Maverick: Angst and the Alpha Male
By Farzana Versey
Covert, March 1-15
Never understood this coming-of-age stuff, especially if it refers to that which is regressing if not regressive. Why would we need a reinvented Devdas who is trying to find a balance between his two selves – one that he has escaped to and one he is shackled by? How different is he from the fast-driving, pub-crawling yuppies? Is urban feudalism too a patriarchal construct?
The problem with films like Dev D that supposedly snip out the floss is that they in fact romanticise the dark alleys. Pornography, MMS clips, shagging, drugs, self-destructiveness are put on a pedestal. While the older versions had an almost Krishna-Radha-Meera sort of triangle, with the courtesan interestingly essaying the role of the pining woman, this new version has the Delhi belle as a full-blown slut willing to spend quality time with a good-for-nothing spoilt brat.
Even the love of his life is shown as a sexual adventuress only because she carries a mattress to the field for a roll in the hay. And, then, sick of his ways, moves on. As does the other woman. But, do they get sanctified for their conflicts? What I find disturbing is that we do not have any exploration about female angst. They remain two-dimensional characters whose clear-cut choices appear bold but are in fact tailored for them by society. It is still about the ‘hero’, even if he is a loser. A woman doing what he does and going through those internal pangs would have been deemed neurotic and hysterical. She would be in a psychiatric ward and not guzzling vodka.
This elevation of alcoholism forces the women to play the role of props. Even Sanjay Leela Bhansali, when he made a film on the same subject, had said that an alcoholic can be a beautiful human being. Tell that to the woman in the slums who pays for her spouse’s booze or the socialite in the skyscraper who smiles through insults to maintain grace under pressure.
We have a tendency to deify men who have been rejected and then behave as though the world owes them their marijuana and damn-you attitude. This Dev has also been called an idealist. What is he idealising about? The virginity of a lover whose nude pictures he craves for or the neatness of his drink or the rawness of his sexuality? He is just another punk from Paharganj, a mimic of the backpacker tourist who has come to India to seek nirvana, in his case from a rich family and poor self-esteem.
All through cinematic history you will find that tragedy queens die, tragic heroes become martyrs. It is not angst, but narcissism. There is nothing to beat the ego of a man on the Cross. We can easily hate the brawny guys, but the real danger comes from these hidden marauders. They are the eternal cribbers who declare in sepulchral tones, “I am going to die.”
A personality profile of such a man would be that he is most likely a hypochondriac, a one-line philosopher, and emotionally rootless. He feels let down by the world. He will blame his mother for giving him birth and his father for being the other man in her life. He hates his wife/lover for taking away a part of him. This character is guilty of being alive so he is busy yelping about imagined self-inflicted crimes.
This is a shrewd move. If he is not a knight in shining armour, then he does not have the responsibility of trying to save anyone. His motto is “Use me” -- the stuff they write on garbage bins.
Little of his guilt has to do with morality. By the very act of having suffered at the hands of cruel fate, he seems to have exalted himself. Women watch helplessly as he goes on with his childish games. He never quite rids himself of his oral obsession which manifests itself in drink and talk, both of great assistance in creating a simulated suffering.
For all his obsession with death, he is really striving for immortality. He takes his time dying. So how relevant would he be in today’s times? Such characters, and people, are not a reflection of the new age but a nod towards the renaissance cave man.