Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The death of the villian

 For many decades Bollywood has had iconic baddies. From Ajit as LION to Amjad Khan as the unforgettable Gabbar Singh to Amrish Puri as Mogambo. They were unabashedly bad making no excuses for their actions. You had to hate them and in doing so love the characters. They often became more defining than the heroes themselves, stronger protagonists whose destruction became the raison d'être for the film.

Somewhere today this memorable character has disappeared. In the fuzz of grey characters there are no villians anymore. Only people with questionable actions and morals spanning the spectrum between black and white without being either. So much so that the category of "Best actor is a villainous role" has all but disappeared from award shows. 

One could argue that this is more real, more nuanced, that people are hardly all good or all bad; that it is time that Bollywood got more realistic and less over the top in its portrayal of characters. And this is an argument that does hold good. Films have gotten more realistic, less melodramatic and on the whole more relate-able. I don't think I ever believed that someone like Mogambo or Shaakaal could exist with all the fancy hideouts with women dancing in silhouettes. 

While I am all for realistic portrayals and characters who are relate-able, I do wonder if the blurring distinction between good and bad is what has led to audiences often complaining that they don't understand what the movie is trying to say. Yes, all of us are grey and by that token, grey characters should probably be easy enough to decode. Only they aren't; they aren't because in a two-three hour film, you get but a fleeting glance of their lives and their thoughts; they aren't because decoding them is too much work when you are out looking just for entertainment; they aren't because decoding them raises uncomfortable questions about your own life and actions. 

And lastly I lament the passing of the villain because I wonder if it also means the passing of the hero. Batman, after all, wouldn't be Batman without The Joker.


Unknown said...

I love the ending :D
\m/ #BatmanReferenceWin :D

Unknown said...

@Cow-Herd haha thankooo :D

cynduja said...

I agree. We don't have villians anymore...but what then Joker was Joker because of detailing his character, and yet not offering empathy or justification. I think we need well-etched negative characters..Ronit in Udaan is a good example..