From sanskari to sexing the cherry, Salman Khan to Sidharth Malhotra, the man in love in Hindi cinema has come some distance. But he still hasn’t grown up.
Kisise bhi pooch lo, report achchi milegi.
The report in question has nothing to do with scholastic prowess. Ranveer Singh, Bollywood hero, is regaling a room full of men, and the comment leads to ribald laughter. He’s talking about the thing that men and women do when lust overpowers caution. He is all man, he is saying, and it’s his bounden duty to keep his lady loves happy. Because that’s what real men do.
Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela, the film in which Singh throws away this line with a leer, gives us a pair of lovers with serious sizzle. The heroine is slim and supple and lovely. But it’s the hero who is presented as the ultimate sex object, chest oiled to a dazzling degree, red gamchha pointing towards his mobile pelvis. He’s ready for it, if you are.
Ranveer’s carefully cultivated too-cool-for-school air has led him to roles bursting with raunch. His recent leap to a condom advertisement looks as if it was the logical step up for his blatant Durex appeal in Ram Leela. The advert, if you haven’t seen it, is about, well, sex. Not the sort which emphasizes all-clothes-on, leading-strictly-to-reproduction “respectable” coupling. But between men and women, who are up for it because they want to.
A leading man as the orgasmic face of a condom ? Doing it and reveling in it ? Whoa. Is Bollywood all grown up finally? Are its men, hallelujah, men, and not lily-livered boys, hiding behind the Pathan suits, and Paithani sarees, of their parents? Is their loving — and living — in keeping with the times?
I wish I could say an uncomplicated yes. But India-that-is-Bharat encourages unquestioning worship of tradition. Its grasp on modernity has been, at best, slippery and problematic. To keep it simple, sanctified love, ordained by the stars and elders who were automatically betters, is what India, and Hindi cinema did best, for a long, long time.
What can you say about a country with people who declare, without a shred of irony, “Oh, I had an ‘arranged love’ marriage”? Love without familial approval was long forbidden, so you were free to fall in love with your spouse after the fact. I’m not for a moment suggesting that that’s not possible, but that graven-in-stone decree gave us decades of infantilised girls and boys in the movies. And at the movies.