Top Five Thursday: Bad Gals in Bad* Films; Ishqiya (2010), Dev.D (2009), Race (2008), The Train (2007), and more.

*For all definitions of 'bad', ranging through the not so bad and rather good.

Among the many positive intangibles accompanying participation in Bollywood discussions on Twitter is what leads to a post such as this. Top Five Thursday -- and if you've been keeping up with other Bollywood bloggers and fans on Twitter, you might be familiar with the idea -- is a meme, whereby the filmy faithful pick a different topic (not necessarily related to Bollywood) each week and share, as the title suggests, their five favorites on that topic.

The topic for this week is almost as irresistible as the subjects: bad girls (or guys) who appear attractive and are irresistible despite their evilness (or evilness as perceived by the audience or other characters in the films). Related entries are tagged #T5T on Twitter, so please follow the thread there for others' inputs. Please also be sure to share your thoughts on the films, and/or your top five (gals and/or guys), on Twitter (and tag #T5T) or in a comment to this post. The fun on Twitter begins at 1 PM CDT today, May 6.

My top five come from five films spread across the past few years. They're the first women I thought of when compiling this list. (Women surely have a much bigger pool to pick from, so before you complain about how characters and portrayals thereof vary negatively by gender, please remember most 'bad guys' are... well...'guys' :D). Meant to discuss some of these earlier, and figured this would be an appropriate time. (Some are discussed in greater detail than others.)

Please forgive the length of this post, then. Please also note that content following is rated PG-13 for unabashed, indeed unapologetic and celebratory, glorification of forces and personality traits contradictory to human goodness, and for admission of having succumbed to the natural forces of magnetism.


Bad Gal 1 of 5
Vidya Balan as Krishna in ISHQIYA (2010)

The lonely widow in a little village is confident in opening her house to two strange and creepy-looking men. It's hardly without purpose. Not only is she unapologetic in pitting Babban (Arshad Warsi) against his Khaalu (Naseeruddin Shah; Khaalu is Urdu for mother's sister's husband), she effortlessly weilds the power of womanhood to only further illustrate that guys such as Babban are simply incapable of thinking with their heads. Therein lies her biggest strength. She has some fun at their expense, that was bound to happen. She might even be a thief on a greater mission, of course. Most importantly, she's tremendously melodious, and can sing as gently and as enchantingly as a bird one moment, and hurl insults left and right another. Add 'sulfate' to pop culture vocabulary, now!


Ishqiya is well-written and has some very cool cinematography to go with some fine performances, although its pacing and overall theme aren't the most appealing. That doesn't mean it isn't a fun ride. Could it be anything but with this cast? Naseeruddin Shah is brilliant, as are the rest. Particularly enjoyed Khaalu's desire for Krishna, which is of prime significance. And can we blame him?


Hubba hubba! 8)


Krishna's a baddie, alright. But by whose definition of bad? Let's let Arshad and Vidya comment on that, here's a relevant minute-long snippet from the making. Vidya's at her bindaas best:


Movie rating: 3.75/5 (Very good!)
It's in the performances and dialogue. Be sure to read Shell's detailed take.

Music rating: 3.5/5 (Good)
Vishal Bhardwaj is consistent, Gulzar's lyrics are simply fine, and the background score contains some cool oldies.

My classification: R, for violence, language, and plot.

Official website: http://www.ishqiya.com/

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Bad Gal 2 of 5
Mahi Gill as Paro in DEV.D (2009)



She's got an almost similar tendency as Krishna of foul-mouthing her way through a lot. She's beautiful and insatiable, and what gets her to this list is how shamelessly she controls those around her. A woman out to quench her desire can be lethal, and this Paro is no different. Such wanton display of power is a universally agreed-upon bad. She might not get that feminism is about choice, and not about doing things one way or another, but she doesn't need to. Besides, Devdas is still the egomaniac we've known him to be, and as bad as it might be to fall for this bad Paro , it's worse to feel sorry for him.


