Char Ikke

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It has been a sad year for the Hindi film industry. And I am not just referring to the release of Biblical curses like “Golmaal 3″, “Anjana Anjaani” and “Tees Mar Khan.”

It has been sad because four doyens of old-world 80s/90s single-screen Bollywood passed away in the past few months and as someone who grew up watching their movies, it would be remiss of me not to raise my virtual cap to them.

A true Bollyaddict might not know what Mcdonald’s is but he sure knows who Mac Mohan [picture courtesy here] is. Rarely has a single-line role defined a man’s entire body of work so totally as it had for Mac Mohan, the irony of which was beautifully captured in one of his last movies “Luck By Chance” where while delivering a graduation speech at a small-time film academy, he (playing himself) finds that all that the students seem interested in is in making him repeat THAT line from Sholay——”Poorey pachaas hazaar”. Mention the name Mac Mohan to a general audience and you will get some standard responses “That man who looks the same for the last forty years” ,” Oh that eternal villain’s sidekick ” and sometimes “Raveena Tandon’s uncle.”

For me though, Mac Mohan is different, more a symbol than a person who played bit “blink and you miss it” roles typically as a secondary baddie. In an age of wannabe Bollywood, where villains are no longer considered sellable, where true legends like Shakti Kapoor and Ranjeet are ignored in favor of two-bit punks, the villain’s henchman has become totally extinct. While old world villains like Pran, Amrish and Gulshan Grover are still remembered from time to time in dedications at tiresome award functions or as space-fillers in Sunday editions of newspapers, the worker-bees who aided them in their evil plans—– filling their planes with jet fuel so that they could escape, kidnapping the heroine’s mother and bringing her to the lair, folding the hero’s sister’s sari after it had been undraped from her, scoping out nubile nymphets for the lusty thakur, remembering the exact bounty announced on the dacoit boss, wearing white suits and standing discreetly in the background of the smuggler don—-have been consigned to the dead-pool of forgetfulness, their contribution to the craft of villany seldom acknowledged. And now with the death of their most recognizable icon, Mac Mohan, one can say an age has truly passed, the age of the villain’s tech-support, whose true uniqueness lay in his being nondescript.

Goga Kapoor was never as prolific as Mac Mohan. But that does not make him any the less significant. Remembered mostly as Kansa Mama in Mahabharat or as the kind don in “Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na”, and not so remembered for a performance in “Sanjay”as, to quote IMDB, a “gay professor”, for me Goga Kapoor’s defining performance will always be as the auctioneer of “jungle beauties” in the sleeper cult hit “Jungle Beauty”. It is a marvelous sequence (I have linked to it before) [Doston, yeh jungle ki naageenein woh bulbule hain jinki saanson main phoolon ki mahek, badan mein haowoon ke taazgi, aur chaal main jharnon ki rawaangi hai…aap log husn aur jawaani ke jahuri boliye is naagein ki kya keemat lagate hain?”] which to me was a prescient depiction of IPL and 2G spectrum auctions, with Goga Kapoor’s lustful descriptions of the lingerie-clad items for sale beautifully capturing the greed and avarice of modern capitalist society in a way few can.

Among the four, Bob Christo’s death received the most coverage in the media. [My favorite dedication here] And deservedly so for Bob was truly an interesting man having a chequered past, being among other things a mercenary and Sanjay Khan’s bodyguard. In Hindi movies he was the archetypical “white man” with greedy designs on our women, our music (Disco Dancer), our heritage (Mr. India) and our identity (Main Hindooostan ko tabahiyaa kar doonga) who at the end would get his just deserts, which usually consisted of having blows delivered square on the top of his bald head (whether he was hated more for his firangness or baldness I could never figure out). Whether he was a lightning rod for post-colonial India’s mistrust of the firang man or whether he provided some level of moral comfort, namely that the true enemy of the country was an outsider (in his most movies, he was the foreign client who came at the very end to take delivery or give a “suitcase), or whether he served as an embodiment of pre-liberalization India’s fear of foreign capital (he was most of the time the “smuggler” in other words the man who did not pay import duties), I cannot say for sure. What I can assert though is that I used to root for him always, knowing fully well what will happen to him in the end, with a Bob Christo sighting in a movie making me as happy as hearing the ice-cream man’s “Flurrriessssss” call at two on a hot Kolkata summer afternoon.

