Last week my interactions with a barber during a long overdue hair-cut motivated me to go and see Billo (“Barber” was unfashionably trimmed). Through the course of watching the movie, I wondered what makes a director choose a particular profession for the protagonist.
Profession and the occupational traits could be used as a vehicle to project good or evil human qualities in a larger than life fashion
- Being a army (Border) or police man (A Wednesday) provides ample ammunition to depict physical strength and mental courage to achieve common public good and hence is one of the most commonly used profession
- On the other extreme, being a thief (Sholay) or a gangster (Don) can help you capture the above qualities without carrying the extra baggage of morality to achieve one’s selfish motives – if one were to run the numbers, I would think this is a more successful and regular box office formula
Portrayal of a profession and its unique facets and how the protagonist battles with the occupational hazards. Here again there are two categories
- Professions in real life which are more glamorous as they involve some extra-ordinary talent unearthed after stiff competition like music (Abhimaan), acting (OSO), sports (Chak De India), modelling (fashion) - people have always had fascination to know how such lives are lived
- Relatively mundane professions, represented by ordinary men, which are not popular by nature and are produced in relative abundance. This post is largely about such portrayal of such professions.
Enumerated below are some such professions and a take on how their portrayal / real life perception has changed over time. They are arranged in the order of “color of collar” as I see it starting with white.
- Memorable Portrayals - Big B in Anand, Sanjay Dutt in Munnabhai MBBS, Salman Khan in Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya
- Real life - Has maintained its stature as the most respected and coveted profession around among the educated, though people may have grown more cynical as well as casual when dealing with men in this profession
- Reel life - Playing a Medico restricts director’s ability to do certain super-human things and hence playing a doctor isn’t very common. Though moral issues with the profession have taken a back-seat and increasing ease to deal with the Medicos has made their appearance more common on silver-screen than before.
- Memorable Portrayals - Anil Kapoor in Meri Jung, Sunny Deol in Damini, Govinda in Kyunki Main Jhoot Nahi Bolta
- Real life - Perhaps by its very nature more than any profession causes a dilemma between professional duties / money-making and being on the right side of morality, and such confusion is only getting accentuated as times get more complex
- Reel life - Increasing complexity of their profession only provides more juice to the directors and one would expect to see them more often in the lead roles
- Memorable Portrayals - Anil Kapoor in Mashal, Shahrukh Khan & Juhi Chawla in PBDHH, Preity Zinta in Lakshya
- Real life - A profession which was not very long ago only meant being able to influence the masses and convey truth has offlate has got an element of “glamour” attached to it caused by increasing influence of television in our lives
- Reel life - Glamour quotient in the profession has increased their suitability for the lead roles significantly while the battle for truth they are associated with will continue to provide additional firepower
- Memorable Portrayals - Rajesh Khanna in Bawarchi, Govinda in Hero No 1, Saif Ali Khan in Salaam Namaste
- Real life - Way to a lot of people’s heart is through stomach – it has hold good so far and will probably remain so. This profession has again seen increasing acceptability in the Indian society as a mainstream profession and more men wearing the apron
- Reel life - Likewise, increasing eliteness of the profession (restaurateur cum cook) would enhance their suitability too for the lead roles
- Memorable Portrayals - Dharmendra in Chupke Chupke, Aamir Khan in Raja Hindustani, Sunny Deol in Gadar
- Real life - Driver holds the key to one’s life safety as well as pleasurable, informative and timely journey. While the core aspects remain, they have begun to address more needs for their employers
- Reel life - Drivers, given their increasing versatility, like “potato” will continue to be used in creative ways in the Bollywood masala products
- Memorable Portrayals - Big B in Coolie, Govinda in Coolie No 1
- Real life - Remains one of the most thankless jobs involving hard bargain for the men in red to earn a living. An otherwise uninteresting job involves encounters with different people day in and day out which could lead to interesting situations
- Reel life - Has been and would only be used far and infrequently given the limited “continuity” element so far only played bu Bade Miyan and Chotte Miyan in their own unimitable styles.