Paro kicks butt. She isn't afraid to say what's on her mind, and the end to her interactions with Dev at his mess of an abode only illustrates this further. I was worried Paro would still have the hots for him, but liked how the film resolved that dilemma. Turns out it's not all about lust, which means some part of it is. Lust is bad. And bad is good for the purposes of this post.

Mahi has, after one viewing of Dev.D, become my favorite Paro of all time, but that might have something to do with her reminding me of a younger Tabu!


The film, as nonchalant as it is in its portrayals of everything from adulterous relationships in respectable households, to life in the red light district, is simply marvelously directed. The little things count for something. Crows crowing in the morning silence lead to reflection on activity preceding. The wailing police siren in the distance is a precursor to something bad. The call to prayer heard at a brothel symbolizes lost purity, and desire (there's the D-word again) to return to the initial pure state. Lots more of the kind in this bad film, which is really very good.


Abhay Deol
as Dev is excellent. Kalki Koechlin as Chanda (inspired by Chandramukkhi of Devdas (2002)) is a sheer joy to watch. The phenomenal soundtrack is my favorite bit about the film. Its integration is near-flawless, and its relevance ridiculously scary. Said after Aamir (2008) that Amit Trivedi would be one to look out for. He is certainly here to stay. The soundtrack takes a life of its own in and after the film. For that alone, it's easily the best of 2009. Have to give a shout-out to my favorite current vocalist, Shilpa Rao (more on her below), for Dhol Yaara Dhol. Love, love, love it!


Movie rating:
3.75 (Very good!)
Disliked the end, as a fan of poetic justice. But then, bad is good. I think I'm beginning to get this! Plenty on Dev.D at Apni East India Company's February 2009 archive.

Music rating: 4.5/5 (Brilliant!)
Few films can even hope to as well. Soundtrack's a treat from start to finish.

My classification: NC-17 (Stronger than R)
For a lot that's bad in truly bad ways. :)

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Bad Gal 3 of 5
Mahek Chhal as Shayana in WANTED (2009)

Apni East India Company is witness to my fondness of Shayana, from the moment she appeared in the 'Wanted'. Perhaps my post on the movie is, as well. The following from last September:

"A very special shout-out to Mahek Chhal, a bad gal named Shayana in the film, who is a sheer joy to watch in her Lara Croft avatar, and in a song in which she really should have been the singular point of focus."

Shayana talks smack. That she's the most underutilized in the film she's in, relative to every other bad gal in this list, is testament to her impact. But what gives this bad chica a good name in this list is her ability to not know good when she sees it! (Remember, Salman Khan was 'bad' when she first met him.) Bad attracts bad, and Salman's bad was a cloaked good. But the point is, even when Salman was 'bad', he was a lot better than the other bad guys. Shayana understood that. For going for the lesser evil, this bad gal deserves to be credited with an iota of goodness.


Oh, and she likes guns, too. Tsk-tsk.


More on the film in this review post.

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Bad Gal 4 of 5
Bipasha Basu in RACE (2008)

I'm not even sure I remember whether Bips was more bad than Katrina Kaif in this. Both must've been with varying degrees at different points in time in the film, too. We trust Abbas-Mustan with that brand of 'bad'. But cars, babes (let's not forget the uber-hot Sameera Reddy!), and horses, in a Hindi film can hardly ever be bad. Bips makes this list for her fitness level as illustrated while running for dear life (in slow motion, but we can forgive that) from a speeding vehicle in a garage.


Few mainstream Bollywood actresses are truly fit. Not Katrina. Not Kareena. Bips rocks, and she knows it. (Besides, when was the last time we heard of a big-budget film with Malaika Arora-Khan, Negar Khan, or Sophie Choudhary in the lead?)

She could want to tempt her brother-in-law. She could want to throw someone off a skyscraper. She could want to double-cross every other person that she comes across, and she could want to be genuinely evil all the time. As long as she fits the profile, she'll belong in this list.

