It only seems like yesterday (yeah, yeah it was the late 2000s) when Salman Khan resurrected his career on the back of Telugu/Tamil/Malayalam remakes. Those mass, masala movies, heavily derived from the popular Hindi cinema of the 1980s were filled with stock characters like the hero, the hero’s sister (of marriageable age), the hero’s mother (suffering from a chronic condition), the villain, the pados waale Doctor sahab who says inhe dawaa ki nahi, dua ki zarurat hai’at some point. And to now see Sunny Deol’s Bhaiaji Superhitt (that releases today) and Govinda-starrer, Rangeela Raja, it’s difficult to figure out if the (terrible) 90s are back, or are we just witnessing an encore.
The 90s were a time when Aamir Khan expressed his affection for someone by comparing her to a pole AND a stick. It was a time when Govinda would lust after a woman (he just met on the streets) by harassing her by singing about the colour of her dupatta. The many rape sequences, and crass puns were used as plot devices and were disturbingly integral to the movie-going experience back then. With Govinda’s upcoming Rangeela Raja (currently stuck with the censors) comparing rape to ‘swadisht khaana‘ and a woman to ‘kadak ghevar‘, one can see what inspires such lines and it’s all terribly tone-deaf for 2018.
Sunny Deol’s Bhaiaji Superhitt, shows the actor plays a don (read: saviour, in Bollywood’s lexicon). He walks in slo-mo through a crowd of underpaid junior artistes singing his praises, punches people into nearby walls, ingeniously threatens a rival by barking ‘kaat dunga‘ on the phone. Someone needs to sit down the Deol clan, and explain to them the concept of ‘toxic masculinity’ and how it became unsexy even before Bobby went out of work. The first time.
There needs to be enough reason and context to include the tropes of a 90s masala Bollywood film, something the makers of Bhaiaji Superhitt seem completely untouched by. Something that’s visible in the way, the film employs the gharwali/baharwali trope with Preity Zinta & Ameesha Patel? The 90s was a time, where plenty of heroes made infidelity look like ‘fun’… almost endorsing it.
Varun Dhawan’s Judwaa 2 and Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya, both had elements of the 90s Bollywood films. The film normalised the outdated notion that it was ‘okay’ to forcibly kiss the girl sit next to you, spank her, and even shove her into the trunk of a car, all in the name of the hero’s entitlement. None of this works in 2018, where most of us have a medium (social media) to voice our discontent.
It’s also a jolt to the actors’ good work from the 90s. For those who admired Sunny Deol for taking on the system, his legacy is further watered down with such servile filmmaking. Govinda’s genius comic-timing is further buried under his tireless effort to propagate systemic misogyny, like in Rangeela Raja. Illogical double roles can no longer compensate for laziness, there is no good cop in this routine.