Dost dost na raha woh Dostana ban gaya. Our acutely homophobic film industry suddenly seems to have hugged a more liberal attitude to male bonding. And never mind the gay insinuations. The two back-slapping…er.. bum chums in Rohan Sippy’s Nautanki Saala played by Ayushmann Khurrana and Kunal Roy Kapoor even indulge in a bit of playful butt-rubbing, albeit without the gay insinuations.
Quite a leap for the Sippys. Dad Ramesh Sippy’s legendary Jai-Veeru friendship in Sholay had undergone merciless homosexual readings by generations of post-1970s’ critics.
Nonetheless Sippy Junior braved a male-to-male bonding in his post-debut venture Bluffmaster where Abhishek Bachchan-Riteish Desmukh’s tomfoolery raised many eyebrows. Quickly, in his third film Dum Maro Dum, Sippy switched to the safer 3-hero format. But that’s changing, and the industry seems to be adopting new trends, and experimenting with new issues.
Three’s company too
The three-hero zone was seen to be safe by Bollywood filmmakers. A prominent filmmaker known for his passionate films describes how the two-hero dosti soured and made way for an extra male presence in Bollywood bromance. “I wanted to remake Rajshri’s 1960s’ classic. It is according to me the best Hindi film on the theme of friendship with fantastic songs of friendship like Meri Dosti Mera Pyar.
However, every time I bounced the idea to my team they started to giggle and snigger.”
Finally a corporate house which had agreed to produce this auteur director’s remake of Dosti suggested that the two heroes in the original film be turned into three heroes. “That’s when I realised that the industry is shy of a film on male bonding. In Raj Kapoor’s Sangam, the two buddies played by Raj Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar hugged each other more than the woman they loved (Vyjanthimala). If I were to do Sangam now, I’d have to stop the two friends from being so demonstrative about one another,” says the auteur director.
This explains why we have lately witnessed a plethora of bromances featuring a trio of friends, from Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai to Abhishek Kapoor’s Rock On! to Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara to Abhinav Deo’s Delhi Belly to Abhishek Kapoor’s Kai Po Che. Filmmaker Onir who is the only prominent Bollywood personality to be a self-professed homosexual admits that the Hindi film industry and cinema reflect a homophobic attitude. “
However they are making two-hero films again. There’s the Ayushmann Khurrana-Kunal Roy Kapoor comedy Nautanki Saala and Gunday where Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor co-star (though not as friends but bitter opponents). Earlier we had Mujhse Fraanship Karoge, Desi Boyz and Dostana.”
The safest route to making the male-bonding theme palatable to family audiences was to turn the two-hero films into three-hero bromances. Interestingly when David Dhawan’s son Rohit Dhawan turned director he did a two-hero bromance Desi Boyz which was laden with homo-erotic innuendos. Papa David who had made a career of 2-hero buddy-films (Taaqatwar, Aankhen, Haseena Maan Jayegi, Mujhse Shadi Karogi) has quickly switched to a three-hero format for Chashme Buddoor. Onir concludes , “I don’t think Bollywood’s attitude to gay themes has changed. That will only change when society at large changes.”