The film is hardly a keeper, but it's not entirely hopeless. It's fairly well cast, at least. Anil Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, and Akshaye Khanna, can act :)

Movie rating: 2.75/5 (Above average)

Music rating: Unrated (Should approach zero, really)
Well-known by now that music Director Pritam Chakrobarty has plagiarized at will in this. The background score by Salim-Sulaiman is rather good.

My classification: R, for theme and content.

Official website: http://www.race.tips.in/

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Bad Gal 5 of 5
Geeta Basra as Roma in THE TRAIN (2007)

If I were to pick one, and only one, bad gal, Roma would be it. Hands down. Vishal (Emraan Hashmi) is involved in an extramarital affair with Roma because the tumultuous relationship with his wife Anjali (another hottie Sayali Bhagat, but she's good, so we must overlook her) is seemingly headed for divorce, and Roma offers hope and and a whole lot more, in more ways than one. Sure, that's bad, but it's not bad enough.

Roma is a femme fatale in the true sense of the term. The following from a related Wikipedia article (rated M for Mature):

A femme fatale is an alluring and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations. She is an archetype or stock character of literature and art. Her ability to entrance and hypnotize her male victim was in the earliest stories seen as being literally supernatural, hence the most prosaic femme fatale today is still described as having a power akin to an enchantress, vampire, female monster or demon.

Enchantress is right. What increases Roma's badness quotient relative to, say, Rani Mukerjee's character of adultress in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2005), is that there's a lot more than some combination of love and lust involved. Here, sex, money, blackmail, and racketeering are part of the equation. And uninhibited throughout!


On the other hand, what makes Bad Gal Roma slightly less bad is that she is eventually not as ruthless as she could be when it comes to a matter of life and death for the protagonist (because there might be death involved somehow -- turns out some storylines leave no other option). Now, let's not take away the title of femme fatale just yet. This is how we like 'em. Besides, how can a guy not have a thing for women who can talk numbers? ;)


Chances are this is the likeliest of the five aforementioned that you haven't seen. The Train (which is said to be a remake of a Hollywood film...surprise!) starts out in full speed, but loses some momentum half-way through, before a rough end. See it if you're an Emraan Hashmi fan. I've mentioned before that he can act a lot better than he's given credit for. This is a step below Jannat (2008) and Tum Mile (2009), but it's got some decent and unique (to say the least) performances.

Moreover, the soundtrack to The Train gives me the second-most-played track on the iPod -- Woh Ajnabi, sung by Music Director Mithoon and (again) personal favorite Shilpa Rao. Check it out below. It's the perfect party track, and the version of the song included in the soundtrack is even better.



I almost want to say this film makes for better viewing for us guys. But before you blame me for that, please remember what was said at the outset of this post: the vast, vast majority of filmic villains are still guys, and there might be one of them bad guys hidden in here too. :)

Movie rating: 2.75/5 (Above average)
It didn't derail, but could've sustained velocity. The cast make it worthwhile, and I like it enough to own it, but know it's not for everyone.

Music rating: 4/5 (Excellent)
More from Mithoon, please. He's disappeared of late.

My classification: R, for theme and content


So there you have it. Who are your favorites? Please be sure to share your thoughts on the films, and/or your top five (gals and/or guys). Your T5T comments are always welcome on Twitter (and tag #T5T) as well.

17 comments:

Anishok said...

Great list! ;-)

I gotta say I disagree with your choice of Mahi as the bad girl. She just knows what she wants, she's a self-respecting woman, who has needs and who isn't afraid of life. But that's just my take ;)

I loooved the bad girl in Wanted and would have gladly swiped a few scenes with goodie Ayesha for more scenes with her.

P.S. the credit for the genius idea behind #T5T goes to Christy (@ChristyRae75) ;)

bollywooddeewana said...

Very interesting,i wouldn't really call Bipasha from race a bad girl, she was quite fierce though. My own Top 5 bad gals/Women would be from my fave decades i.e. 60's, 70's & 80's

1 Reena Roy in Nagin (1976)

2 Manorama as the cold hearted greedy Aunt in Seeta aur Geeta<(1972)

3 Kajol in Gupt(1997)

4. Bindu in Allah rakha (1986)

5. Lalita Pawar in Ankhen (1968)

bollywoodfoodclub said...

