If Bollywood made ‘The Avengers’

I caught the movie that’s been big on comicbook fans’s minds for over two years now and that everyone on my timeline is talking about – The Avengers. I’m a borderline viewer, which is to say that I enjoy the comics medium and know a bit about the characters, but I’m not a fangirl. This means I get to enjoy a good summer blockbuster movie but I’m not so tied in to it that I can’t let my mind stray.

During the fight sequences (admittedly awesome, especially at the Imax former dome theatre), here’s what ran through my head. The Hulk was SMASSSSHING his fists on the ground before launching into his attack and I murmured,

Yeh dhaai kilo ka haath!

That launched me off into a curious daydream of a Bollywood Avengers movie, which kept me sufficiently occupied during the more extended action sequences. The Hindi dubbed version of The Avengers is called ‘Vinashak‘, which translates to The Destroyers, not the Avengers. I’m yet to think up a good name for the film since ‘Badlewaale‘ doesn’t pack the same punch as Avengers. More on that later.

What’s the cast to be?

The Hulk/ Bruce Banner

With the 2.5kilo reference, the big, green ‘other guy’ Hulk cannot be anybody but Sunny Deol. Sunny paaji also has an equally sunny smile but it’s also accompanied by a raw, earthy force. I rather liked Mark Ruffalo in this role, even over Edward Norton because he essays the mild, affable, slightly hesitant character of Bruce Banner much better. Norton, in comparison looks too collected and in control, a look that suited Fight Club but not the ‘I’m a wreck inside’ alter ego of The Hulk. To come back to Bollywood, Bruce Batten needs a subtler, milder look so how about the more polished, ‘civilised’ member of the same family? He even looks a little like Mark Ruffalo. I’m thinking Abhay Deol in his wry, slightly sardonic avatar as the mild-mannered scientist turning into a roaring Sunny Deol (remember Gadar?) when he’s angry and well, green. Hee, that ought to satisfy the intellectuals and the salt-of-the-earth alike!

Iron Man/ Tony Stark

Genius, billionaire, philanthropic playboy. Read flashy, irreverent, flirtatious showman? That can’t be anybody but Salman Khan. Nuff’ said. Well, he might have something to say about the metallic armour that covers up the torso. For a desi version, he could have the electromagnet embedded in his bare chest and flashing cool lights. (If this were the 80s, that electromagnet would be in the shape of an ‘Om’ or perhaps ‘Ma’).

Thor

This Viking demigod wasn’t too hard to place either. Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of the mythology that inspired the character and the comic/film version doesn’t seem to do justice. But I’m convinced that Thor is the token pretty boy of this group, the oldest but curiously enough the winner of ‘Most Likely To Go Metrosexual’ award. Golden flowing locks, not too quick on the uptake (especiall with Batten & Stark around)…give it up for Hrithik Roshan!

Now, let me explain. Like any female Indian who was at a hormonal stage when Kaho Na Pyaar Hain was released, I greatly enjoyed the Golden God on the silver screen. But Agneepath put that to paid when I found every man in the movie laughing at being beaten up, except the hero who took the opportunity to bawl. These muscles are for flexing, not wielding and the God is for show only. Besides, he’s the only one who can carry off that bare-chested/skirted warrior suit.

Nick Fury

This gets tricky since according to my informed sources, this character was drawn keeping in mind Samuel L. Jackson (who plays him in the movie). How do you compete with THAT? The clichedness of it pains me but it’s time to call in the senior Bachchan.

I am rather tired of seeing him play the ‘I’m older but kicking more ass than you’ role but who else? Irrfan Khan? Nah, that’s a good actor but not one who owns the screen the way Jackson does. This role needs the kind of screen charisma that doesn’t rely on good looks or acting talent. I’m drawing a blank. If you think of an alternative to Amitabh Bachchan, say it in the comments.

