Heroes Turn Anti-haroes
Ashok Kumar / Kismet (1943)
One of the biggest hits in the history of Hindi cinema, Kismet ran for three long years in the same cinema hall in Calcutta. The film is a representative example, prefiguring the kind of entertainment extravaganza that has become the hallmark of Bollywood films. Kismet changed the image of the 'ideal son' hero drastically, with Ashok Kumar as the smooth talking, chain-smoking 'criminal' hero who conducted his affairs, including those of the heart, on his own terms. He seemed to appeal to the audience who saw him break the law and fool the police. They loved him even as a thief. Indeed, the film was the basis for all anti-hero roles played by Amitabh Bachchan in the 1980s. Kismet was not only Indian cinema's biggest blockbuster, but also one of the most influential films of all times.
Sunil Dutt / Mother India (1957) / Mujhe Jeene Do (1963)
Mother India: One of Hindi cinema’s best examples of inspired storytelling, Mother India had a star-making role for Sunil Dutt. Dutt plays Birju, the younger son of the central character, played by Nargis. Having grown up in an atmosphere of denial and deprivation in the rural heartland, Birju has witnessed humiliation heaped on his single mother. He is roughened by life, ready for revenge. Despite the bare-knuckled bravado of Birju, Dutt conveys the humanity within his character’s brash exterior. That is the triumph of his performance. The skillful shading that Dutt and director Mehboob Khan impart on the character’s misguided actions helps establish why Birju's mother cannot forgive his final transgression.
Mujhe Jeene Do: For his home production, Dut did not play it safe. He chose to play the role of a ruthless dacoit who kills those who oppose him. He kidnaps a dancer (Waheeda Rehman) and starts a family with her. Dutt’s fiery performance won him his first Best Actor award from Filmfare. The role came to be identified with him and proved to be a precursor of the many dacoity sagas on horseback and the negative roles (Geeta Mera Naam, 36 Ghante) he played much later in the 1970s.
Dilip Kumar / Gunga Jumna (1961)
The film was a trendsetter for movies like Deewaar, Trishul, Amar Akbar Anthony which had similar themes of two brothers on the opposite sides of law. The film is about two brothers, Gunga and Jumna, growing up in a village controlled by an evil landlord. Ganga (Dilip Kumar) is a spirited and hardworking fellow, unafraid to take on the zamindar when necessary, while his brother Jumna (Nasir Khan) is more measured and cautious. Things get complicated when Ganga saves a local girl, Dhanno (Vyjayanthimala), from the zamindar's lecherous assault. The zamindar (Anwar Hussain) gets his revenge by trumping up a robbery charge against Ganga, landing him in prison. Upon his release, Ganga attacks and robs the zamindar in a rage. Soon Ganga finds himself an outlaw, and, with Dhanno at his side, he joins a gang of bandits camping out in the wilderness. In the meantime, Jumna meets a fatherly police officer (Nasir Hussain) and becomes a police officer himself. It isn't long before Jumna's professional wanderings take him back to the village of his birth, where he must square off against his outlaw brother, in a showdown between duty and family. Ganga Jamuna’s luster even after all these years comes from the sheer brilliance of its performances . Dilip Kumar literally lives the role of a village rustic..be his body language or the fluency with which he speaks the awadhi dialect. Ganga Jamuna is a classic and showcase for Dilip Kumar’s talent as a performer-par-excellence.
Amitabh Bachchan / Deewar (1975) / Don (1978)
Deewaar: Reflective of "the tumultuous politics of the early 70s" in India, Deewar tells the story of two impoverished brothers who grow up to follow different career paths: Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) is a smuggler and Ravi (Shashi Kapoor) a policeman who eventually must hunt down Vijay. After their family is betrayed by the misplaced idealism of their father, Vijay, the elder brother, grows up with an acute awareness of his father's failure and is victimized for his father's supposed misdeeds. In the process of fighting for his rights Vijay, who starts out as a boot polisher and becomes a dockyard worker in his youth, becomes a smuggler and a leading figure of the underworld. Their mother, who had sided with Ravi despite the fact that Vijay was her favorite, is tormented by Vijay's decisions and rejects him. When the two brothers meet for a final clash, however, it is Vijay who dies in her arms seeking forgiveness. Vijay's character is said to be loosely based on real life smuggler Haji Mastan. Deewaar was a ground-breaking work. It was one of a few films which established Bachchan as the "angry young man" of Bollywood cinema. Deewaar received the Filmfare Best Movie Award of 1975 in addition to six other Filmfare Awards and was a "superhit" at the box office.
