Simi Garewal to Tabu: Women Who Make Being Bad so Much Fun
There’s something strangely enjoyable about watching bad people on screen, maybe we end up living some of our evil thoughts vicariously. For years in Hindi cinema you had your stock male villians like Pran, Shakti Kapoor and even Shatrughan Sinha during the initial years of his career. But there very few interesting female villains. Actors like Helen and Bindu would play the vamp - a seductive woman who would manipulate the hero. This would be in complete contrast to the heroine who was this pious, virtuous woman who would never express her sexuality.
Which is why it’s extremely gratifying to see a character like Tabu’s Simi in AndhaDhun. She’s unpredictable, scheming and deliciously evil. It’s difficult to talk about her character without giving away spoilers, but what we can say is that to see a woman in complete control of her sexuality and use it to her advantage is refreshing.
The name Simi is of course an ode to Simi Garewal’s turn as the brutal wife in Karz, but Tabu imbues her Simi with vulnerability, endearing her to us even when she’s doing the most horrible things. We list some of Bollywood’s best female negative characters, who’ve endeared themselves to us because they were just as unapologetic about being bad.
<Spoilers for Karz & Gupt>
1. Simi Garewal in Karz.
In possibly her most popular role, Simi Garewal was spot on as Kamini Verma, the murderous wife in Subhash Ghai’s hit Karz. Starring opposite Rishi Kapoor, she played a greedy woman who pushes her husband off a cliff after their marriage. She switched effortlessly from being a woman pretending to be completely in love with her husband to a heartless killer, hitting the right note every time she said “Monty darling!”
2. Priyanka Chopra in Aitraaz.
Early in her career, Priyanka played Sonia Roy in Aitraaz - a business woman unapologetic about her sexuality who becomes obsessed with her employee played by Akshay Kumar. He is her ex-lover and now that the reigns of the company are in her hand she aggressively tries to seduce him. There’s a line in the film which goes, “Mujhe umeed hai ki tum mujhe aur iss company, dono ko satisfy karoge!”
It seems like a laugh out loud moment now, but at that time it was unheard of a female character mouthing lines like that. Priyanka had said this in an interview with Film Companion.
The day we were supposed to shoot, I was just like ‘I can’t do it in front of so many people, I don’t know what I am doing.’ And I was crying. I remember this was a glass house in South Africa, but they had a basement and Abbas-Mustan took me downstairs with Akshay (Kumar), with one of the ADs. About four-five of us sat down, I was howling in a white dress and I was like, I don’t know how to say the line (‘Show me you’re an animal’). I don’t understand – what would be the right way to say it without looking like I am a sexual predator. That’s when Abbas-Mustan said to me, ‘But that’s who you’re playing’ and it clicked in my head.”Priyanka Chopra.
3. Kajol in Gupt.
Rajiv Rai’s mystery thriller delivered a shocking twist when it was revealed that Kajol was the killer. She played the sociopath Isha Diwan, a girl madly in love with Sahil (played by Bobby Deol). Throughout the film you sympathize with her character, even as one by one people in Sahil’s life are murdered. There’s a saying that love is something you could kill for, Kajol’s character took that a little too seriously as she charged at Sahil’s girlfriend (played by Manisha Koirala) with a dagger in hand in the film’s climax.
She became the first woman to win the Filmfare Award for Best Performance in a Negative Role for her performance in the film. It does pay to be wicked!
4. Urmila Matondkar in Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya.
The female obsessive lover seems to be a recurring theme, and Urmila Matondkar’s work in Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya is an addition to that. She starts off as this sweet girl Ria in love with Jai-a married man played by Fardeen Khan and then turns into an eerie, obsessive lover. This could have easily become a caricature but Urmila plays her as a woman desperate for attention. She is terrific in a scene where she tells Jai’s wife to leave him because he doesn’t really love her and threatens to kill herself.