In a classic case of lost in translation, over the years the ‘angry young man’ title seems to have lost its true meaning, especially in Indian cinema. What does it take to be classified as an ‘angry young man’ in our films? A hero who is known for his bad-temperament and often acts out in anger. Say, Amitabh Bachchan in Deewaar (1975).
The immediate concern is that we have started to so loosely interpret ‘angry young man’ to an extent where it feels like we don’t know what we are talking about anymore.
Case in point, Vijay Deverakonda’s upcoming film Dear Comrade. The star particularly repeated several times that this film is anything but a political film. He said that the title refers to the camaraderie shared between the lead pair and not to the mode of address used by followers of communist philosophy. The trailer of Dear Comrade also showed Deverakonda’s Bobby pinning for his lost love, reminding us of the actor’s earlier film Arjun Reddy.
As Vijay Deverakonda told indianexpress.com there may be a gulf between the journey and struggles of Bobby and Arjun Reddy. However, the one thing that these two characters seem to have in common is their anger management issues. Now, the question is does their anger issues merit them to be described as “angry young men”. I am afraid not.
Angry Young Man is the name of an autobiography written by British writer Leslie Allen Paul in 1951. And the title soon became a cultural phenomenon, a genre in itself, a substitution of political identity in the literary world and an artistic movement that was determined to highlight the sufferings of working-class families in Britain in the 1950s.
The term was originally used to describe the literary works of British writers mostly from a working-class background. The protagonists in the novels and plays written by such writers were dissatisfied young males and nurtured a strong contempt against the hypocritical nature of British society and its class distinction. In short, the proletariat rage against political, economic and social struggles.
Judging from the trailer of Dear Comrade, the film is unlikely to bring the issues of working-class families of modern-day to the forefront. It is also very unlike that Bobby might take out his frustration with his self on his lady love like Jimmy in John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger.
Particularly, Arjun Reddy cannot be interpreted as an ‘angry young man’ as Vijay Deverakonda causally put it recently in Chennai during a media interaction. Arjun Reddy hails from an upper class and upper caste. He went to the medical school of his choice and became a surgeon. And the very set up makes him an ineligible candidate for the ‘angry young man’ title. His main undoing was his sense of entitlement. He was not acting out of discontent with his achievements or class structure of the society.
Without a question, Deverakonda is an insanely talented actor. That said, bestowing the ‘angry young man’ title on him for playing Bobby or Arjun Reddy is a grave injustice to a historically significant cultural movement.