My favourite Bollywood anti-heroes from past decade

December 23, 2009

They have great style, be it over-the-top dialogues, pulling off a perfect rape sequence or sheer physical intimidation.

ENTERTAINMENT BOLLYWOODThere is something so alluring about Hindi cinema’s bad boys, or anti-heroes as they now prefer to be called, that a post on our stereotyped evil geniuses was long overdue.

Like electronic equipment, the market for Bollywood ‘villains’ has shifted in the last decade from imported Hollywood-influenced in-your-face supermen to home-grown delightfully subtle boy-next-door types.

Mind-games and gadgets have taken precedence over melodrama and gun toting.

Move over, Gabbar Singh.
Bollywood has moved on from portraying ruthless bandits as notorious villains.

It is no longer necessary to come horse-back riding, a scarf flung across the neck, red vermillion smeared across the forehead, to make a point.

Anti-heroes now track the share market to induce huge losses to the hero’s company or live completely normal lives with wife and kids, even when possessed by the supernatural.

Priest lusting after the sari-clad young devotee, corrupt politician seeking re-election, heroine’s best friend who cannot have her, self-obsessed soccer stars – the film industry has begun to realize that everyday human failings can be packaged to appeal to their target audience.

I compiled a list of some of my favourite anti-heroes of the past decade giving points for originality, subtlety, charm and sheer evil genius.

Naseeruddin Shah (Sarfarosh: 1999) – He played the role of a brilliant strategist of an arms smuggling racket masquerading as a Pakistani Ghazal singer in a movie that broke the mould of how the police were portrayed in Indian films. His soft-spoken, unassuming demeanor was refreshingly new to senses accustomed to melodramatic guffaws and improbable dialogues.

Urmila Matondkar (Kaun: 1999) – As an unhinged but glamorous serial killer, Urmila Matondkar is convincing if a little over-the-top in this Ram Gopal Varma thriller. What I like about her character is that she never loses the lipstick, even when mortally scared for her life, and brilliantly outshines the cast of three in histrionics.

Kay Kay Menon (Shaurya: 2008) – Kay Kay as a whiskey-drinking suave armyman who has a sea of bottled up hatred against Muslims carries off the role reasonably well. Until the end that is. When the quintessential Bollywood villain possesses him and turns him into our familiar cursing, frothing evil madcap.

Shah Rukh Khan (Don: 2006) – Only the genius of Shah Rukh Khan can bring out the mannerisms of a charming, ruthless villain that are cinematically identical to his roles as an honest and passionate hero. How he does that, is beyond me. Yet Khan dominates every scene, every frame of Don and it is impossible not to acknowledge his sinister charm.

Saif Ali Khan (Omkara: 2006) – Saif as ‘Langda’ Tyagi is simply brilliant. His jealousy triggered by crushed ambitions, brings out the worst in him as easily as it would have in anyone in real life. He is manipulative, rustic and as real as the movie is surreal.

Abhishek Bachchan (Yuva: 2005) – Appearing as a goon, Bachchan defined his own future career path in this Mani Ratnam flick, working hard to move away from the image of a romantic hero to more darker roles. He joined a growing trickle of actors who felt safe to portray the negative shades in protagonists.

Kay Kay Menon (Life in a Metro: 2007) – Again, Kay Kay as the cheating husband is very believable in this film that showed facets of life in a cosmopolitan and how the various characters deal with day-to-day challenges.

Do let us know who creeps you out in Hindi films, who you will never trust your daughter with, or invite into your home.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

My favourite in the above list is Naseer from Sarfarosh. He plays a Muslim who is involved in arms smuggling but breaks the stereotype of the ‘bad muslim’ which Bollywood has been flogging to death.
It is his feudal mindset which motivates his ire against people on both sides of the border irrespective of religion.
That was a fresh and enlightening look on the many, many reasons why someone may pick a gun and aim it at innocents.
I have an issue with the name of Langda Tyaagi in the list.
Unless we are calling every negative character played by an actor who usually plays a hero “Anti-Hero” i dont see how he qualifies. Langda Tyaagi, like Iago in Othello, is hardly grey, he is bad and all black. Nothing appears to redeem him, not even guilt for he is bumped off at the end of the movie.
The anti-hero in the list should be Ajay Devgan’s Omkaaraa whose flaw is his gullibility and tendency to get carried away and lack of trust in Dolly who he obviously loves (and which in a fashion redeems him).

Posted by VipulTripathi | Report as abusive

Priyanka Chopra act from Aitraz – could it have made it to this list??

Posted by CeeJay | Report as abusive

Boring list…….

Posted by amma | Report as abusive

Hi Rituparna…why to forget Shahrukh Khan again in Darr…in my view it was the best anti-hero role played by SRK.

Posted by AurumWriters | Report as abusive

Where is Amitabh bachchan for AANKHEIN????…..Man you cant miss that…..its pathetic that you include average perfrmance of Naseeruddin shah and Shahrukh khan but forgot to mention names like Ajay Devgan (Khakee) and Amitabh (Aankhein) who really excelled in the well deserved villaneous roles…….My request to you is that you should watch movies like Ankhein and Khakee and you will be proud to see such performances….

Posted by kkksss | Report as abusive

How about Kay Kay Menon in Gulaal? Tho I also l;ike Saif in Omkara

Posted by Neel_S | Report as abusive

definitely, Abhishek bachchan steals the show. Good list. Kay Kay Menon in Shaurya can stand second in the list. A different treat to eyes

Posted by commentator | Report as abusive