Monday, 30 April 2012

In Search of a True Hero

One very important issue before all of us, and  our children today, is  finding a true, ideal hero endowed with much sought after character traits,  abilities and qualities. The present trend of lionizing the villain of the piece, perhaps even romanticizing him or her is perhaps the result of not being able to identify a true hero or leader today! It is perhaps the result of boredom, the desire to do something off-beat, the excitement of doing something forbidden, the thrill, that electric current, going against the flow, the current, the desire to be different, to stand out from the crowd, that makes the villain more trendy, likeable, and a desired leader for our young ones! Today we don’t have living epic heroes like perhaps Odysseus, or Jesus Christ,  Ram and Laxman,who are passé and   rather naive and boring! All we have are Robin Hoods, Dons and Buntys on whom movies and remakes will be made because they are so popular daring and adventurous! So then does it mean that today breaking of rules, going against the law, doing wrong things, sadism, cheating, killing, kidnapping are more desired qualities in the leader we want to follow, perhaps because these qualities appeal to our baser instincts, some primeval instinct which in the modern world lacks stimulation because everything is so predictable and follows a set routine?

Obviously, what we lack today is that cathartic experience which helps to vent our desire for adventure, or bottled up feelings, a safety valve which would help us going? The ancient Greek Play Wrights knew the need for Catharsis in their plays. The Ancient Romans encouraged the sport of Gladiators fighting each other to death in the arenas. Savage, no doubt, but then perhaps it did help contain the dissent, dissatisfaction and frustration of the common man with the system as a whole. The victorious gladiator would become a hero till he himself was vanquished by another more skilled gladiator! So, then, it can be said that people need a cathartic experience and they identify themselves with the person who best leads up to that cathartic experience. The normal, good heroes are not good leaders because they don’t lead up to that cathartic experience, they are stereotypes, and so called flat characters who don’t change, they are predictable, mundane and rather normal. The Anti Hero, or the villain however holds more attraction, his few acts of kindness endears him greatly, he has a rather raw, brutal kind of charisma, he is bold, and adventurous, so he is more likely to become the hero that our youth identifies itself with! There used to be this Cartoon Character called Fido Dido, a character linked to a popular soft drink, and this Cartoon Character’s popular by-line was, “Normal is Boring!” This was a by-line which most of the youth identified itself with!

So  then if today’s society idolises Jack Nicholson in Batman, or Hitler, or perhaps Idi Amin, or Mogambo,in the film Mr. India or Amjad Khan in the film Sholley, it is because they were anti-heroes, they stood for rebellion from the staid laws and rules of the society, they were somehow, “different”, hep, and not run of the mill! The role played by Amjad Khan in the film Sholley is so popular that his dialogues keep popping up in advertisements on cable T.V. and you have people imitating him in adds! Robbing banks, stealing bikes, running away from the law, all these made the movie, Dhoom 1 so successful that a sequel to the same movie was made! The enigma and mystic  of John Abraham in Dhoom 1 made him more popular character than the character of the police man trying to catch him! Movies project popular public sentiments, trends, and beliefs, so when movies present a popular story  the policeman trying to catch the villain, more often than not the audience watching the movie can be heard cheering the thief while trying to escape from the policeman. In a battle of wits between the policeman and the thief, it is the thief who is given the wittiest by lines, or refrains! So you have the popular dialogues, “Mogambo Khush Huwa” and “Kitney Aadmi The?”

Does it mean therefore, that mechanization, automation, and the use of computers has made life so dull, predictable and routine and mundane that we  need an anti-hero of the likes of Mogambo or the Joker in Batman to bring back that zest, excitement back into our otherwise dull lives? Is this desire or hunger for change in an otherwise predictable life give rise to the burgeoning of cults and sects of the likes o the Ranch Davidians and a Leader like David Koresh? Unfortunately, we don’t have the Sherwood Forest with Robin Hood ranging around with his cohorts,  we don’t even have the tongas or horse carriages and rural areas where Gabbar Singh ruled the roost! Nor do we have the shark infested tanks owned by Shakal, another villain in a Bollywood flick of a few years back! Blame it on industrialization, over population, shrinking forests, and shrinking natural resources!

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