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A new breed of flawed and relatable protagonists are winning hearts and wooing minds

A new breed of flawed and relatable protagonists

Male protagonists are usually predictably and unrealistically heroic in Hindi cinema. They have rippling muscles and massive egos. They never age and are virtually indestructible. And there is nothing they cannot do. Including swatting armies of villains, dancing with super-human grace and saving the world without breaking into a sweat.  In recent times though, a few male characters have been portrayed as more relatable than aspirational. They are flawed, vulnerable, and often give audiences an insight into their messy inner world unflinchingly.  Here is a look at some of them.

1. Beni Madhav Singh in ‘Music Teacher’

Be it the small-town boys in ‘Kanpuriye’ or the not- so- upright paan vendor of ‘Chaman Bahaar,’ the male characters in the quirky productions of  Yoodlee Films are usually far from perfect. But it is Manav Kaul’s Beni Madhav Singh in ‘Music Teacher’ (2019) who is perhaps the most relatable of them all. He falls in love with his protege, pushes her way and then spends countless futile years blaming himself and wallowing in corrosive self-pity. Sometimes he is driven by his ego and but mostly keeps replaying his past.  He occasionally settles for a comforting relationship with another woman and then wastes some more time chasing a dream that can no longer come true. Director Sarthak Dasgupta paints a perfect portrait of an imperfect man who cannot make up his mind about either love or the key decisions of life and then reaches middle-age only to realise that his best years are not ahead but behind him.

2. Ved in ‘Tamasha’

Most of Imtiaz Ali’s heroes are just lost men looking for existential answers. Ranbir Kapoor’ Ved in ‘Tamasha’ (2015) is no exception. Acutely suppressed as a child, he is creatively lost, stuck in an uninspiring job and unable to release his inner story-teller who craves a life brimming with adventure and unfettered love. A chance meeting with Tara (Deepika Padukone) during a holiday is a reminder of all that he can be but he is too timid to leave behind the safe confines of his existence. Till Tara rejects his marriage proposal and forces him to confront the man he is refusing to be. The transition of Ved from a joyless automaton to a creative genius is the story of everyone who knows something is missing in life but has not yet found it.

3. Arjun in ‘ Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’

This Zoya Akhtar film was an absorbing bromance with three fascinating portrayals of men who are strikingly different and also relatable. The biggest surprise in ‘ Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’  (2011) however was Hrithik Roshan who is a refreshing departure from his super-heroic, larger-than-life roles, played a cynical workaholic, still nursing an old grudge. He likes to flaunt his material success and suppresses his real emotions even before his best friends. There was nothing heroic about Roshan’s character Arjun though slowly, we see him shedding old skin and learning to live in the moment and experiencing life without filers. Be it during a deep-sea dive or while recalling the vintage opening music of Doordarshan in a Spanish bar.  This was truly a coming- of- age film where each of the three men experienced a relatable emotional breakthrough though none of them was particularly young.

4. Jai in  ‘Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na’

Imran Khan like his uncle Aamir Khan was introduced to us as a boy-next-door in his debut film. Unlike Aamir’s ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’ though, ‘Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na’ (2008) was not a tragic love story. It was the journey of two best friends who have been in love all along but don’t realise it till a filmy sprint to the airport makes it clear as daylight. Jai, the hero was not supremely self-assured or cocky. He was neither exceptionally brilliant nor accomplished. He was just a young boy learning to negotiate matters of the heart with a little help from his empathetic mother and the universe. Yes, he could throw a punch but only when it was absolutely necessary. And all of us related to how normal, ordinary and yet endearing he was.