Ranbir Kapoor’s Animal arrives in cinemas this week, where he plays a psychopathic son, bringing anti-hero movies under focus. It was inevitable that I put together a list of the best anti-hero movies in Hindi, so here we are celebrating protagonists who are not worried about the means to their ends, which could be revenge, love or wealth.
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Best Anti-Hero Movies in Hindi you should not miss
It is fascinating to see these flawed characters heroically holding the attention.
This was, in a sense, the movie that put Shah Rukh Khan on the escalator to superstardom. The standard revenge story was told as a smart love story, and SRK oozing hidden menace was a treat to watch.
The young Tabu and Shilpa Shetty, the music of Anu Malik, and the voices of Kumar Sanu, Vinod Rathod, and Alka Yagnik all defined the 90s film ethos. This film, inspired by the Hollywood A Kiss Before Dying, remains a watershed in Indian anti-hero movies.
Almost a companion piece to Baazigar, Darr released just a month after it. It’s a story of a psychopathic lover, a character that SRK revelled in. And inevitably, his character was named Rahul. He owns the name now, for all we care.
Directed and produced by Yash Chopra under his banner, Yash Raj Films, the film also had Sunny Deol and Juhi Chawla as the woman at the centre of all the love (and ensuing hatred). The songs, set to tune by the legendary Shiv-Hari, are iconic.
It is a different story that Sunny Deol was upset that SRK’s role walked away with all the plaudits and refused to work with YRF banner again.
This completed SRK’s troika of anti-hero movies in that period. Here too, he was an obsessive lover, relentlessly stalking his romantic interest. This was the first time that SRK and Madhuri Dixit were paired together. Since the film was almost on the lines of Darr, it did not do all that well at the box office.
But the pair proved to be a favourite for the fans and went on to do a few more memorable movies together. Anand-Milind’s music was a hit, and the song Channe Ke Khet Mein, with Madhuri’s energetic dance, remains popular even today.
Amitabh Bachchan was the original superstar who made anti-hero movies his own. Deewar was one. Even Sholay could be argued to be one. Agneepath, which won him a National award later, was also one. But Don remains the most iconic of them — SRK, his heir apparent, had to remake it under the same name.
The double role of Amitabh, one a notorious smuggler and the other a paanwala, is among the most celebrated in Indian film history. The songs are all hall-of-famer ones. A film that defines mainstream masala movies for many. It never feels dated, even after multiple views.
Special 26 is an underdog story that has elements of an anti-hero. This heist thriller, written and directed by Neeraj Pandey, is based on the 1987 Opera House heist, in which a group posing as CBI sleuths pull off a fake raid at a famous jewellery house in Bombay.
The film version made it a hardy entertainer with the real CBI on the trail of the fake ones. Akshay Kumar and Anupam Kher were spectacular as the pretend cops. The film also stars Manoj Bajpayee, Jimmy Sheirgill, Kajal Aggarwal, Rajesh Sharma, Divya Dutta and Kishor Kadam.
Till a gritty and nerveless Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya arrived in July 1998, the henchmen of the underworld were cardboard caricatures in Hindi movies. Movies on underworld gangsters in Hindi prior to Satya, the ones like Don (1978) and Parinda (1989) had a glamor feel and more about the men who become the don, as it were.
Satya was all about the lowly lackeys who carry out the orders from the top, the men whose death and destruction are merely a footnote in the story of gang wars.
Written by Saurabh Shukla and Anurag Kashyap, the film sets Urmila Matondkar, J D Chakravarthy and Manoj Bajpayee on a big career in Bollywood. It is the first of Varma’s Gangster trilogy about organized crime in India.
This is an anti-heroine movie if you will. In that, Vidya Balan, as the spunky Vidya Bagchi (Bidya Bagchi, if you will), pulls the wool over the CBI and Kolkata police and murders a man in revenge for the killing of her husband and many others in a poison gas attack.
Directed by Sujoy Ghosh, Kahaani brought alive the sights and sounds of Kolkata like no other film before. But the film truly belonged to Vidya Balan who, as a (fake) pregnant woman out to avenge her hubby’s death, is simply stunning. It is one of the rare suspense movies that lends itself to multiple viewings, mainly because of the rousing show by Vidya.
This romantic black comedy enjoys cult status as it adroitly inverts the mother of all tragic stories in Indian cinema, Devdas. Written and directed by an inspired Anurag Kashyap, the film also does well to locate itself in Punjab and Delhi, places whose edgy ethos lends itself to such dark ideas.
The film provided an inexperienced visual ride, and its narrative and music were also different enough to match its outer sensibilities. With Abhay Deol in the lead, the film, with its slick style and adventurous interpretation, pushed Hindi cinema to new frontiers.
Paan Singh Tomar
This is the improbable but true story of the eponymous Paan Singh Tomar, an Indian athlete and seven-time national steeplechase champion who becomes one of the most feared dacoits in Chambal Valley after his retirement.
He takes on the system as he feels it exploits the poor and needy. Irrfan Khan literally owned the film with his performance, which fetched him a deserving National Award. Directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia, it was also adjudged the Best Feature Film at the National Awards.
Kabir Singh is a film that feminists and liberals love to hate. The hero is unabashedly toxic and violent. Directed by Sandeep Reddy Vanga (also the director of Animal), the film is a faithful remake of his Telugu hit Arjun Reddy.
Kabir Singh has Shahid Kapoor in the title role as a surgeon who spirals into self-destruction when his girlfriend (Kiara Advani) marries someone else. Classic trope for an anti-hero movie. Shahid Kapoor is terrific as the hero who is very difficult to love or sympathize with.
An engineer-turned-journalist, K Balakumar’s career began in print publications as a sports writer. That also opened doors for other journalistic avenues like films, music, finance, technology and politics, which nobody can escape in India. After 30 yrs in mainstream journalism, now a freelancer for various digital publications.