By Hriday Ranjan
Back in the day, there was something about Bobby Deol – the curls and the dimples, the biceps and the dancing movies. But soon, he became a meme. Now, rising from the ashes of all those jokes, Deol is a man approaching 50, and ready to make a comeback with Race 3.
It is going to happen in a few weeks.
Miss Malini will have no juicy gossip, and Instagrammers and Snapchatters will not run the trends and hashtags, but for those steeped in ’90s nostalgia, it will be a landmark event. Bobby Deol will make a comeback with Race 3.
If you did not watch Hindi cinema of the ’90s, you’ll probably be unmoved by the statement. But back in the day, there was something about Bobby D – the curly curls, the biceps of Sunny Deol, and the dancing skills of Hema Malini. “Bobby Deval” as my village friends would call him, was a man far ahead of his time.
Take Gupt for instance. In the age of Netflix series and Instagram stories, it is difficult to explain the effect Gupt had on people. That Kajol – a bundle of energy and cheerfulness exuding tann ki shakti, mann ki shakti in every shot – would be the killer! Indians collectively lost their shit.
The Race franchise is essentially about characters dying gruesome deaths, only to reveal that they’re actually Shaktimaan.
But Gupt wasn’t Bobby Deol’s first film. He had debuted two years before the thriller in Barsaat, along with Mrs Funnydance. As is the wont of nepotism, both Bobby D and Twinkle Khanna won the Filmfare Best Debut Award. But you can’t blame Filmfare – the only other debutant that year was Sanjay Kapoor – who is basically Anil Kapoor without the moustache and the talent.
With his first two films on target, Bobby Deol was all ready to take Bollywood by storm. He was preceded in the industry by two family members – Dharmendra and Sunny Deol. The first was known as “He-Man”, and the other was known for letting people know the exact weight of his arms. Even though Bobby Deol hailed from a family of actors who blurred the line between acting and pro-wrestling, he chose a path of his own.
Bobby Deol had the looks, the curls, and the biceps. He was a mix of brawn and dimple – a Deol who had the moves, a Deol who could dance. For decades, his family had been punching, smashing, and uprooting objects, but Bobby D chose the non-violent path. He sweared by the adage, “If someone slaps you on one cheek, show them dimples on both your cheeks.” Why uproot handpumps and stomp around causing seismic shifts in the earth’s crust, when you can flash your curls? If Dharmendra’s target audience was bulldozers and Sunny Deol’s blacksmiths, Bobby D worked on the ladies. And they promptly fell in love. He did not uproot trees, he danced around them. He did not beat up goons, he fought off advances of eager women.
Unfortunately, most Bobby Deol movies are copies of Hollywood films. It was completely acceptable in the ’90s to rip off a movie, add five songs and Anu Malik, and pass it off as one’s own work. And Bobby Deol was at the receiving end of these shoddy projects. Aur Pyar Ho Gaya was a remake of Only You, which was what cinema ushers said to the viewers in the hall. Badal was a remake of The Devil’s Own. Léon: The Professional was remade as Bichhu: the Amateur, and Hum Toh Mohabbat Karega was a copy of Eyewitness. But Bobby Deol continued to Soldier on, maximising his charms when the scripts sucked. Not many will credit him for this, but Bobby Deol also invented a step – the Bobby Deol headshake step – a complicated move that borrows from Kathakali, Kuchipudi, and the movements of a liberal flamingo.
However, in a few years, all of Bobby Deol’s films started to look like each other. You couldn’t tell Badal from Barsaat and Barsaat from Bichhoo. Bobby Deol was often called Raj Malhotra and played an urban dude in every movie. By the 2000s, he found himself on shaky ground. The Khans were becoming irrelevant, as smaller “multiplex” films were taking over. Sunny Deol would continue to attack Pakistan every few years, but Bobby got lost in the crowd. He signed three films with Amisha Patel in a gap of three years. Naturally, no good came from that. Chamku did not shine at the box office, Bardasht was a test of tolerance, and Kismat was almost destined to flop.
By 2010, Bobby Deol’s films were called Help and Thank You, and Bobby Deol made the same mistake that Samson made in the Bible: He cut off his locks. By the time his hair grew back, the audience had grown wiser and puppy love was out of fashion. For the next couple of decades, Bobby made his living as a meme.
Unlike Bhai, Bobby does not sunbathe for the thousands who flock to his house every day, hoping to get a peek of his nipple.
Image Credits: NDTV
Now, rising from the ashes of all those jokes, is a man approaching 50 and making a come back to acting. There is Race 3 and Houseful 4 – not great movies but as long as it’s not Square 1, there’s hope. If the earlier instalments of the franchise were anything to go by, it is hardly going to give the Academy Awards Committee sleepless nights. The Race franchise is essentially about characters dying gruesome deaths, only to reveal that they’re actually Shaktimaan.
It is not going to be easy, of course. Along with Bobby Deol in the movie, there is Bhai. Unlike Bhai, Bobby does not sunbathe for the thousands who flock to his house every day, hoping to get a peek of his nipple. But come June 15, there will be one fan. Waiting eagerly with aadha kilo ka haath and Soldier hairstyle, screaming, “Carry on, Bobby!”
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius