Mayank Shekhar: Why's Tiger Shroff burning bright

Updated: 03 April, 2018 19:09 IST | Mayank Shekhar | Mumbai

There's something about mad-cap maad-dhad movies that keeps the big-screen flickering alive, always

The popularity of action flicks begs the question about whether there is a correlation between a society’s current psyche and its collective love for violent films
The popularity of action flicks begs the question about whether there is a correlation between a society's current psyche and its collective love for violent films

While the cast and crew of Shekhar Kapur's Bandit Queen (1994) were sitting around in the sun-baked, rugged ravines - location of the astoundingly gory, realistic daku-drama - actor Saurabh Shukla, who played the protagonist Phoolan Singh's cousin in the movie recalls, a few locals came over to check on them.

"A film's being shot? What kind? About dakus (dacoits)? Accha. Then, where are the horses," they asked Shukla, who was obviously amused. Because bandits in that area - the beehad, as it were - mainly in khaki uniforms merging with the colour of dust, always walked on foot, with rifles slung on their shoulders. Only that even the people of Chambal, who had seen/met the actual dakus, expected them to gallop on horses in a film about Chambal itself.

That's how action in big-screen movies work (for most of us) - rather differently from the brutality in life. And, which is why theories that link mad-cap maad-dhaad in mainstream movies to violence on the streets, or otherwise, make little sense. Although you'll notice little children often get an instant sugar-rush, watching violent stuff on TV.

But, even they can grasp how deliberately comical/comic-book like it is to watch a one-man army - lean machine Tiger Shroff, sculpted like a work of art, that no bullet can penetrate, wreaking vengeance, in one go, with two gas-operated assault rifles, over an armed population the size of Andheri.

Kids love Tiger. Or so I am told, going by an anecdotal report of a World Bank economist friend, who while working on a project at a rural school in Orissa in August, 2016, discovered there's actually such a thing as 'Tiger Day'. The excited kids were being packed into a bus to catch Tiger's super-hero flick Flying Jatt at a small town, nearby. But, that's very different from how I watched Tiger's Baaghi 2, at a half-packed theatre.

The film mildly shocked box-office enthusiasts/astrologers, registering an opening day collection of Rs 25 crore, which is only an indication of how many people were willing to vet this content, knowing nothing else about it, besides what was on the trailer.

Can one intellectualise this natural predisposition? We have, in the past, calling an entire decade of Amitabh Bachchan's dominance in the '70s, with revenge dramas, as a result of the angst of a jobless youth who were looking to project their frustration with the system, through the potent image of the 'Angry Young Man'. "I only saw them as action pictures, boss; still do," Ram Gopal Varma, who was inspired by those films to become a filmmaker, confesses.

And, I believe him. Is there really a correlation between a society's current psyche, and its collective love for violent pics? While covering state elections in Patna, 2010, a theatre owner explained to me a good way to judge the happiness index of Bihar (at the end of Nitish Kumar's much lauded first term) was to gauge how well comedies had begun to perform in local theatres. Aamir Khan's 3 Idiots (2009), for instance, had done exceedingly well in his city (like the rest of the country).

I vividly remember spotting posters of the Ajay Devgn slapstick comedy, All The Best (2009), in the interiors of Bihar, on the other hand, with the lead cast holding guns (something they never do in the film), as a way to get bums on seats.

Action has traditionally ruled in these parts. As have super-fine formula films (the equivalent of comfort food), with a set pattern to tell stories - within a high intermission point, 'highlight moments' every few minutes; at least two songs, when the film segues into a beat-heavy dance number, starring a pretty female figure besides the hero, who takes on characters (villain types) with their own special quirks that you can remember them for. And, finally a heavy-duty climax sequence, for the last/lasting impression. Maybe this manic, movie-action is just strangely cathartic, for most.

Baaghi 2 is just that, with a hero almost half the age, and twice the agility, of the currently reigning superstars, who had to vigorously hit the gym in their 40s (Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kumar, etc), when Salman Khan's Wanted (2009) turned his career around, and Aamir Khan thwacked open a 'R100 crore club' with his intense actioner, Ghajini (2008), unofficially based on Christopher Nolan's Mememto (2000), prompting a string of stunt-and-song flicks, scoring one after another.

Speaking of Nolan, in the two-and-a-half minutes I got to pose a question to him recently, he talked about how "a decade ago, everyone would ask him about video games," implying if they could replace the immersive experience (of action) on the big screen. Now, everyone's talking about VR (Virtual Reality).

Basically, it's hard to replicate the tribal experience of sitting in a crowd, that's rooting for a hero ("Maar saale!"), laughing/clapping at the funny parts, perhaps whistling at the odd song, knowing full well that the maad-dhaad will begin, soon as we approach the last 20 minutes. Man, I miss this, sometimes!

Also Read: Tiger Shroff expresses heartfelt gratitude for stupendous success of Baaghi 2

Mayank Shekhar attempts to make sense of mass culture. He tweets @mayankw14. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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First Published: 03 April, 2018 07:45 IST

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