There’s something about grey that attracts the attention… Negative characters have a charm of their own but Shubarna Mukerji Shu questions the credibility of Bollywood when filmmakers go on to eulogise the hardened criminals of our society in their movies
Gun shots, gore, chases… the underdog suddenly shedding all inhibitions and going to the wolves ready to kill, the murders and the mayhem… the thumping background score, adds to the churning in your stomach… Tell me, is you adrenaline pumping or has your moral self-woken up thinking about how right or wrong the protagonist is in taking the law in his hands? There are many times our filmmakers have blurred the lines between good and bad and let ‘macho’ take control. But how safe is that, we ask! How safe is it to glorify the power of the gun? How safe is it to make the hardened criminal go from human to almost godly albeit virtually? How safe is it to make the big bad wolf so appealing to the little red riding hoods?
When bad is good
The simple course of glorification begins with getting a good guy on board (read huge star) and then justifying his entry into the darker spectrum. There is a huge difference between stating causes and justifying them, why is it that none of the directors in Bollywood have tread that line properly? Then of course, comes the time when the directors have to choose between Godfather and Robin hood… once that is done the course of action is already set, and the canvas ready.
Beyond the silver screen
We are coming to end of the year, a year which saw an actor of Shah Rukh Khan’s calibre play a hardened criminal. Though it is on every actor’s wish-list to play something akin to The Godfather, they mostly get there while they are showcasing their talent in a varied light. Thus, it made everyone sit up and take notice when it was SRK donning the kohl in his eyes. Unfortunately, the actor got a lot of flak for it. While no one has the right to dictate what can another person do or not do, I would say it was his thoughtless comments that did him in. For instance he was heard saying, “We should all be a li’l like Raees; he looks after his people. There is a dignity in the way he takes responsibility for his actions, whatever the retribution or the punishment may be. I would like everyone to be a bit more like that.” If you have seen the film, Raees people are into the ‘business’ with him, and in the lieu of taking responsibility for his actions – ‘Raees’ murders the gangster who double crosses him. Clearly, SRK during his promotion rounds completely forgot that the world knows his character was based on Abdul Latif, who can be best described as a heartless criminal, if not anti-national and more. While we will not subject the actor to the onus of choosing his characters keeping in mind his impressionable fans, but we could have asked him to watch how he projects the character off-sets. What followed post Raees was a 70mm-gang-war in B-Town with Arjun Rampal coming forward with the life of Arun Gawli in ‘DADDY’ and Shraddha Kapoor’s ‘HASEENA’ taking over the Dawood’s side of the story.
“I frankly wasn’t sure if I wanted to do the film. But meeting Haseenaji completely changed my mind. We didn’t know her story, what all she went through, what was it like for her to be the sister of Dawood? The tragedies of her life, that is connected to the history of Mumbai made me want to be a part of it,” claimed Shraddha while Arjun Rampal too didn’t want to be a part of DADDY initially, he was left pretty impressed by Gawli, “I didn’t want to be a part of a typical gangster film, I wanted to make a real biopic so we bought the official rights…. yes, there was a portion in the film that we’re expected to remove but it was understandable.”
All through the promotions of the film, both the actors harped mercilessly about how wrongly accused their respective characters were, in certain judicial affairs and ‘hold your breath’ how pleasantly surprised they were went they went visiting the families of these criminals and realise that their house is a shrine for Gods etc… I’d say, that’s where actors and their publicists are going wrong, terribly wrong. A convicted criminal is a convicted criminal, B-town shouldn’t go propagating anything beyond their films, least of all talking about the soft-spoken tones of the person who has been accused of killing many.
As if it was not enough to heinously, glorify a convicted criminal over two hours of theatre time, you are out there propagating them across social media and national television, in a light that can be best described as glorious. Some would say it is disrespectful to the many officers who have given their lives in the bid to protect the common man, and I might be tempted to agree. While concentrating on making the gangsters ‘human’, they did demonize a few unsuspecting passersby in their script.
How movies influence
Pankaj Kapur who often tread the line between good and bad in his movies, spoke beautifully about the influence of cinema when he said, “The debate is endless, whether cinema can influence society or does society influence cinema, but the fact is that when you are young and the only window to your imagination is what you see on the silver screen, there is an obvious influence of cinema into your life…”
True, it is possible that there can be an influence, an influence that can come from a gangster film, as much as it can from a franchise like DHOOM, wherein the bad is so good that the good becomes inconsequential. Irrespective of what Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra might want to think, the fact is that the bad guys sell the franchise.
The business of need
“There is a simple philosophy when it comes to actors and their insecurities, they don’t want to stagnate and they don’t want to look bad. It comes down to cater to these two things we get movies where the star plays a bad guy and insists that the director makes them look so damn good, so that when they rightfully die – as it happened in every film from MOTHER INDIA to ‘VAASTAV’ to ‘RAEES’, they get applauded and eventually, awarded. This has been the principal on which Bollywood has been functioning since time immemorial. Yet, there seems like there will be no room to change that,” verdicts the trade pundits, who believe they have no reason to complain. A big star playing baddie, is assured revenue.
Fans of Saif Ali Khan claim he is the only mainstream Bollywood actor who has gone to the other side of the spectrum without trying to baby-proof his roles and ‘Ek Haseena Thi’ and ‘Omkara’ certainly were his best works, “My own major influence has been my mother, she always told me one thing which I too have pegged by films on – mix it up well. I don’t think, my playing negative roles have influenced the way my other roles panned out, so it is better to do your part according to how your director wants it, rather than how you want to peg yourself.”
With those words of wisdom, we hope actors stop eulogizing gangsters and stay true to their characters.