Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Circuit of Sidekicks

Life as a sidekick can be seriously depressing. You have to walk and talk like a retard to make the hero look smarter. You have to wear uncool clothing to make the star look hipper. You have to be the joke to generate the laughs. What’s worse, you don’t even get to serenade bimbos. A smack here. A whack there. A punch here. A punchline there. That’s all you get. And just when you’re warming up to be the scene stealer, you’re rudely cut out of the frame to make way for a corny climax.

So, that my friend, has been the zakhmi kahaani of sidekicks in Indian flicks. You get a miserly 15 minutes of screen time to make a deep impression. Given the blink-and-miss nature of the appearances, film makers today, are working harder to make these minor characters far more unforgettable.

Opting for wacky sidekick names is a great safety net to ensure memorability. Astute auteurs like Raju Hirani are increasingly turning to quirky names for injecting some added mirth into their sub-plots. The eminently likeable 'Circuit' in the Munnabhai series gave him a wee bit of leeway for the now-famous ‘Short-Circuit’ gag. He repeated that trick by inventing the ‘Virus’ and ‘Millimetre’ characters in ‘3 Idiots’.

Mr. Hirani needs to doff his hat to Shekar Kapoor’s ‘Mr. India’ for hitting upon the winning formula. For those of you who remember the charming Sri Devi-Anil Kapoor blockbuster, actor Satish Kaushik played the role of ‘Calendar’ in that film.

Shekar’s innovation was mimicked big time in the nineties by the David Dhawan generation. You had Johnny Lever playing ‘Hitchcock’ in ‘Aao Wish Karein’, ‘Taxi’ in ‘Farz’, ‘Screwdriver’ in Ghaath, ‘Okay’ in ‘Deewane’ and ‘Maggi’ in ‘Tera Jadoo Chal Gaya’.

You might have forgotten the horrendous ‘International Khiladi’ but you’ll never forget the fact that Johnny Lever played Twinkle Khanna’s photographer sidekick in the movie. And he was aptly called: ‘Focus’.

Comedian Santhanam is attempting to apply this template to Tamil Cinema. His ‘Kaatuppoochi’ in ‘Siruthai’, ‘Delhi’ in ‘Vandhaan Vendraan’ and ‘Speedu’ in Velayudham are steps in that direction. It remains to be seen if this name humour thingy will continue to tickle the funny bone.