Rami Reddy’s performance in Pratibandh was truly disturbing (only character comparable in terms of pure evil was Anna of “Parinda”) with none of the redeeming cartoonish buffonery that so characterize villains in those times. Besides his formidable Mr T-like physical presence, it was that deadpan seriousness that defined Rami Reddy as a villain. A big star down South, his Hindi footprint is comparatively small. But even then, he is a legend, being immortalized by virtue of being part of two of the greatest movies ever made in modern India—Loha and Gunda. Famous among true aficionados as the dangerous Takla from Loha and the terrifying Kala Shetty from Gunda, I would still consider his performance as Colonel Chikara in “Waqt Humara Hai” as the most memorable.

Declaring himself as “a king without a kingdom” he came to India in order to find a land he could rule. His plan was simple—-to bump of Netaji Ramgopal Verma (yes that was the name, a very Tarantino-type in-reference) and take control of the Indian military by using a “Krypton Bomb”. As he declared to the camera “Krypton aur Bomb bananae ka formula dono research center main hai” and so in order to get at that, he launched a spectacular assault on the research center. So scary was he that in an action sequence in the said research center, he stands in front of a scientist and that man (PhDs are never those with a strong heart) actually jumps up, bends his head to the side, closes his eyes and falls dead before Colonel Chikara can even fire. I will be honest. Colonel Chikara would have succeeded in his efforts of making India his kingdom had he not made one wrong decision—-he crossed paths with Akshay Kumar and Suniel Shetty and as any movie director today knows, getting mixed up with Akshay Kumar means absolute ruin. Add Suniel Shetty to that and not even God can do anything. Though to his credit, Colonel Chikara did come close. Real close.

I would like to conclude by linking to a very favorite song of mine [Video], a dedication to all these so-called “small time” villains. Pictured on Bob Christo (movie: Farz ki Jung), it is one of the very few times that one of these lesser known lights has been given the screen-time they deserve, without a hero in sight to beat them up and provided with pliant pretty women, one of whom strips following Hindi movie’s version of Zeno’s dichotomy paradox where the vamp’s process of unclothing is never complete.

Before the song starts, Amrish Puri (another great no more with us) says poignantly—–

Thank you, thank you Mr. Burger. Yeh to tumhari greatness hai. You are great. I am great. And we will have great fun.

Thank you Mr. Christo, Mr. Mac Mohan, Mr. Reddy and Mr. Kapoor. You have been great. And together we have had great fun over the years.

Rest in peace.

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62 thoughts on “Char Ikke

  1. Good piece – as any true afficiando of hindi (not bollywood) movies knows – it was these nuts and bolts people that held up the edifice!!
    reading about these 4 artistes brings to mind one of the great dialogues repeated in many movies – Kandhar batlate hain ki imarat buland thi!! (the ruins tell of the majesty of the buildings!)

  2. Touched and moved by this post. One common thing that bound all the four was they had a lot of lust in their eyes. Lust for money, women, power. Perhaps that’s what defines a true bollywood villain. Loved the post. Thank you, Arnab. You are one of the few who’s carrying the 80s/90s flag.

  3. Thanks for an affectionate tribute to Spot Nana, Mr Wolcott, Shaitan Singh and Sambha.
    In the days where ‘people die a hero or end up becoming another villain’, villainy itself is becoming extinct and henchmen even more so.
    Of these, Goga Kapoor even has a rich body of work as hero/heroine’s father – most notably in QSQT – who opposes the romance.

    Hats off to the quartet.

  4. Wish Bob Christo and MacMohan knew that they have a fan following that can be the envy of any star.. these guys were beyond the fickle nature of stardom. Great writing and great link GB.

  5. Does anyone remember a pan masala ad in which Bob, playing the international smuggler says ‘Hum jayenge Nandooba aur police ko milega aangotha’ (my fav memory of this baddie) before the masala chewing Police inspector (probably Sumeet Saigal) shoots him dead?

  6. The photograph of Mac Mohan was rather interesting.
    I was under the impression that Bob Christo had come to India to meet Parveen Babi and then Sanjay Khan’s ‘Abdullah’ came along. But the autobiography looks interesting & his closest pals were Prabhuji and Tom Alter. How wonderful.

  7. Rami Reddy is dead? Damn! And a pretty young age too. I remember an article about him down south saying “If Rami Reddy laughs, decapitated heads would choke the streets of Andhra Pradesh”. At one time he was EVIL incarnate in celluloid.
    BTW, I had seen the Telugu original of Pratibandh (well, dubbed into Tamil as Idhu Thaanda Police) when I was a little kid. I *still* remember Rami Reddy’s performance…. and Dr Rajasekhar’s powerful performance sometimes stretching into hamming. The violence was quite visceral, the delivery of the hero’s child while the heroine is dying horribly of a stab wound, the scene where Spot Anna’s brain’s were blown out, the exasperated hero lighting the torch to save the CM were pretty well done.