Black Widow/ Natasha Romanoff

This one had me stumped for awhile. It’s appalling how cookie cutter, the current crop of Bollywood actresses are. No Kareena or Katrina for me. Rani has the sensuality but not the menace of Black Widow. Deepika Padukone has the perfect body type but her face conveys no more emotion (never mind menace or guile) than the Iron Man costume. Anushka Sharma was a contender. My only problem is that she seems too sunny, too chirpy to essay a dark character like Black Widow. If she were one of Charlie’s Angels, she’d be Drew Barrymore whereas we’re looking for Lucy Liu. I don’t think Scarlette Johansson is a very good actress but she has just the right look for Black Widow. The body is right on of course but the face really nails it. When she looks at you (or into the camera), you get the feeling you don’t know all there is to know and that you should be uneasy around her. Who then, can essay that?

The boy thought Mahi Gill would be a good choice. But personally I think she’s too earthy, too ‘heavy’ (not in a body mass way but in a body language way). This Black Widow needs a certain lightness of the sort that makes words like ‘lithe’ and ‘sinous’ make sense.

Much thought & discussion flowed before the image of another very beautiful and slit-eyed lady popped into my head. Remember the striking Chitrangada Singh (from Hazaaron Khwaishen Aisi)? Perfect.

Captain America/ Steve Rogers

Capt. America is a squeaky clean, whitewashed character. Who is the squeakiest clean man in Bollywood (umm, to the point of boring? Imran Khan. But a superhero? Noooo. His uncle wasn’t bad at all balancing chocolate boy looks with tough machismo. So Aamir Khan it is.

Hawkeye/ Clint Barton

This one didn’t have a major role in the film but since he is an important character (and because I could think of someone who fit), he’s on this list. A sleek, lithe guy who starts off loyal, goes over to the dark side and then switches back again? It’s all in the eyes and that’s for Bollywood’s master brooder, Ajay Devgan.

Agent Phil Coulson

That covers the superheros, leaving just one notable good guy who was also responsible for some comic relief (in a wry way). I think Irrfan Khan wouldn’t be wasted on the role of Agent Phil Coulson.

Loki

Who’s left? Just a manic, boyish, seedy villian who is also a Viking demigod-gone-wrong. Loki, like all villians is an interesting character, both in folklore and the movie. I’d really like to see Ranbir Kapoor in this role. He’s got the looks (chocolate boy-turned-menacing), the talent and the body structure to carry it off.

* Images via Wikipedia, Funrocker & Entertainment Wallpaper

If you liked this post, drop me a comment telling me which other pop culture reference you’d like ‘Bollywoodized’. And do read this post about iconic Bollywood characters blogging.

MOVIE-Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows

Just earlier this week, I was talking about the revamped James Bond, played by Daniel Crag and why I wasn’t a supporter. The boy said that James Bond (Ian Fleming’s original) was not relevant in modern times. While that may be true, my point is that if a movie is using a character’s brand to pull me into the theatre, I feel cheated when I get something else. James Bond is supposed to make me go weak in the knees, not make my heart bleed for him.

I could say something similar about the Sherlock Holmes movie franchise. Still, the first movie made me want to consider that I could look at it as an independent storyline, not a depiction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s hero. It’s very hard to be this objective about a character one loves so much, but if the movie is entertaining enough, it is possible.

Sadly, the second movie Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows did not permit me the same grace. Many things did not work for this film, the biggest of which was that it simply did not entertain. Halfway through the movie, I was already straining to look at the time and I actually groaned when the plot took another turn, indicating another half an hour at least.

Let’s start with the most obvious bits. Even as an independent character, a detective is fun to watch when you can see how he figures out a mystery. The ‘Show, don’t tell’ rule of story-telling was conspicuously absent in the film. The characters rushed about in what seemed like a wild-goose chase, interpersed with a sprinkling of rapid left-right head movements, presumably indicating Holmes’ brilliant mind at work. But none of those workings were ever shown satisfactorily. It was like someone stepped in and said, “There ought to be some Sherlock Holmes in this movie. Let’s pick at random and throw it into the film at some arbitrary points.”

The second most compelling thing about a Sherlock Holmes story is the case itself. Human foibles, grey emotions are all brought out in a compelling way in the books. The film completely missed that too. An extremely cardboard villain whose motives are explained away with,

“Bad people do bad things because they can.”

left me with an unpleasant taste in the mouth. I’m not stupid, Mr.Guy Ritchie.

