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The evolving Bollywood hero

Last updated on: March 5, 2010 10:41 IST

The evolving Bollywood hero

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Raja Sen in Mumbai

Our men cry on screen now.

They also wear pink shirts, raise babies, kill people, break hearts. The modern Bollywood hero is fast becoming a heavily textured character, one who is both metrosexual and merciless, capable of high drama as well as heavyhandedness.

The new breed of on-screen leading man is flawed, etched finer than ever and, as a result, great, demanding fun for any actor.

Here's a look at ten recent roles that redefined the role of the leading man, taking it away from classic clich and giving us something to think about:

Abhay Deol in Dev D

A randy, self-obsessed substance abusing loser, this is one antagonist it's ridiculously difficult to warm up to.

Anurag Kashyap lays on the self-lovin, world-loathing cynicism to take this classic literary character and make him a modern day scumbag.

Abhay drinks, snorts, beds and scrams from trouble with a spoilt disregard for all things responsible. If it wasn't for that legendary soundtrack, we'd hate the character.


Image: A scene from Dev D

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Ranbir Kapoor in Rocket Singh: Salesman Of The Year

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Shimit Amin's film opens with a computer screen, and India's biggest new superstar's eyes looking on at his grades online.

He has passed -- barely, with grace marks -- and we soon meet a hero unlike any other, a simple Sikh who brushes his teeth after he comes home drunk and is guilt-tripped by his Guru Nanak screensaver.

He's an achiever and he has ambition, but what defines him is his faith in good old work ethic -- and in people.


Image: A scene from Rocket Singh: Salesman Of The Year

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Farhan Akhtar in Luck By Chance

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Zoya Akhtar's Luck By Chance saw brother Farhan as a Hindi film struggler, a wannabe actor who goes to acting classes and stays with a couple of other performers trying hard to break into the industry.

But Akhtar's character is far cannier and more manipulative than the average hero, one focused on getting what he wants and not that concerned about the fingers he tramples upon to get there.


Image: A scene from Luck By Chance

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Shahid Kapoor in Kaminey

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Now these are two leading men. Charlie, who lisps enough to say f when he wants to say s, is the dynamic, streetsmart narrator, a tough guy who wants to seize the day and turn things to his advantage, his eyes always on the prize.

Guddu, the stammering twin, works in an AIDS-awareness NGO, has already broken a rule and impregnated his girl, and, while hapless and timid, is holding on to his integrity. What a pair, these two.


Image: A scene from Kaminey

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Aamir Khan in Taare Zameen Par

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He might burst into the film as a clown, but Khan's Nikumbh is a conscientious teacher who seems to live life with a lump in his throat that's almost as big as his child-lovin' heart.

Quick and perceptive, he realizes his student is afflicted with dyslexia like he himself once had, he sharply takes the kids' parents to task and spends all his time in bringing the child out of his shell and finding his own special niche.


Image: A scene from Taare Zameen Par

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Amitabh Bachchan in Nishabd

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Photographer, husband, father. Bachchan might be called Vijay in this Ram Gopal Varma film but there's nothing familiar about his character, a grizzled old man who falls headlong into the spell cast by Jiah Khan's unending legs.

It's a fatally flawed character and Bachchan acts out the role of the sudden, helpless letch with nuance and strength, showing us a leading man more capable of sin than we allow ours to be.


Image: A scene from Nishabd

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Neil Nitin Mukesh in Johnny Gaddaar

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The antagonist in Sriram Raghavan's Johnny Gaddaar is smart, well-dressed and dipped in coolth.

Yet this doesn't take away from the fact that he's having a torrid affair with a partner's wife, and that the lure of a few zeroes more is enough to entice him to betray, to murder, to take a chance.

An utterly amoral leading man, here's a first-time offender who willfully, compulsively keeps falling further off the rails.


Image: A scene from Johnny Gaddaar

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Shah Rukh Khan in Swades

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Khan's Mohan Bhargav works in NASA, but a strongly motivated hunt for his childhood nanny takes him to a little village in India following which the man realizes just how much his country needs him.

It's the story of a man finding his own purpose as he searches symbolically for his own roots, and a bravura performance from Khan ensures a character an entire generation identifies with completely.


Image: A scene from Swades

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Shreyas Talpade in Iqbal

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Nope, he isn't on this list for playing a handicapped hero -- though we don't really have enough on-screen character who are both disabled and inspiring -- but because of his raw ambition and grinning good-cheer, even in the face of impossible adversity.

Here is a hero who bowls his heart out, takes orders from his little sister, trains with a drunk, uses buffaloes as fielders but never gives up -- or loses faith in the game he loves so much. He plays because that's all he knows he can do.


Image: A scene from Iqbal

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Saif Ali Khan in Being Cyrus

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In Homi Adajania's debut film, Khan comes across smoothly enough at first: as a fresh-faced guest coming to stay with an artist and his wife.

Yet as the family he stays with unspools from peculiar eccentricities to full-blown dementia, so does Khan's Cyrus.

In a film where things aren't what they seem to be, Khan plays a cad, a master manipulator and a competent chess-player, and does it all with delicious moral ambiguity.


Image: A scene from Being Cyrus

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