Will 2008 mark triumph of common man on film?

Dec 7, 2008 Priyanka Khanna

New Delhi, Dec 7 (IANS) As year 2008 draws to a close, all eyes are now on an employee of a state electricity board to ignite the box-office, a fete that a mythological superhero, an anti-hero, and even a rock star failed to do so far. Come Dec 12, superstar Shah Rukh Khan will be seen as commoner Surinder Sahni who works for Punjab Power Board in "Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi".

Going by the film's tagline, it is a story of a common man who is happy in his mundane existence but undergoes an image makeover to win a small-time dance competition and the heart of his sweetheart.

Bollywood has been churning out mega-budget films with pioneering special effects in an attempt to make screen heroes all the more larger than life. "Drona", "2050 Love Story", "Kidnap", "Yuvraaj" - all came and went but none left a lasting impact.

Though nearly all films are breaking even on account of the numerous revenue-making avenues, movie aficionados are still waiting for this year's soul-stirring screen hero.

Akshay Kumar's act as the bumbling Sikh-turned-goodhearted-don in "Singh Is Kinng" remains by far the most endearing act of the year and it is Shah Rukh's turn to pull at audiences' heartstrings.

"Rab Ne...", slated for Friday release, is hoping to change that.

For its illustrious makers, the film's grounding in a middle-to-lower middle class neighbourhood from the beginning to the end of the fable is a marked deviation from their usual fair.

Yash Raj Films has given some of Hindi cinema's most remembered trendy, hip, well-heeled and cosmopolitan screen characters but seldom has it told the tale of a common man who regales in his humble means till the credits role.

Publicity for "Rab Ne..." has been largely curtailed in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai but the presence of King Khan, who is himself a symbol of the triumph of a middle-class boy-next-door coupled by the endearing music and promos, will hopefully get people back into cinema halls.

Shah Rukh says, "I truly believe that I bring hope to the middle class."

With "Rab Ne...", filmmaker Aditya Chopra has joined a growing number of believers who are reinventing the common man on the firmament of Hindi cinema.

Even as the Indian economy struggles to escape from getting sucked into the global meltdown and the traditionally chary and less flamboyant middle class is emerging as the dark horse, and advertisers, marketers and now filmmakers cannot ignore them, say trade observers.

The new wave of directors and filmmakers had figured this out long ago and Bollywood has been churning out a string of very refreshing movies that tell the tale of man on the street. The trend has pushed character actors who look nothing like the hero of yore into the centre-stage.

This week's releases "Dil Kabaddi", "Oh My God", "Maharathi" and "Meerabai Not Out" are all helmed by directors and actors who would never have dreamt of a mainstream release till couple of years ago.

Most remarkably, Mumbai-based drama "Slumdog Millionaire" has been making waves in the US. The story of a slum dweller who wins the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" is winning at festival circuits and even drawing audiences beyond the traditional Bollywood fan base.

Remains to be seen if this story of a commoner can be the crossover film India has been pinning for.

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Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi


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