in Bollywood, India

Dabangg

Sitting in a dark cinema hall, all alone, I had a thought. Maybe this movie, called Dabangg 2, isn’t all non-sense. Maybe it’s not about leaving your brains out of the hall when you come to see this funny and interesting movie. Maybe it’s about knowing what you’re looking at. We Indians are pretty judgmental people. We look at Indian cinema and TV and laugh at its stupidity yet spend hours talking about the latest Bond or Iron Man flick (don’t tell me you don’t think RDJ doesn’t make it awesome). What is so awesome about Superman and Batman that makes us Gaga (and not in the Lady sense) about them? The fact that we know them to be fiction. These are the Superheroes that we believe in despite knowing their fictional origins.

Growing up in the 90s in India meant that I grew up with a surprising lack of popular native superheroes. I had Tintin, Asterisk and Obelix, Superman, Batman and Scooby Doo and the gang but no true Indian heroes. By the time Shaktiman came around, we had outgrown Chacha Chowdry and Naagraj and had moved on to DC comics in such a way that we knew every move Shaktiman made. I remember watching one of the most important episodes of the series and knowing immediately that the scene, moves and eventual outcome were all copied from Superman. By the time we finished with our teens, the K-serials of Saas Bahu fame had taken over most of TV prime time and MTV and Cartoon Network had died. Thus, a generation of cynics was born who only looked westward for entertainment and to believe in something. Therefore, the current crop of action films in Bollywood are only looked at as entertainment, or as one time watches.

But when I was staring at the screen, watching Chulbul Pandey be the fury that Indian gangsters are afraid of, I had a thought. Why can’t I believe in this? Why can’t I believe with the same conviction and fan following that I give to the Jedi, that the Sub-inspector from Laalganj is just as awesome? After all, he is just as heroic and his stunts are just as larger than life. So, why not? Is it that he doesn’t wear a mask? Or maybe the numerous song and dance sequences that litter the movie? No. I think that we cannot believe in him because he is an Indian creation. But if we go beyond the glam and the lack of high-tech gadgets, we’ll see a story we like. A Hero we’d want to emulate, a fearless leader we’d like to see succeed.

Looking at the character bust skulls on the big screen, I realized we may have a series on our hands. Whether the Khan brothers choose to convert it into a third movie, let alone comics/a TV show/books, is yet to be seen. But the people of India will certainly enjoy watching the peculiar law guardian enter seedy workshops to beat criminals to pulp and then put their money into his pocket. The people of India are ready for Robin Hood Pandey.