Bollywood now is so big in India that it has become a synonym for Indian culture. But there was a time when it was just an industry, and from that time to now, there have been characters so memorable that they continue to stay in people’s hearts today. In this article, we recall six of the most memorable male characters in Bollywood.
Bollywood is often made fun of for being too sexist and for being too flowery and off the radar and not realistic and so on, but in its long history, there have been many characters that stole their way right into our hearts to such a degree that their catch phrases have entered our lexicon. In this article, we pay tribute to some of these characters, taken out of different eras in pretty much random order.
Has there ever been a villain that has overshadowed a movie to such an extent as Amjad Khan did to Sholay? Consider this: here was a film that had Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Jaya Bhaduri and Sanjeev Kumar (pretty much the A-list roll call of those days), and who is the movie best remembered for? A debutant actor who played the character of Gabbar Singh, the bandit chief tormenting Rampur. Even today the name Gabbar Singh is alive and well, with his many catch phrases (Arey O Samba, Kitne Aadmi They?) still being used by film lovers all over the country.
Mogambo only had one line – Mogamba khush hua – but what a line it was! Amrish Puri’s rendering of the character, complete with English accent and costume, was so well-received by move-goers that the actor reprised the same role in some of his subsequent movies. In Mr. India, though, Mogambo combined a mean streak and style admirably to give us perhaps the second most popular villain of all time in Bollywood.
Raj (as played by Raj Kapoor)
Back in the 1940s, Raj Kapoor took to making a set of movies starring himself as ‘Raj’, the common man of India. Whether it was Awara, Shree 420 or Chori Chori, the charming Raj became India’s first global icon, with the communist message in his movies becoming a hit particularly in Russia. One could argue that Bollywood in its current avatar owes a lot of its image to the everyman that Raj Kapoor played in his early movies. Later, as his sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters became involved in films, the legend of ‘Raj’ only grew and grew.
Lighting up Ram Gopal Verma’s 1998 magnum opus, Satya, is a young, scruffy, raw Manoj Bajpai in the role of Bhiku Mahatre, an aspirant don who wants to rule Mumbai one day. In one of the most poignant scenes of the film, we see Bhiku standing at the edge of a cliff, facing the city’s skyline, and asking the setting sun, ‘Mumbai ka king kaun?’ Bajpai played this role with a roguish smile on his face throughout, and we found ourselves liking this man we’re supposed to hate.
Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan)
This is more of a name than a character. Through the eighties, Amitabh Bachchan, in his journey to the top of Bollywood, played a slew of roles depicting the angry young man of that day, raging against the corrupt social and political system. His most famous ‘Vijay’ was Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, the crime boss who sets out on a journey of avenging his father’s death in the hands of a powerful gangster, Kancha Cheena. Amitabh Bachchan used the name ‘Vijay’ in 22 films overall, giving the name an almost mythical status in Bollywood. Some of the other movies in which the name was used are Zanjeer, Deewar, Don and The Great Gambler.
Rahul or Raj (as played by Shah Rukh Khan)
Another instance of an actor immortalising a common name. Shah Rukh Khan has played either Rahul or Raj in at least fifteen movies, after which people stopped counting. The King of Romance, who carried forward the romantic movement in Bollywood that was started by Rajesh Khanna, became the Baadshah of Bollywood after Amitabh Bachchan, starting around the late nineties. In all his most memorable movies (Dil toh Pagal Hai, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Ghum, Mohabbatein), SRK used the name of either Rahul or Raj. Indeed, a list of movies starring SRK in which he is not named Rahul or Raj will be a rather short one.