The digital medium has taken it upon itself to give us those despicable, grey characters Hindi cinema was once churning out by the numbers. As heroes in the Hindi films look for varying roles, moving away from the traditional hero-villain storylines, OTT has emerged as an alternate medium for the negative characters to flourish. Characters with grey shades come with lots of challenges and it seems like the actors on the web are up for the task.
A look back at the 70s, 80s and 90s Hindi films, and we are confronted with a variety of villains attempting to throw the hero off his guard. Without them, a Hindi film was incomplete. However, lately, the sinister acts in films have slowly shifted to OTT.
Owing to more leeway in censorship rules in the OTT content, blood, gore and abusive language get passed off easily on the digital. This creates opportunities for the ‘bad guys’ to experiment with diverse shades in a negative role. Acts of brutal violence have become a norm on OTT and more filmmakers are buying into this idea to make their characters look more sinister.
Abhishek Banerjee has played a variety of grey characters across genres on OTT. In Paatal Lok, he plays a small-town assassin Vishal Tyagi, whose flair at smashing in skulls with a hammer earns him the sobriquet Hathoda Tyagi in the crime world. He is blood soaked and brutal. In Kaali 2, he plays an international kidnapper. In Typewriter, his character of Fakeer takes a paranormal turn. One of the most intriguing yet sinister villains of OTT is Shubh Joshi (Asur). A brutal serial killer deemed as Asur (demon) by his father, he influences many inmates from prison to be his followers. The point being, imagination runs wild about what a villain can or cannot do, depending on the storyline and realism is not compromised for the fear of getting censored.
The language used by characters isn’t a problem too and Undekhi makes a strong case. Papaji (Harsh Chhaya) is an alcoholic and verbally abusive man. So much so that not even a single line he mutters is without a crass word. His go to word is ‘goli mar denge’ (will shoot). This not only takes care of the ‘sensation’ quotient but also lends authenticity to the role.
Heroines turn grey
Heroines have always shown an inclination for positive roles in Hindi films, barring a few. With OTT, this trend is also changing. Samantha Akkineni has completely shed her image to play Raji, an extremist, in The Family Man 2. This is getting her pan-India acclaim. Everyone seems to be talking about how a subdued character like her has a crazed thirst for blood. While in films, heroes did all the action, Samantha’s combat scenes are earning her immense praise.
Meanwhile, Rasika Dugal, who plays Beena Tripathi in Mirzapur, also grabbed eyeballs with a turn that was greyer than roles she played before. She is conniving and manipulative and finds footing in a world of guns, violence and men. In Abhay 2, which focuses on crime solving, Bidita Bag also impressed viewers with her lustful killer role of Saloni. She looks sexy, hiding evil intentions behind her playful stare.
In Sacred Games 2, Kalki Koechlin’s Batya helps Guruji (Pankaj Tripathi) run his shady business under the garb of spiritual submission. In Raat Akeli Hai, a Netflix film, Pramila (Padmavati Rao) exhibits grey shades. This matriarch is not only conniving but is also hiding a terrible secret. These roles, which have now become memorable, were unimaginable in Hindi films, especially with a female actor.
Hindi cinema bleeds in giving novelty to grey shades
As OTT continues to tread on the experimental path when it comes to characterisation, Hindi cinema is bleeding in providing any novelty to villains. Think hard and you won’t be able to recall a decent Hindi cinema baddie from recent times, who impressed us with their performance. At times they are caricature-like. A reason for this could be because ‘heroes’ aren’t comfortable enough to let their thunder slip away. A case in point is Radhe, which is a remake of Korean thriller The Outlaws. Randeep Hooda’s character of Rana was one to look out for. This character was the lifeline of the film in the Korean version. Randeep is far from that. He is loud and even unbearable in segments.
Recall value in the internet generation
OTT villains are getting major recall value owing to the internet culture. Memes start to flood the internet as soon a character becomes hit. Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) of Sacred Games, Munna Tripathi (Divyenddu) and Kaleen Bhaiya (Pankaj Tripathi) of Mirzapur are the biggest examples of ‘meme marketing’. This also creates an engagement point with the viewers. The characters become household names and their dialogues and manners are imitated everywhere.
With multiple seasons of a particular series, the recall value further increases. Sacred Games and Mirzapur are still known for their villains rather than heroes.