On-screen politico

Bollywood for years has depicted the rank and ruthless underbelly of politics and politicians on screen

April 19, 2019 04:56 pm | Updated 04:56 pm IST

‘Apna Desh’

‘Apna Desh’

Politician roles in Bollywood beg to be looked at especially now that India goes about electing its new Lok Sabha. There have been movies galore where politicians and wannabe politicians have conspired, corrupted and even killed for political gains.

Bilaki Prasad (Asit Sen) and Anokhelal (Mehmood) instigate and mislead the unemployed youth in Mere Apne (1971). Before that, in Baharon ke Sapne (1967), management stooges create trouble for the elected leader of the workers. The wheeler dealer Lallu (Om Prakash) in Aandhi (1975) tries to outmanoeuvre his party chief. All these characters were either shrewd political manipulators or ideological fanatics. Later, corruption became a by-word to portray politicians. A few like MP Rameshwar Singh (Saurabh Shukla) in Raid (2018) tried to get the better of Income Tax officer played by Ajay Devgn and failed. Raid was based on an actual Income Tax raid on the former Member of Rajya Sabha Sardar Inder Singh in 1981.

Baharon ke Sapne

Baharon ke Sapne

Then there were movies where criminals began to aspire to public office. Dharamdas (Om Prakash) in Apna Desh (1972), smuggler Jamnadas (Madan Puri) in Chor Machaye Shor (1974), Dharam Kohli (Utpal Dutt) in Kotwal Saab (1977) and Don Dharamdas in Dharmatma (1975), followed by Rama Shetty in Ardha Satya (1983) and Kali Prasad in Pratighat (1987) were characters who sought to legitimise their criminal activities. And thus was born the criminal-politician.

In the movies, the politicians had enough grist for their mill — disillusioned and unemployed youth. Shivkumar Chowgule (Anupam Kher) in Arjun (1985) was one such. Suresh Yadav in Parmanu: The Story of Pokhram (2018) was manipulative and made the brilliant young Ashwat Rana the fall guy.

Arguably the most controversial film in this genre is Kissa Kursi Kaa (1977). It did little to disguise the fact that it was based on true-life incidents. Incensed by the spoof, Sanjay Gandhi is said to have confiscated and destroyed all the prints of the film. Post Emergency, Sanjay and then Information & Broadcasting Minister VC Shukla, got jailed for this.

Prakash Jha’s Apaharan (2005) set in Bihar was about a sitting Member of the State Assembly running a kidnapping and extortion racket. The film also showed the direct involvement of top police officials and ministers.



By the early 2000s, there was no discernible difference between politicians and the mafia. They all indulged in bloodshed, wheeling dealing, blackmail, betrayal and murder. In Madhur Bhandarkar’s Satta (2003) and Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Haasil (2003), not a single politician character demonstrated integrity. For the politicians in Fiza (2000) and Dev (2004), religion became the currency to buy power.

Avam (1987) and Baazi (1995) set off the disturbing trend showing politicians interfering in the Indian Armed Forces. In Rang de Basanti (2006) Defence Minister Shastri (Mohan Agashe) approves spurious spare parts for the MIG aircraft to make money. Then came narcotics and the politician. Neeraj Pandey’s classic Udta Punjab (2016) was about MP Maninder Singh Brar and his State-wide narco-politics. Needless to say the moral fibre of these politicians were always sadly frayed and dirty as they bribed, killed and exploited women . Meri Awaaz Suno (1981), Arjun (1985), Chameli (2003), Dirty Politics (2015), Rajneeti (2010) and Manorama Six Feet Under (2007) were just a handful that demonstrated this.

Then came the new hero to deal with corrupt politicians: the media. While unravelling the mystery of a political murder, Vikas Pande (Shashi Kapoor), Editor of New Delhi Times (1986), confronts various threats including physical assault. Things go further in Jurm (1990) where editor Ritesh Nandy gets liquidated in a Minister-sponsored murder. Politicians like Chief Minister Balraj Chauhan (Amrish Puri) in Nayak (2001) wreak havoc but a bold media rakes up mass awareness. In No One Killed Jessica (2011), the media’s sustained efforts finally paid off despite a minister’s intimidation to protect his murderer son.

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