Namma Ooru Film Hero Archetypes

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.

The Majnun-Lover

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.

The Krishna-Lover

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.

The Bacchan-Lover

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.

The Govinda-Lover

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”

The Night-Lover

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.

The Uberhero

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!!).

The Student-lover

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

Police Kaaran/Policewaala

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.

And thanks to K and Maxdavinci, The Ubergabtun

Ok. Anything more? This list just includes male archetypes.

31 Comments

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  1. I am the first..i cannot believe it ;-0

    Well i would volunteer a subject for analysis..
    Balayya urf Balakrishnaa.

    I require the help of the denizens ofthe blogosphere to determine the category underwhich he falls 😉

  2. @satts: Let me offer to help.

    Balayya is two dimensional, as a person he is a very peaceful, caring, family type guy who can be seen without a hairdo and a wig.

    The moment someone says action or pours him a peg, it’s a whole different ball game.

    Balayya is the gabtun of the telugu film industry, moustache twirling, thigh slapping, able to give wings to bikes(now you know where honda’s offering came from), kill people with this so-called powerful eyesight, pull chairs, tables and heroines(20 yr old ones) toward him with the flick of his finger oh I could go on….

    Not to forget the long dialogues singing praise to factionism(vettu kutthu).

    @KA: There’s no point in saying fantastic post, superrrr, etc anymore. Let’s say business as usual?

  3. @satts
    Adding one more dimension to great balayya

    As soon as the director of his latest flop movie come, he would call his wife …
    “Vasundharaaaaa …” .. and that lady would come with a pistol and give it to him.

    And the rest, you see in news papers. Director will be on bed-rest for a month. Thanks to his shooting inaccuracy. For a month, director would tell that Balayya shot him with his own gun and in the court he would tell that he actually don’t remember who shot him, but it’s certainly not Balayya.

    This dimension would cover a bunch of his great qualities 😉

  4. KA, I had to read your post twice over to make sure that you had really somehow left this one out –
    “The Police Kaaran”.
    Would have described it myself – but I bet you would do a much better job of it.

  5. Heheh suber post boss 🙂

    Here’s one more..

    The Land Lubber:
    Feudal village overlord, with a band of faithfuls who prays to his father’s mustachio’ed pic and rules justly, imposing cruel punishments (usually involving a pack of lions or elephants) on those that disobey the rules of the pannai (zamin). Will discard pretty city heroine to marry rape victim, and chop off the perpetrator’s err.. arm, beat him senseless, cover him with mud, and send him out of the village on a donkey with chappals around his ears.

  6. What about the eternal suit clad business man (who is always flying all over the world and talking on long distance to new york and London but is a true indian at heart)? I agree that this is the rahul and raj image of SRK but are there tamil versions of it?

  7. How dare you not include Vijaykanth as an example in The Uberhero category!
    Ashok: But March, the Uberhero is Vijaykanth

    And yeah, Franklin did mess up things. Poor chap, he couldn’t have know.

  8. It is true Bachchan lover smokes. But you forgot to mention that he lights his bidi with dynamite fuse.

    Tornado weather hereabouts. Wind howling and bird whispering that Jalsa coming. Please mail/call undersigned. Get number from Cath Road Swamiji.

  9. Did someone mention the Anniyan variety. The reincarnation of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde, albeit dressed like an Iyengar and prowling like a crouching tiger.

  10. Dude..just happen to bump in your blog….awsome ..!
    how u doin?
    You just got one more reader for this blog ..carry on!
    Ashok:Ashish bhai! Which part of the world are you in nowadays and how’s Ornob?

  11. This post was certainly begging for a sequel – Namma Ooru Film Heroine Archetypes:

    Riches to Rags Lover
    Only daughter of mega-karodpathi. Spoilt and pampered by her father. Humbled by a poor hero who works as a driver, servant, cook, isthriwala.

    Amreeeca to India
    Foreign return, obnoxious, arrogant heroine. Once again humbled by patriotic, ‘well cultured’, poor hero who works as a driver, servant, cook, isthriwala.

    Family Slogger
    Slogs for the family. Possibly the only sane member of a family. Works and fends for widowed elder sister, studying younger siblings and one more ill parents or siblings and sometimes drunkard father. No time for love, yet falls in love category.

