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Cynics may argue that every day is an International Men’s Day in this patriarchal world, but November 19 is all about giving men their due and promoting gender equality with a focus on their mental health and well-being. For those in the dark, IMD is a relatively new phenomenon with India celebrating it for the first time in 2007. But celebrating men isn’t new to the Bollywood industry which takes pride in churning out male role models through their films. As we celebrate male role models today, here’s a look at a few Bollywood heroes who have always batted for gender equality through their work, films and actions.
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Farhan Akhtar: In his directorial debut ‘Dil Chahta Hai’, he brought to life the tale of three young men who weren’t afraid to show emotions or be vulnerable on the big screen. The scene in which Aamir Khan’s character breaks down in Australia after life and heartbreak begin to overwhelm him is cinematic gold. Akhtar’s characters are usually strong men and women. There’s no toxic masculinity on display. He also famously launched the campaign Men Against Rape And Discrimination (MARD) prompting men to be sensitive towards violence against women. In various interviews, he has spoken about how it’s responsibility of a filmmaker and an actor to stay away from offensive portrayal on the big screen. His turn as a fierce journalist Sunny Gill in ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ where he schools Manav (Rahul Bose as a patriarchal husband) on what constitutes feminism is all heart. As far as male role models go, he’s a keeper and an advocate of be the change you want to see.
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Arjun Kapoor in 'Ki and Ka'. Kapoor re-defined gender roles with his romantic comedy ‘Ki And Ka’, also starring Kareena Kapoor, and famously injected dignity into men who are homemakers. In the hit, he played Kabir who was married to a highly successful woman and preferred to stay home in a role traditionally assigned for women. As a house husband, he was confident and compelling.
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Vikrant Massey in Chhapaak: The ‘Ginny Weds Sunny’ star holds the distinction of having being directed by at least half a dozen accomplished women filmmakers including Zoya Akhtar (‘Dil Dhadakne Do), Konkana Sen Sharma (‘Death In the Gunj’), Meghna Gulzar (‘Chhapaak’), Alankrita Shrivastava (‘Lipstick Under My Burqa’ and ‘Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare’) and Arati Kadav (‘Cargo’). He belongs to a rare breed of actors who’s very comfortable in his own skin and always manages to make a mark in female-fronted films. “The length of my role never really mattered, if the story has a larger impact and if I think I can contribute in any way, I accept those roles with open arms. That sentiment will always remain within me,” said Massey in a recent interview with Gulf News. Here’s a big shout out to actors who doesn’t let gender constructs to define their career choices. In ‘Chhapaak’ featuring Deepika Padukone as an acid attack survivor, Massey played Amol who subverted the tropes of a what constitutes a Bollywood hero. He falls in love with Malti – whose faces figured after she survives a hate crime – and is thoroughly convincing.
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Akshay Kumar in 'Padman'. One of Bollywood most bankable star Akshay Kumar took on a taboo topic such as menstruation and spun an engaging tale with an issue that’s rarely addressed in films. Kumar played a progressive man who embarks on a fierce mission to help women and openly questioned the male-female status quo in society. Kumar led one of those significant films in Bollywood that re-defined the concept of a Bollywood hero who’s typically hyper masculine and endearingly toxic in his conduct.
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Ajay Devgn in ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’: We may be acquainted with Bollywood heroes who pursue a woman that catches his fancy until she breaks and embraces his affections. But Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s sumptuous romantic drama HDDCS introduced Ajay Devgn as a caring husband who respects his wife’s life choices.
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Abhishek Bachchan in ‘Manmarziyaan’. Bollywood’s maverick director Anurag Kashyap may not be capable of making uncomplicated love stories, but his turban-clad Robbie (Bachchan) was a hero that embraced his vulnerable and soft side. Even after knowing that his wife is involved in a torrid affair with a DJ (Vicky Kaushal), his character never lets anger erode his dignity. This was one of the rare instances where men were allowed to be vulnerable on the big screen and showcased male players who hadn’t figured everything out in life and love.
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Ranbir Kapoor in 'Tamaasha'. Ranbir Kapoor in 'Tamaasha' or Rahul Khanna in 'Love Aaj Kal': Director Imtiaz Ali has done a considerable amount at normalising heroes who are far from perfect and flawless. Ranbir Kapoor in Tamasha played the central role in this movie about a man who's a tad dull and boring in his daily life. Unlike the conventional heroes in Bollywood, Ali is an ace at sculpting Bollywood heroes who aren't hypermasculine and annoyingly confident.
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