Sans undue modesty, Ranveer Singh says that he does not think any character (of a leading man who is also an antagonist) written for Hindi cinema has had the dark depths of Allauddin Khilji, the role he has essayed so stunningly in Padmaavat.
What stood out were also Singh’s complete transformation into evil and the intense prep that went into it. If, for argument’s sake, the character scored 90 on paper and in Bhansali’s vision, Singh raised the bar to make it 100—perhaps even a little more.
Without doubt, Singh’s essay ranks among the most vicious characters we have ever witnessed in Hindi cinema, including classic malevolence depicted by every reel villain worth their salt. Obviously, when a lead hero or a heroine takes us such a vicious challenge, the impact is all the more.
Here’s looking at 11 names that top the Rogues’ Gallery of Hindi cinema, characters so ruthless, vicious and focused at their evil games, without the least psychological or medical excuse for being what they are. They did have their motivations, but they were all unapologetically evil!
Ajay Devgn – Deewangee (2002)
Split personality disorders are often the background for evildoers in cinema. But what if a completely sane man pretends to be a schizophrenic, gets acquitted of a murder charge, and then whimsically challenges the man who actually fought for him and begins a new deadly game. Anees Bazmee specializes in whacky comedy, but he showed his supreme grasp at writing and directing a riveting thriller here. And Devgn rose to the occasion to show a superbly evil side.
Akshay Kumar – Ajnabee (2001)
Lovable and charming rake who was actually a hateful mercenary—for him emotions, almost, was a dirty word! Ruthless to the core, this amoral man was so calculating that his password too was his favourite line, “Everything is planned!” Directors Abbas-Mustan always ‘twisted’ a lot of their lead protagonists, and this was one of their best efforts.
Akshaye Khanna – Humraaz (2002)
The end justifies the means. This was Akshaye Khanna’s character’s credo in yet another Abbas-Mustan thriller as he went relentlessly about his one-point agenda of money, more money and untold riches, eliminating anyone who comes in his way. Khanna’s natural rakish charm and soft tenor helped create this quietly menacing young man.
Kajol – Gupt (1997)
She was so obsessed with her love for Bobby Deol’s character that she literally stopped at nothing to remove hurdles, real or perceived, in the path of their union. This was the 180 degree flip given to her angelic devotion to him. And so the lines between right and wrong blurred into nothingness when it came to anyone, in any way, trying to drive a wedge between them. Ruthless, as a word, was woefully inadequate for her temperament. Kajol was magnificent, and Rajiv Rai’s direction and script set a benchmark for whodunits.
Nanda – Ittefaq (1969)
Can you imagine an oh-so-sweet maiden being so cold-blooded that she would not think twice about eliminating her husband and yet pretending to be a distraught wife? By coincidence, a stranger falsely accused of another murder lands in her house while fleeing from the law and the black widow inveigles him into her deadly web. Full makes to veteran Yash Chopra for this mind-shattering casting of one of Hindi cinema’s sweetest real and reel heroines, Nanda, as the femme fatale! Even today, she barely has any equals!
Neil Nitin Mukesh – Johnny Gaddar (2007)
Maybe the first twist in his life’s tale was unexpected, but after that, Johnny (as he called himself) set determinedly on a very straight path—of being evil. No one and nothing mattered when it came to what he wanted out of life. For a first-timer, it was a character worth its weight in (black?) gold, and aided by Sriram Raghavan’s deft direction, Mukesh made a stunner of an impact in his debut film!
Priyanka Chopra – Aitraaz (2004)
How far down the abyss can a spoilt, ambitious and mercenary woman slide for her own ends? Initially, she just wants to get rich at any cost, and when she marries a much-older tycoon for money, she begins to think that money can get her anything. Though Chopra was amazing as the completely selfish and self-centered girl, her breakdown sequence when she realizes that she has been defeated was the high-point of this chilling performance.
Rajesh Khanna – Saccha Jhutha (1970)
He was the ‘jhutha’, the leader of a criminal gang. Smart, charming and totally without scruples or feelings, he even kills the doctor who treats him for his injuries despite having brought him blindfolded to his hideout! He finally meets his Nemesis when his honest country bumpkin lookalike (saccha) comes to the city and becomes instrumental in his destruction. Khanna effortlessly created two opposite characters who finally looked identical! Manmohan Desai’s masterly execution showed the ultimate romantic sensation in a daring new light.
Saif Ali Khan – Ek Hasina Thi (2004)
His other evil turns within three years, Being Cyrus and Omkara, paled before this amoral dude who had absolutely no compunction about using people for his own narrow and evil ends. He is brazen enough to admit that he is tired of all the games he is playing, but he pays for it all, gruesomely, in a hair-raising finale of this Sriram Raghavan nail-biter.
Shah Rukh Khan – Baazigar (1993)
Shah Rukh Khan too had his trilogy of evil essays around the same time (Darr, Anjaam), but it was this Abbas-Mustan film that saw him absolutely sans compassion. It was the best of three bravura acts for an actor who was trying to make a name as a hero, but it was the clinical focus of the character and the crackling flow of the script that made Khan and this film tower over the other two. Khan was effortlessly manic, his expressions, voice and body language all stressing on his only goal in life—vendetta against those who had destroyed his family!
Varun Dhawan – Badlapur (2015)
He had lost everything—his wife, his child, his peace of mind, his work skills and his zest for living. Correction: he was living now only to exterminate those who caused him this misery. In this supremely-crafted Sriram Raghavan thriller that finally showed the utter futility of vendetta, Dhawan’s portrayal of a man who degrades himself irrevocably into someone worse than those he wants to destroy, left a passing scar even on the viewer!