Even if I were to hold on to my original premise of not expecting the same of the film story as I would from the books, it didn’t work. Robert Downey Jr. looks wasted through this film (worse than the earlier one). If that’s a tip-off to Holmes’ opiate behaviour, how does he manage to be fit enough to perform the stunts that are shown? He’s a detective, not a superhero. Even in an independent world, that means a regular human being whose prowess is more in the mental realm than the physical. As a fan of the detective fiction genre, I’m offended by one who is so stylised that he’s almost a drunken dandy, a guy who draws so much attention to himself when his profession involves moving in the shadows.

If the overextended action sequences weren’t bad enough, what was a generous orgy of gunfire and bloodied limbs doing slathered all over the second half of the movie? If I had known this was going to be a war movie, I’d have refrained from walking into the hall.

And then there were the characters. Some of the Holmes universe’s best known people make an appearance here but they were all nothing more than props for the main character. The tiny handful of smart lines were reserved for pseudo-homosexual banter between Holmes & Watson. Jude Law (Dr.Watson) and Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler) both looked thoroughly fed up with the movie and delivered their scenes like they were parodying in a small out-of-the-way theatre.

After the movie had managed to tick me off in all these ways, I also had adequate time to notice other things. The look/feel of the film looks all incongruous given the times that it is set in. Machine guns in the 19the century? And never mind the weaponry, what about the people? Did women really move that way, with such confidence (even arrogance)? Even Mad Men (set in the 1950s) seems primmer, more prudish and chauvinistic than these times. It doesn’t make sense at all.

This movie might have had a chance to entertain, if it could only make up its mind what it wanted to be – action flick, superhero caper, war film, comedy. In the case of the first movie, I’d have said watch without expecting Sherlock Holmes. For this movie, I’d say, don’t expect to be entertained unless repetitive stunts and tomfoolery are your thing.

What Does Pop Culture Have Against Bloggers?

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories logo. C...

Image via Wikipedia

The boy tells me that a Grand Theft Auto (GTA) mission that he just completed, is called ‘Blogger This…!‘. In the game, a blogger has raised the shackles of a nightclub owner because of his negative posts about the club, after being denied entry into it. So the mission involves hunting & beating this blogger down to pulp. I know GTA isn’t exactly a posterchild for politically-correct or even rational messages. But I can’t help but wonder what pop culture has against bloggers.

One of the Castle episodes involved interrogating a blogger as witness in a case. The blogger was depicted as an overweight, socially inept woman. When asked if she had an alibi, she mentioned a couple of names.

“Roommates?”

“My parents!”

she replied, surprised that it wasn’t obvious. Even as far as offensive stereotypes go, that seems closer to software geek than blogger. When did these two become the same thing? Or is anyone who spends time behind a computer, to be perceived as socially inept, laughable, unattractive and a nerd?

Cover of

Cover of State of Play [Blu-ray

Last week, I was watching ‘State of Play. This crime drama pushes through on the chemistry between a senior journalist and his blogger counterpart, both employees of a reputed publication. The blogger is a young woman, depicted as willful & intelligent but also brash and superficial in her work. That sounds to me like an echo of what a lot of journalists say about bloggers. The funny thing is, my experiences with traditional media, especially print journalists has thrown up negligence, stupidity, shallow to no research and an uppity attitude to boot. Yet, the blogger is the one taking the flak and indeed the audience derision in Hollywood’s depiction.

At an immediate level, I’m usually offended by such narrow, prejudiced messages. But beyond that, I am inclined to think that these are but fearful, defensive responses of a traditional, control-hierarchy mindset. It’s just sad to see it revealed in the promoters of pop culture, who are responsible for shaping a lot of attitudes. Blogging and bloggers are here to stay whether traditional media likes it or not. What’s more, it’s not even an us-versus-them situation. Anybody who is online, can be a blogger. To condemn that is like a prisoner sneering at those who walk free and are holding out a key to him as well. Funny, indeed.

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