CURRENT ISSUE JANUARY 05, 2004  
entertainment

Touchy-Feely Man

Bye, bye testosterone. Say hello to chic blokes who are tailored for chick flicks

By Kaveree Bamzai

Men are melting everywhere. They are washing clothes after playing impromptu football with their wives/significant others, weeping copiously dignified tears into the phone because they are separated from their wives of 40 years, and stepping into a parlour to do their nails immediately after falling in love like Saif Ali Khan in Kal Ho Naa Ho. Exit heavy breathing, enter hand-holding. Bye, bye testosterone man. Say hello to the touchy-feely man (TFM).

"The new man is really an old man. I am the guy playing the Shashi Kapoor role. It is just that there is no superhero like Amitabh Bachchan around."
Saif Ali Khan, actor

Men, it has been established this year on screen without a shadow of doubt, do cry. And with actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan obliging in bucket loads, it really is every woman's wet dream. If any proof is needed, it is in a new Grey Worldwide study of 3,400 women between the ages of 19 and 24 in nine cities that shows they no longer want to marry macho men who carry a six pack. Their ideal: a caring, sharing, "pampering yet practical" man like Vivek Oberoi's character in Saathiya, who cries on cue. (Editor's note: none of the women polled was Aishwarya Rai).

It is natural, says Karan Johar, the ultimate chic bloke for chick flicks. "The woman has become more aggressive and opinionated. She just will not accept a man being macho. Neither will the men in the audience. Tough guys just will not dance any more," he says. Like everything else in Bollywood, the maid-to-order TFM too is dictated by the bottomline.

A Pathfinders-Lintertainment study of 300 multiplex-goers in Mumbai showed that more women (47 per cent) go to the movies than men (43 per cent) and are bigger spenders. Money talks. In reality, women may be raped straight out of a late night screening at a theatre, but in the soft focus, trolley shot world of Bollywood, they are to be cossetted. So whether it was Sanjay Suri feeling like a heel because he has just had rude words with his good wife Juhi Chawla in the year's one-and only-multiplex hit, Jhankaar Beats, or the venerable Victor Banerjee tarting up to meet Jenny from Jogger's Park, men decided to act like women. In the case of Hrithik Roshan's brain slow character in Koi ... Mil Gaya, which made Rs 35 crore at the box office and became the year's biggest hit, they even dreamt of growing old drinking Bournvita together with Preity Zinta.

The new man may just be a fantasy that women, in far more influential positions in the film industry, are inflicting on audiences. It could also be a product of more sensitive men. Shah Rukh's idea of heaven is to watch Pokemon with his children. Hrithik cannot wait to take time off after five years of back-to-back filming to gift a month's holiday to his wife. Oberoi has a habit of gifting puppies, as opposed to black eyes, to girlfriends. Moreover, stories are being told from the woman's point of view, even when they are not by a woman. "The success of a film like Baghbaan was that it was told entirely from the woman's perspective, of what happens when the nest is empty," says Bachchan. Even Sooraj Barjatya tried it in Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon-only the wrong guy got the girl.

The change was evident in the unconventional physicality of the hero. Rahul Bose, a pocket edition rugby player, found himself an unlikely object of desire, from the ravishing poultry chick Perizaad Zorabian to the definitely towering Tabu in a forthcoming film. "A lot of taboos are being broken. It's a great time to be an actor. We can experiment as never before,'' says Tabu.

Perhaps men do not have a choice. They are being carried along by filmmakers weaned on gender-sensitive global cinema, not traditional literature. It could be a Shaad Ali who learnt the craft of telling women's stories at the feet of his master Mani Ratnam or a Farhan Akhtar whose mother taught him the art of telling stories as much his father. Women can rejoice. Only Yash Chopra seemed to understand them earlier. Now every man seems to have discovered his feminine side.

Bottom Line

 Shefali Jariwala

What is there, said Fardeen Khan when asked about cavorting without clothes in Janasheen, but he was in good company. Former beauty queens-turned-starlets suffered from swimsuit round hangovers and bad boy (and bad director) Kaizad Gustad imported Padma Lakshmi to make her lasting contribution to Indian cinema-examine her breasts in a mirror and ask whether they were of equal size. From the earliest image of the year, Bipasha Basu astride John Abraham's lovestruck Romeo in Jism, to Shefali Jariwala in Kaanta laga, skin was in. As the album DJ Doll became the biggest seller, selling five million units, directors Vinay Sapru and Radhika Rao followed it with the lingerie-clad pre-pubescent angels of Chadti jawani and unleashed an army of clone-makers. By year end, Priyanka Chopra decided to put a clamp on her dirty pictures, but Lara Dutta shook her fanny with alarming vigour in Khakee's item song, checkmating Yana Gupta's vigorous butt-wagging in Dum. Mass culture truly became ass culture.