Great post Nawab! Like Anishok, Paro (Mahi Gill) though gorgeous, is not really a bad girl at all, she's merely a villain of pyaar!

All the best!
Sita-ji

Christy said...

Great post! I like that you pointed out how Paro in Dev D owned her sexuality. I agree that she could fall into the bad girl category if only for how dysfunctional she is when influenced by Dev. I like that she has the strength in Dev D to find her happiness. Dev D is kind of revolutionary actually in the strength it gives to Paro and Chanda. They ultimately control their own destiny rather than simply enduring the tide that sweeps them along.
Also, thanks for the great #T5T plug! Hope you enjoyed it enough to join us again!

theBollywoodFan said...

Thank you all for your comments!

Anishok: Really enjoying this T5T idea, all for more of it. Didn't know it was Christy's brainchild. Thank you Christy!

Agreed on Mahi knowing what she wants and needs, and not being afraid to go get it. Not sure if I would say she was too self-respecting, though. Perhaps a bit too self-centric, in fact, to be the opposite?! But that's just my view. I wasn't necessarily treating this as a list of villains (just 'bad' women, LOL). Mahi fits my description of bad (she really does, in several ways), but then we're headed to a greater debate of definitions of bad and good, which is as old as humanity!

As for Wanted, agree completely on that bad gal! And now that you've got me thinking of Ayesha Takia, I wouldn't mind seeing her as a bad gal some day. ;)


BollywoodDeewana: Interesting view on Bipasha in Race. I should've done a better job of noting that I was picking based on 'evilness or perceived evilness'. Like your list, but would you believe I've only seen one (#2) of the five? Shame on me.

theBollywoodFan said...

Adab Sita-ji: Please see comment to Anishok above. Paro in Dev.D ... I guess I equated uncontrollability with lack of self-discipline, which to me is a bad thing. But I think I really should've emphasized that I didn't intend to make a list of villains, just 'bad' women, LOL.


Christy: Thanks again for the idea, and I'd definitely consider taking part in T5Ts again. Glad we can agree somewhat on Paro in Dev.D, and yes, it's refreshing to see the women take control of their lives, the hurt and badness that comes with that notwithstanding.

Loved how Paro could do more than just run after a dying Devdas by the gates to her home. Sure, Devdas is not Devdas if Devdas doesn't end like that, but then, Dev.D is not Devdas either, if that makes sense.

dishoomdishoom said...

Mahi DOES remind me on young Tabu as well! Oh and she was gorgeous in Gulaal as well!

And the Wanted girl! Agreed! I almost had the same screenshot of hers in one of my earlier posts.

I approve of your taste in women! Heh! Mine t5t included Mrs Robinson from The Graduate, Shabbo (the maid from Veer Zaara), Abhay Deol (dont ask why, long story), and a bad ass character from Maula Jatt (Villain's villainous sister)

theBollywoodFan said...

Thanks for your comment! Guess I should check out Gulaal soon (Appreciate the reminder), anything that or anyone who reminds me of Tabu is awesome! ;)

Shabbo in Veer Zaara (Divya Dutta) -- was she a bad gal? -- is quite an artist. Remember quite liking her in 'The Last Lear', 'Delhi-6', and 'Welcome to Sajjanpur'.

Hope to visit your blog this coming weekend, lost track of late, do forgive.

Cheers!

theBollywoodFan said...

PS: Dishoom Dishoom, *Abhay Deol*??? :D

dishoomdishoom said...

Oh! Gulaal was nice. Not as good as Dev D perhaps, but still a good watch. but do watch the movie for this! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQRqhFKpq7w

Shabbo: Let me explain: Without Shabbo Priety wouldn't be enabled to travel to india in the first place. And then, without Shabbo, Shahrukh wouldn't have known that Priety likes him! I mean, if we remove Shabbo from the equation, Veer would have found someone in India, and Zaara might have been living somewhat a satisfactory life (not knowing what real love is, because ignorance is bliss).

