I originally titled this “Bollywood/Kollywood archetypes”, but I am not a big fan of reducing all of Indian cinema to two words seeking name recognition with the American Film industry.
I then tried “Desi archetypes” and realized that I am increasingly not a fan of that word at all. It seems to have all sorts of clarified buttery connotations.
So I stuck to “Namma Ooru”, which is Tamizh for “Our Place/Country/City/Kukgraamam etc”
I am not a qualified psychologist (Come to think of it. I am not a “qualified” anything, if qualifications were important, i.e. After all, I studied to be an electronic engineer, worked to be a software engineer, and yearn to be a jalsa and jilpa engineer). But this post is partially inspired from a chapter I read in Sudhir Kakar’s “Indian Identity”, where he goes on to describe the various Hero archetypes he sees in Indian cinema.
This post takes off from there and seeks to go where others have not gone before. Actually, no where in particular. Let’s get started.
note: Some of the archetypes are not popular or common anymore.
Love lost. Long beard. Alcohol. Usually drinks directly from the bottle. Sad Urdu poetry. Depressing, yet hauntingly evocative songs. Often takes refuge in mujra houses, enjoying those pleasures but cloaks himself in a pall of guilt for doing so.
Eve teaser/molester par extraordinaire. Irritates/annoys heroine to no end before making her succumb to his charms. Inspires incredibly bad acting on the heroine’s part, especially during songs where the heroine needs to show both complete disinterest and yet dance around trees. Generally no facial hair. Chocolate boy looks.
Dark. Brooding. Anti-hero. Born in the slums. Self-made man. Dispassionate. Can sit in a bar with complete disinterest in 400,000 scantily clad dancing babes who are trying everything to score him. Makes the heroine play one mean game of hard-to-get. Has frequent bouts of flashback trauma, involving father/mother/sister ruin/death/rape. Smokes.
Zero talent at humour, but tries very hard to act funny, like Govinda, and fails miserably. Plays the fool, but looks foolish instead. Acts crazily, but ends up acting badly. Zayed Khan, Ritesh Deshmukh types. Somebody needs to tell them “Last time I checked, there was just one Govinda, and it ain’t you”
Unrelated to Bappi da. Acts in movies with names such as “Paapi Raat” and “Vish Kanya” and has the immensely challenging job of enacting scenes of eroticism while still being compliant with the censor board, which is sort of like swimming with a full Raymonds suit on, if you get my drift.
a.k.a Gabtun. Normal laws of physics are suspended for the duration of his movies. Newton’s third law, in particular, takes on a new form – “Every action has an exponentially unbelievable reaction”. Moustache twirls can impart crunching blows to baddies and electricity can flow from a positive terminal to a negative terminal. (Or is it the other way around? Damn you, Benjamin Franklin!!).
Always studies in colleges where teachers have strange tolerance limits on classroom displays of flirtation and general bravado. Usually in B.Com 17th year (Well. Looks like it at least). A sub-species of the Krishna lover, this archetype exhibits one key difference. Groupism. His group usually taunts/teases Her group.
The Bold God
Very little action (because of sheer bulk). All talk. Usually spouts rhyming dialogues with profound import, such as “Tikka tikka tikka tikka, paneer tikka”. When given a choice between saving heroine and thangacchi (younger sister), he will go with the thangacchi. Heroines, in his movies, are generally disposable items.
The Macchi aah Velli
Sneaks in subtle and not-so-subtle political messages into his movies. Consummate do-gooder image and will generally not smoke or drink on screen. General career path = 50 movies -> MLA -> Chief Minister.
The Country Brute
Rustic. Bucolic. Quaint. And some more very rural-type adjectives. Unschooled in the sophisticated urban arts of rudeness, callousness, cooling glasses and wearing jeans and therefore completely unsuitable for America-return heroine. Makes a couple of unsuccessul, clumsy attempts at shedding rural image, but decides that his roots are important. Finally the heroine dumps jeans and cooling glass and wears a saree and serves him karuvaadu kuzhambu and they all sing and dance happily ever after.
note: If the reverse situation applies, where American-return hero meets village belle, we generally do not see any overt displays of urban arrogance on the part of the hero. He just magically transforms himself into a dhoti-wearing simpleton to woo the damsel. Only America-return heroines can be arrogant.
Update: Rekha reminds us of a couple of more archetypes
Vardi. Uniform. Guts. Glory. Crusader against corruption and those sorts of things. Animal magnetism. Has been known to cause the occasional heroine (and her sidekicks) to don police garb (khaki shirt + tight khaki shorts) and adam-tease him while singing and dancing on grassy knolls. Usually the son of a honest (and therefore, dead) policeman.
The Self Sacrificer
Usually a tea-vendor, labourer or porter. Uneducated, but lives only to get younger sibling a chance in life. Few scenes of brotherly love flashback. But younger bro goes abroad and forgets all about the elder’s struggles. Dramatic “You have forgotten what he has done for you” scenes involving some third party reminding younger bro about his callousness.
Ok. Anything more? This list just includes male archetypes.