    Bob Christo was a Shantaram-on-speed, eh? Never knew his mercenary background. Now I GOT to buy the book. BTW, anyone remember MacMohan’s role in Kaala Patthar? The way he lies to his colleagues (even though he had the winning poker hand, as always) and walks deeper into the mine to certain death was quite memorable. I think he was quite underused. Ranjeet’s earlier works like Naya Daur, Mughal-e-Azaam are more memorable than even Loin and Teja……

    Oh man, I SO miss all these “villains”…..

  8. i came here to declare im first. But i dont deserve to commemt. I could not recognize any of them by their name except Mc Mohan.
    RIP Char Ikke

  9. This blog reminicient of old hindi movies which we would love to watch again and again, thanks to Arnab to give tribute to second baddies also……..
    These villians will always be remembered especially,few of favourites Mac Mohan (sambha in sholay) Goga kapoor- (Mama Kans- Mahabharat)/ Rami reddy ( Waqt hamara hai ),for their dialogue and talent.

  10. @superbong Isn’t it interesting that you read and even comment on what you deem as ‘bakwas’. As far as I know Gb’s blog is not a school text that you have to read, you have the option to leave immature people with plenty of time alone…

  11. @BalalSangh Parivar: “Ranjeet’s earlier works like Naya Daur, Mughal-e-Azaam are more memorable than even Loin and Teja……” you mean Ajeet, right?

    @greatbong: thank you so much. The moment I saw that picture of Rami Reddy, I thought, “Waqt Hamara Hai!” The homage was touching, though not nearly enough. Yes, we do forget the little men and women who populate the frame in the villain’s den, the heroine’s (always 19th) birthday party, the hero’s bike trips… Does anybody remember the mustachioed middle-aged man who played bit roles in almost every movie made in the 90′s? The one who consoles Prem Chopra at his young daughter’s funeral in the original Khiladi? Or that old man who gets so turned on when Juhi Chawla publicly kisses Amir Khan in Ishq, that he grabs the old woman standing rights next to him and gives her one hard smooch?

  12. @ superbong – Are you a wannabe kid fed too much on the Akshay Kumars and Deepikas and Dum Maro Dum remixes? Am sure you are. Do yourself a favour and get some gyaan on who these four uncles were, kiddo. Or just plain dont come here and read this blog AND take the pains to comment. Ok, duh-ling!

  13. Gosh lovely post Arnab. I loved all 4 of these guys on screen- such personas I tell ya esp Shetty and Bob Christo! Such a huge loss indeed to on screen villainy :(

  14. Brilliant post. As usual.

    Much as I love your posts on B-grade cinema and not-so-hit characters (being a B-grade cinephile myself), I am also a great fan of late-70s and 80s art house films. Saaransh, Ardh Satya, Arth, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, Mandi, Aakrosh,….. I could go on and on. I haven’t come across posts on this genre of movies, or the sub-culture of art movies. Not to your liking?

  15. This is my first fart.. pliss accept

    Looks like you never saw Kaala Pathaar, Jyoti Bane Jwala/Hum Se Hai Jamana and Ganga Jamuna Saraswati?

    So now you understand why actors,politicians/cricketers behave like you have started to?
    2 many kwestions and 2 many kritks… right?

    as u might say 2 me : STFU

  16. Or u might say that you have no experience being an actor/politi/cricketer and come up with a convoluted logic…

    anybhay.. bhaiting bhor u

    BTW, in case u missed it.. this bhas my shecond fart..

    an from 2morrow onwards, i bhill eat mooli ka parantha bhe4 commenting here

  17. Very touching tribute… Of these four, the only one I have met in person was the Bob Christo. This was about 8 years ago. Surprisingly, Bob was actually short and looked gaunt, without the huge towering frame and bulging biceps that movie-watchers assumed he had. I found out that Christo worked as a gym and yoga trainer in a resort.

    The most meaningful roles and best performances-to-date of Bob Christo (and Tom Alter) is in the movie “Veer Savarkar”. This is the BEST movie that has been made of the Indian Freedom Struggle, along with “The Legend of Bhagat Singh”.

    His incredulous look and Aussie-drawl (“Yeh Indian God Bolta Bhi Hai?) before being bashed by a golden murti of Bajrang Bali in “Mr.India” will forever be etched in our collective memories.

    We will miss all these 4 guys. May all these four gentlemen be blessed with moksha, in this life or the next. Or better still, come back and entertain us, in your next life.

