Will the Indian Darcy please stand up?
That scene is so strongly etched in popular memory that in 2013, a 12-foot fibre glass statue of Mr Darcy emerging from the water was installed in the Serpentine before it was eventually placed at in Lyme Park, where the series was partly filmed. Needless to say , it is a pilgrimage for Austen fans.
“It feels like a school nickname you can’t shake. It occurred to me the other day to change my name to Mr Darcy and be done with it,” said Firth in a 2007 interview to the Times. And there in that wry comment by the actor lies the crux of the matter -that in Fitzwilliam Darcy, Jane Austen has achieved what most writers aspire for: creating a character that not only outlives them but continues to rule the readers’ imaginations.
What is it about the over-200years-old character that continues to live on in imagination and seeps into almost every romantic male protagonist written since, and is the muse for over 3,00,000 fan fiction sites?
Writer Kiran Manral believes Darcy’s continued popularity owes itself to Austen’s writing of the character: a man desperately in logic-defying love who overcomes his biases and changes his views after the woman he loves points out his shortcomings: “He’s attractive, handsome even, seem ingly distant and unattainable, someone with immense integrity, a man who keeps you guessing yet does not attempt to ingratiate himself, despite being attracted to you.He is not perfect. He has the best interests of the female protagonist at heart and goes out of his way to help in a dismal situation without the expectation of her ever getting to know or being grateful. That in itself is terribly endearing. And the fact that he is described merely as tall and handsome with a noble air, makes him a tabula rasa every woman can project her own personal preferences (appearancewise) onto him.”
Creating a desi Darcy
Ask writers and most of them would say that the key to creating a hero as eternal as Darcy is to strike a balance between extremes -someone who is wild and good-hearted at the same time. “In life as in books there are two kinds of heroes you meet-the romantic one who is dangerous and just that degree unattainable, and then you have the guy who loves dogs and is the immensely marriable kind. The thing with Darcy is that he strikes a balance between the two. He is the quintessential taciturn, strong, si lent type who is not sexist. He respected women and I think that is what every woman is reacting to. And of course, there is the fact that he is rich,” says writer Itisha Peerbhoy. A self confessed fan of Austen and Darcy, Peerbhoy admits that the Darcy character may have creeped in while creating Aftab, one of the leading men in her book, Half Love Half Arranged.
“Dylan Singh Shekawat from my novel, Those Pricey Thakur Girls, comes close to the Darcy persona,” says author Anuja Chauhan whose leading men have quite a following among young readers in the country. About the work that goes into creating a leading man who can strike a chord with readers, Chauhan says that her first task is choosing the world she wants to set her characters in. “I first find a world I want to live in. For instance, when I was writing The Zoya Factor , I was steeped in Indian cricket. I then provide a propulsive thrust through the love story,” she says. Currently working on a story set in the air force, Chauhan’s hero this time around is a short, cocky pilot who doesn’t fear anything. “Unlike Darcy whom, frankly, I find boring, I think a good leading man has to have some baggage, some character flaw. Dylan, for instance, has a dangerous past but at the same time he has a strong sense of righteousness and it is this combination that work with the readers. For a hero to rock, he must have strength of character,” says Chauhan.
“In any romance, what makes a person more attractive is their unavailability . You are never enticed by someone you know is there for the taking, are you?
Forget the story, when you are making allusions to the chase, you are playing with basic human psychology,” says writer Milan Vohra who while creating her characters follows a rigorous process. “I draw the character in total, from his physical characteristics to even imagining his past and how it may have changed him. At times, I even put up a picture of somebody who may be a likeness to the person I am creating,” says Vohra.