Machismo never had it so good in Bollywood

The men in Bollywood movies were never more macho and more bonded than in some upcoming flicks.

This week's two potential blockbusters -- "Khakee" and "Aetbaar" -- epitomise the spirit of patriarchy.

Rajkumar Santoshi, who earlier designed the all-women tale "Lajja" with Madhuri Dixit, Manisha Koirala, Mahima Chowdhary and Rekha in the lead, has flipped the gender coin in "Khakee".

In the film, Ajay Devgan, Akshay Kumar, Tusshar Kapoor and Amitabh Bachan play macho men. It does feature the high-ranking Aishwarya Rai but in a passive role.

"Aetbaar" features the bombshell Bipasha Basu, but it is John Abraham and Bachchan who battle it out in "Aetbaar".

In fact the boys never had it so good. On the sets of Sanjay Gadhvi's "Dhoom", Abhishek Bachchan, Uday Chopra and John Abraham whoop it up like there's no tomorrow. Co-stars? Who needs them when there's male company.

"My co-star in 'Dhoom' is my motorbike, and of course Uday and Abhishek," says John echoing the sentiments of Ajay Devgan, Vivek Oberoi and Abhishek Bachchan who bond big time on the sets of Mani Rathnam's "Yuva".

Sure they all have their ladyloves for succour and romance. But "Yuva" is about the boys, as are Indra Kumar's "Masti" and Anees Bazmi's "No Entry".

"No Entry" has Anil Kapoor, Salman Khan and Fardeen Khan sharing gals, drinks and masculine confidences.

Vivek had a ball-shooting producer Ashok Thakeria and director Indra Kumar's "Masti". "I had so much fun with Ajay Devgan, Aftab Shivdasani and Ritesh Deshmukh that I never wanted the shooting to end. We'd do a scene and them we'd double up laughing."

Ahmed Khan's "Lakeer" and Vikram Bhatt's "Elaan" are also macho multi-starrers with the guys (Sunny Deol, Suniel Shetty, John Abraham and Sohail Khan in the former, and Bobby Deol, John Abraham, Rahul Khanna and Ashmit Patel in the latter) creating a cartel of he-men.

So full of merrymaking machismo and masculine mayhem are these films that they've begun to look identical.

"Masti" producer Thakeria thwarts the buzz that the film has a story identical to "No Entry". "'Masti' is something else. After the failure of 'Rishta' in 2002, I felt the need for a change of style, pace and crew.

"We've changed our entire team and working style for 'Masti'. The actors went through an acting workshop before getting into their roles. The camaraderie among them has to be seen to be believed," says Thakeria.

Othing is for sure. 2004 is going to be the year celebrating machismo.

Does it mean that Hindi mainstream cinema threatens to return to the Bachchan era in the 1980s when the ladies were decoratively designed? Not quite.

Says Bipasha: "Although Mani Shankar's 'Rudraksha' and Anees Bazmi's 'No Entry' have a lot of prominent male stars I'm part of the main conflict and not there just to provide oomph and glamour."

So while the men are out having fun this year the women aren't exactly making their favourite dishes at home.