    ‘Policekaari’ or ‘Macho woman’
    Crime fighting macho woman. Rarely has time and place for a hero in the movie and would rarely wear anything other than khakhi uniforms

    The Village Belle
    Innocent and Naive. Belongs to a god-forsaken village where either an engineer or a teacher or a doctor entraps her and then deserts her. But she will find eventually hunt him down, learn the ways of the world and either get him to marry her or put him behind bars.

    The Victim
    The tearful and trodden victim of bad mens’ ways. Rescued by a good man who brings her out of the ‘keechad’ and marries her.

    Good Bahu Bad Bahu
    The good to-be-daughter-in-law turned bad daughter-in-law. Will insist on moving out or getting rid of inlaws. Will scorn at inlaws and bitch at husband.

    The Fix-It Bahu
    Joins a dysfunctional family as a daughter-in-law and turn everyone around. Will sharpen the dumb ones and tame the wild ones. End up being loved for becoming one more of a dysfunctional family.

    and then of course there is the…

    ‘Also there’ herione
    Her role is to be there when needed. Dance around trees for a few songs, cry by the bedside of a sick person, comfort the hero when he cries. Rarely has much dialogue besides ‘I love you’.

    Plenty more like this.. will let the others add a few more now..

  12. now i don’t like any of them,so i don’t watch any tamil movies simple 🙂 you missed the sports movies …chak de…lagaan…som more..where the hero becomes zero and then again becomes a hero…captain planet…ha ya namba captain…what about his type…ops yup sorry saw that 🙂

  13. I will wait for a post on women oriented films.
    Film Heroine achetypes maybe!!!!!!
    You have covered virtually all characters as far as heroes are concerned.

  14. I watched ‘Bhagavathi’ starring Vijay today in bits and pieces and I found there was one more kind of hero that had gotten missed out. The kind that works a job like that of a tea-wala etc.. and whose main aim in life is to see his younger sibling become a big ‘doctor’ or ‘engineer’. Though I can imagine a big doctor, I am not quite sure what one means by a big engineer.

  15. Smart ass as Sumaithangi: Eternal loser. She loves denying lovers to remains single and committed to family, acts tough but is soulful beneath her starched saris . KB loved to make a hash of them after he whipped the storylines from Ghatak movies to maudlin levels in Tamil. Don’t see them anymore. Sometimes like Nadia they can die in charming ways, with majenta eye make up intact, No spewing ketchup like Sivaji or Kamalgasan for the lovely lahdies please.

    Ignoramus puss: Usually a village belle who is extraordinarily innocent and ignorant. Easy to spot her: She wears wicked dhavanis that flutter in wind showing deep navels, can’t figure out when she’s knocked up and gets pregnant, bats eyelashes as fake as plastic fans and just can’t figure out anything about the bees and birds. Makes you wonder why the hero would want to bed her. He says he’s charmed by her innocence. Egs: Sridevi (Those 16 years) but perfected by Radha Saluja with MGR saying “Yenna paalu vennum”.

    Tough girl: Machan, don’t go by her uniform (She will shriek, “Dipartmentkku avamaanam” better than red-eyed Rambo Vijayakanth) or the IAS officer- clean as milk, tough and unyielding until she sees hero who reduces her to a quivering mass with his righteousness. She looks sexy in a dangerous way only when she sends flying kicks in police uniforms two sizes small. Podgy heroines like Lakshmi, Radhika play the officer roles while slim hipped ones do the cop act. Evergreen line in Iru Kodugal:”I am talking about our life not the file”. Wo my gawd why did Sowcar have to age?

    Rich bitch: She is rich, spoilt with a gaggle of ugly friends in hand-me-down costumes from her earlier films. Sometimes she will visit the village where our hero is doing an honest man’s work. But all it takes is a kiss to tame her. (Thambikku enda ooru or a toss in the hay as in Sakalakalavallavan).A bit of S&M about her , likes to whip the hero and soak him in brine. My eternal favourite: a limp haired Ambiga hissing at Rajni after whipping and smearing his wounds in salt:”Edu yeppadi irukku?” And our man drawls, “A-jilllunu”.

