Variety

Girl loves bad boy

shashi Baliga | Updated on May 17, 2012 Published on May 17, 2012

Class act: Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra in Ishaqzaade

Ishaqzaade represents current Bollywood trends, including the rise – and charms – of the ruffian from North India.

Most girls like bad boys. Some girls like 'em bad, wild and violent.

Ishaqzaade's Zoya Qureshi clearly wants all of that plus treacherous as well. So, when Parma Chauhan, the object of her hatred-turned-love, pushes the boundaries of bad behaviour, she melts.

It's the biggest letdown in a film that seems to have got everything brilliantly right till about the halfway mark, only to squander the advantage in one long runaround (literally) that leaves you both exhausted and angry. Saying more might ruin the movie for you if you haven't seen it yet. Which means that one might still recommend it, despite that inexplicable turnaround that leaves you gasping for the wrong reasons.

For, when Ishaqzaade is good, it's very good. Director Habib Faisal is as comfortable in the chaos and dust of the badlands as he was in the genteel middle-class mood of Do Dooni Char and he comes up with some wonderful touches. He's extracted terrific performances, too, from his lead pair Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra, who play two wild, headstrong youngsters in love. And the tone is so real and right for most of the movie.

Besides, Ishaqzaade seems to exemplify so much of the cinema that's changing the way Bollywood thinks these days: from stories, location and milieus to clothes and real-speak (as opposed to dialogue- baazi). One key difference: the action is gravitating to the north. Mumbai's grimy underbelly still inspires: from Kaminey to Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai to Agneepath to the under-production Shootout at Wadala, quite a few films set in the industry's backyard are rolling out of the dream factory.

But the politics and turbulence of small-town North India ( Omkara, Ishqiya, Gulaal or even Phas Gaye Re Obama) are fast gaining ground. And one interesting offshoot is that the North Indian lout is currently scoring over the Mumbai tapori in the hero stakes.

For decades, we had heroes playing variations on the unsophisticated, street-smart but lovable rogue who was a staple in Hindi films. Aamir Khan did two memorable takes on this stereotype, in Vikram Bhatt's Ghulam and Ram Gopal Varma's Rangeela. As he spouted standard Bambaiyya lingo such as ‘ apun ka' and ‘ lafda', dangled a cigarette at the side of his mouth and brandished a colourful scarf, he sang Aati Kya Khandala and Yaaron sun lo zara, haan apna ye kehna, Jeena ho to apun ke jaisa hi jeena.

This was a street-smart guy and a bit of a conman, but he was a trickster with a sense of humour and his heart in the right place. His attitude was born of learning to survive in a breathless, ruthless city. But the tapori rarely messed seriously with the law; he was too smart for that. Like Aamir, Anil Kapoor grew up in Mumbai, but in a chawl, so here's a guy who knows what taporis are all about. That's why he was so jhakaas (loosely translated as terrific) as he turned up his collar, puffed up his hair and chest and strutted his way through Ram Lakhan and other movies.

Salman Khan is to the Mumbai manner born; there's a bit of the tapori attitude in practically every role he plays. Whether it's the irresistible Dabangg or the totally avoidable Ready, there's that exaggerated machismo lightened by an underlying sense of humour.

Shah Rukh Khan has never got it quite right (perhaps because he grew up in Delhi, do you think?) even if he sang Apun bola tu meri Laila in Josh, and did a wonderful Goan version in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa. Some actors simply can't get the body language and attitude right; it's difficult to imagine Saif Ali Khan carrying it off, even if he stunned us all with his Langda Tyagi in Omkara.

However, the true-blue Mumbai tapori seems to have had his heyday. It's over to rough-hewn North Indian charms now. The urban version is Ranveer Singh's Bittoo Sharma in Band Baaja Baraat. The more dangerous one is the small-town goonda: rougher, meaner, more violent, with far less humour and style.

Ishaqzaade's Arjun Kapoor is a wild animal, snarling his way through the movie, peeing in public, setting fire to petrol pumps and raining bullets. He looks unshaven and unwashed for the most part, his wardrobe is flashy and garish, and his hair is a stylist's nightmare. Worst of all, he doesn't know how to treat women right. (Naturally, the firebrand heroine has to fall in love with him.)

It's perfect for the character he plays. It's not a sanitised version or shabby chic; it looks like the real thing. This is one of the scruffiest, grubbiest lead roles for a romantic hero that we've seen in a long time; it's closer to Manoj Bajpai's gangster grunge in Satya than anything else. And it's definitely not the stylised kind of portrayal that Salman Khan seems to have perfected in Wanted and Dabangg: the asli mard who doesn't need designer threads and shoes or gel-spiked hair to work his way into the heroine's Indian heart (though a pair of really cool sunglasses always helps). Director Prabhudeva infused Southern-style bravado into Wanted's Radhe — exaggerated dialogue and gestures that skirt the border between being stylised and being a caricature. Not easy to pull off. But Salman, like Rajnikant, does it with the overpowering effect of his screen persona.

Prabhudeva will soon unleash another such hero with rough edges in his soon-to-be-released Rowdy Rathore. This time around, it will be Akshay Kumar — perfect raw material for this kind of role. He's got the muscles, the attitude and the style. He plays a charming conman who has a way with the ladies. Sounds familiar. But let's hope, not too familiar.

shashibaliga@gmail.com

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Published on May 17, 2012
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