Ronit Roy’s superb performance in the potboiler Guddu Rangeela, in which his eyes express much more than even his resonant voice, once again spotlights the fact that he is a far more effective bad-man than the flop hero he misguidedly was in ’90s B-graders like Jaan Tere Naam, Bomb Blast, Sainik and more. Ronit is a fitness freak, and also runs a security agency with elite clients even from the industry, including the three Khans and Amitabh Bachchan, all seeming to strengthen his brand as a toughie.
The new innings began with Udaan, in which he was practically the protagonist, and he has since played gray to dark roles in films like Student Of The Year, Boss and 2 States. His rugged persona gives a stylized edge to his characters, showing that villainy was perhaps his real forte always.
From Flop to Hit
Two more heroes who virtually disappeared before finding their true niche as villains come to mind: Nutan’s son Mohnish Bahl, who after nondescript hero roles and films (Bekaraar, Teri Baahon Mein, Yeh Kaisa Farz) had all but vamoosed till Sooraj R. Barjatya cast him as the bad boy in Maie Pyar Kiya as Salman Khan‘s antagonist.
This chocolate hero attained a new dimension as the slimy brat, and caught audience fancy for the first time. The director recalled how Mohnish’s late mother, Nutan, was apprehensive about the negative character, but he assured the actress that her son would never regret doing the film-which came true. Baaghi, Deewana, Shola Aur Shabnam and Bol Radha Bol were among the hits that followed among myriad assignments, and in a natural progression, Mohnish began doing a few sympathetic supporting roles as well, led by another Sooraj film, Hum Aapke Hain Koun! …, in which he played Salman’s affectionate brother.
Kiran Kumar, son of veteran Jeevan, who himself moved from hero to villain, was little more than a poor man’s Rajesh Khanna in his films as a hero in the early ’70s. While his only hit was the heroine-centric Bindiya Aur Bandook in 1973, the same year saw his most respectable film as well, the comedy Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar.
Kiran’s return as tough, ruthless villain in Rakesh Roshan’s Khudgarz (1987) followed by Tezaab and many more made him develop an original persona that later held him in good stead in multiple white and black roles in films as well as on television.
But…It Happened Before!
Many old-timers also followed this pattern apart from the unique Jeevan, who was one of the earliest actors to intentionally develop a popular style of hamming and drawling his lines. Despite his unconventional face, he did play the lead in several films in the ’40s, but never insisted on leads.
Finally, he found his true niche as a villain with a specific style of delivering his lines, and went into the Guinness Book as someone who played Naarad Muni, the inciter of the gods, in over 60 films! Phool Aur Patthar, Jeevan Mrityu, Johny Mera Naam and his Manmohan Desai blockbusters led by Amar Akbar Anthony were among his biggest hits. As Jeevan stated once and always proved with his performances, “The job of the villain is to make the hero look super-human!”
The rugged, handsome Jayant, father of the celebrated Amjad Khan (who went the reverse way-from villain to hero-with limited success) started out in the ’30s and shifted to gray and black characters only from the late ’40s, though he also portrayed sympathetic characters till the end. Himalay Ki God Mein, Jaane Anjaane, Anmol Moti and other films saw him as the menacing villain.
Finally we come to the four celebrated villains, all impressively good-looking, who turned black to attain their greatest laurels. Pran, a Dadasheb Phalke laureate, shifted to villainy after just a few films as hero, finding running around trees and doing all the hero’s requisites on screen “boring”.
On the other hand, Prem Chopra self-admittedly became a villain “only because” all his films as a hero flopped, leading him to becoming a baddie and reaching a very high status in that field. Woh Kaun Thi? (1964) started the gravy train that chugged on for almost 40 years. Of course, his flair for comic villainy led to him doing occasional positive roles with a comic flourish too from the ’80s.
Ajit, whose persona as a villain has created a bank of Loin and Mona jokes, was perhaps the most sophisticated villain, and one of the handsomest bad guys. Tough but tepid as a leading man in over 80 films (Sikander, Nastik, Halaku, Opera House et al), he still found his true forte as an arch-villain after his career as hero packed up in the mid-’60s. Veteran jubilee star Rajendra Kumar asked him if he would like to be the villain in Suraj (1966)-and a villain was born.
Ajit’s hit-streak in negative roles was indeed enviable, Heer Ranjha, Jeevan Mrityu, Zanjeer, Yaadon Ki Baraat, Kalicharan (as Loin) and Des Pardes being among them. Yes, like all villains, he essayed the occasional ‘good’ role, but the menacing, suave persona of a killer outlasted all.
Finally, the leering, lascivious, scowling or lethal Premnath became of the biggest screen scoundrels of ’70s Hindi cinema, though he had played gray and negative roles earlier, as in Teesri Manzil. Beginning as a hero in the late ’40s, his true break as a villain came with the 1970 Johny Mera Naam. Significantly, Premnath always did positive roles alongside (Shor, Bobby, Roti Kapada Aur Makaan, Kalicharan and more), yet struck gold as the evildoer in so many films like Raja Jani, Loafer, Amir Garib, Sanyasi, Vishwanath and Karz.
The Female Side
Lalita Powar, the archetype of the scheming woman or/and evil mother-in-law, was an in-demand heroine and glamorous star from the late 1920s silent movies, who also sported a bikini in those times! An accident in 1942 that damaged her eye made her shift to character roles, and soon her evil turns became famous, ironically with the physical appearance of her eye enhancing her ‘wickedness’! Her films as the wicked old wench are legion.
Bindu, who did small roles earlier, teamed up with solo hero Vinod Khanna in Nateeja as leading lady and simultaneously signed Do Raaste as the vamp. Both films released in 1969, the first going into oblivion and the other movie turning out to be the year’s biggest money-spinner. The Nateeja (result) was clear: a vamp, not a heroine, was born!