  18. Who was the fellow playing the role of Amol palekar’s friend in original gol maal. Appeared in its title track also. very cute and likable. Also played a doctor friend of Rakesh Roshan in Khoobsoorat.
    Violin playing teenager in Khatta meetha (Ashok Kumar wali). Also in Khoobsoorat. perhaps was son of Pearl Padamsee.
    Also the fellow playing bodyguard of Parveen Babi in Amar Akbar Anthony ?
    David
    Mukri
    Mohan Choti
    Asrani Jagdeep Mehmood Deven Verma
    Ifthekhar
    ramesh Dev
    nasir Hussain (eternally weeping)
    GB’s favourite A K hangal
    Utpal Dutt
    Om Prakash
    Yunus Parvez
    Satyen Kappu
    rakesh Bedi Vivek vasvani
    Ramu kaka !
    Man playing Narang in original Don
    Asit Sen (slow dialogues)
    keshto
    and the king – johny walker
    Any serious material available on them ?

  19. Best roles:
    Bob Christo: Kancha cheena’s henchman in “Agneepath”
    Mac Mohan: Amjad Khan’ man trying to kill the girl in song Mausam Mastana in “Satte pe Satta” (Here too without a dialogue)
    Goga Kapoor: Amitabh Bacchan’s failed attempt at superhero genre “Toofan”
    Rami Reddy: clueless hench man in “Gunda” and Chikara in “Waqt hamara hai”

  20. GB/ Arnab,

    thanks for the post. Those of us who grew up on a staple diet of hardcore masala movies in 70s, 80s and partly 90s can never forget the role that villains and their sidekicks played…before heroes decided that it was more fun to play the villain. Hence a lot of heroes won acclaim/awards/noriety for the negative roles they played SRK, Ajay Devgan, Akshay Khanna, Sunil Shetty, Anil Kapoor, etc.

    There are always actors who have played smaller roles but have left their mark…i had written an article on such actors a few years ago..but am always surprised that there is such a large audience that still wants to know about them.. (insert shamless plug here ) you can visit this link to take a look at the article

    http://passionforcinema.com/kahan-gaye-woh-log/

    but thanks again for the wonderful article on the 4 Aces!

  21. Ramireddy, amongst these great, was really “MSDhoni” of villains association.. :) he was “calm and effective”. however, only difference is, God never gave him chance to change his hairstyle that often like dhoni did!! he sported “woldcup winning hairstyle” always! thats why I feel, Dhoni is a blessed kid!

    May all these greats “rest in peace” and dont create, much havoc up there ! :)

  22. For me when I think of Kansa, I think of Goga Kapoor. His thunderous laugh made me wonder whether how was it possible for a human to laugh like that, it was scary and out of this world. I think he is probably one of the most under-rated actors in Bollywood and a superb character actor. Wondered why he did so few movies. Would have loved to see him more.

    Came to know about his death through this blog. Will surely miss him.

    BTW his real name is Ravinder Kapoor. (Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goga_Kapoor)

  23. Good article sir.

    I was one of the fortunate few to see the underrated gem called Sanjay. It starred Dilip Kumar’s nephew. Goga Kapoor is the professor in a college teaching cooking (yes, cooking was an optional electice offered by this wonder college) Our hero joined it for some not so sharif intentions. Gogaji maaros line on him in a the most corny way. Funny in a sort of crude 90′s Hindi film style.

  24. Colonel chikara, also had same feelings as other in Bollywood have! he was against Netaji Ramgopal verma, like every one of us does :)

  25. @ Renuka: “It is indeed a much more thought-provoking than all the right-wing Islamophobia that is so common in this blogspace.”

    In that case, you will really like the thought-provoking articles of Dr. Ali Sina and M.A.Khan .

    Do let me know whether you can think outside the box now.

  26. the most insecured career is that of an actor.they live in two days alike world and their struggle has god’s fingerprint on it.souls without salvation!

  27. Location: Class 9 Sec A. South Point High School.
    Timeline: Nov Dec 1995.
    History period:Post-mughal India.Maratha dynsasty the topic under discussion.
    Bunch of us in the last 2 benches were as usual chatting.
    Teacher: Ei…stand up…why are you talking ? …ok…tell me who were the protagonists of the Third battle of Panipat ?
    Classmate: ( thinking hard and furiously)… Shahbaaz Khan and Bob Christo…
    STUNNED SILENCE IN CLASS…
    Teacher( gathering her wits and foaming at the mouth… exlodes)… Beriye JAO….GET OUT!!!!
    Classmate: ( walking thru the rows and past the teachers table looks back)…theek-ii toh bollam…Great Maratha tey toh tai dekhalo…

    Such was the power of Bob Christo… read this in conjunction with Sagnik`s old post on Tom (Alter) & Bob( Christo)…really the age of real men as villains is over… done and dusted with…now we have wimps with Blackberry as the baddie… aager moto sukh nei….

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