Chennai Express heralding a new arrival ???

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 !!!

The “Punch”ing of Bollywood !!!

The original “Khiladi” of Bollywood, Akshay Kumar plays the role of an honest cop and as a lookalike – a petty thief in his latest Hindi venture Rowdy Rathore”. This movie I hear is among the Rs 100 Cr (US$20mn) grosser club.  The highlight of the film they say are the dialogues particularly the one liner variety, one of which goes like this: “Jo mein bolta hoon woh mein karta hoon, joh mein nahi bolta.. woh main definitely karta hoon!”   Hearing this, I couldn’t help feeling that the Hindi cinema or Bollywood as it is called affectionately has been hit by a Tsunami from South.

There was a time may be in the 60s and 70s when Hindi Cinema was setting the trends in film making in India whether it was storytelling, filming techniques or for that matter music.  The stories of siblings separated at birth, Cop and thief under the same roof, Robin Hood type heroes,.. and many more of that ilk which all originated in Hindi made its way to South Indian cinema as well.  I guess then came a time in the 80s where there was a flow of ideas in reverse with quite a few Tamil / Telugu movies being re-made in Hindi.  For some reason, Anil Kapoor was a fixed ingredient in this type of rehashes.  However a point to be noted is when these movies were re-made they were done by popular Hindi film makers and they re-packaged the movies with Hindi sensibilities in mind. Brilliant film makers from the South still considered Bollywood as an alien turf and were happy to just be in their own space – whether it was Tamil/ Malayalam or Telugu .

But slowly and steadily film makers like Maniratnam, Priyadarshan, Kamalhaasan and their types started breaking the doors of Hindi cinema by themselves and started getting noticed.  While Mani and Kamal would try to straddle both the Tamil and Hindi worlds with a fine balance, Priyan would just re-cook popular south hits in Hindi with North India spices.    This trend opened the doors for technicians (cinematographers, Music directors, Editors, Sound engineers,..  ) from the south to step into Bollywood and earn their place under the Mumbai sun.  Thereby, north of the Vindyas got to hear a A.R Rahman, see the world through a Santosh Sivan and dance to the beats of a Prabhu Deva.  And Prabhu Deva would soon turn a director and make himself a most “Wanted” commodity in Bollywood.  The difference between other makers from the south who made an impact in Hindi and Prabhu Deva I reckon is that his movies are no doubt Hindi movies but made with the south sensibilities intact. Now defining these so-called south sensibilities is a bit tough one for me but I would presume most people understand where I come from and let us call it the “South way” of film making.   And one of the key elements of this South way is the “Punch” dialogue.

In the 90s, when Rajnikant was just a Tamil or at the most a South phenomenon (unlike today where even a reigning Bollywood Badshah like SRK has to co-opt the now Superstar Rajnikant for a cameo in his Sci-fi Superhero film Ra-One to spread its market beyond the Hindi belt) he started the trend of what is now called the “Punch” dialogues” in Tamil/Telugu film industry.  In a movie named “Baasha” released as early as 1995, in which Rajni plays the role of a Mumbai Don partially and an Auto rickshaw driver partially – one of his dialogues “Naan oru dhadavai sonna, nooru dhadavai sonna madhiri” (When I tell once it is same as telling 100 times) attained iconic status and in an industry which just is happy to follow trends rather than setting one, the “Punch dialogue” as an essential part of the South way arrived.   The delivery of a punch dialogue happens like this. The villain or some such people provokes our hero, our hero pauses, lifts his right hand and his 1st finger ( with a swoosh), camera gets into tight close-up of the hero’s face and the hero delivers that dialogue which packs a 100 punches!  Soon after he turns and walks away (in slow motion of course) followed by his troopers!!!   And this dialogue gets repeated few times in the movie to add to the punch! Post this movie “Baasha”, Rajni would later follow it up with similar one liners which became a rage among his fans so much so that Director Shankar had to explain why he did away with punch dialogues for Rajni in his last movie Robot!!.  Emulating the Super star, his contemporaries like Vijayakanth and much younger heroes like Vijay are continuing the trend of these dialogues to this date.   It was not too late for the trend to catch up in other southern language movies like Telugu or Malayalam.

So when Prabhu Deva got the opportunity to make a Hindi film that too with the original Hindi brawn hero Salman Khan, he got into the act with a fully blown South type masala pot boiler with “Punch Dialogues” thrown in good measure.  It went on to become a top grosser at the Box office re-writing records and along the side making writers re-write their lines for future action films in Hindi!!!  So while PD earned the distinction of bringing the “PD” into Hindi movie, what came as a surprise was Rohit Shetty an acclaimed “Copy and Paste” film maker took the punch dialogue and the South way into another level with his action flick “Singham” with Ajay Devgn and with this ensured that South way is here to stay in Bollywood.   After Salman and Ajay, when Akshay turned towards Prabhu Deva for a desperate hit and when a sensitive film maker like Sanjay Leela Bhansali puts his money on the same, well I cannot help but conclude that the South Tsunami has hit Bollywood !!!  And if I tell you that the punch dialogue which I had referred in the opening paragraph was part of Rajni’s super hit movie “Annamalai” of 1992, you will agree with me that the “Punch”ing of Bollywood is complete!!!! And now imagine what will happen if Prabhu Deva gets a chance to make a Hollywood film and makes a Will Smith deliver that Punch Dialogue !!!

 Post punch oops script : As I was just writing this blog, I realized that the original punch dialogue was actually from a Hindi movie called “Don” made in the year 1978 which has transcended generations, actors, directors and still continues to pack a lot of punch!

Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, namumkin hai.”