Archive for November, 2010

Death of a Villain

November 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Manish Sharma


In the recently released movie Rakta Charitra, the performance of Bukka Reddy played menacingly by Abhimanyu Singh has been lauded by everyone. This is after a long gap that Hindi cinema has seen a sinister character being cast in a mainstream movie. The last movie that paid homage to the depleting art of villainy was Aamir Khan’s blockbuster Ghajni that was named after the bad guy in the movie. But, apart from occasional instances it is quite evident that as a breed villains are disappearing from Hindi movies at a much faster rate than the tigers in India.

The gradual phase out of villains should not come as a surprise. In any case, Hindi films have seldom given any thoughts to construe the premise of a debate between hero and anti-hero. Hindi celluloid has always been larger than life in which characters were established on the basis of the artists appearing in them. The hypothesis was mostly flimsy and virtually every Hindi movie was a song and dance drama that preached the didactic victory of the hero in a set piece showdown. Villains had to make customary appearances not to prove a point but to play second fiddle to a hero.  Heroines, comedians and other character artists never had much of a scope in a star dominated industry. Producers and directors milked money till the formula became a caricature of itself.

As the formula ran dry, Hero or the Star who fought with a selfish moneylender or a cruel landlord for most part of 60s and 70s, trained his guns towards the establishment with the advent of angry young persona in late 70s and early 80s. To make the transformation palatable to the viewers, who were still revering about Jai Santoshi Mata on screens, he was given the facade of Robin Hood, the messiah of poor to give an excuse to his vitriolic behaviour.  

During post-liberalisation phase with the advent of urbanisation, the dynamics of movie making changed rapidly. With the parallel wave of cinema losing steam and angry young man losing most of its frustration, most films played safe with love stories where class divide was the focus of attention and parents filled in the shoes of Gabbar with a meek smile rather than a menacing grin.


In the late 90s financial shenanigans of Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh, gang wars of Mumbai underbelly and the dot-com boom were shaping the virgin minds of post liberalization generation and the films too hold forth. The last bastion was crumbling too. Not only in the real life but in the reel life too the distinction between a hero and villain increasingly got fuzzy. In Hindi movies, the antics of hero were becoming quite un-hero like. With materialism taking roots the question of moral and immoral was no longer valid for masses. The hero was no longer an innocent chap but evolved as a street smart guy and the bad guy got relegated to the verge of extinction. Today’s superstar Shahrukh Khan, a novice television actor by then, took the biggest gamble of his life and played a leading man in two films – Baazigar and Darr – that had negative shades. For the first time Indian the leading protagonist resorted to violence like never before and audience cheered his antics. Later Satya, a cult classic on Mumbai underworld, celebrated the sadism on bigger screen and celebrated the violence on bigger screen perhaps for the first time. Its thumping success encouraged other directors like Sanjay Gupta and Mahesh Manjrekar to push the envelope further.


Post millennium, in the last few years the evil is being fêted by Bollywood (popular nomenclature of Hindi film industry) with aplomb. Films like D, Johnny Gaddar, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Once upon a time in Mumbai, and lately Rakta Charitra have blurred the line between the good and the bad completely. The façade is finally off.  The treatment, narrative, critical acclaim and commercial success of them finally sealed the fact that the bad is the new good as far as Hindi cinema goes.

If films are a reflection of our society then the death of a villain points towards the blurring distinction between the hero and villain and our own changing moralistic self. The changing moral values, erosion of traditional beliefs and a westernized lifestyle have led to a transformation in our approach towards life as well as in art. So certain symbols, rituals and practices that were associated with villain and vamps of yesteryears have gained acceptance with in our sub-culture so much so that they ceased to exist as bad.