Increase Of Male Bonding In Mainstream Indian Cinema

From ‘RRR’ to ‘Animal’, an overview of how protagonists are sharing better onscreen chemistry with their male counterparts.

Most directors of mainstream action films hardly give any importance to the female leads. The primary duty of leading ladies has always been looking glamorous and waiting to be flirted or rescued by the heroes.

A recent deviation to this trend is YRF spy films, where Katrina Kaif and Deepika Padukone did some full-fledged action. Still, they cannot be called substantial parts.

But, of late, the female leads in action films are not even getting their romantic space.

Instead, the male leads bond with themselves rather than the opposite sex. For example, in Pathaan (2023), Shah Rukh Khan shared more chemistry with his nemesis, John Abraham, instead of Deepika Padukone.

Romantic comedies and movies of other genres are, of course, a different matter.

In romantic comedies, female leads usually have a substantial presence. In some movies, they get more screen presence than the heroes.

For instance, Imtiaz Ali’s Jab We Met (2007) was a huge turning point in the career of Kareena Kapoor. Both her performance and film are remembered fondly by the audience to this day.

Likewise, in Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (2014), which can be described as an ode to the blockbuster Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), Alia Bhatt’s Kavya Pratap Singh was much more assertive in her love than Kajol in the original.

Getting back to my original point, in most recent blockbusters — particularly pan-Indian movies, women’s roles have been pretty negligible. These include Salaar: Part 1-Ceasefire (2023), Gadar 2 (2023), and Animal (2023).

The male bonding in these pan-Indian hits consists of different types. In Salaar: Part 1-Ceasefire and the historical fantasy RRR (2022), the focus has been on intense brotherhood.

Salaar: Part 1-Ceasefire

Prabhas and Prithviraj Sukumaran in ‘Salaar: Part 1-Ceasefire’. (X)

In the case of Salaar: Part 1-Ceasefire, the characters of Prabhas and Prithviraj Sukumaran are shown to be close from a young age.

The very first scene of Salaar has Deva (Prabhas) taking on a seasoned wrestler for his friend Varada (Prithviraj).

As the plot progresses, Deva becomes an extremely valuable commander-in-chief for his friend. Their bromance is particularly visible when they both take on some drug-infested zombies and indulge in some hilarious banter.

Expectedly, this became a major highlight of Salaar: Part 1-Ceasefire. Not only were there any major scenes with the women characters, but they were grossly underwritten and mostly left as bystanders.

RRR

RRR is a historical fantasy with a huge hangover of “Amar Chitra Katha“. SS Rajamouli chose the lives of two famous freedom fighters — Komaram Bheem and Alluri Sita Ramaraju (Junior NTR and Ramcharan).

He created a fictional scenario where the paths of these two meet and what happens after that.

In RRR, the two characters are not childhood friends but bond with each other fast while saving a young boy.

This friendship goes through many tests and trials before the ultimate happy ending.

Right from the first frame, it was clear that Rajamouli majorly focused on the bromance aspect. The different stages of their relationship came out well, but the rest was a huge mess.

The romantic angle between Ramcharan and Alia Bhatt’s Sita was pretty much nonexistent. Even the few scenes between them lacked the punch.

Ironically, Alia’s only substantial scene was with Junior NTR when she saved Bheem by pretending to have a deadly disease. The likes of Shreya Saran and Olivia Morris didn’t even get that.

Gadar 2

In Gadar 2Animal, and Jawan, the male bonding is seen as father and son. In the case of Animal, there is also the additional angle of estranged brothers.

Talking about Gadar 2, Sunny Deol’s affection for his onscreen son is the biggest selling point of this blockbuster sequel.

Unfortunately, Ameesha Patel was reduced to either a weeping wife or a mother, depending on the circumstances.

The scenes between Sunny and Ameesha have hardly any scope for romantic chemistry.

Animal

Sandeep Reddy Vanga could have easily named his movie “A Son’s Psychotic Love for his Father” instead of Animal, because nothing else mattered in the flick.

All the women’s characters in the film are redundant, including Rashmika Mandanna’s Geetanjali.

Ranbir Kapoor has intimate scenes with Rashmika and Tripti Dimri, but the actor shares most chemistry with Anil Kapoor’s Balbir Singh and Bobby Deol’s Abrar.

A good example of this can be seen in an emotionally charged fight scene on an airport runway. Both Ranbir Kapoor and Bobby Deol are seen shirtless, and the entire sequence plays out like a romantic ballad. There is a particular moment where they even lie on top of each other.

Jawan and Pathaan

Atlee’s Jawan is essentially a father-and-son drama with a liberal dose of Shankar’s vigilante brand of cinema.

Unlike the abovementioned films, the women characters here are not insignificant. Nayanthara had a meaty role, particularly in the first half, where we see her doing a balancing act — a single mother who is also an NSG officer.

The women in SRK’s vigilante gang also had reasonably fleshed-out parts, particularly Sanya Malhotra.

But the highlight of Jawan is easily the scenes where SRK features as father and son — the emotions are so palpable.

In the other SRK film Pathaan, the male bonding comes out big time when he shares screen space with John Abraham’s Jim. The scenes between John and SRK were cracking — whether it was the banter they indulge in or the big action sequences, which have a lot of grit.

On the other hand, the attempt at creating a romantic chemistry between Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone came as an unnecessary distraction. Even in Jawan Shah Rukh’s chemistry with Deepika was rather cold.

Pushpa

Allu Arjun’s Pushpa does not exactly fall under the category of the abovementioned films because there are some proper romantic moments.

But it has to be said that Allu Arjun’s chemistry with Jagadeesh’s Keshava made a bigger impact. Their bromance can be particularly felt in the song “Srivalli“. Throughout the song, Pushpa asks Keshava whether or not Srivalli has seen him.

This trend might be good for heroes as it is helping them to expand their market like never before, along with a variety of roles. But for the cine-goers and female actors, the scenario is not desirable and needs to change fast.

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