Mard Ko Dard Hoga: How Ripped Male Bodies Became a Joke

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Mard Ko Dard Hoga: How Ripped Male Bodies Became a Joke

Illustration: Akshita Monga

I

n the Hollywood comedy Blockers, the ever-likeable John Cena plays an insecure father who thinks he is responsible for his daughter’s morality. Though beefed, and near-implausible as the guardian of a 17-year-old girl, Cena becomes part of a tag-team of three parents who try to prevent their daughters from losing their virginity on prom night. The film might follow a clichéd trajectory, but its baseline does point to a significant cultural shift – the perception of the male form. A decade or so ago, a hunky, muscular Cena would have been the source of the film’s depth, or at least some of its intelligence; today, he is the outlet of its stupidity.

We have grown up watching ripped men, who take off shirts to usher in heroism, also carry the pulse of a film’s intelligence. Think Dharmendra; think Gregory Peck or Marlon Brando or James Dean. They could say things that nobody thought of, or make sense of it all for the sake of everyone else. There was a phase in Indian cinema when our leading men were both, the poster and the song – the hero and the wit.

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