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Me? Grow Up? Never!

He’s the Angry Young Man’s little brother – irresponsible, juvenile, but oh, so charming. The man-child is pop-culture’s newest hero. And he’s got fans in India. Bernadine D’Lima explains...

brunch Updated: Jul 28, 2012 19:21 IST
Bernadine D’Lima
Bernadine D’Lima
Hindustan Times

Meet Vicky Arora, gainfully unemployed hero of Vicky Donor – one of the most talked about films of the year. He sleeps in, plays cricket, flashes dimples you could lose a coin in and is an irresponsible but agreeable slacker. And yet he’s the one all the hot girls in the neighbourhood fall over. He’s the guy who gets the girl in the end. His is the film that has rung up Rs 50 crore.

Men to boys: While ’70s heroes like Amitabh Bachchan had a sense of purpose, today’s heroes are charmingly clueless

What has become of the Hindi cinema hero? If Vicky is the yardstick, he’s regressed into the blissful land of perpetual adolescence. While the traditional hero (in the crusading mould of Amitabh Bachchan in Zanjeer or Sunny Deol in Arjun) is still the dominant male lead, it appears there’s room now for another kind of champion – one who doesn’t even fight.

The happy-go-lucky man-child is a 20 to 35-year-old individual stuck fast between boy and adult and is miles away from actual responsibility. Ayushmann Khurrana, 27, who plays Vicky in the film, is quick to point out what women already know. “There are men in Delhi who are exactly like Vicky. They play cricket, they chill and they don’t have a care in the world. Cinema is only reflecting society.”

HERE AND NOW
Deepa Gahlot, film critic and head of programming for Theatre and Film at Mumbai’s National Centre of Performing Arts, agrees. “The romantic hero changes with the social climate. So, now he’s more relaxed and laidback than he used to be.” Consider the men in 1970s India. A typical 25-year-old then, was already married, perhaps with a baby on the way. He was squirreling money away for a house or to pay off the debt on his Bajaj scooter. Today’s man is either sprawled on a friend’s couch or is gleefully spending money as fast as he earns it. Saving? Commitment? Family? Perish the thought

SidHe’s still several notches better than his Hollywood counterpart, though. "Men in America can shake off family ties easier than their Indian counterparts," says Gahlot. "For a Hollywood lead, taking care of parents is a responsibility that’s not his to shoulder." That’s probably why our young protagonists tend to see the light at the end of the film. Aamir Khan starts taking himself and his job seriously enough to win over Preity Zinta in Dil Chahta Hai. Saif Ali Khan does the same before the climax of Hum Tum. And at the end of Wake Up, Sid, Sid really does wake up.



REALITY SHOW

In the real world, happy endings are further away. Every woman seems to have a story about a guy she dated who refused to grow up. Blame it on American cinema and TV, where the man-child has long been a revered figure. Think of Kramer from Seinfeld, Charlie Sheen on Two And A Half Men and recently, Donald Glover’s Troy Barnes on Community. On the big screen, Adam Sandler, Jack Black, Seth Rogen and Will Ferrell have immaturity their very stock in trade. The Hangover gang has made it okay to be late for your own wedding (Hey, as long as you made it, right?). In last year’s Grown Ups, Adam Sandler and his pals showed everyone how manly they were by peeing in the pool. In front of the kids. In unison. And 13 years after they lost their virginities, the American Pie guys still haven’t grown up in time for this years reunion.

On NBC’s Parks and Recreation, Andy Dwyer, played by Chris Pratt, sets off to buy cooking gas but returns with cookie cutters. “Now all our food is shaped like a dinosaur. It’s awesome,” says his wife April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza). In the real world, women aren’t so supportive of such shennanigans. Remya Philip, 24, who works in televisi

on, says she’d never date someone like Charlie Sheen from Two And A Half Men. “I’d rather be a girlfriend than a babysitter,” she says. Sasha Chettri, 23, says childcare was a big part of her day when she was dating a 30-year-old designer who sat around all day and handed out business cards advertising a website he still hadn’t set up. “It could get pretty painful,” she recalls. “The worst bits were the times when he would sulk if he didn’t get what he wanted or when he changed plans on a whim.” Amrita Sadhu, a 30-year-old media professional, says her boyfriend is hopeless at making even simple decisions, including where to go to dinner. “He leaves the planning to me all the time because he claims it’s too much effort,” she says. “I know I’m better at it than he is, but so what?”

