A Matter of Character - Jinder MahalBy Matty J. Douglas
Stereotypes have been a part of wrestling for as long as I can remember. From Cryme Tyme, to the Iron Sheik, to Nikolai Volkoff, these characters and many more like them, perpetuated stereotypes about a culture or group, in ways that were fun and entertaining. The WWE has done a good job of presenting us with fun stereotypes, which are okay because they are done for the sake of entertainment, and are for all intents and purposes, entertaining (at least to a degree). Unfortunately the WWE is currently perpetuating stereotypes about people of Indian heritage through the character Jinder Mahal; stereotypes that have not resulted in entertaining or compelling television.<!--more-->Mahal’s character and story have been border line awful since his arrival on Friday Night Smackdown. Jinder debuted as the brother-in-law of The Great Khali and proceeded to blackmail Khali into becoming a monster again by threatening to divorce Khali’s sister. Where do I start? This storyline preposterous and only paints their culture negatively. More so than that, it isn’t entertaining, because the party we should be most worried about (Khali’s sister) is never seen, nor mentioned by name. Why do I as a viewer care if a character whose name I don’t know and whom I haven’t seen, gets divorced and disgraced?From that poorly written fiasco of a feud, Jinder has gone on to feud with other babyfaces on the Smackdown roster, for seemingly no reason, looking furious all the while. Seriously WWE, you couldn’t come up with something more entertaining or outside the box than this?This week I will be analyzing the character of Jinder Mahal. I will point out his strengths and weaknesses, as well as make suggestions that I believe will improve the entertainment value the performer provides to weekly WWE programming. Let’s Do This!Physical
Standing 6 foot 5 inches tall, and weighing in at 222 lbs, Jinder is a pretty big dude. He is in great physical shape, has power, and some agility, but has yet to excite me in the WWE with his in ring performances. He is a strong performer as far as facial expressions and reactions, but his in-ring style is for the lack of a better term, boring He utilizes strong and aggressive strikes during a majority of his matches, as well as various rest holds and simple slams. He needs to improve his ability to convey a story inside the ring, and make his matches a little more captivating, which I’m sure he’s capable of. He’s only 25 so he has a lot of time to add some excitement to what he does.The main thing Jinder Mahal does have going for him is his aesthetic. He looks different from all the other guys on the roster, and standing out in some shape or form is a must if you want to succeed as a member of the WWE roster. In his case he stands out because he is Indian. To quote Jinder once he was hired after a tryout at FCW “I think they needed an Indian guy, they were looking for one.” It’s because of this that I think he’ll have a pretty long shelf life, but I could be wrong.Personality
Now despite standing out from the other members of the WWE roster because he is the only worker of Indian descent (Khali is less of a “worker” and more of an “attraction”), Mahal doesn’t do much to deviate from portraying a character very similar to the characters that other Indian wrestlers before him have portrayed. He plays up the American perceptions or stereotypes of people from India; Aggressive, Angry, Violent, etc. This misanthropic character is in my opinion a detriment to Mahal’s career, and a clear sign that WWE creative (and possibly Mahal himself) are inherently lazy and unwilling to venture past the first generic idea that pops into their head. Why not think outside the box when you’re developing the character Jinder Mahal, and make him different and more interesting than a simple, not to mention boring stereotype.There are plenty of ways you could go against the grain with this character. Make him an atypical, laid back, and funny character, like Kumar in the Harold and Kumar movies. Maybe model the character after the members of the Brooklyn based Indian Rap group “Das Racist”. Hell, even simpler, have him portray an animated, mischievous, and fun loving former Bollywood star turned pro wrestler. Anything other than the “Angry Arab” character we’ve seen done to death. People with brown skin don't HAVE
to constantly scowl.
Perpetual Scowl = Boring!
