Bollywood’s new vil­lains are no longer in- your- face bad­dies with scars. They charm you and then de­liver the killer punch.

India Today - - CINEMA - By Prachi Rege and Lak­shmi Kumaraswami

Leg­endary vil­lain, gang leader Seth Dharam Dayal Teja was im­mor­talised on screen by veteran ac­tor Ajit in the clas­sic Zan­jeer. Dressed in white from head to toe, he smoked his pipe and sipped on a glass of Vat 69. Forty years later, In­dia’s most pop­u­lar bad­die, ac­tor Prakash Raj, is all set to take over in the film’s re­make. But while Ajit’s style was good enough for 1973, to­day that just won’t do. “To­day’s idea of so­phis­ti­ca­tion has com­pletely changed— the white suit and Vat 69 looks out of place. In­stead, the bad guy drinks sin­gle malt and wears Ar­mani,” says Raj.

Gone are the days of Shakti Kapoor and Gul­shan Grover with scars on their faces, go­ing about their leery ways. To­day’s vil­lain is the seem­ingly hon­est IB chief Bhaskaran who launches a ter­ror­ist at­tack on the Kolkata Metro ( Ka­haani), the rogue ISI colonel who smug­gles a nu­clear bomb out of Latvia ( Agent Vinod), the politi­cian Jaikant Shikre who will do all in his power to bring down po­lice­man Sing­ham ( Sing­ham) or the di­a­mond mer­chant Dharmesh Zaveri who is also an il­le­gal arms dealer, with a spe­cial aver­sion to hon­esty ( Blood Money). Meet In­dian cinema’s new- age vil­lains. Far from the bungling man with an eye patch, these bad­dies have brains. They charm you, se­duce you, make you trust them and then at the most in­op­por­tune mo­ment, leave you in the lurch.

Re­flect­ing to­day’s real- life vil­lains, Bollywood’s reel vil­lains are seem­ingly or­di­nary peo­ple who are bank fraud­sters, dons, money laun­der­ers, rogue po­lice­men, cor­rupt politi­cians, dou­ble agent spies— the su­per smart, su­per suave white- col­lar criminals we hear about in the news. “As in real life, the line be­tween good and bad has blurred. This is now be­ing mir­rored in the reel world to cre­ate im­pact­ful and shock­ing char­ac­ters that help de­velop the plot of the film,” says film­maker Ma­hesh Bhatt. And these bad­dies mean busi­ness— which means their sole pur­pose in the film is not to kill, plun­der and laugh evilly. They chal­lenge the hero ( not just phys­i­cally), strike fear into any­one and are fiercely real. Di­rec­tors have re­alised the im­por­tance of a vil­lain’s role, with most of them hav­ing screen space as much as the hero. Ben­gali ac­tor Dhriti­man Chat­ter­jee, 66, who played Ja­gadish­war Metla, the businessman with a clipped Bri­tish ac­cent work­ing with ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions in Agent Vinod, sees the trans­for­ma­tion of the vil­lain a re­sult of the change in the nomen­cla­ture. “Just like the male lead of the film is no more re­ferred to as a ‘ hero’ but a pro­tag­o­nist, the vil­lain is now re­ferred to as a ‘ neg­a­tive char­ac­ter’ wrapped in shades of grey,” he points out.

The ul­ti­mate Bollywood bad­dies of to­day in­clude char­ac­ters like Man­gal Singh To­mar in Jan­nat 2. Por­trayed by Man­ish Chaud­hari, 43, To­mar is a re­li­gious Haryanvi grain ex­porter and an il­le­gal arms dealer in se­cret. Af­ter shoot­ing his work­ers in cold blood, he in­vokes the lord’s name (“Jai Ma Yudesh­wari”) and con­tin­ues with his usual morn­ing pray­ers. Film­maker Su­joy Ghosh, who cre­ated the char­ac­ter of the IB chief Bhaskaran ( played again by Chat­ter­jee) in his thriller Ka­haani, says there was no rocket sci­ence used in cre­at­ing his char­ac­ter be­cause he tried to keep it as re­al­is­tic as pos­si­ble. “When it comes to

vil­lains, what works is an av­er­age mid­dle or up­per mid­dle class per­son who will pass off as a harm­less per­son, but has a dark side to his so­phis­ti­cated per­sona. These are peo­ple who play sin­is­ter games at a high level,” he says.

