ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Villains and Their ‘Logic’ in Contemporary Films

Contemporary films are eliminating supernatural characteristics and motivations for their villains and bringing them closer to real life.

In Heroes, Villains and Fools: The Changing American Character (2014), American sociologist Orrin E Klapp defines a villain as someone who has the opposite traits of a hero and threatens the group that the hero serves. He adds that several villains grab more than their share or misuse power. Unlike outlaws and troublemakers, they may be firmly entrenched in positions of authority. Some of the most memorable villains in the world of films include Darth Vader from The Star Wars trilogy (1977–83), Hans Gruber in Die Hard (1988), Gabbar Singh in Sholay (1975) and the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008). No matter who the villains are, the central question is what makes the villains so. The case is no different for both Hollywood and Mollywood films, both industries having gifted extraordinary villains to the world recently, such as Joker, Shibu, Reji Mathew and Thanos.

Early Hollywood was marked by villains like the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz (1939), Norman Bates in Psycho (1960), Darth Vader in The Star Wars (1980) and Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (1991). In Mollywood though, heroes have dominated the industry. Most of the storylines were written with particular actors in mind, and the primary element of such films was the hero’s virtue prevailing over the villain’s vices. Even then, prominent villains from the industry range from Tablist Ayyappan in Yavanika (1982), P K Jayarajan in Uyarangalil (1984), Paul Paulokkaran in Namukku Parakkan Munthirithopukkal (1986), to Bhaskara Patelar in Vidheyan (1990), Angoor Rawther in Iyobinte Pusthakam (2014) and Chakkara in Kali (2016). The eviler the villain, the better it was when the protagonist ultimately defeated the villain, mainly through violence in a direct, physical encounter towards the climax. However, as films began to reflect day-to-day activities, realistically and symbolically, the need to present heroes and villains differently arose. Such a need changed the rationale behind the actions and behaviours of heroes and villains, especially Joker, Shibu, Reji Mathew and Thanos.

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Updated On : 1st Feb, 2023
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