Even as movies are woven around a bunch of young boys and their misadventures, the genre of coming of age films is still coming of age in Bollywood.
Bollywood has dedicated itself to churning out family entertainers forever, but over the years, the motif of a boy gang and its histrionics has been woven into youthful potboilers.
In 1981, Chashme Baddoor had three struggling Delhi University students, led by Farookh Shiekh wanting to impress the comely Dipti Naval, as they try to make some use of their ongoing summer vacation. The story takes crazy twists and turns and ends with a mad chase.
Though not a strictly, ‘gang of friends’ film, Satte Pe Satta needs a worthy mention because here was Amitabh Bachchan with his gang of brothers and their adventures, as they find love and realize their potential.
In 1986, Ankush released and it resembled a kick to the Indian psyche’s gut. A film of revenge and loss, Ankush brought together four aimless young men, Nana Patekar being the most known of the lot who end up dying for a cause.
Boys and their friends are not a very explored motif in Bollywood and thus the films are few, yet most of them have left a remarkable imprint on story-telling and public memory. In an industry that thrives on family and love, boys and their challenges don’t seem like an interesting angle, like what would one do through a summer vacation, how does one get back at people who have led to a dear friend’s suicide or even how does one manage to find suitable partners for six really wild men.
Post millennium, the boys became designer bred, well-groomed and six pack enabled, but yet the problems, of living, loving and surviving persisted; and how.
Dil Chahta Hai obviously remains one of the greatest coming of age films with each character spinning a tale, that was synonymous with the times and the generation. Dil Chahta Hai had three well-heeled boys at the cusp of their future, in love with life and each other. The conflict seems justified and their reconciliation in the end becomes a total bromance moment.
Farhaan Akhtar thrives on such buddy moments, because apart from directing Dil Chahta Hai, he also produced and starred in Rock On and is also a part of the soon to be released Rock On 2. Inspired by the boy band culture, Rock On is about living, losing and finding friendship.
Again in Farhaan Akhtar’s Lakshya, Hrithik and his friends are rich kids with a vague idea about the future, until one of the greatest causes possible knocks on their doors.
The eponymous Rang De Basanti, had five friends led by Aamir Khan as DJ, starting out as the campus heroes and going on to become national icons. It remains one of the most memorable movies of the genre.
Farhaan’s director sibling Zoya Akhtar based an entire movie Zindagi Naa Milegi Dobara on a whirlwind trip to Spain by three close friends and how they find their own selves. The friends are young, their friendship old, with resentment, anger and hurt simmering on the surface that is resolved in tough and dramatic ways.
Flash forward to Kai Po Che, a fun film with a deeply serious undercurrent.
In the Imran Khan starrer, Delhi Belly, the range of problems that crop up, from cleaning up with orange juice to serious threats to life, necessitate a crazy turning of plot and destinies
Crazy bad-ass Delhi based comedy Fukrey also takes a Guy Ritchie like route with things becoming ever complicated for the gang…
Fukrey and Delhi Belly, both have a deep subtext running parallel to all the craziness exploding around the chief protagonists. It is about making choices and almost dying to regret them.
On the other hand, Rocket Singh Salesman of the Year starring Ranbir Kapoor in the titular role, was a thoughtful take on the young corporate managers of India, stuck in their jobs and their lives, a mismatch between material success, personal growth and generally the angst of not being satisfied with the fixed coding and colouring of MNC jobs.
And of course, there are the Housefulls and the Golmaals of the world where nothing seems to be, what it really is…and the star cast is running from pillar to post figuring out the real mystery and in the process, reaching their true potential
As the stories become crazier, we realize that this generation is hurtling towards a situation where even as the options increase, the choices become tougher and tougher…The tough calls that life forces us to take…