Changing face of evil in Bollywood...

By Priyanka Khanna, IANS

imageNew Delhi, (IANS) Actor Randeep Hooda as Deshu in Ram Gopal Varma's "D" as an average, brooding young man is the newest face of evil in the Hindi film industry - a far cry from the mad Mogambo of "Mr India" wanting to take on the world.

The hero in Bollywood has continued to epitomise the do-gooder Hindu mythological character of Ram.

When it came to sketching the character of a villain, however, the adherence to the notion of a villain was not applied.

Today's bad boys are so close to real life they fail to evoke fear of the kind that a Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan) of "Sholay" used to. Probably the last in the line of villains with panache was actor Naseeruddin Shah's portrayal of Mastana, the don from Kaizad Gustaad's "Bombay Boys".

Mastana was the archetypal filmi bad guy, a throwback to the villains of old - over-the-top characters who were pure, 100 per cent bad.

Amrish Puri as Mogambo in "Mr India", Anupam Kher as Dr. Dang of "Karma" and Kulbhushan Kharbanda as Shaakaal in "Shaan" were larger than life and a perfect foil for the do-gooder hero.

Amjad Khan as Gabbar Singh in "Sholay" was pure evil. It became popular legend that mothers would use Gabbar Singh to frighten children to going to bed on time or finishing their breakfast. Fascination for Gabbar went beyond his mannerism and one-liners.

While there had been the grey character in many old films --- played by Dev Anand ("Baazi", "Jaal"), Raj Kapoor ("Shri 420"), Amitabh Bachchan ("Deewar") -- there was no doubt that what they did was bad, and they would repent before accepting punishment.

In the 1990s, the heroes took over the villain's part as ruthless terrorists, or bloodthirsty gangsters, but always with a reason to justify their act.

Even in "D" the message going out is that villains are not really bad people; they are misled youth who are destined to meet a bad end.

Contemporary filmmakers are moving into a new direction where they're portraying two sides of every character, letting people make the value judgments on who is 'bad' and who is 'good.' What is lost forever is how film villains of the 60s and 70s use to make their audiences tremble in cinema halls.

The death of the mythical villain is also linked to the impact of media and cable TV on the life of the ticket-buying Indian. Instant news and investigative journalism removed most of the mystique surrounding the corrupt politician and the bad cop. No one can really fear a character you have read about in an evening tabloid.

The perception of mobsters has also changed significantly. Hating the villain and rejoicing over his death at the hands of the do-gooder, has now been replaced with a stage where criminals enjoy respectability and social acceptability.

Francis Ford Coppola's cinematic adaptation of writer Mario Puzo's "The Godfather" has had a huge impact on changing the perception of mobsters.

Says observer Deepa Gehlot: "The movie lent glamour and respectability to the mobster."

Ram Gopal Varma's "Satya" and "Company" and others like "Vaastav" established that respect can be bought.

Says Deepa: "The decent person's horror of crime and the shame that a family would have felt -- until a few years ago -- if their son went to jail has been replaced by a swaggering pride. Gangsters live a life of luxury abroad, which is any day a more attractive proposition to a poor unemployed boy whose only prospects are to be a peon or courier if he wants to lead an honest life."

She adds: "Of course it is a failure of society at large if the poor feel stifled by the lack of opportunity. But that is also a very convenient explanation. The fact is that our society has become immune and desensitised to violence. It would be foolish to say that films, TV and the media lead to violence, but they do offer the methods, respectability and social acceptability to criminals."

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Oblivious to criticism that filmmakers are glorifying the underworld, Ram Gopal Varma is also working on an Indian adaptation of "The Godfather".

The film titled "Sarkar" stars Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan and is slated for release July 1.

In an interview, Varma said: "Everybody who took the gun died a miserable death at the end of the day in the film. So when people accuse me of glorifying violence, this is my answer."

He added: "The point is that a filmmaker is like a journalist in projecting reality in the true sense of the word. He only packages it dramatically for greater effect."

Speaking about performances in "Sarkar", he claims that Abhishek is a better performer than his father, Amitabh.

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After rave reviews for "Yuva" and "Bunty Aur Babli", and praise from filmmakers like Mani Ratnam and Ram Gopal Varma, Abhishek Bachchan has added another feature to his cap.

"Antar Mahal", a bilingual by acclaimed Bengali director Rituparno Ghosh that features Abhishek in the lead, has been selected for the competition section of the 58th Locarno International Film Festival.

Ghosh's previous film "Chokher Bali" was also selected in the same category of the festival last year. "Antar Mahal" stars Abhishek, Soha Ali Khan, Jackie Shroff and Raima Sen.

IANS