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PPKK May 18

He walks like the devil himself. Down the stern of the snow white ship he moves, all black and replica cartier bracelet towering, the thigh high gold buckles glinting in the harsh October sun. As if it were High Noon, and he enroute to a duel   on board the naval ship.

Below, on Bombay's ferry docks, people push their lists through the iron bars and cheer lustily: "Mogambo, Mogambo, say Mogambo khush hua." Amrish Puri, the Shahenshah of the expanding kingdom of villainy, turns and waves, like a benevolent dictator, to the upturned faces of the masses.

The heroes have become somewhat lustreless and dull. The villain, on the other hand, has a gaudy but mesmerising glitter about him. They open charity shows, they have become the trend setters, sex symbols even. Villains are in. A devilish change has overtaken and is transforming Indian cinema. Villainy isn't what it used to be. Villains have become lovable, cuddly even. They now open charity shows. They have even become sex symbols.

From the sinister boogey man used to scare children, the villain is becoming the pied piper   luring children to consumer land. Gabbar Singh's a monster and all bad in Sholay.

Anupam Kher in Haar Jeet: Evil eyed and chillingly real

Yet, the biscuit which is his asli pasand the advertisements, becomes everybody's real favourite. Mogambo in Mr India wants to destroy India with his nuclear missiles. But admen use his lines to sell mosquito coils.

This was never so. When the past king of villains. Pran whipped Dilip Kumar almost to a pulp in Ram Aur Shyam   his ice blue fake eyes glaring menacingly   the audience felt real fear. Singh earlier, blowing those evil smoke rings and striking terror in the heart of young Raj Kapoor in Awaara. Jayant and Hira Lal gave the shivers too.

A villain on screen was thought to be one off it too. Even the name Pran was taboo. Says Pran: "A study done in north India shows that nobody named their sons Pran during the 25 years I was a villain."

Villains personify power. They make things happen faster. Not only do they get the money, they also get the girls   at least until that fateful last reel. They have the big cars, the fancy clothes. Similarly, when Prem Chopra, a screen rape specialist, walked down those streets, he heard people say: "Hide your wives, Prem Chopra is coming."

Today, in Mr India the many ringed, evil eyed Amrish Puri asks his henchman to jump into bubbling hot red fluid. In seconds they are reduced to a pair of grinning skulls. People laugh and the children clap.

Till this decade there were only two or three villains to shed darkness in tinseltown. Today, cartier love bracelet pink gold there are well over a dirty dozen. Especially the children, "People don't hate villains anymore," says Javed Akhtar, the creator of the immortal Gabbar Singh and Mogambo. "They are fascinated by the innocence of his cruelty. When I went to the zoo as a child, it was the lion I wanted to see."

The princes of darkness have taken over. They are   in this nation of Walter Mittys   the new conduits for escape from hum drum life. The villain is the new hero, the new role model, the new pin up.

Amrish Puri as Mogambo in Mr India: The Shahenshah of villainy

Until this decade there were only two or three villains to shed some darkness in tinsel town. Today, there are well over a dirty dozen. Multi pack villainy entered the scene when heroes began to come in threes and fours. The demand for villains started in the 70s according to Pran.

"Earlier we had one hero, two heroines and one villain. Now there are three heroes, three heroines and at least four villains." Elaborates Gulshan Grover: "So many villains are needed because you need to kill off a villain every three or four reels to keep the excitement going."

Dimple Kapadia with the villainous four in Gunahon ka Faisla

The villains are also on 24 hour call because this is the age of the action film. Just look at the titles: Paap Ko Jala Kar Raakh Kar Doonga, Gunahan Ka Faisla, Aazma kar Dekho, Elaan e Jung. Publicity for the last boasts of 200 fighters.

Right on top of the pantheon of villains with his granite, Mount Rushmore face ("People just see evil in my face") is Amrish Puri. India's best evil emissary   who millions in the world loved to hate when he played the human sacrificing priest in Stephen Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Hollywood still beckons   he is always being asked to play Red Indian chiefs. Says Puri: "In Satyug it was Ravana, in Kalyug it's me."

Indian cinema has broken another taboo and introduced the gay villain. The relatively new entrants, Sadashiv Amrapurkar and Paresh Rawal, have between them signed over a hundred films; 20 of Amrapurkar's films will be released within a few months. Paresh has completed over a dozen.

Even the "good" guys want to be villains. Anupam Kher catapulted to the six figure income when he defected to the Bad Guys. Pran, who reigned supreme for two decades before he made the switch over after Upkar, is back to being bad. And rich again. Danny, the exotic villain, played exclusive and signed just a few films a year. Now, he's on a signing spree: villainy is competitive business.

From the sinister bogey man, the villain is becoming the Pied Piper   luring children to consumer land. The pot of gold at the end of villainy's rainbow seems bottomless. And the villains get paid better.

Amrish Puri, on that last lonely rung on top, is said to be worth Rs 10 lakh a picture. Pran and Prem Chopra get hefty amounts too. The middle rung: the Anupam Khers. Shakti Kapoors, Gulshan Gravers, charge Rs4 lakh to Rs6 lakh per film.

Scene from Mast Kalander: Gay time for villains

Towards the bottom: Rs 1 lakh or 2 lakh. Villains are the most bleary eyed on the sets as many are on three shifts: even four. No self respecting villain would have less than 30 films on his platter. Singh, Pran and Ajit stereotypes are gone. In the '40s, there were only two sorts of villains: the first was the westernised young stud, England returned. He went to the club, ate meat, and a bottle of VAT 69 was always at hand. He arrived at the airport wearing a felt hat, a camera round his neck, turned to his father and said: "Hello daddy."

The killing line about him was "Ab to woh club bhi jaane lagen hain." (Now he has even started going to the club). The second was the zamindar   the exploiter, played to perfection by Tiwari and Jeevan, twisting their long moustaches and raising one cruel eyebrow at the village belles.

Amjad Khan as Gabbar Singh in Sholay

These images have now become obsolete and villainy today wears myriad faces. Explains director Saeed Mirza: "We need a battery of villains to represent the cartier rose gold love bracelet total ills of the country. There is corruption, power, sadism. We need rapists, drug pushers, terrorists."