Don: Don (Amitabh Bachchan) is the leader of an underworld gang until Police Officer D'Silva (Iftekhar) tracks him down and in an attempt to catch him ends up killing him. But Don's death is only known to D'Silva. So Officer D'Silva tracks down a lookalike of Don named Vijay. Vijay impersonates Don to take down the rest of Don's gang. Officer D'Silva is killed by Malik who is introduced as the Interpol officer, but is in fact the real king of the underworld. It's now a race to retrieve the diary in which the DSP has documented the substitution of the real Don with the innocent Vijay. The film has gained cult film status in India and a dialogue of the movie “Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, namumkin hai (It is not just difficult to catch Don, it is impossible)”, an all time famous dialogue.
Shahrukh Khan / Baazigar (1993) / Darr (1993)
Baazigar: “Playing villain is one of the greatest highs. Evil or devil, black or little grey characters, be it in books, stories, films or television have some sort of attraction.”- Shahrukh Khan. He has, indeed, done his fans proud with some of the most spine chilling negative roles in Bollywood cinema. He started it all with Baazigar, where he played a guy who wanted to avenge his father’s death, and goes ahead to ruin the man financially, kill his elder daughter and try to marry his younger one. Baazigar, inspired by the novel A Kiss Before Dying, is a contemporary thriller about a young man who stops at nothing to get what he wants. This was Shahrukh Khan's breakthrough role as the sole lead and was also the first film where Shahrukh Khan played a negative role. The negative character played by Shahrukh took his career to new heights and established him as an acclaimed actor in Bollywood.
Darr: A psychological thriller, Darr is a story of an obsessive lover, played by Shahrukh to get his love- Juhi Chawla, who is already happily married to Sunny Deol. Shah Rukh Khan plays a mental case who stalks Juhi Chawla, and he did it with elan. There are some sequences which later made into the template of a one-sided love story. The anti-chemistry between SRK and Juhi Chawla was out of this world. It is considered to be one of his best performances and earned Shahrukh a Filmfare Award nomination for Best Villain. In 1993, Khan won acclaim for his performances in villainous roles as an obsessive lover and a murderer, respectively, in the box office hits, Darr and Baazigar. In Khan's entry in Encyclopædia Britannica's "Encyclopedia of Hindi Cinema", it was stated that "he defied the image of the conventional hero in both these films and created his own version of the revisionist hero."
Sanjay Dutt / Khal Nayak (1993)
“Khalnayak” belongs to the genre of films where two male characters are from opposite lanes of life and their ideals clash. The story centers around the escape and attempted capture of a terrorist criminal, Ballu (Sanjay Dutt), by Inspector Ram (Jackie Shroff) and his girlfriend Ganga (Madhuri Dixit). The film was well received by critics as well as the audience. It became an instant blockbuster, breaking many previous records. Sanjay Dutt is in his element in the title role expressing fury, resentment and sadness. His interactions with other performers crackles with chemistry, be it Madhuri, Jackie or Raakhee. Sanjay Dutt and Madhuri Dixit were nominated in Best Actor and Best Actress categories, respectively for Filmfare Awaeds.. “Khalnayak” is a solid entertainer, with sterling performances, catchy music and some very good direction, and Box office India declared the film a "super hit" at the box office.
The list of strong villains does not end here. In “Sarfarosh” Naseeruddin Shah came up with a brilliant performance as Gulfaam Hassan who is well known Gazal singer but also a Pakistani agent who is working against India. In “Yuva” Abhishek Bachchan in his first negative character, is not the ultimate villain in the movie but the most effective and eye catching character who can do anything for money and power. His character could be called as gray character rather than totally black evil one. He did justice to the character. Saif Ali Khan too has experimented with dark characters. His career took a different turn after he played negative roles in Ek Haseena Thi, Being Cyrus and Omkara. John Abrahm in “Dhoom” wasn’t evil, he was villain just because he was a thief. The character was in itself so brilliant and applauded by the audiences that it was repeated in “Dhoom 2” with Hritik Roshan playing the villain and now Amir Khan is slated to play in “Dhoom 3”. Sanjay Dutt who plays the negative role of Kancha Cheena in Karan Johar's Agneepath remake has generated more buzz than the lead actor Hrithik Roshan, who steps into the big boots of Amitabh Bachchan. Reportedly, even Krrish 2 has a powerful villain. The role played by Vivek Oberoi is said to be on the lines of Joker from the Batman series. In fact, as is apparent from the trend, we are going to see most of the heroes turn anti-heroes.