Ac­tor Adil Hus­sain, 49, who played the evil colonel in Agent Vinod, be­lieves that when it comes to char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion, In­dian scriptwrit­ers and film­mak­ers are now think­ing just like their Western coun­ter­parts. “This is mostly the ( Rus­sian film­maker) Lee Stras­berg school of act­ing ap­proach, which deals with the re­al­is­tic genre of film­mak­ing,” he says. Hus­sain’s char­ac­ter Colonel is a pi­lot in dis­guise and is work­ing for a group of rogue ISI colonels who are plan­ning an at­tack on In­dia.

But by cre­at­ing such com­plex char­ac­ters, cast­ing be­comes cru­cial. Film­mak­ers are now look­ing for ac­tors who are not well- known faces in main­stream cinema. “I chose Chaud­hari to play Man­gal Singh To­mar for his act­ing skills, not the glam­our quo­tient,” says Ku­nal Desh­mukh, who di­rected Jan­nat 2.

The key is to go for lesser- known ac­tors for the char­ac­ter to get more pop­u­lar than the ac­tor’s iden­tity. “I chose to cast Dhriti­man as Bhaskaran as he doesn’t come with the bag­gage of be­ing evil on- screen. Not many in the au­di­ence knew him and that worked for the film’s thrill,” ex­plains Ghosh. Chat­ter­jee finds it heart­en­ing to see that In­dian films are now slowly, yet steadily, try­ing to shed the ten­dency of de­pend­ing on a ‘ star’ for a film to work. Plot and char­ac­ters es­sayed in the film are gain­ing more im­por­tance. Chaud­hari is thank­ful for his role of an evil boss in Rocket Singh— Sales­man of the Year, which landed him his dream role in Blood Money. How­ever, there are some ac­tors who have be­come stars in their own right by play­ing ter­ri­fy­ing vil­lains. Raj, 47, has played the bad­die in Tamil, Tel­ugu, Kan­nada and, more re­cently, Hindi films. News re­ports also state that he is In­dia’s high­est paid vil­lain— he was paid Rs 40 lakh for a role in a Kan­nada film.

It looks like com­plex vil­lains ap­peal more to an au­di­ence than an­tag­o­nists in movies like RA. One that di­vides ev­ery­thing into black and white. They can re­late to such char­ac­ters eas­ily as they might have en­coun­tered a sim­i­lar per­son­al­ity in their ev­ery­day lives. In 1995, Hus­sain was in­vited for an act­ing work­shop with the in­mates of Ti­har Jail. He says of his ex­pe­ri­ence, “Meet­ing these criminals one would re­alise how nor­mal and suave they are, but there is a grey side to them which leads to the heinous crime.” So brace your­selves for the new- age bad guy, who has one sim­ple of­fer for the good guy, “Kya chahiye tumhe, sach ya khushi? ( What is it you want, the truth or hap­pi­ness?)”


Ka­haani and Agent Vinod “World af­fairs are com­plex for lowly po­lice of­fi­cers to un­der­stand.”


Blood Money and Jan­nat 2 “Busi­ness iman­dari se nahi kiya jata, iman­dari aadmi ko foot­path pe laati hai ( Busi­ness is not done with hon­esty, hon­esty lands a man on the foot­path).”


Ishqiya and Agent Vinod

“Sharabi hai, laun­dibaz hai, ek gandi

aa­dat aur hai, iman­dar hai ( He is a drunk­ard, a wom­an­iser and has one more vice, he is hon­est).”

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