Recently, Salman Khan in an interview had spoken about the return of the macho heroes in Hindi films. He felt that in the last few years the image of the hero of a Hindi film had moved from the action oriented, hard-hitting, strong guy to a romantic, soft and emotional gentleman. There has been a transformation from the days of Amitabh Bachchan’s Deewar and Coolie to SRK’s Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.
There is a large grain of truth in this comment from Salman. There have been many changes over the years, many imperceptible and gradual. Audience preferences and choices in many cases determined the persona of the stars in the film, but in a few exceptional cases we saw personas which were not a part of the norm.
Let us first define who we think is a macho hero. The dictionary describes “macho” as virile, manly and dominating. We will accept it as a term to describe an action hero – one who uses his fists more than his mind, who can be termed as rugged and strong and who is definitely the main character of the film.
The Twentieth Century:
Taking this as the benchmark, we realize that the fifties did not have any stars which fell into this category. The trio of Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor ruled the roost during these days. The films had complex stories based on love or familial relationships. The hero was normally a self-sacrificing gentleman and physical action was rarely a part of the story.
The sixties saw the advent of Rajesh Khanna and we continued with the trend of romance reigning supreme. Even Chetan Anand’s Haqeeqat, which is undoubtedly the best war film made in Bollywood, had very little wartime action in it. But this decade also saw the advent of Amitabh Bachchan, who by the seventies became the ultimate action hero of India.
Zanjeer was just a precursor the series of action films which followed it. No longer was the hero just a gentleman, he believed in action and fights and he was strong and masculine. We began to look forward to some aspects of violence, a little fighting, some skirmishes and preferably the sight of one hero beating up half a dozen men singlehandedly. The fight choreographers were in great demand, the heroes began to perfect the art of looking menacing and stars such as Mithun, Dharmendra and Jeetendra became our ultimate macho heroes.
During the eighties and nineties we wavered between romantic films and action films, and each actor tried his hand at both of them. There was no clear trend of machismo or of romance and emotional epochs – it was just a matter of what was popular at the box office.
The Twenty First Century:
The new century has brought forth the true macho man. The six-packs and the abs, the chiselled frames and emphasis on a great physique were all part of this phenomenon. The guys looked great and they flaunted their sculpted bodies with ease and to the delight of their female fans. Hrithik Roshan, Salman Khan, John Abraham, Aamir Khan and Shahrukh Khan – all of them became physical fitness experts and all of them removed their shirts at some point to show-off their new found shapes.
Dabangg and Dhoom 1 & 2 are just two of the finest examples of the films with macho heroes. Great fight sequences, a raw ruggedness in the conversation and a dominating male persona – these were the main benchmarks of these films.
The audience is lapping all this up with great enthusiasm and also appreciating this stark display of machismo. After all, John Abraham in Dostana put up a skin show to match Shilpa Shetty’s and managed to overshadow her! Aamir Khan in Ghajini was the ultimate robust star, and today Salman Khan in Dabangg strode across the screen with his devil-may-care attitude and total lack of concern for all the villains around him. Even diminutive Shahid Kapoor in Kaminey raced across the screen shirtless with horses.
How long this phenomenon may last is something that no trade pundit has ever been able to foretell. But presently, every star is spending a lot more time trying to look sensational and woo the audience with his looks and his physique and manly mannerisms and transforming themselves into the ultimate macho heroes.
And of course, we, specially the female population, love it.