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Multiplex Movies

Kareena, Rahul Bose in Chameli

Sujoy Ghosh chucked journalism to write Jhankaar Beats. The film, made for Rs 1.5 crore, collected Rs 5 crore and created the term "multiplex movie", which covered many sins from Ram Gopal Varma's films to the Bhatt Brothers' sleaze-to-please films. Varma dreamed of releasing one movie a week but had to recover from the sugar rush of Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon. But it did not stop Kareena Kapoor from plunging, along with her sari, into Chameli.

G I L T   T R I P

Fifty And They Are Not Done

At 55, she made men swoon-and not all of them were in the BJP. Playing the mother of four fully-formed men in Baghbaan gave her a career daughter Esha Deol would be proud of. Yash Chopra, no mean follower of trends, immediately snapped her up for seven days of work on his new Indo-Pakistani film, she shot for a television update of her 1972 Seeta aur Geeta, while the BJP used her for campaigning in Basanti mode after inducting her into the Rajya Sabha. No Botox, only Reiki and Art of Living. It was enough to push even husband Dharmendra into getting a facelift. The serene goddess would only say: "People are just trying to hype me." Well, believe the hype for a change.

Believe it of Shabana Azmi as well. At 53, she stepped out of the Rajya Sabha straight into roles such as that of the screaming diva in Tehzeeb, while Lilette Dubey, till now better known as Neha Dubey's mom, thought nothing of purring like a sex kitten on speed in Kal Ho Naa Ho. 40s are the new 30s, the forever young Jennifer Aniston said recently. So what do we call the 50s? Er, the golden age perhaps? Two 53-year-olds, Om Puri, last seen getting ready to act opposite the luscious Sophie Dahl, and Naseeruddin Shah, on the verge of directing his first film, would completely agree.

ANUPAMA CHOPRA'S TOP TEN MOVIES OF THE YEAR

 

1 MAQBOOL: A finer cast would be hard to find, cloaked in guns, gangsters and street lingo.

2 MATRUBHOOMI: Manish Jha's film dwells on the naked reality of female infanticide.

3 KOI... MIL GAYA: Rakesh Roshan merges Martians, space ships and songs with skill.

4 CHOKHER BALI: The film offers that unusual thing-complex, layered female characters.

5 KAL HO NAA HO: Karan Johar and Nikhil Advani dare to include risqué gay jokes.

6 BHOOT: For once, Bollywood horror is scary, not cheesy. A unique "chill pill".

7 GANGAAJAL: It reveals that in modern India, even goodness comes in shades of grey.

8 DHOOP: Makes death come agonisingly alive. Om Puri's and Revathy's grief is gritty and messy.

9 BAGHBAAN: Redefines the Bollywood elder. Bachchan and Hema Malini are robust, alive.

10 PINJAR: It has ambition, scale and sweep. Manoj Bajpai is excellent.

GUEST COLUMN: AMITABH BACHCHAN

People First

Audiences are supreme. You can take them up to the water but you cannot force them to drink it. This year proved it more than ever.

You can have the smoothest pr machine in the world, the biggest build-up, and the finest marketing possible, but ultimately people will go and watch what they want. Baghbaan's silent and sure success has reassured me of that fact.

Making the film was a novel experience for me. With almost the entire burden of the film being on the shoulders of an aged couple, it has given new hope to actors of my age. It has also tackled a potent and sensitive issue. We have never found our parents lacking in dignity or floundering when it comes to their self-respect. Even the richest, most affluent parents will not hesitate to step away from their children if they are humiliated. They will give up a life of luxury to live in a one-room apartment. That is the factor that mattered to people in Baghbaan, which incidentally appears to be nowhere in the pre-awards talk. In today's times when stories are so racy and pacy, one wondered when a sob story like this would work, whether showing older people as sexual beings would work. But no one seems to have disliked it, no one has spoken against it. When I look back on the year, I recall Armaan, where I enjoyed my character very much, and Boom, where I played a repulsive, nasty old man.

One way of looking at the reaction to my role in Boom was that it was effective, another was that if people are genuinely upset over Boom, I have to be careful.

Next year? Well, there's much to look forward to. In Khakee, I play a police officer. He is over the hill, past his prime, clothes do not fall well on him, he has a paunch, he is tired, about to retire, and then he is put in charge of a mission, with everyone knowing that he is going to fail. It is a terrific role. In Aetbaar, I play the father of a modern woman and in Lakshya, I have a small character of a general.

