A ‘Corner-Waale Chacha’ on Bollywood’s Vanishing Villain

I grew up on the Bollywood of the 80s, completely filmy and full of cliché melodrama.

Watching heroes kick open doors, mothers making maa-ke-haath-ki-kheer, wives selling khandani zevar, and happy endings where everyone stands in a neat line to say, “Babuji, humein maaf kardo!”… Those were the good old days.

Oh, the hero! Maa-ki-aankhon-ka-taara, chief executor of babuji-ke-khoon-ka-badla, fearless even if sometimes penniless, he stood for all that is clean and white.

And the heroine? With no agency or original thought, the sweet little bird had khandaan-ki-izzat in her hands, and tan-ko-dhakna was her kartavya. (Good old days?)

It was also easy to identify the villain. Scary laugh, scarred face, permanent scowl, eyes that are either twinkling with mischief or letching at the cabaret dancer whose moves he is enjoying in the middle of a jungle! Talk about resourcefulness.

And then, one fine day, without us realising, the world of Bollywood changed. Slick and stylish, the hero became the anti-hero and form became more important than content. While the heroine did not actually undergo a massive change (and that crib is for another day), it is the vanishing villain that I miss.

Also read: Close Encounters of the Bollywood Kind

The villain justified the hero. Visible, identifiable evil brought out the importance of being good. The values were clear, no confusion.

As I sat thinking of everything and nothing last night, it suddenly came to me. The tragedy of the vanishing villain has had consequences – the hero has also vanished.

While the weak villain became humane, our perfect hero didn’t have to be perfect anymore; he became blemished, imperfect and flawed.

The lines between good and bad have blurred. As a viewer, now it is my responsibility to judge good from bad.

I couldn’t help but think, that’s what has happened in real life, hasn’t it? You are not the villain, so why should I be the hero? And I can’t see the villain, I have no one to be angry with, so instead of a hero, let me be the corner-waale chacha, who only whines “yeh kya ho raha hai?”

This corner-waale chacha that we have become sits confused. Many times, he does not even realise ke hamare saath kya ho gaya.

Chacha sits with no point of view, no noble desire, but is somehow angry. He feels like he’s lost something, except he doesn’t know what it is. He looks for heroes around him, desperate to feel heroic by affiliation and submits to those who make him feel larger than he is – even if it is for a fleeting moment.

Owner of the loudest laugh in the room and a development sector professional by day, Naghma is a by-mistake CA, who writes what she feels and feels what she writes.

Featured image credit: Meena Kadri/Flickr