After making news globally, the arrest of Rajendra Sadashiv Nikhalje aka gangster Chhota Rajan on October 25, at Bali airport (Indonesia), caused a stir in Bollywood too. After all, characters in several Hindi films — Sanjay Dutt’s in Vaastav (1999) and Vivek Oberoi’s Company (2002), for instance — have allegedly been based on Rajan. Incidentally, Rajan isn’t the only gangster who has inspired the industry.
Films that are based on the lives of such wanted criminals, or revolve around the underworld, have always captivated Indian film-makers and audiences alike. In fact, even now, there are a bunch of such movies that are being made.
The coming few months will see films like Raees (reportedly inspired by ’80s don Abdul Latif of Gujarat), Daddy (based on gangster-turned-politician Arun Gawli), Vivek Oberoi’s currently-untitled next (biopic on UP’s deadly contract killer, Virendra Pratap Shahi), Kabali (apparently inspired by a real-life don based in Mylapore, Chennai) and Main Aur Charles (based on the life of serial killer Charles Sobhraj), among others.
A yet-untitled movie based on underworld don Babloo Srivastava is also in the pipeline. “Such films and characters come with loads of interesting fodder, besides the elements of thrill, intrigue, drama, action and fear. And, the fact that the audiences can’t directly relate to gangsters-criminals, since they belong to a completely different world, makes such films all the more intriguing for them,” says film-maker Sanjay Gupta, who has helmed films such as Shootout At Lokhandwala (2007) and Shootout At Wadala (2013) in the past. His next, Mumbai Saga, is reportedly based on the gangster-politician nexus of the ’80s and ’90s.
The trend of making gangster-based films started in the late ’80s, with Parinda (1989). In the coming years, movies like Satya (1998), Vaastav, Company, Maqbool and Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012) continued to fuel the audience’s fascination for such stories. “There’s a lot of curiosity involved with films based on gangsters. Although we are generally aware of their stories through what we read in the newspapers or what we see on TV, watching them on screen offers an incomparable thrill,” says trade analyst Komal Nahta.
That’s also probably why actors are going the extra mile for such roles. Arjun Rampal , who will be seen playing the lead role in Daddy, says, “When you are given the responsibility to portray such a role, you need to delve deeply into it. You need to understand the person you are playing, and his or her personality, so that you are able to do justice to the character.”
Even though the audience cannot relate to such characters, what makes these subjects work with them? “Such films are mounted very stylishly. Plus, the dialogues, action and mass appeal turn them into a deadly combination,” says exhibitor-distributor Akshaye Rathi.