Bollywood banks on male bonding

Jul 23, 2007 Priyanka Khanna

New Delhi, July 22 (IANS) Male bonding is back as the favourite box-office draw with the latest Hindi pot-boiler getting the age-old formula just right and setting the stage for more to come. The Salman Khan-Govinda-starrer "Partner" restores faith in on-screen male camaraderie as a hit recipe to boost ticket sales.

"Do You Wanna Partner", asks the hit number from the film and the cash registers have been ringing in affirmation ever since its release, sending Bollywood into celebration mode.

"Partner" also marks the comeback of the original king of comedy, David Dhawan.

Actor-politician Govinda has been struggling to regain his rhythm, with his recent double-hero film "Bhagam Bhag" and multi-starrer "Salaam-e-Ishq" failing to click.

Similarly, Salman, who has many two-hero hits to his credit, could not save either "Jaan-e-Mann" - in which he helped co-star Akshay Kumar get the girl (Preity Zinta) he himself loved - or multi-starrer "Salaam-e-Ishq" from box-office drubbing.

After a phase when male bonding was mostly treated with mawkish sentimentality in Indian cinema, today, films feature men either crackling up the screen or just hanging out and brooding.

In films like Ramesh Sippy's "Sholay", Rajshri's "Dosti", Raj Kapoor's "Sangam" in the 1960s and Kamal Haasan's Tamil film "Anbesivam", friendship meant crying on each other's shoulders, sacrificing and even dying for each other.

Male bonding found a new definition and direction in Farhan Akhtar's "Dil Chahta Hai", where Aamir Khan, Akshaye Khanna and Saif Ali Khan simply chilled out.

In the recent slew of films based on underworld or the police force, the lead star often has a better on-screen chemistry with his best pal that even overshadows his chemistry with his heroine.

In "Munnabhai M.B.B.S." and its sequel "Lage Raho Munnabhai" Sanjay Dutt's scenes with his sidekick Arshad Warsi are hilarious and sometimes heart wrenching.

"In the search for newer scripts, filmmakers are now going beyond the boy-girl romances to explore and carve out newer themes and relationships in movies," says box office analyst Komal Nahta.

Financially, it makes sense for filmmakers to hedge the risk on more than one shoulder, especially as only a couple of stars are crowd pullers.

So we have "Bluffmaster" that explores the friendship between Abhishek Bachchan and Riteish Deshmukh and "Taxi No 9211" that brings together two diametrically different personalities - essayed by Nana Patekar and John Abraham.

But the male bonding in today's films is different from that in yesteryears when friends would take up guns or even sacrifice their lives for one another as in "Sholay", "Yarana", "Dostana" and "Amar Akbar Anthony".

For example, a scene like the one in 1977's "Dharam Veer" where Dharmendra and Jeetendra hold hands, look deep into each other's eyes and swear undying friendship and love for each other is unthinkable today.

The only exception is Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan playing to the galleries as they hold hands in front of the homophobic Kantaben in "Kal Ho Naa Ho".

The idea that that ultimate test and enduring hallmark of male friendship is sacrifice as depicted in "Sangam", "Yaarana", "Dostana", "Qurbani" and, of course, "Sholay", may have been diluted but is still prevalent.

While films like "Dil Chahta Hai", "Dhoom", "Dus", "Bluffmaster" and "Garam Masala" show that you can live for your new age friendship but need not die for it, "Rang De Basanti" goes on to depict 21st century celluloid buddies who gladly lay down their lives.

During the shootout scene in "Rang De Basanti", Aamir Khan tells Sharman Joshi to escape but Sharman, who has been opposing the idea of them taking up arms, stays on.

Guys who stick up for each other are the latest obsession with Hollywood too.

"The Longest Yard", a film about a group of prisoners who bond to make their football team the best, is this season's flavour.

Unsurprisingly, "Partner" is inspired by Andy Tennant's Hollywood movie "Hitch" (2005), a romantic comedy featuring Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James and Amber Valleta.

In "Partner", Salman plays an expert on women who guides Govinda to winning the love of Katrina Kaif. But Salman himself has a tough time wooing Lara Dutta.

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