Nothing is ever black or white. What we see around us are only shades of grey and that is reality. Cinema being the reflection of real life has gone through this immense transformation of the bad man. Gone are the days when villains were supposed to be ruthless, immoral and would always have a gun in their pocket.
Says actor Gulshan Grover and the ‘Bad Man’ of Bollywood, “Villains in Indian cinema have evolved a lot as compared to what it was long back. Writers these days write what they see in real life. So, the complete black or complete white characters are gradually vanishing. And in real life also it is the same where we see more shades of grey than just black or white.”
OTT has given a good boost to talents and the best thing about it is you get to see a lot of grey roles. Villain’s roles have truly changed with the coming of OTT. Actor Abhishek Banerjee played the role of a ruthless killer Hathoda Tyagi in Amazon Prime Video’s web series ‘Paatal Lok’. Abhishek Banerjee had once mentioned about the role of Hathoda Tyaagi, the role he played that he never thought of him as a dark character. For him it was Vishal Tyagi who was taking revenge for the rape of his sisters.
In a recent interview with Outlook Abhishek Banerjee says, “OTT is like wildfire and it is amazing the way it has made grey roles popular because that is reality. It is something which we did not expect to grow so fast and it has grown beyond our imagination and the pandemic has given us a bigger audience. I am very thankful that we have another medium which can support us as an actor. Most importantly, OTT helps us in exploring ourselves as actors and the best way to discover oneself as an actor is by doing grey roles. In commercial films, it is like you get roles based on commercial success. Those kinds of barriers are not there in OTT. It is a game changer for actors like us who are hungry for grey roles and not just a typical hero’s role.”
Many scripts today require villains and hence writers are creating villains who are villains of today. They don’t look like a piece of creation from yesterday. Grover adds, “If you see my role in ‘Sooryanshi’ that has a different flavour of a villain where I am throwing dialogues and the audience must clap. But in a film like ‘Cash’ where I again play a villain, none of that streak of a typical villain is there. I play a real character.”
In the 70s and 80s we had a handful of villains and they were seen in all films playing the same kind of roles. ‘Baazigar’ and ‘Darr’ brought about a revolution in the portrayal of a villain when the main protagonists of these films were villains played by Shah Rukh Khan. Ranvir Shorey explains, “I started at a time when cinema as in mainstream cinema was full of melodrama and was over the top. So, I concentrated on alternative cinema. The best thing is that now with OTT, the role of villains has changed with realism coming to cinema. In real life too if you have noticed the same person can be a villain for someone and a good person for someone else. Now it is more of humanising and real portrayal of people.”
Actor Vikas Kumar who will be seen in the soon to be released web series, Aarya 2 says, “Now there is a lot of change in storytelling. Over the last few years, it is noticed that there are no defined heroes and villains. And there is a change in our awards also. There was a time when there used to be an award for the best villain, now it has become a best-supporting actor. Now, most of the actors are grey. OTT has given a bigger platform, so there are different stories that are getting explored. There are very few stories which are full-on villains or full-on heroes because now villains cannot be defined and heroes also have a lot of greys.”
To some extent OTT has brought about this change and the fear of failure in OTT is less, so people can experiment a lot more because the fear of box office failure is not there. Hence, we are seeing new filmmakers playing with characters in a more realistic manner. Abhishek Bachchan on playing the role of Bob Biswas says, “The role of Bob was really exciting. There was a lot of mental and physical preparation that goes into doing that kind of role. So, you need to just sink your teeth and do a grey role. Bob is an everyday guy. And what I really liked was the simplicity of the guy who is again a contract killer. Playing a grey role is always more challenging than playing a regular black or white role.”
There is no clear demarcation now between a hero and a villain. Grover adds, “Cinema is a reflection of life and that’s what has happened in society. There are no clear-cut characters that he is bad and he is good. Someone may be good to someone and that same good someone can be very bad to somebody else. Relationships differ in today’s time. A man who is very helpful to me may be extremely vindictive and inhuman to you.”
On playing the villain and creating the image of a bad man, Grover says, “Me being a bad man is like a brand. Over the years I have not shied away from being the bad man. I take immense pride in making this brand. And again, I am not a rejected hero. Not even a single time did I ever want to be a hero. It was not like I wanted to be a hero and I didn’t get a chance and hence I became a villain. No, that is not the case with me. I enjoy being a villain and I work very hard to be the BAD MAN.”