Villains never know they are villains in a picture, so I play this like I’m the nicest guy in the world. – Wayne Rogers

While watching the 1971 hit Guddi, which coincidently was a debut of Jaya Bhaduri, one of the finest actresses that Indian Film Industry was about to witness, you learn some long forgotten lessons. The movie, which was a reflection on what goes behind the scenes, and how reel was different from real, actually did a great job in making audience aware of the real humans who played the much hated roles of villains.

Villainy was a genre much too in common prevalence in the older decades, ever since the inception of Indian Cinema. Though these vile characters still exist in movies, the flame is much in a dwindled state, and negative characters are more or less non-existent in today’s experimental Bollywood. Though trying to differ and detach from the cliché is welcome, one can’t help but sometimes feel nostalgic on the mere mention of some iconic negative roles played by the likes of legends like Pran sahib, Prem Chopra, Amrish Puri, and many more. Let us go back and forth in times to catch this unforgettable genre.

Pran, Prem Chopra, Amjad Khan and Amrish Puri - Inimitable Stalwart Villains of Bollywood
Pran, Prem Chopra, Amjad Khan and Amrish Puri – Inimitable Stalwart Villains of Bollywood


The Black & White Creepiness

Though we were not there to witness this decade which marked the remarkable journey of the beauty and diversity that Indian Cinema is, but there are two actors, who definitely stand out, and actually made us feel the chills; Jeevan & Pran.

Pran in " Ram aur Shyam"
Pran in ” Ram Aur Shyam”

Who can forget the legendary and evil character of an evil brother in law played by Pran in the famous Ram Aur Shyam. Even though the movie gave way to many remakes, but none could match the vileness portrayed on screen by Pran Saheb. While Pran experimented with his characters which ranged from brother to a vile friend to father in law, and many more, depending on the age of character, Jeevan genre was more or less limited, but that does not make him less accomplished as an actor.

For an actor who started his film career portraying the character of Narada, in back to back two religious movies, portraying villainy was a huge and unexpected leap.(click here for Jeevan’s interview) Though you can see definite Hollywood imagery and impact in the movies of that time and genre, but there is no denying the fact that it was the pure gold era, with some of the finest and most believable performances. Maybe that was why the audience was vain enough not to understand that the reel villains were actually normal human beings, just like us.

Jeevan in
Jeevan in “Phool Aur Patthar”

The villainy that continued to colored celluloid

Prem Nath, Madan Puri, Ranjeet and Ajit
Prem Nath, Madan Puri, Ranjeet and Ajit

Pran & Jeevan continued their dominance in the genre with pure and unmatched talent, even after color entered the celluloid of Indian cinema. But now, in the decades of colors, some new and talented names too made their way and left a mark in the genre. Some of these had also been present in the black and white era of Bollywood, but the ladder of their success was ascended in these colored years of Indian cinema.

Some of these celebrated names were; Prem Chopra, Prem Nath (who could play character roles with as much ease), Ranjit, Madan Puri, Amjad Khan, Ajit, and many others (pardon our memory), these early decades were a plethora of unexhausted talent. None can forget the vile Gabbar Singh of Sholay, or even the Kailash of Kati Patang; The Lion still sends chills down our spine with his accented threats and unique dialogue delivery, and the mob boss Robert of Amar Akbar Anthony still shows a deep seed of hatred whenever we watch the movie.

Prem Chopra, who ironically started his innings with the role of Sukhdev in Shaheed, too was one of the most remembered villains of these times. Who can forget, “Prem naam hai mera, Prem Chopra”. These men made the screen, and our negative emotions for them, come alive on silver screen, with the immense and intense talent that they possessed.

Amjad Khan became a cult after playing the role of Gabbar Singh in " Sholay"
Amjad Khan became a cult after playing the role of Gabbar Singh in ” Sholay”

The Confused Decade of 80’s

Anupam Kher, Kulbhusan Kharbanda, Danny Denzogappa and Shakti Kapoor
Anupam Kher, Kulbhusan Kharbanda, Danny Denzongpa and Shakti Kapoor

As we always maintain, and many would agree, the 80s was a dark decade for creativity in Indian cinema, much due to the fact, that bling and jazz were given preference over creativity and talent, because of which even this genre suffered a great deal. Some of the notable negative characters of the decade were played by Anupam Kher, Amrish Puri, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Danny, Kader Khan, Paresh Rawal and of course, the very famous and our very own Shakti Kapoor.

However, in later years, most of these actors were better suited for character roles, and in case of Shakti Kapoor, comedy, which was not exactly suited for elite tastes, but nevertheless, was there. Though they played their parts with conviction, there was something very off and disturbing about these characters. There was no class, and cheap and offensive dialogs were on the peak. While the yesteryears villains portrayed characters that had a class in spite of the negativity they portrayed on screen, these characters of the 80s tried too hard and ended nowhere. Though 80s was not entirely a failure, but creativity was limited to parallel cinema, where there was no place for typical masala flick villain.

Even the characters played by Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Amrish Puri in the movies Shaan and Mr India respectively were too westernized, even though they did make it to the list of most iconic villains of all time.

Amrish Puri performance in Mr. India made his character "Mogambo" immortal
Amrish Puri performance in Mr. India made his character “Mogambo” immortal

One remarkable performance brought back the life in the genre, and one man entered it, with class. He was Sadashiv Amrapurkar, and the character that he played was that of Rama Shetty, a local don, in the critically acclaimed movie, Ardh Satya. He struck gold again with his role as the “Maharani” in the movie Sadak, which again earned him accolades. And so, the villains were back in the game, even if not commercially, but with these choice roles which were vile enough to have a lasting impact. (Click here  for Sadashiv Amrapurkar’s Interview)

Filmmaker Govind Nihalani was instrumental in introducing Sadashiv Amrapurkar as Rama Shetty in his film “Ardh Satya”
Filmmaker Govind Nihalani was instrumental in introducing Sadashiv Amrapurkar as Rama Shetty in his film “Ardh Satya”

Did this legendary genre die a slow death? Or there were some characters waiting around to surprise and shock us with vileness they possessed? What was in store for this iconic negative role, that we had grown to love and hate at the same time? To know more, wait for the second part of this series.

To Read The 2nd Part Click

Written By – Kadambari Srivastava

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