When it comes to success, achieving one’s big goals, I believe the underdog has a distinct advantage over their well-heeled counterparts. For what are all the endowments of heaven before the power of an underdog’s burning desire to scale misty heights, leaving his humble origins far down below! Remember how a Virar ka chokra Govinda danced his way to stardom. A spice dealer in Mumbai’s lanes, Dhirubai Ambani spawned an empire called Reliance Industries. And now a chaiwallah has ascended to the highest government post and is leading this great nation. Here are some of my favourite cinematic/literary servings of the ‘underdog rising’ tale.
Remember the frustration of the beauteous Baroness Elsa Schraeder in the film as she finally concedes defeat to Maria. All the Baroness’s wealth and sophistication cannot keep Captain Georg von Trapp from falling in love with his zesty, clumsy governess, and from a nunnery to boot. ‘What do you do with a girl like Maria?’
You can never take an underdog lightly. An underdog may be sleeping for a while, but once aroused with suitable motivation, he/she can and dazzle you with their prowess and victories. Sanju (Aamir Khan), a carefree youth from a poor household is content to loaf around, but once sobered by his brother’s accident and other circumstances, he unleashes his real power. And so, while the arrogant Rajput college students, hailing from affluent backgrounds, are still fooling around, Aamir sweeps up the trophy in the marathon inter-collegiate cycle race, and becomes the hero of the town.
What can be worse than being ditched? And that is what happens to Hrithik Roshan in Lakshya when he refuses to act responsibly even after he enrolls in the Indian Military Academy at his girl-friend’s prompt. Her rejection finally goads him to seriousness and he eventually joins the Indian Army. No prizes for guessing that he finally excels on the warfront and comes out shining and decorated with trophies.
Of course, the archetypal underdog story still remains Pip in Charles Dickens Great Expectations. Pip’s journey from dire poverty in his childhood to affluence in his youth, and more importantly, from frustration in romance to final union with his childhood love, the beautiful Estella, after many twists and turns of fate.
Talk underdog, and the image that zooms to mind is Moushumi Chaterjee as an uncouth, garrulous, filth-mouthing, poor but spunky damsel Savitri, whom Gagan (Uttam Kumar), a professor, decides to groom into a cultured young woman – a direct take-off from Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, which translated into the famous movie My Fair Lady (1964) played by Audrey Hepburn. From the scene when Moushumi is dragged, protesting wildly, to her first bath in a modern washroom to her finally being crowned a winner in a local beauty pageant, the film screams the power of education to lift you to comfort, luxury, of course not unaided by a moneybags benefactor.
So if we have not got it all at the beginning, it’s better for it means we have a long way to go and an exciting script to enact. After all, who wants their life to be a boring movie with no ups and downs?
Munmun Ghosh is a freelance journalist and the author of Hushed Voices, Unhooked and Thicker than Blood. Her new novel Durjoy dating is about a person who is looking for his true love on online dating sites. Will he find true love?.. Read here