Brand Vijay is back!

30 Jun,2022

 

 

By Avik Chattopadhyay

 

Avik ChattopadhyayWhen Salim Khan’s Inspector Vijay Khanna appeared on the screen on May 11, 1973, a new brand was born in Indian social fabric from the least expected of places…celluloid. The brand of the ‘angry young man’.

 

Depicted par excellence by Mr Bachchan, ‘Vijay’ was more than just an upright police inspector out for revenge. The character stood for the young Indian in the early 1970s, disappointed and frustrated. Gone were the days of utopian simplicity of a Raj Kapoor in the 1950s or the romantic optimism of a Rajesh Khanna in the 1960s. The new India was not shaping up as predicted and promised by Nehru and Patel.

 

Corruption had seeped into every nook and cranny of life. Politics was not clean and noble anymore. Scandals broke periodically. The rich got richer at the expense of the poor. The mouths to feed were going up exponentially. Questioning was not encouraged, and freedom of speech was at a premium. The grand vision and promises lay torn asunder on the sidewalk. Nation building had given way to nepotism. The white sahib had given way to the brown one!

 

In this context rose Vijay Khanna… sceptical, sneering and sardonic. He was symbolic of the state of mind of the young Indian. He was the young Indian. He was tired of the way things were around him. He wanted to change things. He did not necessarily have a clear idea of how to but definitely had a greater goal in mind of finally getting up to take the proverbial bull by the horns. Vijay Khanna was a character that every young Indian could relate to and saw a reflection of self. The angst and explosive action were relevant to all parts of India, urban, rural and villages. ‘Vijay’ became a brand.

 

The establishment then thought that Vijay was more of an aberration than the harbinger of the future. The nationwide popularity of the character should have been a clear signal of the mood of the nation wanting correction or change. And change it was!

 

The brand kept evolving over the years, manifesting itself in various celluloid roles played by Mr Bachchan right till Vijay Dinanath Chauhan in 1990. Many other celluloid characters were created in various languages mirroring the same purpose, persona and value system of Vijay. Importantly, the parallel or art cinema movement played the perfect foil in creating equally compelling manifestations of the angry young man, right from Gopalakrishnan’s ‘Vishwam’ to Nihalani’s ‘Anant Velankar’.

 

Come 1991, India entered a new phase of optimism. The economy opened up. Liberalisation happened and with it came a new form of romanticism. There were things to look forward to in terms of opportunities, prosperity, and social wellbeing. A bit of utopianism creeped back into the mainstream mindset. Just like the first phase of feeling good lasted around two decades, so did the second. Corruption, nepotism and brazen capitalism again raised their ugly heads to overshadow the progress we made.

 

2014 was a consolidated and conscious change of course. The old order was overthrown, and new hope was given a chance. Fresh dreams were woven and shared. Awe-inspiring targets were set. Promises galore were made about development for all and with all. Then year after year, initiatives were taken that took a toll on the enthusiasm of the average Indian. Demonetisation. GSR roll-out. CAA and NRC. Farm Laws. Agnipath. The promises of 2014 were nowhere to be seen in 2020 when Covid struck as the proverbial last straw. The young Indian, grudgingly, is angry once more. Yet again, the enthusiasm, energy and optimism has given way to bitterness, frustration, and a feeling of helplessness.

 

Paving the way for ‘Brand Vijay’ to come back. In the forms of Pushparaj, Rocky, Advocate Chandru and Komaran Bheem. They are all Vijay in different avatars, in different contexts, fighting different battles. Whether for villagers smuggling timber or social outcastes asserting their right to equal existence. They are full of angst. They have none of the refinements of urban life. In fact, they are caustic about the lives of comfort of a privileged few.

 

The sheer popularity of a Pushpa or a KGF is once again a clear signal of the mood of the nation, 50 years later. The youth is on boiling point right now, once again looking for correction or change.

 

A brand need not be only a product, service or solution. It can very well be the outcome and a reflection of society. It can be an amplification of a state of mind or the prevailing mood, in the form of a literary or creative character. Vito Corleone is a brand. So is Hannibal Lecter. As well as Forrest Gump.

 

As Pushpa tells Shekhawat at the fag end of the movie that a brand is not merely the label on a shirt. The brand is Pushpa himself.

 

Just like ‘Vijay”!

 

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