Seinfeld

VENUS ASCENDING

She may just have hit the nail on the head according to Kay Hymowitz, the author of last year’s book Manning up: How the rise of women has turned men into boys. Hymowitz argues that as women became financially independent, stronger-willed and more assertive, the men in their lives begin to take the backseat, content to let the females lead so that they can play a little longer. As for the men, they’ve found their own rationale for delaying adulthood. Actor Purab Kohli turns the argument on its head when he says that “a man taking a stand to make sure he has a good time is still taking a stand. That makes him attractive – as long as the choices he makes in that position are good for everyone involved.” So Peter Pans are here to stay... and nap, and raid your fridge, and clown around, and make fart jokes. “Men are overgrown infants and they’ll always need to be pampered,” Khurrana says. Philip, at least, is resigned to having to contend with immature men. “They’re not like our dads used to be and I’ve accepted it. We all live in a different world anyway,” she says. But doesn’t it irk her even a little? “It does. That’s why I shop.”

Ones to watch The essential viewing guide to emulate or avoid the man-child

On DVD The American Pie series: Four boys lose their virginity in high school, carry on through college, marriage and beyond. It’s now reunion time and they still can’t keep it straight. There is pie involved. Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle: Two boys head out for a night of adventure (they ride a cheetah, meet a bad-ass raccoon and become buddies with Neil Patrick Harris). They get burgers at the end and grow up. A little.

Grown Ups: Five former basketball teammates reunite after their school basketball coach passes away. Ugh, and they all pee in a pool. Good Luck Chuck: Charlie’s cursed. The woman he sleeps with is destined to have her next date with the man of her dreams. It works well for the commitment-phobe. Until he meets his lady love: a girl with an unusual fascination for penguins. Big Daddy: Adam Sandler (who else), a lazy law school graduate thinks that adopting a child is a good way to impress a girlfriend. And that’s the first of his many dumb ideas.

Two And A Half Men

On TV How I Met Your Mother:

Neil Patrick Harris will never grow up, never stop hitting on women and never stop thinking that everything he does is – all together now – Legen... dary! Seinfeld: Look out for the one they call Cosmo Kramer. No identifiable source of income. No sense of logic. No worries. He uses butter to shave his beard. 30 Rock: No one on the show has grown up, but Alec Baldwin is the worst. Suave and sophisticated on the outside. Attention deficit and indecisive on the inside. Good TV!



Two And A Half Men

: Charlie Sheen plays an only slightly more exaggerated version of himself, apparently: Lots of booze, easy money, little sleep and no concern for those around him. Community: Troy Barnes starts off as an arrogant, selfish dumb jock. He grows up into a strange, goofy nerd with his heart in the right place. But with his head still in the wrong place.

Stuff a man-child says: When he's late: “You said 7? I heard 11. And I know it’s 12, but I saw an awesome Jack Sparrow model in a shop window and had to stop.” On a blind date: “So anyway, we put all the jalebis in his underwear drawer, pretended like nothing happened and left. How was your weekend?” At a job interview: “Where do I see myself five years from now? ComicCon, dude!” At airport security: “Those gun-shaped things in my check-in luggage? Special edition replicas of Star Wars Blasters. There’s a C-3PO and an R2-D2 shaped thing too. Just check.” When confronted: “I don’t want any trouble okay? Just don’t hurt my hair.”

From HT Brunch, July 29

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First Published: Jul 28, 2012 12:40 IST