Change is always traumatic. And we live in a world that is changing every moment. Though all of us suffer through the stress of change I think the bulk of the trauma is being inflicted on the poor Indian heroes – especially the South Indian version. And, perhaps, trauma is inflicted on us by them in turn!
Was it merely three-fourths of a century back that the Indian hero had to merely loll back in a diwan and watch the heroine dance? At best, he had to sit in front of a harmonium looking soulfully at the distance (NOT to avoid the distress of having to look at the heroine, I assure you) and sing. Later, it became even easier since he had to sit at a piano and bang at the keys – and sitting on a stool is much easier on your knees than squatting on the ground, particularly as you start aging. Later still the poor chap had to put in the effort of striking grand poses or doing PT exercise while the heroine did all the graceful portions of the dancing. Who could have imagined that the hero would need to match steps with the heroine or even over-match her so soon?
Comes to singing, however, one needs to admit that things have become easier. The heroes originally had to sing themselves and tunefully too. Later they necessarily had to lip-synch most of the song since the directors and cameramen had this unnatural liking for close-ups of the face. Once the camera shifted to the pelvis and the six-pack the need to lip-synch has also been eliminated – so the hero can conveniently ignore the entire song for the most part. (A blessing in disguise for the audience as well since if our heroes also started singing, the one last piece of genuine entertainment in the movies would be effectively destroyed)
The romantic hero, probably, has more reason to be happy – well, depending on the body odor of the heroine, I suppose. In the bygone days, he could only look on the heroine and moon about her from a distance. Later, it became permissible to actually touch the heroine but an inconvenient pair of flowers always got in the way and kissed when he should have been kissing the heroine. That changed too and he was even permitted even to get in bed with the heroine – but only to save the poor girl from dying of hypothermia. Now, of course, if he does not get in bed with the heroine he cannot be a romantic hero.
All these are but trifles compared to the metamorphosis of the action hero. Gone are the days when the most action that a hero indulged in was to yell for the police in times of danger. First, he had to get bashed up by the villain; on the verge of unconsciousness recollect all the harm the villain had done him and bash up the villain in berserker rage. Later still the fight was more even with both hero and villain exchanging blows with the hero triumphant at the end. Then, it started seeming too less heroic for the hero to suffer even one blow when he was merely facing one opponent and, thus, it took a gang to even land a blow on him.
What is an action hero if he cannot even fight off a gang unscathed? If the story, unfortunately, demanded that the hero had to be vanquished it had to be by someone attacking him unawares from behind. But is it not ridiculous to think that the hero could at all be caught unawares? So, now the rampant South Indian hero can face up to a multitude and knock them all over without his body being touched by the proverbial finger-nail.
That may be all right for the ordinary heroes. The super-hero is made of sterner stuff. How can he do something so commonplace as to merely knock out a multitude of gangsters like any other ordinary mortal? If, unfortunately, he has only a gang to deal with, he either decides to fight them off without using his hands or without allowing them to lay a finger on the heroine whom he considerately places between them and him. If the gangsters had the commonsense to bring their guns along, he shows his prowess in dodging bullets while simultaneously shooting with unerring aim and hitting targets at a distance where ordinary mortals would require a sniper’s rifle to even attempt.
One can imagine the disdain with which the South-Indian superhero looks on the childish Bollywood attempts to create a hero, who can dodge bullets and overtake speeding trains, by using antediluvian Hollywood concepts like extra-terrestrial origin. With the cutting edge idea of a natural born superhero in their backyard if they need to seek abroad for outdated ideas, it must be only because of a colonial hangover.
Incidentally, I think that the shedding of clothing by the heroine is also because of this superhero nature of her man. With all the powers he has, she probably assumes he has X-ray vision as well thus rendering clothing ineffective as concealment. With her obsession for the hero, she takes no cognizance of the other ordinary mortals around her and discards clothing as worse than useless.
A piece of advice for any aspiring hero – if in the earliest of movies you have allowed one single opponent to land a blow on you just forget becoming an action hero. If you have been fighting a gang and one of them even touches you, you have lost your chance of becoming a superhero. We just cannot tolerate a hero who can get injured like any other ordinary mortal, no matter how early in his career.
Alas! There are still some people in India who do not have the patriotism to recognize the heights of power than can be achieved by Indians. Such traitorous mortals do not belong in India – at least in Indian movie halls.