By Jackie Thakkar
Twenty years ago, the image of a shirtless Salman Khan nonchalantly air-strumming an electric guitar, with no cord attached, landed on our screens. The film was Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya, and the song that would launch a thousand Bhai-Boys, was “O O Jaane Jaa”. He followed it up by giving us the “trying-to-kickstart-your-imaginary-bike” step, that, like so many #BhaiMoves since, has been emulated by countless desi men in varying degrees of inebriation.
Bollywood and dance have always gone hand in hand: Not for nothing are we the industry synonymised by “dancing around trees”. Moves immortalised by the likes of Shammi Kapoor, Mithun Da, and Amitabh Bachchan have cemented their place in history. But only Salman Khan can claim to have a plethora of signature dance routines to go with each of his chartbusters. It has turned into such a phenomenon that it has spawned full-fledged Sallu-themed nights at many a nightclub.
Just last week, at one such “Sallu Night”, I bore witness to a group of drunk BMM students gyrating to “Tan Tana Tan” from 1997’s Judwaa. Most of them weren’t even born when the movie came out. If anyone needed proof that the art of Bhai-Boying truly breaks the time-space and pop-culture relevance continuum, here it was. In fact, in the last couple of decades, Bhai has transcended his mass appeal to go beyond the realms of age, social class, and even the conventional definition of dancing, per se.
Since the early 2000s, slowly but steadily, Salman has mass-produced easy-to-execute, catchy AF dance moves, thereby convincing an entire generation of men that they too, can dance
Since the early 2000s, slowly but steadily, Salman has mass-produced easy-to-execute, catchy AF dance moves, thereby convincing an entire generation of men that they too, can dance. This, is the very essence of Bhai-Boying. Believing that you too, can dance.
It all began with Bhaijaan unleashing such gifts to humanity like “Garam Chai Ki Pyaali” and “Jeene Ke Hai Chaar Din”. The latter of these gems saw the birth of the timeless “Towel step”, a complicated routine that involves the Bhai in question placing a towel between his legs, holding it phallically and then proceeding to rub it between his crotch, all the while jumping forward like a baboon in heat. It’s exactly how it sounds. During this rough patch in his career, marred with more hits on Hill Road than at the box office, many expected bhai to throw in the towel. But there he was, dry-humping it instead. #BhaiRoxx indeed.No superstar can match up to the bulk of Bhai’s belt buckle and mighty army of Bhai-Boys. Image credit: Arbaaz Khan Productions
In the man’s defence, there had been leading men that represented the two-left-feet demographic much before Bhai-Boying took over. Sunny Deol’s “Yaara O Yaara” PT exercisesand fellow bhai, Sanju Baba’s drunk swaying, were a rage much before he joined the party. But none quite gave the non-dancers the kind of hope Bhai did.
By 2007, watching any new Salman Khan dance step could make you feel like Govinda in this scene from Partner. You knew you’d never have enough swag to pull off his moves at a party. Yet, if you saw someone Bhai-Boying to “Just Chill”, you’d be compelled to join them.
The Bhai-Boying Revolution kicked into high gear with 2009’s Wanted. By this point, having clearly exhausted his quota of fucks, Bhai’s signature step in the film entailed him tugging at the collar and seam of his shirt over and over. Naturally, the film’s foot-stomping “Jalwa” track, became an instant rage. Like most Bhai steps of this era, the routine was provocative, sophomoric, and was effortless enough to be performed by your drunk uncle.
Superstar Salman Khan followed this up with another massive “fuck you” to all his fellow superstars. While his contemporaries were bringing their A game, literally breaking their backs (there there, Hrithik) trying to perfect their craft, how did Bhai decide to hold his own in 2010? Why, by twirling his newly planted moustache, of course! And not to forget, that magic touch – comically adjusting his belt buckle. And Voila! Another Bhai-Boying classic was born. Even though, that year witnessed Shah Rukh Khan starring in the socially relevant My Name is Khan and Aamir Khan producing the poignant Peepli Live, neither could match up to the bulk of Bhai’s belt buckle and mighty army of Bhai-Boys. Not surprisingly, Dabangg went on to become the highest grossing film that year.Cue: Barrage of Bhaisexuals losing their collective shit and Bhai-Boying in the stands of Chandan and Gaiety Galaxy. Image credit: Reel Life Productions
But it was 2011’s Bodyguard that revealed peak zero-fucks Sallu. Sensing that even a casual wink and flash of his bicep was enough to get the box office ablaze, Bhai did literally just that in the film’s title track. Add some rain and a denim beret for added effect. Cue: Barrage of Bhaisexuals losing their collective shit and Bhai-Boying in the stands of Chandan and Gaiety Galaxy. It was almost as if the lesser fucks Bhai gave, the more money his movies made. Bodyguard amassed ₹200 crore, breaking box office records and the hearts of intellectuals everywhere. (On a different note, I have a cousin who paid ₹500 to watch Bodyguard at PVR. She teaches second-grade school students now and is part of the reason I worry for future generations of this country.)
But having said all this, it must be said that no matter how godawful they are, Salman Khan songs possess the power to make even seasoned wallflowers waltz on to the dance floor. Bhai-Boying has given millions the confidence that moving your hands in your pockets is a dance form. Bhai then is the patron saint of all terrible dancers worldover, the living embodiment of “have feet, will dance.” Shiamak Davar could pick up a cue.