The Deadliest Dacoits of Bollywood
Beware of the Bollywood outlaw.
With a striking black tilak marked on the forehead, bullet-loaded belt around the waist, a perennially furious gaze and a tone as threatening as that rifle in hand, the dacoits are, understandably, a dreaded community.
And yet, their imposing histrionics and ferocity makes them a truly fascinating antagonist around a plot set against a rural backdrop. Only recently, our filmmakers have begun to portray this profession in a more realistic light.
As appears to be the case with the soon-to-release Paan Singh Tomar.
Starring Irrfan Khan in the titular avatar, the Tigmanshu Dhulia film is a big screen adaptation of the real life athlete-turned-rebel and his reasons to unleash hell in Chambal Valley. Given Khan's capabilities, he will probably do a marvelous job of this role as well.
Meanwhile, here's a look at some of the best-remembered portrayals of Hindi cinema's big, bad daakus.
Amjad Khan in Sholay
He's the man mothers warned their kids about with the still quoted, 'Soja nahi to Gabbar Singh aa jaayega.' Amjad Khan's iconic Gabbar Singh is synonymous with terror that has been both -- revered and referenced to epic proportions.
Gabbar's smooth but creepy baritone and morbid punishment in Ramesh Sippy's classic produced several chilling moments in and outside Ramgarh.
Image: Amjad Khan in Sholay
Sunil Dutt in Mujhe Jeene Do, Praan Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye, Mother India
The mild-mannered Sunil Dutt could be a powerhouse of intensity when he chose to be.
After offering a glimpse of his bad-tempered ways as a avenging bandit in Mother India, he provided a better insight into the human side of one with his award-winning portrayal as Jarnail Singh in his home production, Mujhe Jeene Do.
His third effort as a blustering dacoit in Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye, however, didn't live up to the charisma of its predecessors.
While son Sanjay has had good luck playing villains, his attempt at dacoit dramas produced embarrassments like Jeeva and Jai Vikranta.
Image: Sunil Dutt in Mother India
Dilip Kumar in Gunga Jumna
Bollywood legend has played everyone from a dejected lover drowning his sorrow in alcohol to an alternately timid/daring pair of twins.
And he's spewed a thick Bhojpuri accent and a myriad of complex, conflicting emotions to essay the brother on the wrong side of law as Gunga in his home production, Gunga Jumna.
Apart from gathering acclaim for its compelling contents, the film was a huge box office success.
Image: Dilip Kumar in Gunga Jumna
Vinod Khanna in Mera Gaon Mera Desh
Before he became popular in cop roles, Vinod Khanna made quite an impression as a scowling dacoit in films like Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Kachche Dhaage and Patthar Aur Payal.
And even though MGMD had him pitied against Dharmendra, Khanna stole the thunder with his simmering intensity.
While not in the same league of memorable, his work in Kachche Dhaage and Patthar Aur Payal reiterated his reputation as one of the hottest bandits of Bollywood.
Image: Vinod Khanna in Mera Gaon Mera Desh
Pran in Jis Desh Main Ganga Behti Hai
The stern look in his eyes, the ruthless intent of his words and that oh-so-fierce get-up ensured Pran make one heck of the unsettling, self-seeking dacoit Raka in Raj Kapoor-starrer, Jis Desh Main Ganga Behti Hai.
His onscreen malice perfectly underscored RK's innocent, righteous appeal and went on to become one of the best roles of his career.
Image: Pran in Jis Desh Main Ganga Behti Hai
Sunny Deol in Dacait
It's not easy to digest a visibly urban Sunny Deol in the garb of an earthy Dacait in Rahul Rawail's film of the same name.
But the Deol-Rawail chemistry worked its magic on this dramatic exploration of how an innocent man turns joins hands with his outlaw buddies after his entire family is massacred owing to the evil Thakur-corrupt village police nexus.
Despite its gripping temperament, Dacait wasn't a commercial success. Nor J P Dutta's Yateem, starring Deol again, in a similar, arguably better directed, theme.
Image: Sunny Deol in Dacait
Mukesh Tiwari in China Gate
Although Raj Kumar Santoshi's China Gate wasn't exactly the Sholay of Mukesh Tiwari's career, it launched his innings on a fairly decent note.
He plays Jageera, a disheveled, manic bandit with a penchant for bizarre one-liners like, 'Mere mann ko bhaya main kutta khaya,' to convey his insane personality.
Image: Mukesh Tiwari in China Gate
Seema Biswas in Bandit Queen
Following hilarious attempts to pass off wannabe dakus by mainstream heroines like Zeenat Aman, Raakhee, Dimple Kapadia and Sridevi in films like Daku Hasina, Taaqat, Zakhmi Sher and Sherni, Seema Biswas took the screen by storm with her disturbing, poignant portrayal as real life bandit, Phoolan Devi in Shekhar Kapur's National-award winning gem.
Though its explicit content attracted controversy, Bandit Queen continues to be one of the most authentic films of its genre.
Image: Seema Biswas in Bandit Queen
Amitabh Bachchan in Ganga Ki Saugandh
The same year he played Don and Muqqadar Ka Sikander, Amitabh Bachchan also slipped into the skin of a forced-by-circumstances dacoit in Sultan Ahmed's successful potboiler, Ganga Ki Saugandh.
Feudal oppression is often a recurring theme for scrupulous individuals to take the path of rebellion.
Here too, Amjad Khan's tormenting ways as the quintessential, evil Thakur prove too much for Big B to put up with.
Image: Amitabh Bachchan in Ganga Ki Saugandh
Ajay Devgn in Lajja
Although it was a brief role, Devgn garnered maximum wolf whistles for his verbose delivery and unabashed swagger as the brigand Bulwa marching forth to the damsel's rescue in the women-oriented Lajja.
Perhaps his conviction as a rural chap in this film made him a perfect candidate to play the title character in Vishal Bhardwaj's Omkara set in the UP badlands.
Image: Ajay Devgn in Lajja