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Character Roles Making a Comeback With a Very Fruitful Outcome

Whoever the star of a film may be, it would never be complete without the breed of character artistes propping it up

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Character, Roles, Comeback
But the fact is there have been some superstars in this category, too. Pixabay

There has been a class of actors known as character artistes. Nobody ever thought of calling them stars, let alone superstars. But the fact is there have been some superstars in this category, too. Whoever the star of a film may be, it would never be complete without the breed of character artistes propping it up.

In keeping with the Indian way of life and family system, the earlier films wove in all kinds of roles in the story. Mama, chacha, mami, bua, tau, family friends and what have you. (Not wanting to go down in distant past, the Rajshri Productions films were the best examples of this formula.). There were scriptwriters who could find a slot for such characters as well as justify them.

The list of character artistes who had their own following and added value to the roster of a film was impressive. Impressive because despite the era, there were no loud dramatics when they performed. Their personality carried the character forward. The stalwarts who always left their mark were Jayant, Rehman, Iftikhar, Sapru, Jeevan, Kanhaiyalal, Balraj Sahni, Motilal, Nazir Hussain, Harindranath Chatttopadhyay, Manmohan, Aga, K.N. Singh, Om Prakash, Madan Puri, Mukri, Utpal Dutt, Ajit, Premnath, and Prithviraj Kapoor among others.

There was no dearth of powerful artistes who played these supporting roles among women either. Nirupa Roy, Sulochana, Manorama, Tun Tun, Leela Mishra, Leela Chitnis, Lalita Pawar, Urmila Bhatt, Kamini Kaushal, Nadira, Dina Pathak, Shashikala, and Achla Sachdev were well known.

Character, Roles, Comeback
There has been a class of actors known as character artistes. Pixabay

Female character artistes were more in vogue till 1970s, mostly playing compassionate and sacrificing roles.

Then, there were the villain character artistes. They were a must in love stories as the third angle – as the man who was also in love with the woman the hero loved. From Barbara Cartland to “Mills & Boons” to “Ramayan” and “Mahabharat”, whereever there is a woman involved, there has to be a villain. They were character artistes, too.

When one thinks of a villain, the late veteran Pran comes instantly to mind. In the later era, it was Amrish Puri. But, nobody quite lived up to villainy the way Pran did. The thing about villains who made it big was that they were always as suave or, probably, more suave than the hero. Almost always rich and well dressed. When not in a getup for a special role, Pran saaheb epitomised that kind of villain. His expressions, eyes and the way he dangled his cigarette made him look villainous. Same was the case with Amrish Puri. He was always presented well and, the kind of physique and personality he was endowed with, there was no way he could be presented otherwise. Puri’s eyes and face did all the acting his character needed to.

Then came an era of the violent villain. “Sholay”, probably, was the starting point. This was a different kind of cinema, very cowboy western American film like, and also, inspired from Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Japanese film, “Seven Samurai”, like a lot others inspired by this film.

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The villain in “Sholay” was a filthy, unkempt, tobacco-chewing man in Amjad Khan. Not quite Indian but the film worked, and more such villains followed. Incidentally, films were now being made with the background of politics, underworld and so on, and the villain got cruder, louder and crass; knife and sword swinging.

Gradually, the hero started playing the villain, and a new term was framed for them: the antihero!! Amitabh Bachchan started it long back with “Deewaar” but Shah Rukh Khan carried it forward much later.

This was the end of the villain era in Hindi films. In few smalltime political films with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as background, goons played the negative roles and anybody with repulsive, unkempt look would qualify. Thankfully, the moviegoers neither cared nor identified with such films.

There was a phase when scriptwriters were at a premium in the Hindi film industry (still are). Resultantly, so were the scripts with well-rounded, all inclusive stories. Villains were out. But, thankfully, the character artistes were back, thanks to some old-school filmmakers with traditional thinking.

Character, Roles, Comeback
Nobody ever thought of calling them stars, let alone superstars. Pixabay

It started with Sooraj Barjatya’s debut directorial venture, “Maine Pyar Kiya”. The film had no actor as its villain, but the old-fashioned rich-versus-poor formula playing the spoiler. The film had new faces and a few character actors but nothing elaborate. Sooraj’s next, the blockbuster “Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!”, was a film full of character artistes.

The film established that you need to keep the screen full of characters who kept the show going. No negativity was needed. Rajshri made another film, “Hum Saath Saath Hain”, on similar lines. The film’s success did not match that of the earlier two but it still remains much loved.

As if experimenting, Sooraj’s next was “Prem Ratan Dhan Payo”. In this film, a villain was a part of the narrative, rare for a Sooraj Barjatya film. Neil Nitin Mukesh was the guy to play that role. Ironically, the film flopped badly, as if, finally, the villain world was getting its revenge with the maker!

Films like “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge”, “Dil To Pagal Hai”, “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” and many more followed the no-villain trend.

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Character artistes were often the mainstay of a cinema narrative. Take “Mughal-e-Azam” for example. The role of Badshah Akbar played by Prithviraj Kapoor emerged so powerful that it not only towered over all others but, since that movie, Prithviraj Kapoor became the face of Akbar, say, in history lessons or when one read or talked about him!

When one thought of Guru Dutt’s classic, “Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam”, the characters of Sapru and Rehman (also for “Waqt”) came to mind instantly besides that of the protagonist, Meena Kumari.

The examples are aplenty. Like Pran in “Upkar” and “Zanjeer” or Kanhaiyalal in “Mother India”.
Later, there came a time when scripts were limited to few characters and revolved mainly around lead actors. Character artistes found no footage, nor the comedians, a vital part of older films.

