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Bollywood is increasingly experimenting with unusual protagonists

WHEN director Rajkumar Gupta narrated Vidya Balan her role of a quirky housewife in Ghanchakkar , she instantly agreed because she thought it was the most unusual character she would play. Watching Vidya's Punjabi homemaker Neetu in the most bizarre outfits and in a kinky avatar was the last thing that the audience thought they would be in for.

After successfully completing the film, Vidya realised it wasn't Neetu who was unusual, but the fact that a character like Neetu was heroine in a Bollywood film.

" Everyone found Neetu an absurd character. But we do meet such characters in life. They are weird and bizarre but they amuse us," said Vidya. " This is what we have done -- derived the humour and drama from real people and situations." While discussing her muchtalked- about character in the film, Vidya hinted at the evolution of characters that are not necessarily picture perfect in Hindi films. It's the flaws that make them unique and lovable.

" The audience is in the mood to break away from stereotypes.

They want experimental stories.

To narrate a different story we need unique characters that are quirky and yet identifiable," said director Gupta, while promoting the film.

A little tweaking here and there plus some imagination can add a dash of colour to mundane characters. Driven by this thought, filmmaker nand L. Rai tried to give a modern twist to the loverboy in his recent release film, Rnjhan . T HE film, clearly inspired by folklore of Heer- Rnjha , does not have stereotypical romantic leads. Kolavari di boy Dhanush, whose only claim to fame so far was being Rajinikanth's son- inlaw, made a Bollywood debut and surprised all with his avatar as the new- age loverboy.

Since love stories are a Bollywood staple and a chocolate- faced lover remains a mandatory ingredient, Dhanush's average look and ordinary mannerism added to the uniqueness of his role. After presenting Kangna Ranaut as a free- spirited, foul mouthed Tanu in his previous release, Tanu Weds Manu , director Rai wanted to present a new- age romance set against a unique background.

The critical acclaim received by Dhanush proved the uniqueness worked for the film. R ICHA Chadda as the hard- cussing Bholi Punjaban in Fukrey has been among the most unconventional baddie in Bollywood.

She shocked the audience with some choicest expletives in her role of a ruthless pimp and money- lender. Producer Farhan Akhtar searched for an innocent face that could shock the audience with her vicious mind games. While conceptualising the film, he had created Bholi Punjaban as a character that was a true blue villain.

" Farhan wanted that the character should not look like a typical vamp or ugly woman but a ruthless villain who was out on job," says Richa, stressing that the foul- language only highlighted the element of venom in the character.

Filmmaker Neeraj Pandey, who masters the art of narrating unusual plots and creating odd characters, confirms that unless he brings about a certain uniqueness in the characters, he feels as if he is cheating his audience.

After creating an enigmatic hoax caller out of Naseeruddin Shah in A Wednesday , he presented Akshay Kumar in different avatar in Special 26 this year.

Akshay shed his larger- than- life action hero image to play a believable crook who poses as fake CBI with his gang.

" To narrate a different story we need a set of unique characters." -- Rajkumar Gupta director, Ghanchakkar out take


WHY: The Bollywood hero as a psychologically unstable character is generally restricted to playing an obsessed loverboy. This film, about witchcraft and wizardry, delved deep into the protagonist's mind by unconventionally revealing he is a pishch . Emrn's character of the magician Bobo had a certain mystery about it. He also managed to elevate the eerie feeling by unleashing the demon in him in the climax.

QUIRK QUOTIENT: The spooky thriller was marketed as a story of witchcraft and the revelation about Emrn's character was the surprise element.

Since most antiheroes presented on screen are the scorned lover, the stalker or the criminal, magician Bobo's character successfully managed to give the filmy protagonist a new twist in horror.


WHY: The antihero protagonist in Bollywood is mostly one out of a few standard prototypes.

He could have become a gangster/ smuggler owing to poverty, He could be an obsessed loverboy who takes to stalking, or he could be driven by the ambition for power.

Akshay's character, Ajay, who poses as a fake CBI officer to loot people with black money along with his gang, was unique.

QUIRK QUOTIENT: Akshay shed his regular larger- thanlife superstar image to acquire a get- up of an unassuming trickster. Director Neeraj Pandey scripted the characters based on real people who carried out a similar heist in the ' 80s at a prominent jewellery shop in Mumbai. The well- scripted character of an unusual criminal was perfectly pulled off by a bespectacled Akshay sporting a thin moustache and oiled hair.


WHY: The Indian audience cannot fathom a lead actress playing a housewife who poses as a seductress and strikes the most bizarre fashion statements possible.

Sheer imperfection made the middle class Punjabi housewife Neetu different.

QUIRK QUOTIENT: For Vidya, it was a very different character from what most other lead actresses would want to play as a housewife. Her flawed sense of fashion, bad cooking and unique way of bullying her hubby added to the USP. Bollywood still defines glamour as perfection for its heroines, and here was a glam- conscious woman flaunting the weirdest sense of fashion.



WHY: Bollywood normally is not known to give innovative treatment to the love story and the loverboy.

Dhanush's character in the film ably presented the one- sided- love syndrome.

While the love that his character, Kundan, has for the girl is pure, he shows that he can go to any extent to seek her attraction.

QUIRK QUOTIENT: Despite his average looks, Dhanush managed to make a mark as an unusual lover. The Tamil actor who rose to fame with his hit song Kolavari di got a small but perfect launch as the son of temple priest in Varanasi in the film. He captured the mannerism of a smalltown loverboy well. The simplicity of Kundan brought back an old- world charm in Bollywood romance.


WHY: Very few actresses have ever played the villain in Bollywood. Richa's character Bholi Punjaban -- a hardcussing, ill- tempered moneylender and pimp -- was a prototype of villainy portrayed mostly by male actors .

QUIRK QUOTIENT: Bholi Punjaban's character was derived from several infamous criminals, male and female, who routinely make news and have a certain enigma associated with them. The ruthless money lender- pimp is shown to be not ashamed of trying every trick in the book to get what she wants. Yet, she was sensuous. Bholi was a drift away from the standard ugly woman or scheming vamp commonly presented as female villains in Hindi films.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Jul 6, 2013
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