Most Memorable Bollywood Villains of the 80s
Ah, the Eighties.
A simpler time for Hindi cinema, as the formula films of the seventies reached their inevitably trashy peak. As we started packing our films with masala, no matter how little they actually needed. As everything became about the larger-than-life.
It was a bizarre and mostly hard-to-sit-through time in our cinema, but there was a silver lining. Villains. In the 1980s, our villains reached a deliciously evil peak, where they drank Black Dog and sat in peculiar caves and scared the hero before they belatedly tried to shoot him. The 80s Bollywood Villain: a fine vintage, fruity and spicy and packing one helluva wallop.
In memory of Bob Christo whom we tragically lost this week, here's a look at the best of the beasts:
In much the same way as it used Impalas in chase scenes to impart a sense of the foreign and exotic, Hindi cinema used the Australian Christo throughout the 1980s as the nefarious face of white-man evil.
Most frequently playing a ruthless, pre-Independence British officer or a gold smuggler, Christo was effective and undeniably awesome in films like Mard, Disco Dancer, Qurbaani, Geraftaar, and, most memorably, as the plunderer of Indian temples Mr Wolcott in Mr India.
Image: Bob Christo
Around since the 1970s, Dengzongpa for me truly hit his stride as villain in 1980 with the release of The Burning Train, where he proved to be a baddie worthy of taking on several A-listers in one go.
An array of vile parts followed, as the Sikkimese actor took on stereotypical stock villain characters corrupt cop, dacoit and gave them enough texture and brutality to make them effective as well as chilling.
Image: Danny Dengzongpa
The eighties were a great decade for Ranjeet as he crossed over from being a henchman and second-string villain of the 70s to one who could take on heroes all by himself.
With his shirt unbuttoned well past his hirsute chest, and his jaw frequently slack with a bullying laziness, the industry's foremost izzat-looter wore his rapist persona loud and proud. And this even when he wasn't actually pouncing on the hero's sister.
A first name like Goga, even if it's a borrowed one, can pigeonhole an actor somewhat. Not that the tough man cared, revelling in roles from strongman to Sadhu, leaving a trail of bruised and slaughtered bodies in his wake.
The 1908s saw him start off as a smalltime piece of muscle Do Aur Do Paanch, Shaan, Satte Pe Satta but as his fights with Amitabh Bachchan started looking more convincing, he graduated to the big-time, ending the decade with films like Shahenshah and Toofan.
Image: Goga Kapoor
A smooth-looking bad guy who insisted on using his own name as his screen name, his characters were a blend of both ladykiller, literal and figurative, as well as buffoon.
Ever-clownish in fight scenes, Chopra was frequently pummeled by all and sundry, running back to his evil father figure wailing about vengeance. In the 80s, he had quite a run with films like Naseeb, Andha Kanoon, Betaab, Mard and Joshilaay.
Image: Prem Chopra
Before he became Govinda's comic sidekick in the 90s, Kapoor rose through the 80s embodying the spirit of the brash son of a moneyed father, a young scion who knew no limits. It was a relevant character-type in our cinema, and Kapoor played the spoilt and arrogant with much flair.
And while it must be admitted that despite all his machine-gun toting antics in Naseeb, he remains a second-string villain, Kapoor makes it to the list anyway because he played Lex Luthor in the atrocious desi Superman.
Image: Shakti Kapoor
Sometime after the historic success of Sholay, a devastating car accident forced Khan onto medication that caused his weight to balloon up drastically, and gone was the lethally gaunt Gabbar.
Yet the fantastic actor used the new look to give his characters more gravitas, and while he played several genial characters in the 80s, the villains were consistently memorable, my personal favourite being his Ranjit Singh in Satte Pe Satta.
Image: Amjad Khan
A solid character actor, Saaransh star Kher would have continued on his arthouse trajectory had not Subhash Ghai cast him, against type, in his most iconic role. Karma's Dr Michael Dang showed that slapping a villain is never a good idea, and Kher excelled, getting into the skin of the cold-blooded character.
Kher kept varying up his filmography but clearly found his niche with menacing roles, not least of which was Mohini's creepy father in smash hit Tezaab.
Image: Anupam Kher
One of the finest actors in the history of our cinema, Puri didn't have the looks for a mainstream leading man but often enjoyed playing the sinister and the deceitful.
Often someone who could make the hero uneasy just by how he enunciated his line, Om's villains were always a treat for the audience. My favourite -- and I am aware I am not alone here -- is his drunken builder act as Ahuja in Kundan Shah's Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro.
Image: Om Puri
Yes, saved the scariest for last.
Amrish Puri cemented his reputation as the greatest villain in Hindi cinema history in the 1980s, creating memorable baddies in films like Meri Jung, Ram Lakhan, Shahenshah, Nagina, and Tridev while also scaring Harrison Ford silly in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. And all this while the actor with the booming baritone and the piercing eyes made room for himself at the top of the rogue's gallery as Mogambo in Mr India.
Image: Amrish Puri