Nobody had to spend 22 years in Jail! Its her proclivity to interfere in others' matters, when she shouldn't have that led to a worse outcome, and that for me, is a very bad habit, that lead to very bad outcomes. I know its a controversial stance to take!

And Abhay Deol, well, im open minded enough to comment if the guy is hot or not, and Abhay in Dev D was a classic bad boy, whose attitude effused sexiness! Haha! I'm very comfortable with what I am, hence I can stumble into dangerous areas :)

ajnabi said...

What a cool idea for a post! I think Krishna is the one who best suits the idea, although I haven't seen The Train yet so perhaps I should recuse myself from judging. ;-) (Did you know it's available on Instant Viewing on Netflix? I swear, they are completely arbitrary in the films they choose for that service.) I have to appreciate bad girls in Hindi films that have any level of badness, if only because they tend to be the best-written women characters in the film! One gets the sense that writers don't think good girls can have an interesting interior landscape.

Anonymous said...

Since Gulaal has been mentioned, how about Ayesha Mohan's character in that film? I think she fully qualifies for the "bad" tag. She is manipulative and ambitious, and unlike "good" girls, she won't settle for happy domesticity.

theBollywoodFan said...

Dishoom: That's a hilarious clip from Gulaal, thanks for sharing. I must see it then, too many reasons already!

Compliments on your analysis of the Shabbo situation, only validates that if we're willing to look for something, we'll find it! I'm with you on this, although Priety Zinta is hardly my favorite, and in my version of the film, Rani and SRK would fall in love while he's a prisoner. ;)

I think Abhay Deol, Farhan Akhtar, and Emraan Hashmi are definitely among the top of those who will likely be the future of sensible, fun Hindi films.


Ajnabi: Thanks! You've been warned about The Train, so you're on your own there, although I could see how that song 'Woh Ajnabi' would spark some curiosity! ;) I'm totally missing out on Netflix, but their Instant Viewing options sound like the Hindi film collection at the L.A. Central Library, which seems to originate from little understanding of Hindi film.

And yes, it's always cool to see someone acknowledge that not everything and everyone are black and white, I like to think Hindi films are getting there. We've definitely come a long, long way since my cutoff point for a new era, 2001.


Cheers.

avdi said...

I agree with your first two choices. Krishna's part is amazingly written. You jump out of your skin when Vidya shows her rough side for the first time.

Mahie is my top choice here. She was so into that Paro character. Paro is so feisty and also vulnerable. I liked Chanda too. She wins DevD because she sticks with him, looking for the softness under his harsh exterior.

In my heart, I wish Krishna had been played by Mahie.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Avdi, and welcome to the blog! Thanks for your visit and comment.

Agreed on Krishna, of course, I'm just so relieved Vidya Balan's back. There was a time, around Heyy Babyy and Kismat Konnektion (or however they spelled it, LOL), when I'd started to get a little concerned!

Krishna played by Mahie? Hmm...it would definitely put a different spin to things.

Cheers.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

I love the idea of the bad girls post. I will disagree w/ ur choosing Mahie- she would be in my "Strong Woman" post, because she really doesnt do anything necessarily criiminal, I think. I would instead maybe have our fav Tabu from Maqbool, and Nadira from Shri 420- but both of those would not fit ur 5 yr criteria, I know... :) I do recall ur love for the Wanted baddie- that is SUCH a fun movie!

Shell said...

Yay! Glad you are joining us in our Thursday fun (and what a perfect idea for a blogpost!). Unfortunately, I haven't seen everything on your list, but totally agree with Vidya. Of course I'm totally in love with that film anyway, and thanks for the link btw. I liked Bipasha in Race but the movie was so filled with twists that I have a hard time remembering what side everyone was on!

I really must watch Dev.D soon I think. So many movies sitting on the shelf! However, tv season is over and summer means movies, movies, movies!!!