2017 was the year of feminism, but there were several Bollywood films where we lost our hearts to male characters. Amidst all the sexism and machismo that Hindi film industry loves to serve us in the name of commercial cinema, seldom have we come across movies which have men who back the aspirations of women in their life. Men who are weak or struggle with the burden of being a man.
Here is a list of ten male characters from 2017 Bollywood films, who won our hearts for depicting Indian men as those struggling with social norms, the definition of being a man and the concept of feminism
Narottam Mishra (Bareilly ki Barfi) – Actor Pankaj Tripathi plays the sublime and supportive father to Bitti Mishra in this romantic comedy. Narottam knows that his daughter smokes and drinks. He sympathises with her, when men refuse to marry her because of her rebellious nature. He also worries about her marriage, like all fathers do, while his volatile wife snores in deep slumber. His mild temperament and unconditional love and support for his daughter is what makes him one of the most endearing father ever to be written in a film.
Ashok Dubey (Tumhari Sulu) – It’s not easy being married to a woman like Sulochna. But instead of cribbing over his wife’s antiques, Ashok (take a bow Manav Kaul) supports her in her every adventure. Even when she decides to work as a late-night radio jockey, handling sleazy men with expertise. Ashok stands by her when Sulu’s family refuses to.
The director shows Ashok holding his wife’s purse and cheering for her in one scene
He is one of many new-age Indian men who do not find holding a women’s purse beneath their masculinity.
Shyamlal Chatterjee / Shutu (Death in Gunj) – This film wasn’t exactly a feminist film. It was a thriller set in 1979. In Konkana Sen Sharma’s debut film as director, we came across Shutu. An introvert and tender man, who is constantly bullied, and is on the verge of depression. Shutu struggles with his identity and the futility of his life. This makes him the only character in the film with whom you sympathise entirely. Vikrant Massey’s portrayal of Shutu is spot on, bringing out the darkness and depression that tortures his soul. Shutu’s character shatters the boxed male characters which are omnipresent in Bollywood.
Keshav Sharma (Toilet-Ek Prem Katha) – Alright, I know I will receive a lot of flak for featuring a character who is a borderline stalker. But Akshay Kumar’s Keshav has some serious redeeming qualities. This character represents millions of Indian men, who are used to of living their lives a certain way. Hence, they fail to understand when their wives want to change their lifestyles.
Keshav’s frustration at being stuck in the battle of ideologies between his conservative father and progressive wife is relatable for many Indian men
Keshav gradually realises that the demands of his better half are justified, humane in fact. He then fights with the society and bureaucracy to just build a toilet for his wife.
We all know men like Keshav in our lives, who are happy in the cocoon of male privileges. Yet, when they get married, they come around to empathise with the struggles which are inherent with being a woman in India.
Hiraman Tiwari (Anaarkali of Aarah) – There are several men in Anaarkali’s life. Most of them lust after her, and their affection for her has a sexual undertone. All except one man. Hiraman Tiwari is an affable character played by actor Ishtiyak Khan. Hiraman, who works at a recording studio and sells CDs of Bhojpuri songs, loves Anaarkali for her talent. In one scene, he simply bends down and touches her feet, despite knowing that she performs lewd numbers on stage and in functions. It is bold scene which shows that an artist’s talent always surpasses the kind of work he or she does. His devotion to Anaarkali is so pure that it makes the lust of other men around her seem more deplorable.
Amarendra Bahubali (Bahubali: The Conclusion) – Women of India collectively went into a tizzy when Amarendra Bahubali, the manliest of all the men (moustache, biceps, six packs, swag and the whole shebang), stood by the side of his wife, against his mother. Amarendra’s respect for Devasena, and the way he treats his queen as his partner was one of the best things about the film.
We never thought Rajamouli and Prabhas could redeem themselves after the cringeworthy “romantic” scene involving disrobing Tamannah
But a great director is one who learns from his mistakes, and strengthens his shortcomings.
Raj Batra (Hindi Medium) – Raj Batra is a hardcore purani Dilli resident, who is a self-made man, and devoted to his wife. Raj cannot say no to his wife. He is willing to go to any lengths to fulfil her wish of admitting their only daughter in one of the top schools in Delhi. Irrfan Khan makes Raj unsophisticated, yet charming. The bewilderment in his mannerism makes us lose our hearts to him. Even when Raj finally puts his foot down, he does it due to his determination to make things right, and not because of his ego.
Abhimanyu Roy/Bubla (Meri Pyari Bindu) – Ayushman Khurana played lead in three romantic comedies this year. Out of them, his portrayal of Bubla is worth mentioning. Bubla yearns for the love of his childhood sweetheart Bindu. He is a willing accomplice in all her misadventures. Even after moving to another city and having a job and a girlfriend, he just cannot give up on Bindu. He supports her through her struggle to find success as a singer. Only to be dumped by her after she fails.
Both the characters take different paths in life, and yet, Bubla has only good things to say about his ex. He does not hate her, or plan a revenge on her.
Bubla is a proof that love can outlast relationships
This character is a lesson for men on how rejection should not lead to rage and revenge, but forgiveness and fondness instead.
DK (MOM) – A middle-aged potbellied private eye who goes on to help a mother extract a revenge on the rapists of her stepdaughter. He gives her information without asking what she is going to do with it. Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s portrayal of DK brings much needed fun and wit to this dark tale of revenge. Yet, he manages to do so without overshadowing the protagonist.
Shakti Kumar (Secret Superstar) – Shakti is an arrogant and lecherous music director. He is unworthy of trust and adulation. Still when Insia turns to him for help, Shakti does not fail her. Be it calling truce with his wife’s divorce attorney, or making arrangements for Insia’s travels, Shakti shows that he can be responsible and loving and endearing despite all his flaws. Aamir Khan slips under the skin of the character and his caricaturisation of music directors on television shows is spot on.
Shakti calls Insia “beta” throughout his screen time. The way he protectively hugs Insia, makes him a non-conventional father figure for the protagonist
It’s not easy to write male characters who do not stick to the general image of masculinity in Indian society. Hence, we need to applaud the writers and directors of these characters and movies, who have dared to back these characters, which are closer to reality and the need of the hour.
Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.