Really, it is a golden period for the film industry, but it is also linked to the fate of the nation, as it has been for some peculiar reason for the past 30 years. Indian food is everywhere, our culture, our music is rocking, tourism is good, forex reserves have never been better. Everything looks good, burnished with gold, so Indian films automatically look wonderful. From being an embarrassment, running around trees has become a cult statement.

It is not we who have changed, it is the people who are looking at us who have. It could be at Deauville in France or at Marrakesh in Morocco, or anywhere else for that matter, the world has decided to take our movies to heart.

The Rise Of The Sony Kudis

WINSOME TOOTHSOME: Rakshanda Khan, Mona Singh, Simone Singh

Auntyjis with heavy eye-shadow and mummy-jis in Kanjeevarams were still on the top of the TRP charts but the fresh-braced Jassi of the starched dupatta and unplucked eyebrows was giving them competition. Beginning at the end of August, Sony's daily soap, Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin, co-starring Rakshanda Khan, was like a mouth-to-mouth for Sony. Even the sleepy Heena seemed to perk up, with Simone Singh presenting an award at the international Emmys and doing a bitch bit part in Kal Ho Naa Ho.

With Sony fast-forwarding Kkusum by 20 years, it was not as if Star Plus, the undisputed leader of the entertainment sweepstakes, was shaking in its chappals, but there was a rethink on what worked on TV. Good, old-fashioned aspirational storyline met the gloss of the fashion world and it was instant nirvana. For little Mona Singh, the long-limbed army brat who was the face behind the fringe, it was a memorable year: "I guess you could say I'm the queen of the behenjis now. But I'm loving it." Down to the new Hyundai Accent and the impending house purchase in Mumbai.

She could learn a trick or two from Smriti Z. Iraani (lately Smriti Malhotra Irani and forever the beloved Tulsi of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi), who was transformed from McDonald's floor-swabber to bjp's Aunty No. 1 in three years. She was a be-henji too when she began.

Sense And Sensibility

MAMA'S PET: Konkona with Aparna Sen

The world rediscovered middle class, middle-of-the-road Bengali cinema. From Rituparno Ghosh's sometimes overwrought Chokher Bali to Goutam Ghose's smooth-as-mishti doi Abar Aranye, foreign festivals resounded to the applause of tales well told, with a refined, Tagore-enhanced sensibility. Actors from Mumbai fell over one another in order to play muse. But it was last year's English language Mr and Mrs Iyer, written and directed by Aparna Sen, initiated into cinema by the patron saint of all filmmakers, Satyajit Ray, which walked away with three National Awards.

Bollywood, in need of blood donors, renewed its love affair with the unconventional Sen 22 years after Shashi Kapoor first produced 36, Chowringhee Lane. It chased Sen Senior, who planned to make her first Hindi film, Gulel, and her daughter, the expressive Konkona Sen Sharma, who won the Best Actress award and immediately became a must-have on every independent filmmaker's list. The mother, a star since she was 15, knows all about being the actor du jour. Konkona insisted she was more laidback than the mother, but wait. And keep watching. .

G O L D E N   P U M P K I N   O F   T H E   Y E A R

VIVEK OBEROI

Puppy Lover

At 55, she made men swoon-and not all of them were in the BJP. Playing the mother of four fully-formed men in Baghbaan gave her a career daughter Esha Deol would be proud of. Yash Chopra, no mean follower of trends, immediately snapped her up for seven days of work on his new Indo-Pakistani film, she shot for a television update of her 1972 Seeta aur Geeta, while the BJP used her for campaigning in Basanti mode after inducting her into the Rajya Sabha. No Botox, only Reiki and Art of Living. It was enough to push even husband Dharmendra into getting a facelift. The serene goddess would only say: "People are just trying to hype me." Well, believe the hype for a change.

Believe it of Shabana Azmi as well. At 53, she stepped out of the Rajya Sabha straight into roles such as that of the screaming diva in Tehzeeb, while Lilette Dubey, till now better known as Neha Dubey's mom, thought nothing of purring like a sex kitten on speed in Kal Ho Naa Ho. 40s are the new 30s, the forever young Jennifer Aniston said recently. So what do we call the 50s? Er, the golden age perhaps? Two 53-year-olds, Om Puri, last seen getting ready to act opposite the luscious Sophie Dahl, and Naseeruddin Shah, on the verge of directing his first film, would completely agree.

Anupam As Scissorhands

The veteran actor (already chairman of the National School of Drama) insisted he was well qualified to be chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification because he had the right ethical values. "I come from a small town, middle-class, joint family. I am not some cloth shop owner," he said. If only that were enough. As he went around raising eyebrows at Bipasha Basu's double entendre-laden phone ad, he also found time to do what he is good at: acting. See him in Bride and Prejudice.

 

 
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