Pathaan - with its stellar star cast comprising Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone and John Abraham, bombastic dialogues and eye-popping stunts – is all set to release on January 25, 2023. By billing it as a part of 'YRF Spy Universe', the stage is set for a series of mouth-watering collaborations between the characters in Shah Rukh Khan's movie Pathaan, Salman's Ek Tha Tiger and Hrithik's War. Of course, there has always been a 'Bollywood Masala Universe' with several parallel universes inside it, delivering seetis and taalis with moments that can only exist inside the universe. You can pick holes in that universe only after you exit it!
What's the craziest thing that happens when a superhero is about to appear? You mistake him for a bird, for a plane? You can't really spot him in the dark? Some spidery webby things come up?
Well, superhero Toofan's appearance used to be preceded by – wait for it – a storm. Before you could see Toofan, a literal toofan came and disoriented you. After that, he just came and kicked your ass. This storm-trooping was a special edition superpower, available only to those blessed by Lord Hanuman. Toofan also had a high-tech bow-and-arrow weaponry but the storm just – well – blew minds.
In the cut-price world of 1980-90s cinema, stunts happened with a prayer on the lips and foreign technicians were still one Liberalization away. In this Wild Wild West, in walked Ajay Devgn… no… in rode Ajay Devgan (still with all his vowels intact) and made his father's – stunt director Veeru Devgan's – naam roshan. Probably the most famous stunt of pre-Rohit Shetty Bollywood, Ajay rode to college atop two bikes, doing splits while going over dividers and blowing kisses at his admiring classmates. The most incredible thing about this stunt is that they found a pothole-free stretch to do it on.
Sunny Deol – the ultimate he-man of Bollywood – went to Pakistan to pick up his wife and took the country apart while doing so. In an extended climax, he first fought back an angry mob with nothing but a handpump (which has reached mythical levels in the Bollywood Masala Universe now). He then ploughed through half the Pakistan army and its trucks and helicopters, on his way out. Think of what Jai, Viru and Thakur did to the dacoits in Sholay's opening scene? Multiply the enemies by a hundred and divide the heroes by three. Yes, that's what Sunny Deol did.
Armaan Kohli was an ichhadhari naag in a previous birth but became a shapeshifting Terminator, killing off half the film industry after a misunderstanding over who killed his fiancée. Using reincarnation, hypnosis, mimicry, stunts and grunts, Armaan killed off Sharad Kapoor, Aftab Shivdasani, Aditya Pancholi, Arshad Warsi, Suniel Shetty and I may be missing a few names here. I am not counting Akshay Kumar who went into coma and Sunny Deol who died but was resurrected. Did I mention that in one scene, the lower part of Armaan Kohli's body became a bike with which he chased down a car?
Tamil film industry – home of the original Ghajini – decrees that the revenge must at least be 322-times gorier than the original crime. To meet this stringent condition, Aamir installed six-pack abs, got a hairstyle like the Google Maps terrain-view, tattooed Post-it notes on his body and then proceeded to beat up villains with deadpan abandon. With one punch, he turned the head of a hapless goon by 180 degrees. And in another fight, he stabbed a goon with a tap but tragically didn't turn it on for the blood to flow. (In the Tamil original, the tap actually dripped blood.)
"When you have a body like Salman Khan, the whole universe conspires to take off your shirt." – Old Bollywood saying
A swaying crowd, a screaming villain, a simpering heroine were enough to make him take off his shirt in his early days but not anymore. In recent times, there have been Olympic opening ceremonies with less fanfare than Salman Khan's un-shirting routine. In Dabangg, police officer Chulbul Pandey kept his shirt on till the climax. And then… and then, he screamed so hard in anger that the cotton fibres of his vest just dissociated from each other in sheer terror.
The 'heist movie' genre is hugely popular the world over. A dysfunctional team planning a meticulous operation to steal untold riches from a shady millionaire's vaults got a masala tadka from Farah Khan. One had an epileptic fit. One of the thieves had to get naked (yes, in the middle of the heist). One had to remember his father's love. One had to invoke national pride being at stake. And after the heist, they came back for a dance show – proclaiming national pride! Colourful costumes, grand location, slapstick humour, dance, action, emotion… everything combined to give us an India-wala masala!
The multiple masala universes of Indian cinema were kept hidden till the Baahubali franchise went to China and made so much money that movie fans across the world caught on and are still picking up their jaws from the floor. In Baahubali 2, six soldiers – including Prabhas as Baahubali – flew off using a palm tree as slingshot, formed a tortoise with their shields while in mid-air and landed on their feet in the enemy's fortress. And then of course, hundreds of other soldiers followed suit and wiped the memory of Game of Thrones' epic battles from the memories of humanity.
If you thought Katrina Kaif can only play a dainty dancer upping the glam quotient while Salman Khan goes villain-hunting, the Tiger franchise was made to prove you wrong. She arrived bang in the middle of Syria, smuggled herself into a palace and proceeded to take apart the private army of a terrorist leader. She cut one's throat, stabbed one, killed five in hand-to-hand combat, killed three in sword fights, shot one from close range and another six through machine gun fire. And if you didn't whistle and clap your way through the scene, you're probably one of the terrorists.
Tiger Shroff has made his career in absolute defiance of film reviews, the left brain and the laws of gravity. With each successive film of the Baaghi franchise, he has managed to break the record for the maximum duration of time spent airborne per film and the number of bones broken in the least time. In Baaghi 2, he introduced the concept of 'Deferred Fracture' (awaiting publication in orthopedic journals). He kicked four villains on their shins in quick succession and by the time they collapsed with broken legs, Baaghi 2 had collected 1.6 more crores at the box office.