From Gabbar to Crime Master Gogo, Bollywood’s villains have never been anything short of legendary. But, if there is one villain whose impactful screen presence, iconic dialogues, and sheer evilness is impossible to forget, it has to be Mogambo from Mr. India.
In 1987, when Mr. India released, it showcased great performances and the kind of drama that the audience truly thrived on. It was also a well-developed, novel story that appeared like a breath of fresh air, in the midst of the ‘angry Indian man’ dramas Hindi cinema was becoming famous for at the time.
But perhaps one of the film’s greatest win has to be the characters it built. Every character, from the protagonist Arun aka Mr. India (Anil Kapoor) to his reliable sidekick, Calendar (Satish Kaushik), to his lady love, Seema (Sridevi), was memorable in its own right.
And among a slew of truly unforgettable characters, was the movie’s villain, Mogambo, played by late Amrish Puri.
Mogambo was a retired Army General who was as sinister as he was clever. His demeanor was inspired by Hitler, to the point that his guards and subordinated greeted each other with the commandment, ‘Hail Mogambo!’
An evil genius who operated out of a remote hidden island, Mogambo was easily one of the most terrifyingly intelligent villains we had. I mean, the people who opposed or betrayed him were thrown in a pool of acid! And for the time the movie was made, the visual effects were extraordinarily creepy.
Apart from the whole dipping-in-acid activity, Mogambo also orchestrated several other attacks, which, at the time, scared the hell out of me. Like the time he planted bombs in toys and placed them across the town, targetting innocent kids, just so Mr. India would reveal his true identity.
And while these machinations are evil in their own right, it was Amrish Puri’s brilliant portrayal that transformed Mogambo from just another villain to an iconic, shit-your-pants scary villain. I mean, even now, the second I hear the words, ‘Mogambo, khush hua!’, the child inside me wants to hide under the bed.
Whether it was the measured tone in which he delivered threats or the maniacal glint in his eyes, Amrish Puri convinced the audience that there was no man as evil as Mogambo.
Amrish Puri’s undeniably impressive filmography includes both, national and international projects. And while he did complete justice to each character he played, no matter how minor or major, Mogambo will remain one of his scariest, most memorable character.