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A Confused Portrayal Might’ve Cost Bob Biswas a Spot in the Villain Hall-of-Fame

'Bob Biswas' starred Abhishek Bachchan as Bob, a contract killer portrayed by Saswata Chatterjee in 'Kahaani'.

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The 2012 thriller Kahaani with Vidya Balan (as Vidya Bagchi) in the lead is a masterpiece. The film got its recognition, whether it was through audience and critical acclaim or awards but ironically, the character that stood out the most was the one designed to be inconspicuous- Bob Biswas. Portrayed admirably by Saswata Chatterjee, Bob is a contract killer who disguises as an insurance agent, and that is the first thing that makes him an excellent villain.

When Bob Biswas says ‘Nomoshkar, ek minute (Greetings, one minute)’, people would expect him to perhaps ask for directions or tell them the taillight is on, and not expect that he’d shoot them. However, with Bob, the audience gets another layer.

'Bob Biswas' starred Abhishek Bachchan as Bob, a contract killer portrayed by Saswata Chatterjee in 'Kahaani'.

Saswata Chatterjee plays the role of Bob Biswas in Kahaani.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

When he approaches Vidya from behind at the station, the audience is aware that it means danger. Even the ‘mercy’ he shows Vidya is a veiled threat. So why then does the spin-off dedicated completely to this ruthless killer lose all of this?
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Bob Biswas was perhaps one of the most recent villains to gain a cult popularity and had the potential to join the hypothetical ‘villain hall-of-fame’ with the likes of Amjad Khan’s Gabbar in Sholay, Kulbhushan Kharbanda as Shakaal in Shaan, Amrish Puri as Mogambo in Mr. India, Kajol as Isha in Gupt, or Vidya Balan’s Krishna in Ishqiya.

'Bob Biswas' starred Abhishek Bachchan as Bob, a contract killer portrayed by Saswata Chatterjee in 'Kahaani'.

Gabbar Singh in Sholay and Mogambo in Mr. India.

(Photo Courtesy: 

However, when the 2021 film Bob Biswas painted Bob (Abhishek Bachchan) as a family man with a moral dilemma and essentially as a person stuck in a bad situation, it takes away from his USP. On the other hand, the film also portrays Bob as a killer who antagonises a child as well and the duality starts to seem like two parallel plots. It would’ve been more convincing if Bob had an evil twin.

'Bob Biswas' starred Abhishek Bachchan as Bob, a contract killer portrayed by Saswata Chatterjee in 'Kahaani'.

Abhishek Bachchan and Chitrangada Singh in Bob Biswas.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

One could argue that giving a villain the space to fully explore his turpitude could glorify the same but then, Indian cinema wouldn’t have successful films that banked on their villains and yet didn’t glorify them. If Shah Rukh Khan’s character Rahul Mehra in Darr was given a tragic sob story, it would’ve impacted the film negatively. Darr works because Shah Rukh plays an obsessive stalker with no redeeming qualities.

Taking it a step further, Shah Rukh in Baazigar has a tragic backstory but the film explores his vengeance more, creating yet another memorable antagonist. This is the path that Bob Biswas seems closest to and yet, in its convoluted treatment of the character, fails to achieve what the Abbas-Mustan film did. Also, people hadn’t already identified SRK’s character as a ruthless villain which made the character a blank canvas open to experimentation.

'Bob Biswas' starred Abhishek Bachchan as Bob, a contract killer portrayed by Saswata Chatterjee in 'Kahaani'.

Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in the poster for Baazigar.

(Photo Courtesy: IMDb)

In more recent years, there’s the Fahadh Faasil-starrer Irul which has a villain with no redeeming qualities. The killer is manipulative enough to confuse the viewers too and the way the story unravels leads to an intelligent film, again, banking on its villain.

The need for a ‘good over evil’ storyline is understandable but it can be done while giving a good villain their due credit. Kudos to Saswata Chatterjee and Kahaani director Sujoy Ghosh for building a villain that left an undeniable impact.

Notably, the character that many remember from Bob Biswas is that of Kali Da (Paran Bandopadhyay), ironically the conspicuous chemist with a possible evil past- the Bob Biswas of Bob Biswas.

If Kahaani didn’t exist, Bob Biswas would be an enjoyable film, especially for a debut, but without Kahaani, Bob wouldn’t exist. So, inevitably, the two worlds clashed and, in an attempt, to perhaps make an iconic character more palatable than he needed to be, Bollywood lost a great villain.

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