The Curious Case of Celebrity, Comedy and Murder in An Action Hero

This power struggle between audience and celebrity takes physical form in the conflict between Bhoora and Maanav. At one point, Bhoora pins Maanav to the floor and snarls, “We [the public] have made you who you are, you have to do what we tell you to.” Yadav pointed out that this single dialogue was deliberately both true and false “He’s not wrong. Stars themselves say that fans have made them. But his next line points towards our new-found entitlement: ‘Abb hum jo bolenge tum wohi karoge (Now do what we tell you to).’ Yeh nahi ho sakta (that’s not done),” said Yadav. Iyer described the film’s duality as an important device to ensure the story neither places blame nor picks sides. It’s evenly divided between Maanav and Bhoora. “They both have the right answers,” said Iyer. “They’re just not answers to each other’s questions.”

Perhaps An Action Hero’s greatest victory is in the questions it embeds in the audience’s mind, leaving us to think about how truth can be fluid rather than fixed. In the film, Maanav commits two murders – one is accidental death; the other is deliberate, a bullet fired in cold blood. The two have wildly different outcomes. “One murder makes you a criminal, the other makes you a national hero. Why do you want to jail him for one or felicitate him for the other?” said Iyer. “I don’t know. It’s a question that I wanted to ask because I wanted to know the answer.” Perhaps, some murders are more equal than others. 

For Yadav, “the trickiest part” was ensuring that the film’s commentary didn’t devolve into a lecture. “Aaj ke time par koi gyan sunne ke liye baitha nahi hai (In today’s world, nobody’s willing to listen to a speech),” he said. “Yeh humare Hindustan ki sabhyata bhi rahi hai aur hamara culture bhi. Mazaak mazaak mein hum bahut badi baate bol jaate hai (This has always been Indian culture. We hide our truth in humour),” he said with a laugh. An Action Hero’s humour and dialogue are refreshingly organic, emerging from the very design of its lead characters. “Manav belongs to an environment which is practical and flexible. And Bhoora belongs to an environment which is rigid, stubborn and very egoistic. If you imagine what these two people would say to each other, it’s automatically funny,” said Yadav, adding that the deadpan humour is something he associates with his home state of Haryana. “Wahan attempt hi nahi hai humour ka [Over there, you don’t attempt to be funny], it’s all very matter-of-fact,” he said. Ahlawat, who is himself from Haryana, realises this trait brilliantly in Bhoora. Of the many scenes with perfect comic timing, there’s one in which Bhoora is asked “Aapki taarif?” and he replies with, “Main khud nahi karta.” Apologies, but we’re not even going to try to translate that pun into English. 

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