Action is a pivotal part of a typical Bollywood movie. After all, in the big bad world that your quintessential Bollywood hero lives in, the proverbial table only turns when he has an equally big bad goon to defeat. Here’s looking at some of the best films in the action genre. Caution: This is not an updated, subversive listicle of how action movies are now perceived by the filmmakers and audience.
Of course, you begin the listicle of seminal action movies with the one that started the wave of actioners in Bollywood. The Amitabh Bachchan starrer Zanjeer, which was released in the early 70s, marked a fresh start for a new kind of cinema in the Hindi film industry. Bachchan’s character Inspector Vijay Khanna stood for the frustrated and emotionally charged Indian man of the time. His character reflected how the ‘áam junta’ was disappointed with the financial situation of the country. The rise of lawlessness and poor economic growth helped writers Salim and Javed shape the character of Bachchan in the Prakash Mehra directorial. In fact, post the film the megastar came to be known as the ángry young man’ of Bollywood.
Another Amitabh Bachchan and Salim-Javed collaboration, the Ramesh Sippy movie changed how ‘a masala movie’ was made. It had hints of romance, humour and a large dose of action. The action was usually informed by an element of comedy. And it came largely from the background of its lead characters Jai, Veeru and Gabbar (played by Bachchan, Dharmendra and Amjad Khan, respectively). Sholay also gave Bollywood one of its most memorable villains in the form of Gabbar Singh. The gun-wielding and somersaulting paired with iconic dialogues like “Kitne aadmi the?” makes Sholay not only a great actioner, but an all-round entertaining feature.
Have you seen the poster of Ghayal? Sunny Deol poses with a rifle and towards the side of the frame, we see scores of men holding back a visibly upset Sunny paaji. Out of which, many are men in uniform. Produced by Dharmendra, the movie marked filmmaker Rajkumar Santoshi’s debut as a director. Ghayal went on to win several awards and was declared a big box office success at the time. The success of the film spawned remakes in languages such as Telugu, Tamil and Kannada.
Sunny is Ajay who is an amateur boxer. After being framed for murdering his brother and having an extra-marital affair with his sister-in-law, he seeks revenge on the system and the main villain Balwant Rai (Amrish Puri).
A remake of Ram Gopal Varma’s debut Telugu film Siva (1989), the Nagarjuna starrer immediately comes to mind when one thinks of an action feature based in a college campus. The movie represented the innocence, the ideals and the unadulterated anger of youth and went on to become a blockbuster. The late Raghuvaran as Bhavani was splendid as the cunning and relentless antagonist.
Patriotism is at play here, but this film certainly does not belong to the Akshay Kumar brand of patriotism. Lead actor Aamir is ACP Ajay Singh Rathod who takes it upon himself to right the wrongs perpetrated by Gulfam Hassan (Naseeruddin Shah) and his aides. The movie also features Sonali Bendre, Mukesh Rishi and Surekha Sikri in pivotal roles.
Dhoom marked the beginning of a commercially viable franchise. However, the sequels were not able to match the quality of the original. The trio of John Abraham, Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra brought in different flavours to the table. There were bikes, jokes and slow-motion shots. Dhoom also marked a new inning in Junior Bachchan’s career.
Remake of the 2010 Tamil movie Singam, Singham featured Ajay Devgn as the quick-to-anger cop. The film, also starring Prakash Raj and Kajal Aggarwal, had it all – the hand-to-hand combats, the guns, the deal. The success of the Rohit Shetty directorial resulted in a sequel titled Singham Returns (2014), which featured Ajay Devgn and Kareena Kapoor Khan in the lead.
Honourable mentions: Main Khiladi Tu Anari (1994), Satya (1998), Gangs of Wasseypur (2012).