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Raising hair

Published Jun 13, 2012 06:04pm


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It seems like the difference between good acting and a convincing portrayal in Bollywood can actually be measured by a hair’s breadth. Not figuratively but quite literally. Elsewhere actors would do the unimaginable like gain 60 pounds or get their teeth disfigured to look the part but here sometimes a moustache is all you need.

Following the success of Dabangg (2010) every superstar of the day is out there looking for his 100 crore box-office hit with the help from a moustache. Salman Khan’s ode to manhood would have almost been clean-shaven as he kept the director hanging about the moustache till the last moment. Singham (2011), Rockstar (2011) and Rowdy Rathore (2011) owe a lot to fuzzy logic and this trend seems to be in a mood to stay with Ajay Devgn all set to revisit Jeetendra and his pencil thin moustache laced dancing days with the new Himmatwala remake. It’s crazy but suddenly the moustache is nothing less than a character who needs to be cast well.

There is little doubt that Bollywood loves its moustaches. There are dialogues – Mooche ho to Nathulalji jaisi ho warna na ho (Sharaabi, 1983) and even films (Golmaal, 1979) that celebrate it. The moustache enjoys a hallowed place in the subcontinent’s popular culture and every strand of cinematic facial hair is now worth its weight in gold. This renewed fascination with the mooch might owe a lot to Dabangg but it was Aamir Khan who sowed the seed with The Rising – Ballad of Mangal Pandey (2005). Aamir’s intensity hasn’t spared the moustache as well; he wanted Bhuvan in Lagaan (2001) to have a moustache, as he couldn’t imagine the character shaving everyday with such water scarcity and for Mangal Pandey he spent two years twirling his famous growth to perfection.

Although most leading men like Ashok Kumar, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Rajendra Kumar, Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan have played more clean-shaven characters than mustachioed they couldn’t help but rely on the mooch for that something different. The moustache has successfully helped actors to look different- Dev Anand in Hum Dono, taken seriously while oppressed – Dilip Kumar in Ganga Jamuna (1961), look mature – Amitabh Bachchan in Kabhie Kabhie (1976), and be prominent – Rajesh Khanna in Daag (1973). It’s strange that in spite of such on-screen significance attached to it barring Raj Kapoor and, on some occasions, Guru Dutt none of the leading actors sported a moustache in real life. The only other partial exception would be Pradeep Kumar but then he wasn’t really that popular.

The Dabanggs and the Rowdies might have fooled us into thinking that the moustache is what a hero needs to look macho or in control but then none of Amitabh Bachchan’s Angry Young Man films (Zanjeer (1973), Deewar (1975), Trishul (1978) or Kala Patthar (1979) felt its need. Om Puri didn’t miss facial hair to render his version of the angry young man in Ardha Satya (1983) neither did Sunny Deol feel the need to rely on it to wield authority in Arjun (1985) or Ghayal (1990). The moustache has always made it different, daring and even loving like in Golmaal but to believe that sporting a mooch is the new mantra of success is nothing more than a fad.

Anything that helps rake in the big bucks is welcome and any formula that is successful can’t be stopped from becoming the norm. At times Bollywood has even attributed the failure of films to a lack of moustache – Anil Kapoor and Shatrughan Sinha sans their signature stache in Lamhe (1991) and Rakta Charitra (2010) were doomed to begin with.

The love for the moustache was always there but now Bollywood believes that it’s the shortest distance between nothing and a hundred crores and it won’t stop at anything to keep the love going. It might even revive genres dead for decades like the dacait and cops for other than Bandit Queen (1994) no daku is clean-shaven – Dilip Kumar in Ganga Jamuna, Amitabh Bachchan in Ganga Ki Saugandh (1978) or Sunny Deol in Dacait (1987) but more importantly a mooch makes everything better like Bhavani Shankar argues in Golmaal, ‘Jis ke pass mooch nahin hain, usske paas mann hi nahin hain …

Born a cinephile and a close observer of society, the author is an award-winning documentary filmmaker/writer. He is a regular contributor to leading Indian publications and is currently working on his first book. Find out more about him here and follow him @gchintamani

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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Gautam Chintamani loves to closely observe society when not being devoured by Bollywood, politics and everything in between. Commissioned by Harper Collins, Gautam is presently working on a biography of Rajesh Khanna due to come out later this year. He tweets @GChintamani.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (26) Closed