Das Racist = Fun!Words and Actions
Jinder is a decent enough talker in the WWE. He certainly doesn’t make a fool of himself with a microphone, the problem is he really only has one mode, which is angry. He debuted angry with The Great Khali. Then he was angry with Ted DiBiase. After that he was angry with Sheamus. No reasons were really given for the anger; he’s simply an angry person, who’s always mad at someone. Having a character that is perpetually angry is perfectly fine, but as a viewer, I need a little context. Why is he so angry? What offends him about the superstar with whom he is feuding? Is there a reason why the character has such a negative view on everything? His character, through his words and actions simply perpetuates negativity, and paints an incomplete and unpleasant picture of what some Americans like to tell themselves people of Indian or Arab decent are like.I would use Jinder’s character as an opportunity to change perception rather than affirm present negativity. Focus on other aspects of his culture, and make the character fun. Right now I don’t have fun watching his character, I’m generally bored, and sad that the WWE couldn’t think outside the box that they seem to live in and try something different.Motivation
This may be the saddest part of Jinder Mahal’s character; he has no motivation what so ever. He simply has no depth. He is indiscriminately angry, and that’s about all the development the WWE did for the character. I can do a better job than that off the top of my head. What if:Jinder Mahal was a Bollywood actor, who shot to stardom in India, starring in an array of very successful (both critically and financially) Bollywood films. However a series of flops killed the Bollywood sensation that was Jinder Mahal. He has come to the WWE, looking to succeed and searching for the limelight he experienced as the toast of Mumbai, and will do anything to recapture the fame and fortune he’s lost.
I literally just put that together. It at least gives his character a purpose and some drive. More than he has right now in the WWE. If they had debuted him with this character, rather than The Great Khali’s angry brother-in-law, I’d be willing to bet that there’d be at least a little interest in the weekly exploits of Jinder Mahal.Conflict
This is an area where Mahal has a lot going on. He has a lot of conflict, judging by how angry he always seems to be. Unfortunately that’s as much as we know. There’s some kind of inner conflict there that bubbles out and into conflict with other superstars but the depths of it are never explored or explained, which is a shame.The character I described in the Motivation
section’s conflict is simple to dissect. If that were Jinder’s character, his inner conflict obviously stems from his inability to succeed in Bollywood. He is angry with himself, but blames everyone else for his inability to succeed as a defense mechanism. It’s simple, but it’s understandable and relatable. Unlike his current on-screen character.Going Forward
Going forward I’d like to make Jinder Mahal’s character more fun and exciting. I’d like the character to be a babyface, because I’ve frankly had enough of the evil foreigner shtick so many superstars get pigeonholed into. The question is how exactly would I turn Jinder, the steaming pile of negativity into someone who can have a good time? Seems like a job for the Funkasaurus.I’d book Jinder and Brodus into a short program with one another, where Brodus would get the best of Jinder a couple times. In their third encounter, Jinder would come out, ready to get his hands on Brodus, but before the match begins, Brodus would grab a mic and ask Jinder “Why you always gots to be so Negative?” Brodus would go on then explain that it’s okay to have a little fun. Jinder would be resistant, but Brodus would reveal that he knows a little about Jinder, and he knows that Jinder used to be a fun guy. He’d tell us all that Jinder was a star on the Bollywood screen. He’d also tell us he’s got a tape from Jinder’s wedding to Khali’s sister. He’d roll the footage and it would feature Jinder busting a move at a traditional Indian wedding. Brodus would cue up his music and start to dance but Jinder would leave, looking conflicted.Over the next few weeks, I’d have Brodus trying to bring out the fun side that Jinder is repressing so that people take him seriously, but to no avail. Eventually Brodus would be attacked post match by William Regal and Drew McIntyre, and Mahal would make the save. Brodus would start celebrating with Naomi and Cameron, as Jinder would try to leave. However before he could exit, Cameron or Naomi would stop him, and the funky music would stop. They’d start playing some Punjabi music, which Jinder wouldn’t be able to resist and he’d start to dance.From there, the two would feud with Regal and McIntyre for a short period before going their separate ways, but not before the Funkasaurus successfully injected a little fun into Jinder Mahal’s character. It may not be the best storyline, but it gives both Mahal and Brodus something to do, which is a lot more than either really have going at this point.There you have it, but what do you think? Do you find Mahal’s character as boring as I do? Are you tired of the WWE retreading the misanthropic foreigner heel? Could you get behind a less angry and more fun “Bollywood” based character for Jinder Mahal?Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas wishing everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day. Have a great week everybody!