Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lights on, ready, double action...

Why do Indian movies where actors play double or multiple roles continue to enthrall audiences? Why are stories where the same actor plays the parts of son, father and grandfather, or quadruplets separated at birth so common here?

What is it about Kamal Haasan’s ten-role film that has people queuing up to watch it on the day of release? And, why is this type of multi-roling rare in Hollywood fims? A character going out in disguise, yes, but donning roles of different characters, quite rare.

Some decades back, when stage play was the norm, double roles would have been a novelty and also a necessity due to shortage of actors. It was an interesting stage-craft and watching the actors live and switching roles with rapidity would have drawn gasps of admiration from the viewers. This fascination would have been carried over when movies came on to the scene, thanks to the tricks that the camera could be made to play.

But, in these days of graphics and sophisticated animation, when voices can be dubbed and sound-engineered, where make-up techniques have evolved to make the ugliest of males look like the prettiest of females (and vice versa, to keep the post gender neutral), where cinematographic methods can easily enable Kamal Haasan to act out all the characters of Mahabharatha (including the 100 sons of Dhritarashtra), why should we be surprised or awed by the performance at all? Any two-bit artist who has a sufficient reserve of narcissism, who has the patience to let his/her face be painted, glued and otherwise brutalized can show off his/her histrionic/hertrionic talents without much difficulty. So, why the fuss? What purpose do these ‘double roles’ serve?

The best example of someone donning a double role in real life for a very noble cause was revealed to me a few years back. In one of the minor cricket matches (Chennai, fifth division league), a star opening batsman of the team batting first, got out cheaply. He was immediately whisked away to the nearest barber shop, his head tonsured and sent in again at No.5 or 6 as a different batsman. He managed to score an impressive 64 runs. Of course, the opening batsman didn’t come out to field, due to ‘injury’.

Learning from this excellent story, we should make better use of Tendulkar. Due to practical limitations, we can’t let him bat eleven times, but let’s say he is sent in to bat at No 2, 6, and 10 positions, named respectively Twodulkar, Sixdulkar and Tendulkar. He goes in at No 2, whacks a century, comes back to the pavilion, colours his hair, goes back at No 6, scores another century, runs back to the pavilion, puts on a fake moustache, goes in at No 10, scores another half century… Of course, batsmen at No 3,5,7,8,9 have to play out their parts well, and make sure that they don’t create a situation where Tendulkar has to play out a double role in real time. And, when India is fielding, the look-alikes of Two-dulkar and Sixdulkar, created by the make-up crew of Shahrukh Khan, will have to stand at third man and long on, with caps and goggles. No one will notice the difference, especially since the real Tendulkar’s fielding is nothing much to write about, these days.

This would be a far better application of multi-roling, don't you think?


A Motley Tunic said...

And can he get three times the endorsement money from all the sponsors?

Unknown said...

I like sowmyas comment..

but what if Twodulkar and Tendulkar have to share the "man of the match" award?


Raj said...

sowmya, of course, yes.

sundar: ha, it will go to the 'joint' account.

Amey said...

Like you said, the problem will arise if (as happens quite frequently), the rest of the team folds cheaply, thereby laying waste to a brilliant strategy.

There is no problem in fielding, as there is at least one genuine look-alike of Tendulkar already there, who can be placed at least-used positions. And also, we can ask Tendulkar to ball from both ends, he gets surprising results with ball too ;)

Anonymous said...

This was funny! But isn't Dhoni the latest trend? Shouldn't he be doing this job than Tendulkar?

Anonymous said...

Also, I envy you for you simplest, wittiest and funniest Profile description!

dipali said...

Brilliant idea!

Raj said...

amey, maduraiveeran : The back-up plan is to get Dhoni to don a few more roles, like Teen-ni and Char-ni.

dipali : thanks