Character Decoding 101: Pets

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Strangely enough, pets in Hindi cinema get zero to none recognition for their vital roles in movies. They come in many forms with the loyal dog and protective bird being perhaps the most common. The characterization of the pet in Hindi cinema is one that actually has no real definition. To the main protagonists, female and male, they provide solace and work in parallel to the best friend. On the other hand, they can also come in evil forms and work with the antagonist to be a devil animal, hungry for flesh and blood. In both forms, pets in Hindi cinema have become favorites and while they may don’t receive any accolades for their award winning performances, they provide great support to the entire cast.

The bird has many symbolisms in cinema: the envoy of love, the movie clown, and the harbinger of peace. The kabootar in Maine Pyar Kiya is undoubtedly the most famous pigeon in Hindi cinema. In fact, director Sooraj Barjatya even dedicated an entire song to the debut pigeon in the form of one ‘Kabootar Ja Ja Ja’, which became the national anthem for the Desi bird. In the movie, the pigeon acts as a go-between the couple delivering love letters, aiding the hero to fight the villain and help love prevail over evil. The pigeon in this romantic drama, managed to multi-task as the best-bird friend and post-bird only to be deemed as one of the highlights of the movie, after Salman Khan and Bhagyashree.

More recently, the pigeon in Delhi 6, better known as Masakali, created much hype in Rakesh OmPrakash Mehra’s latest offering. A.R. Rahman went ahead to compose the ‘Masakali’ song of praise, which is now being named one of the best compositions of 2009. Music apart, Masakali’s clipped wings in the movie signified the heroine’s, Sonam Kapoor, frustration as a girl who had no say in the future of her life and felt caged by her surroundings. Additionally, Masakali become the interest of the hero, Abhishek Bachchan, when he found Masakali dancing around in a “chirpy” mood. Masakali was an instant hit with the audiences so much so that Sonam Kapoor felt the competitiveness with her birdie co-star.

The pigeon has had various appearances in other popular movies. In Diwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, the metaphor between the Indian and British birds was a viewed as thought provoking while in Jodhaa Akbar, the birds were set free by the princess implying the importance of freedom and liberty. In the dud movie, Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon, bird spokesperson, Sooraj Barjatya added a parrot which switched in intervals from being real and a cartoon providing some comical relief to the film…and it really did need it! And last, but not least, in the critically acclaimed Parinda, the most pivotal and crucial scene of the movie involved countless birds fly in the air when a character was shot only to ensure the protagonist that his turn towards a truthful life because of love was the righteous choice.

The dogs in Hindi cinema are always the faithful and steadfast pet that is willing to take the bullet to save the main characters. When the character of Jackie Shroff dies in 1985’s Teri Meherbaniyan, it is his trustworthy hound that sole takes on responsibility and seeks revenge for his master’s death. In the seventies, the dog in the Rajesh Khanna starrer, Sachaa Jhutha, manages to find his lame sister and reads the newspaper.

In true Barjatya style, those who believe in the importance of casting animals in Rajshri Productions, dogs too have played an enormous part in helping the script move on. In the evergreen hit Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Tuffy the dog, helped Salman Khan find the stolen shoes and later on let the cat of the bag to reunite the sacrificial couple. More recently, Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon (again) cast a Golden Retriever, who much like the parrot, added a much needed funny angle to the film as an animated caricature and otherwise.

Even the Chopra’s decided to venture into this doggy phenomena when they got together with Jugal Hansraj to produce India’s first animated feature film based on stray dogs: Roadside Romeo. The likes of Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan and Javed Jaffrey all lent their voices to the film, which turned out to be a rage with the children folk.

Haathi Mere Saathi is perhaps the raja (king) of all animal movies in Hindi cinema. The 1970 movie follows the Raju, played by Rajesh Khanna loves animals and houses elephants, tigers, lions and bears. His love for the animals is one to be beckoned with as Khanna treats the animals as his equals. Loosely based on the biblical Noah’s Ark and barely holding a Disney like aura, the movie was a big hit especially the popular song, ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’. Elephants were last seen in the epic Jodhaa Akbar where Hrithik Roshan flexed his muscles and showed his strength as he fought an elephant. The scene in question was considered one of the best in the film.

On a more mythological note, the snake too has managed to create a niche for itself in the world of Bollywood. After gaining much exposure much more in the eighties, many scripts incorporated snakes as a main protagonist. Nagin, Nagina are previous names while the latest includes Deepa Mehta’s latest Videsh alias Videsh. The snakes in these films all fluctuate between being a slithering snake and a human avatar. For the most part, they are out to seek revenge for one reason or another. Watch out for Hisss in which sexy Mallaika Sherawat takes on the role of a snake in the upcoming Hollywood flick.

They woof and chirp, hiss and tweet, but ultimately stand for loyalty, friendship and love. It really is unfortunate that the animals in Hindi cinema seem to get no honor for their credible work. Perhaps the animal actors need a union? Maybe a whole separate award ceremony even. Until then, pets in Hindi cinema have made their mark in the past, are doing so in the present and hopefully will continue in the future.

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