Rajni, the quintessential villain
Apoorva Raagangal (1975)
Though the story revolves around the relationship between Kamal Haasan and an older woman, Srividya, Rajni's part in their lives was an earth-shattering one. He plays her long-lost husband, who arrives on the scene in time to throw a spanner in the works.
This K Balachander movie saw the entry of one of the most iconic villains of all time, with a ravaged body and a smirk in his eyes. And history was made.
Image: A still from Apoorva Raagangal
Moondru Mudichu (1976)
Hailed as the film that actually made Rajni the ultimate villain, this K Balachander movie made the best of the star's ability to bring evil to the fore. He plays a man who wants a woman (Sridevi) for himself, but she marries his father and teaches him a lesson.
Rajni's incredible personality on-screen made this a powerful performance and the film an out-of-the-box experience.
Image: A still from Moondru Mudichu
As the villainous husband of the hapless Sridevi, who makes her an unwilling participant in his X-rated film business, Rajni reprised more of his suave, slinky persona in this Pattabhiraman film, an adaptation of a novel by Sujatha.
This one might have had Jaishankar as its hero, but it was Rajni who dominated with his viciously cool portrayal.
Image: A still from Gayathri
It's not surprising that after Apoorva Raagangal''s success, K Balachander should choose to make another movie with Kamal Haasan as hero and Rajni as villain, and this time, more cinematic barriers were broken.
Rajni plays a man who married a woman (Sujatha), who was already the victim of failed love. He could not forgive or forget her past, and tortured her endlessly about it. The portrayal was a far cry from the crass villains who yell and rage at their victims, and brought Rajni much acclaim.
Image: A still from Avargal
16 Vayadhinile (1977)
Rajni's role in this Bharathiraja movie was small compared to Kamal Haasan and Sridevi, but his obvious cruelty and arrogant "Idhu Eppadi Irukku?" made waves, and his performance was reckoned to be among the creepiest and most disgusting yet. To this day, his Parattai remains unparalleled among villains.
Image: A still from 16 Vayadhinile
This remake of Amitabh Bachan's iconic Hindi hit Don raked in the moolah, more for Rajni's swashbuckling portrayal of the savvy gangster Billa, than his goody-goody turn later in the film.
So powerful was the impact he made that fans actually mourned his on-screen death halfway through the movie and Billa attained iconic status among Tamil's screen villains.
Image: A still from Billa
It's hard enough playing an out-and-out villain; it is harder still playing a villain with comic overtones who can blend terror and hilarity with finesse.
Rajni's role in this S P Muthuraman movie -- that of a playboy who likes women well into middle-age -- was not an easy one to carry off, but the star brought a verve and style to his role that delighted his fans. Of course, he also had another role, that of a college student, but it was the irrepressible Casanova who actually stuck in people's minds.
Image: A still from Netrikkan
It would be years before Rajni played the villain again; in the years following Netrikkan, he'd grown into a superstar, the man who single-handedly delivered people from evil. In Shankar's magnum opus, though, he played the evil robot who wreaks havoc in the city to get his creator's lady-love. So impressive was his performance, that his fans, despite earlier misgivings, preferred his evil avatar to that of the mild-mannered scientist.As Shankar himself said, no one can play adversary to Rajni better than Rajni himself.
Image: A still from Endhiran