The greatest attraction of Bollywood movies is the emotional quotient. People get involved into the action so much that they start identifying themselves with the characters. They laugh when the character is happy. When the character is wronged in the movie, they get angry. They cry when the character becomes sad or dies in the film.
Bollywood has produced certain iconic characters that have stood the test of time. Even today, people recall these roles with fond memories. They have left their stamp on the hearts of people.
If we start listing them, they can go into hundreds. We are choosing the top 11 most popular Bollywood characters. It is possible that we might have left out someone. We are not restricting ourselves to a particular film. You can judge the popularity of the character when the same actor or different ones reprise the same character in different movies. We would love to produce an exhaustive list.
11. Geet – Kareena Kapoor
This choice might surprise a lot of people. Kareena Kapoor is one of the finest and most intense actresses produced by Bollywood. She is one actress who can portray different kinds of roles in a single film. She can be vivacious as well as somber in the same film. Her portrayal of Geet in Jab We Met is the perfect example of what she can do with her histrionics. Tamannah Bhatia tried to reprise the same role in the Tamil remake of the same film but Kareena is certainly streets ahead of everyone else in the field. For her infection smile and endearing qualities, she finds a place in this XI at the No. 11 position.
10. Raju Guide – Dev Anand
At No. 10, we have the mercurial Dev Anand in perhaps the most memorable role of his life. Raju Guide has been synonymous with Dev Saab throughout his life. He has performed many roles with equal amount of dexterity but people still associate him with the personality of Raju Guide in the film, Guide. A adaptation of R. K. Narayanan’s novel, Guide was an extremely successful film of its times. He portrayed the role of a happy-go-lucky travel guide in the first part of the film. He later metamorphosed into an iconic character going on a fast unto death to secure drinking water for a parched village. Dev Anand played the role of his lifetime in the film.
9. Raju Joker – Raj Kapoor
The No. 9 spot goes to the most endearing performance of all time, Raju Joker in Mera Naam Joker. Raj Kapoor, the undisputed showman of Indian Cinema, performed this defining role of Raju Joker. In fact, this is as perfect a depiction of the common man as it could be. The movie showcases Raju Joker in three important phases of his career. His son Rishi Kapoor portrayed Raju in the childhood phase. Raj Kapoor took over in the adult phase culminating in the third innings of his life where he laid down his life on the circus stage. The song, “Jeena Yahaan, Marna Yahaan” symbolized Raju’s life in its entirety.
8. Geeta – Hema Malini
Hema Malini is a beautiful person and a powerful actress as well. The No. 8 spot in this list goes to ‘Geeta’, her character in the film Seeta aur Geeta. In fact, she has played a double role in the film as the twin sisters, Seeta and Geeta. Seeta is the docile personality tortured mentally and physically by her step mother. Geeta, the separated twin is the brave girl who accidentally lands in the house as a victim of mistaken identity. She goes on to rescue Seeta from the clutches of her wicked step mother. The same role had earlier been played by Dilip Kumar in Ram aur Shyam. Sridevi tried it later on in the film, Chaalbaaz. Anil Kapoor had also performed a similar role in Kishen Kanhaiyya. However, no one could reprise the magic and emotion that Hema Malini bought to this role of Geeta in Seeta aur Geeta.
7. Radha – Nargis
India is an emotional country steeped in its excellent human values. It gives great respect to the ‘Mother’. At the same time, a section of society loses no time and opportunity to malign a single and helpless woman to the point of submission. No one portrayed this depiction of ‘The Mother’ better than Nargis as Radha in Mother India. This character has every quality that one should expect a mother to have. You can see her devotion and love to her incapacitated husband. She has to take care of three children. She has to fight the cruel face of the society that is waiting to pounce on her at every opportunity. Fighting through all these odds, she raises her children successfully thus proving that nothing can come in the way of the ‘Mother’ once she sets her mind on achieving the impossible. For this excellent effort, Radha owns the No. 7 spot in this list.
6. Surma Bhopali – Jagdeep
At No. 6 we have a unique choice, Surma Bhopali played by the comedian Jagdeep in the iconic film, Sholay. This choice could raise many eyebrows but it deserves this spot in this list. Surma Bhopali is not just a name of a character. It symbolizes a particular brash attitude of a person who boasts of performing heroic feats when in fact, he does not do anything. Even today, people call persons with such an attitude as ‘Surma Bhopali’. Jagdeep played this role in Sholay. The character had an exposure of not more than five minutes in an otherwise power-packed film having tremendous star power in Sanjeev Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Hema Malini, and Amjad Khan. People still remember the Surma Bhopali role vividly enough.
