Baahubali supremacy proves Hindi cinema hero need not look punjabi-muslim in appearance
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Commentary

Among many things, the thumping box office victory of Baahubali in 2017 exposed Bollywood's ethnic and cultural biases for what they are.

In the just released Sarkar 3, the character of Maharashtrian political-mobster and upcoming leading man is actually played by an unknown Punjabi actor named Amit Sadh and his predecessor, by the half-punjabi actor Amitabh Bachchan.

In next week's Half-Girlfriend, the Bihari leading character is played by another punjabi actor, Arjun Kapoor, who is neither very popular nor great actor. The other film releasing, 'Hindi Medium', has an Irfan Khan and actress who's not even Indian, a Pakistani named Saba Qamar.

On surface this would be fine. Except that much of the big budget, high profile leading men roles and distribution support in Bollywood has been given to Khan or Punjabi actors in the name of box office. Whereas other mainstream hindu talented leading men rarely get the same opportunities, regardless of whether they are north indians or south indians.

This sham is dubbed as 'secularism' of bollywood when it's just ethnic bias/racism in favor of punjabis and muslims, usually orchestrated by a network of punjabis and muslims themselves, who are much overrepresented in Bollywood. In previous eras of Bollywood, this was let go as Punjabis (like Vinod Khanna or Dharmendra) used to be legitimate hindu-leaning Punjabis and even the muslims would change their names (ex. Yusuf Khan to Dilip Kumar, Abbas Khan to Sanjay) and generally appeal to middle India hindu characters. Which is barring some exceptions, not the case anymore. Over last two decades, case in point the occasional Sunny Deol or Vivek Oberoi, the industry tries to shun the 'Hindu' Punjabis and the ones promoted are Punjabis-soft-on-Pakistan instead, and of course the Khans.

This change in tilt towards muslim and islamicized punjabi culture of bollywood is what Baahubali has exposed, because without a single punjabi hero or khan actor or even a single rabba or maulah reference, a movie starring dark skinned Indian heroes (Prabhas, Rana) speaking telugu is more relateable, 'starry' and appealing to the Hindi audiences, and has ended up ruling in its *dubbed* form in northern India hindi circuits along with rest of India over every other bollywood movie ever made featuring a khan or a khanna or kapoor actor.

The all India collections of Baahubali will double the collections of PK, Sultan, Dangal and more than quintuple the likes of Raees, Kapoor & Sons and others that bollywood advertises as its 'popular' hits. What Baahubali has done to Bollywood is tantamount to what Narendra Modi did to the Congress in 2014. They said he wasn't popular enough to be elected beyond Gujarat. Instead Modi dominated outside Gujarat, captured Delhi, and smashed all preconceived notions about winnability. That is what fighting with conviction does.

So it's time to take the next step long overdue. The refrain 'Ye hero jaisa dikhta nahi hai' is pretty much useless because Bollywood and its media want you to think 'hero jaisa' means 'Punjabi-muslim jaisa'. That premise has been shattered now. Indian superstars don't need to look like Shahrukh Khan or Hrithik Roshan or even Amitabh Bachchan of his prime. Indian heroes need to look like how Indians look, not how Arabs look. Big budget bollywood cinema needs to be opened up to leading men from all hindustani backgrounds (from north and south India) and that ought get backed by big funding and marketing efforts also, ie not just released on limited screens For it's been proven that you don't need a Khan or a Kapoor or Malhotra as the hero face to create the actual box office record breaker for Hindi and the greater Indian audiences.

Post 2017 Bollywood needs to let merit and actual content demand dictate who India wants, or gradually it will get reduced to regional industry status contained to the Jalandhar and Aligarh markets.

 

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