry Young Man” in the centre of it all. And it is no wonder that the Southern film makers have carried along with them the long-standing successful theme out there and brought the “Angry Young Man” back to life in Hindi films!!!
When these guys come to Bollywood and become successful, can you leave the natives behind? So you have our own Rohit Shetty who has emerged as the new champion of the AYM in Hindi cinema post Singham. As I confessed in the beginning, I haven’t watched Chennai Express yet. But I feel that in the lover boy Rahul who is seen as prancing around that good-looking Meenamma there hides an AYM though aged 40 in SRK!!!
One of the main differences in the AYM of the past and today is that apart from being brawny our “AYM-Ver. 2.0” is brainy as well. Hence outwitting the villain happens not just by muscle power but combined with brain power (Wanted, Singham)!!! Oh yes, there are now a few Angry Young Men to count on and not just one! (All in their 40’s 😦 ) And increasingly my hunch is that the films with the “AYM” theme will keep setting the box office on fire. The re-emergence of AYM again in Bollywood may be resonating with the socio political climate of our times I guess. The youth is again getting increasingly frustrated of what is happening in the country – Lawlessness, Corruption, Terrorism,… and indeed with their helplessness to make any material intervention. The AYM themed movies give an opportunity to the youth and actually all of us to fantasize on what you want to do but unable to. So ladies and gentlemen, in this era of increasing youth anxiety about their future and their country’s, brace yourself for a flood of movies with anger smeared all over them. Not surprising in a world where even children are fixated with “Angry Birds”!!!
Tail piece: In a couple of weeks from now the original “Angry Young Man” will again the hit the screens though as Angry Old Man in Satyagraha!!! Wishing him and the film good luck!!!
And I hear that Rohit Shetty has been given Honorary lifetime membership of “South Indian Film Directors Association” 🙂 🙂
Now for the twist : It is a fact that AYM is back in Bollywood. However it may be stretching one’s imagination by far if it is attributed to Chennai Express!! But that was the intended pun 🙂 like the film’s PR team was doing in the run up to the film plugging every possible story bit (Eg – Lungi becoming a fashion trend,..,…) to promote Chennai Express !!!
- Chennai Express: Is Shah Rukh going the Salman way? (ibnlive.in.com)