5. Anand – Rajesh Khanna
Smiling is the face of adversity is possible. Many people can do that. However, to make other people laugh and enjoy life when the person himself is dying, is a great trait. Anand is one such character played by Rajesh Khanna in the film by the same name. Anand is a terminally ill patient who has just about 6 more months to live in this world. Instead of brooding over his fate and waiting for the eventuality, Anand chooses to live in the moment by bringing joy and happiness to others. His policy is that one should live a big life and not a long life. Death is certain but until the day you die, you have to live. Anand epitomizes this quality perfectly. Shahrukh Khan tried to portray a similar role in Kal Ho Na Ho but he could not match the first superstar of Hindi films, Rajesh Khanna. Anand is our No. 5 in this list.
4. Rancho – Aamir Khan
Aamir Khan is one of the finest actors India has ever seen. One of the most immaculate actors ever, Aamir has done a variety of roles. However, his best role until date should definitely be that of Rancho in 3 Idiots. Aamir effortlessly blasts the present day educational system in India that concentrates on creating machines more than Man. He believes that one should understand the concepts and not memorize them. He believes in a person realizing his potential in the field he loves. His views may seem outrageous to many people but it certainly struck a chord. He had to compete with equally efficient actors like Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, and Boman Irani. However, no one else in the world could have performed the role of Rancho as beautifully and forcefully as Aamir Khan did. The Tamil superstar Vijay performed the same role admirably in the Tamil version of the film, but Aamir Khan is Aamir Khan . No one can touch the performance of Rancho. This character is fit for the No. 4 spot in this list.
3. Mogambo – Amrish Puri
Steven Spielberg had once said that the world’s best villain is Amrish Puri. There cannot be any doubts about this fact. Amrish Puri is one of the finest actors of Indian cinema. Famous for portraying negative roles with a great deal of authority, Amrish Puri has a booming baritone voice. For all the roles that he has performed until date, people still remember Mogambo in Mr. India. His punch line, ‘Mogambo Khush Hua’ still reverberates in the ears of people who have seen this film. This film had Anil Kapoor playing one the best roles in his career as Mr. India the Invisible Man. However, Mogambo stole the show because of the sheer powerful presence of Amrish Puri. Mogambo is the perfect candidate for the No. 3 spot in this list.
2. The Angry Young Man, Vijay – Amitabh Bachchan
Amitabh Bachchan is the ultimate actor when it comes to Bollywood. No one can hold a candle to Amitabh Bachchan when he is in full flow. The fact that he is still active when well over 70 years of age is proof that people still hold him in great esteem. However, even this man owes his success to his portrayal of the angry young man, Vijay. Amitabh was on the verge of packing his baggage and returning to Allahabad when the role of Vijay landed in his lap. Originally written with Dev Anand in mind, this role changed the face of Indian cinema. Dev Anand’s loss has been Indian cinema’s biggest gain in Amitabh Bachchan. His first portrayal as the angry young man Vijay in Zanjeer was accepted by the masses. The circumstances were such that people as a whole were angry with the political establishment. Vijay provided the best release of all their emotions. Amitabh Bachchan portrayed the same role in innumerable films such as Deewar, Trishul, Agnipath, etc. Hrithik Roshan tried the same role in a later version of Agnipath but was no patch on the original Vijay Dinanath Chauhan played by Amitabh Bachchan. Zanjeer was remade recently with Chiranjeevi’s son Ram Charan playing the tole of Vijay. This was a miserable flop. Vijay defined a new direction for Hindi films. Hence, this character is perfect for the No. 2 spot in this list.
1. Gabbar Singh – Amjad Khan
The No. 1 spot goes to the most iconic role every played in Hindi cinema. Gabbar Singh played by Amjad Khan in Sholay does not have any parallels anywhere in the Bollywood film industry. Everyone knew that the role was a powerful one. No one expected Amjad Khan, a greenhorn at that time to carry it off with a great degree of elan. It was perhaps the greatest gamble made by the director Ramesh Sippy in his life. This character defined villainy if a completely different form. It literally glorified the personality of the dacoit in Hindi films. There may have been hundreds of films displaying the presence of dacoits but no dacoit could make as forceful an impression as Gabbar Singh did in Sholay. He was the complete epitome of cruelty. It is truly the role of a lifetime. Mukesh Tiwari tried to play a similar role in China Gate, a poor adaptation of Sholay but with disastrous results in spite of being a fine actor. Gabbar Singh is the greatest character portrayed in Bollywood.
We might have left out some other important characters but this is an honest attempt at choosing the top 11 characters in Hindi films until date. We acknowledge the efforts of fine actors like Dilip Kumar, Shahrukh Khan, and Manoj Kumar for portraying iconic roles in their films. However, not everyone can find a place in the team.