    Married Miss: Her claim to her marital status is whipping out a huge nylon rope thali from her prodigious chest to make a point about her chastity. Is totally loved by mom in law unless she makes an appearance in Visu movies. Favourite act on all mornings:a wet Kerala thundu , kodiya, wound around her head, post thulasi maadam circumambulation heads with milk to our man, who tugs her and she simpers:”Ennaga edhu, chi vidunga” followed by a tussle beneath a Madras check bedsheet. Her It moment comes when she acts if she is starting a scooter in reverse on an iron bed delivering a baby under cataclysmic circumstances.

    The Goddess: Massive yellow wash, biggest kunguma pottu, glittering faux crown and the longest nylon hair pieces, dressed in bharatanatyam costumes. Can either smile beatifically at mortal folly and nod her head, but is supremely confident when she stomps a dance with a trishoolam , rolling eyes before plunging it into a baddie and lets heaving bosom tell you the extent of her wrath. The mangaatha bet on this one. All heroines who want to cleanse their past movie sins play the part.

    Urban Jane: She travels by bus, holds a desk job, and is so kind and understanding.But has a skewed idea of friendship and love. Will blithely get sexually cosy with our corny hero with a complex and call him a bro while making out with another guy.Or is a college girl in pavadai dhavani. Totally guileless.

    Epilogue: All Tamil heroines are innocent virgins, married, unmarried, mothers or not.

  16. I forgot this one:

    the Pokkiri Ponnu: She’s angry and pretty silly. Usually calls the hero poda, kamminaati, vaada, adi pendaa and can outswear him and hugs and smooches him as if she’s wrestling with a bear. Loves hugging teddy bear toys on her bed and loves her soppy family more.

  17. Maami,
    Ayyo. Engyoo poittenga. (Sommmmewhere you have gone). Brilliant. This deserves a separate post.

    Dodo,
    Mithun cannot be categorized. He is beyond such limited buckets.

  18. Fark’s back!

    KA and gang, you’ve forgotten :

    The Sacrificial lamb:

    The hero who sacrifices his “lou” for his best friend. He will also train the friend in his quest for conquering the woman’s bosom (I meant heart) by teaching him flirt tactics and songs, dubbing for him, poetry, reminding friend/buying gifts for the heroine during important dates like birthday, republic day etc, . The motives are usually in the lines of the best friend’s dad raising him up and he wants to “repay” this as a debt, some sort of a physical ailment or complex (prabhu in duet), or a scheming relative of the best friend poisoning the hero’s mind saying he’s not “good” enough for our heroine, or possibly even because he likes his friend in more than just a platonic way. He’ll probably end up bagging the babe thanks to his friend who’ll take 3 .26 hours of reel time and 2 years of movie time to figure out that who really “louu-ed” the booty in question.

  19. is there any scope for people who have amnesia or get lost in some exhibition only to be united by singing a magic song?

    also, where would kamalhassan fit?

  20. When MGR in the film IdhayaKani after lying over Radha Saluja in the cot will say ” I am hungry ” to which Radha Saluja will reply something but that dialogue was censored. Then MGR will say I am feeling thirsty” to which Radha Saluja will say for which I have milk. This scene was sexy considering the fact Radha Saluja has big and lovely Boobs

  21. MGR virtually meant her (Radha Saluja’s) big lovely lips and sex (couldn’t eloborate further due to censorship or public outrage) as MGR will avoid taking food and even milk in first night scene and catch hold of Radha Saluja entering by calling MGR Athhaan aath…thaan.., from behind in the bed room, pluck the milk vessel from her hand and threw it away after lying over her in the cot and start swallowing and sucking her lips after telling her “that he is hungry and thirsty and to quench his thirst his desire should be fulfilled”

    This after and while Radha Saluja was telling him “vidunga Athhae vandhuduvaangoe sonna kelungoe ayyoo…”

  22. MGR sucking Radha Saluja in the entire film Idhayakani oh so sweet and kind of Radha Saluja. n Indru pol endrum.. movie MGR was irresistible when he sees Radha Saluja in Red swim suit with no bra

    1. Yes in indrupol endrum…..
      Radha Saluja in swim suit will be inviting MGR showing her thighs fully. MGR will be chasing her for the obvious reason and catch her and waste no time in inserting his right hand inside her swim suit.

  23. Thanks for the good writeup. It if truth be told was a amusement account it.
    Glance complicated to far introduced agreeable from you!

    However, how can we be in contact?

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