“Yeh haath humko de de Thakur!!!!”
To this day, the world remembers Gabbar Singh better than it remembers Thakur Baldev Singh, Jai or Veeru. The hero is known by the villains he keeps. Batman has Joker, Superman-Luthor, Wolverine-Sabretooth, and so on. The magical world of cinema has seen many villainous characters immortalized by capable actors. Let’s commemorate some of them.
Doctor Hannibal Lecter
He is, without a doubt, one of the finest villains in movie history. Refined and aristocratic, his charming demeanor hid a diabolical soul. Perhaps, the finest portrayal of this legendary character is by Sir Anthony Hopkins. Those eyes! Those eyes would send chills down anyone’s spine. Despite being on screen for only 16 minutes, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role. And despite having seen only a few scenes, his eyes have won him the foremost spot in my list of movie villains.
There would be very few people in India who don’t know it’s most (in)famous movie villain. Often lauded as the greatest movie villain to grace the Indian silver screen, the character’s ruthlessness and cruelty have been ably portrayed by Amjad Khan. Rather, it was Amjad Khan who immortalized a character which could have easily lapsed into mediocrity in the hands of another.
“Don ko pakadna mushkil nahin, naa mumkin hain”
I am sure many would be scandalized by my inclusion of Shah Rukh Khan’s Don in my list of memorable movie villains. However, I was quite impressed by SRK’s take on the character already immortalized by Amitabh Bachchan. The new Don is stylistic, cunning and deadly. A skilled hand-to-hand combatant, his fighting prowess is only surpassed by his presence of mind and resourcefulness. Once again, the eyes add a lot of menace to the character. I never though I would like any role by SRK after seeing KANK but I must admit that King Khan can still deliver the goods.
As with the other entries here, it is the actor who saved this role from mediocrity and immortalized it with subtle nuances that may well have been ruined by someone else. Geoffrey Rush play the part of the dreaded pirate Hector Barbossa. Seemingly crude and unrefined, Barbossa is in fact quite civilized and well-read. An excellent swordsman, he can hold his own against Jack Sparrow and Norrington, Will Turner being the only one who could possibly beat him. His prowess as a exemplary swordsman is further highlighted in the scene where his crew almost turns on him. Despite outnumbering him one to twenty or more, they were hesitant to attack him, quite aware of his skill with the cutlass. His passion for apples is highlighted in many scenes and Geoffrey Rush conveys it well without going over the top. Another memorable moment was the scene when Elizabeth first comes aboard the Black Pearl. After having claimed to be a “humble pirate” who can’t understand “long words”, he shoots down Elizabeth’s request to “negotiate the cessation of hostilities against Port Royal” with “I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request. Means no.”
I doubt if there is any movie-going Malayali who hasn’t seen Kireedam. The movie is an intense character study both of a young man whose bright future deteriorates before his very eyes and of a father who is forced to watch helplessly as it happens. Drawn into a conflict with the goons of the locality where he has newly moved to with his family, his life is shattered when, in a fit of rage, he attacks and nearly kills Keerikkadan Jose, the most dreaded rowdy in the village, who had attacked his father. This leads to a blood vendetta between the two which culminates in the death of Keerikkadan Jose at his hands. Many a movie has tried to recreate the fearsomeness of this archetypal bad guy, but none can compare to the brilliant and terrifying portrayal of Keerikkadan Jose by Mohan Raj.
I am sure there are many great movie villains whom I have missed here. However, for me, these would be some of the greatest movie villains who have graced the silver screen, and would be remembered always.