salman Jun 13, 2012 04:17pm
One of the best outstanding moustache had been Suresh Oberai.
Mukesh Jun 13, 2012 01:30pm
Are we just left with these topics to discuss?
Khan Jun 13, 2012 03:57pm
Pakistanis all over the world watch Indian movies. Why not, it is great that Dawn is open enough to publish what has been an open secret since the nation's birth.
Sauron Jun 13, 2012 04:04pm
The south indian Film industries, have always prominently featured the Moosh. More ofthen than not, the leading men(Almost all men for that matter) have moosh.
don't worry be happy Jun 13, 2012 08:44pm
Relax dude!We love Indian movies bro!they're awesome and no doubt about it.Let's just appreciate it and move on.Peace everyone!
Gautham Jun 13, 2012 08:16pm
No hero in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada or Malayalam can afford not to have a mustache. May be you will have to write an article like this if you ever come across a South Indian hero without a mustache/clean shaven.
Syed Jun 14, 2012 07:10pm
It is not that big a deal to publish works from across the border. Dawn is an international news forum afterall.However,comments from across the border have increasingly become predictable,regardless of the news type.Pakistan bashing seems to be a common theme.I shudder to think what the common man on the street there thinks!
Suprakash saha..SILIGURI..INDIA Jun 13, 2012 05:28pm
Malik bhai you are right ....actually we dont know even one pakistani films name..and we are not interested....actually you dont have anything to,,,,,,,
Shantanu Jun 13, 2012 04:51pm
Its high time for pakistan film industry to do hard work honestly and make there own impression. If they make good films then pakistani citizens would not require Hindi films from Hindustan and then Pakistani news paper will stop giving publicity to Hindustani Films and there actors. As a matter of fact, Pakistani film industry want to grow under the shadow of
Shantanu Jun 13, 2012 04:50pm
Its high time for pakistan film industry to do hard work honestly and make there own impression. If they make good films then pakistani citizens would not require Hindi films from Hindustan and then Pakistani news paper will stop giving publicity to Hindustani Films and there actors. As a matter of fact, Pakistani film industry want to grow under the shadow of Hindustani Film Industry. All Paki film lovers, Stop watching Hindustani Films. Ask your people to work hard and make good films. Dont try to enter in Hindustani Film industry by back doors. Ignore them. Its high time to understand that you people are not welcome in India. Your cricket stars also wants to be part of IPL. Make your own platform. Work hard. Be honest. You all will get results.
blumz Jun 13, 2012 11:50am
Anil Kapoor? Jackie Shroff?
R.Malik Jun 13, 2012 11:27am
i do not understand the merit of publishing this article in a Pakistani news paper. Wonder how much they will relate to this. Good observations , anyway !
Sajid Khan Jun 13, 2012 02:56pm
I have nounderstaing why such articles are so easy to make their way in mainstream Pakistani media. The TV channels are flooded with coverage aboout these. Do we need to remind ourselves that these people will leave no effort to disfigure our Pakistani values and culture to a point we cant recognize who we are. All our media respond to them is by saying "Lets watch more Indian movies".
kgaipal Jun 15, 2012 07:47pm
I started reading the comment section in hope to find some interesting discussion on "moosh" .. but forget it anyway .... people both sides just wanna fight or teach other ! --indian
aaa Jun 13, 2012 11:10am
Good observation i was also thinking of this moustache issue in movies. One should also not forget that in certain circles specifically of models moustache has been totally out of trend in the last decade or 2. Its also been a matter of mockery in many circles other than glamour as well. In last decade whoever has married someone with a moustache has been mocked. So it was about time the trend went away.
vijay Jun 13, 2012 03:03pm
"none of the leading actors sported a moustache in real life".. what about anil and jackie??? looks like this bugger wanted to write something for the sake of writing..
Ravi Jun 14, 2012 02:33am
You missed out numero uno in Telugu Industry - Mahesh Babu.
annas Jun 14, 2012 02:52am
I would have loved to read this article in some cinema magazine instead of here, Please have some sanctity of this place.
murali Jun 14, 2012 03:08am
I do not see it necessary to have a subject like this here.
ANIL KAPOOE Jun 14, 2012 03:55am
haider Jun 14, 2012 06:00am
Its a blog written by an Indian and published on Dawn's website for the convenience of our Indian friends who are obviously reading it here and commenting on it. Besides Dawn does publish articles, news stories, and opinions from all over the world. So nothing wrong to, once in a while, publish a blog about a non-issue for the benefit of those who are interested in non-issues. If you dont like it, then just move on to another story. Simple, isn't it?
Saad Ahmed Khan Jun 14, 2012 06:31am
Utter Disappointment to read this article. Ordinary observations...
Razia Jun 14, 2012 06:39am
Every is not about war and hate, dude. Get a grip. Enjoy each others movies, support each others sports, stop being at each others throats.
butseriouslyok Jun 14, 2012 06:56am
Never seen so many useless and senseless comments about a blog post...
anilk Jun 14, 2012 09:19am
Comments from readers questioning India news in Dawn are seems to be new readers of Dawn.FYI Dawn is as popular as any other online Indian news media among Indians.I myself Indian a regular Dawn reader for last 10 yrs from US. That's one of the reason you don't see any anti-India articles in Dawn.
Dr Khan Jun 15, 2012 06:33am
I am not interested in Indian Films and anything related to it. I read Dawn online from the UK because it gives me news about my homeland. Please give us real news!