The more the characters on the screen, especially the ones with more defined roles, it always helped a film hold its grip as well as spare tedium to its viewer. Thankfully, the character roles are making a comeback and, with a very fruitful outcome. This is a new crop and they may lack the persona that the actors like Rehman, Jayant, Sapru, Iftikhar, Balraj Sahni and others exuded, but they more than make up with their performance.

Those whose names come to mind immediately are Sanjay Mishra, Deepak Dobriyal, Pankaj Tripathi, Rajesh Sharma, Nawazuddin Siddiqi, Adil Hussain, Boman Irani, Murali Sharma, Zakir Hussain, Brijendra Kala, Vipin Sharma. These are the ones seen more often in recent films and not without justification.

@The Box Office
* The present period does not look conducive for the release of new films. With cash flow being scarce and with floods due to heavy rains in many states, films will come and go unnoticed. But, nobody seems to be avoiding release plans.

* While all recent releases have suffered, even the week’s new films, “Jabariya Jodi”, “Pranaam”, “Mushkil” and “Chicken Curry Law”, will find it tough to sustain through the opening weekend.

* “Khandani Shafakhana”, with its theme of sex life consultants, much-publicised in the Hindi belt with the catchwords, “Ek baar mil to le…” splashed in major cities, lacked appeal and identification. The film failed to arouse curiosity and, hence, the footfalls. The film managed to collect just about Rs 3.7 crore in its first week.

* “Judgemental Hai Kya”, after a face-saving first week, stumbled in the second week as collections drop to just about Rs 5 crore. The film’s two-week total stands at Rs 31.5 crore. (VOA)

Next Story

Devastating Islamic State Terror Group Set Conditions for Comeback

ISIS’s Second Comeback: Assessing the Next ISIS Insurgency, by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW)

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Islamic State, Terror, Comeback
FILE - Islamic State members walk in the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria, March 10, 2019. VOA

The Islamic State terror group has set conditions for a comeback that “could be faster and even more devastating” than when it first burst onto the world stage, according to a new report out Wednesday.

ISIS’s Second Comeback: Assessing the Next ISIS Insurgency, by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW), also warns the terror group, often referred to as IS or ISIS, is likely to reclaim territory both in Syria and in Iraq, where it is already seizing control.

“ISIS has systematically eliminated village leaders and civilians who cooperated with anti-ISIS forces,” the report says. “It has re-imposed taxes on local populations in its historical support zones, displacing civilians and de facto controlling small pockets of terrain in Iraq.”

In Syria, IS faces a more daunting task, where it is still battling the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Assad, and Hay’at Tharir al-Sham, al Qaida’s Syrian affiliate.

Islamic State, Terror, Comeback
FILE — A member of U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) watches over people who were evacuated out of the last territory held by Islamic State militants, outside Baghouz, Syria, March 5, 2019. VOA

Still, the report’s authors believe IS is well-prepared for the fight, having taken advantage of the slow and methodical U.S.-backed campaign to roll back the terror group’s self-declared caliphate.

“ISIS deliberately withdrew and relocated many of its fighters and their families,” the reports states.

“ISIS’s forces are now dispersed across both countries and are waging a capable insurgency,” it says. “ISIS retained a global finance network that funded its transition back to an insurgency and managed to preserve sufficient weapons and other supplies in tunnel systems and other support zones in order to equip its regenerated insurgent force.”

The concerns about a possible IS resurgence are not new.

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As far back as August 2018, U.S. defense officials were warning IS was “well-positioned to rebuild and work on enabling its physical caliphate to re-emerge.”

More recently, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Stabilization Denise Natali warned, “the threat persists.”

And even this week, a statement by the Global Coalition to Defeat IS, admitted the terror group remains both resilient and undaunted, with cells in Syria and Iraq to conduct an increasing number of attacks against coalition partners and coalition partner forces.

“This is a major concern for the entire Coalition, as it puts at risk key military gains and the stability necessary for recovery,” the statement said.

Islamic State, Terror, Comeback
FILE – A U.S. soldier sits in an armored vehicle on a road leading to the tense front line with Turkish-backed fighters, in Manbij, north Syria, April 4, 2018. Pixabay

Data compiled by the Syrian-based Rojava Information Center and published earlier this month seems to support such concerns.

The center found there were 139 attacks by IS sleeper cells in northeastern Syria alone in May, an increase of 61% over the previous month. The number of deaths also rose, 42% in May to 78, with increases even in previously secure areas.

In addition to the attacks, IS has been blamed for burning hundreds of hectares of farmland in Syria and Iraq.

According to the most recent U.S. estimates, IS still commands at least 10,000 fighters across the two countries.  But despite the threat, U.S. troops involved in supporting the fight against IS have been leaving Syria.

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“The number of U.S. forces that are present now is quite a bit lower than when the drawdown began,” Chris Maier, the director of the Pentagon’s Defeat IS Task Force, told a small group of reporters last month.

“U.S. force numbers will continue to draw down as conditions continue to, we hope, improve,” he added.

Since then, some U.S. forces have been assigned to return to Syria, but according to U.S. defense officials, their primary mission is to protect forces there from growing threats from Iranian proxies in the region.

The overall trendlines, though, concern the authors of the ISW report, calling the lessening U.S. engagement, especially in Syria, “a critical mistake.”

Instead, the report calls on the U.S. to develop a long-term strategy that combines both military and a plan to address ongoing economic and humanitarian problems.

“Another limited intervention will not be sufficient,” concludes study co-author Jennifer Cafarella.

“The ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria has demonstrated to ostensibly liberated communities that they are not safe, perpetuating conditions of fear and distrust that will make it increasingly difficult to establish durable and legitimate security and political structures.” (VOA)