It’s only the villainous presence of an anti hero that makes heroes all the more celebrated a phenomenon. Which is why movies and all manifestations of fiction all over the world often comes with a complementary dosage of the bad trying to subvert the prowess of the good- of course to no avail. But villains must persist and persist they will, for what entertaining is entertainment without some masala to amp it up? And of course in scripts that demand an antagonist as someone crucial to its content, it is the villain that in fact is the hero!
No wonder then, that every movie industry has its own dedicated set of villains who terrorise and traumatise audiences with runs and reruns, whips and lashes or even by resorting to something as heartwrenching as sabotaging a blooming romance. No different is the Telugu movie industry which has seen some really iconic villains over the times. Here’s taking a look at some such incredible standout Tollywood villains who have withstood even the test of time-
N. T. Rama Rao
One of the most legendary of figures in the history of Telugu cinema who also has been voted the “Greatest Indian Actor of All Time”, N. T. Rama Rao indeed is more prominent in his enactions that saw him grace the screen as revered Hindu Gods. But beyond his popularity and the prevalent image, the three time National Film Award winner also has been as iconic a villain in a host of films through his career. Particularly in his antagonistic avatar in one of the biggest Tollywood hits, Daana Veera Soora Karna where he in fact played a triple role, NTR set the tone for the Telugu industry embracing villains as wholeheartedly as they adulated the heroes. Much like his many other avatars, NTR’s antagonistic image also ended up creating a legacy of its own within the Telugu cinematic realm.
There’s something about his salt and pepper look that makes Telugu star Jagapathi Babu look so dashing even in his bad boy image. For someone who consciously chose to portray himself as one of the villains in what he terms his second innings in Tollywood, Babu sure exerted a dominion of his own. In fact it is his many starrings in hit movies as the antagonist that are often lauded as among the finest of his more than three decades long career in films. Be it Legend or Rangasthalam, Jagapathi Babu outshone even his own. His negative portrayal in Lingaa, opposite the legendary Rajinikanth threatened to take the thunder away from even the Superstar.
S. V. Ranga Rao
Probably the first ever superstar villain of Telugu films, and indeed in one that holds the distinction of being the South Indian film to be screened at the first International Film Festival of India, is decorated actor S. V. Ranga Rao. In his portrayal of a scheming sorcerer in the fantasy film Pathala Bhairavi, Rao emerged to be the antagonist quite ahead of his times even as he continued, with equal finesse, to essay such other characters that did not require him to become the villain. Considered the golden standard for acting and decorated with the Rashtrapati Award for excellence in acting numerous times during the course of his career, S, V. Ranga Rao sure remains one of the most cherished Tollywood villains of all time even after more than four decades of his demise.
Rajanala Kaleswara Rao
Known for his gruesome portrayals of lead antagonist roles during the Golden age of Telugu cinema, that which he also effortlessly interspersed with his many a comic avatars, Rajanala is easily amongst the top Tollywood villains. Having acted in over 150 Telugu films as a villain, Rajanala very soon became the dreaded face for the masses- such was his realistic impersonation of the many baddies he made his own. It indeed is to the credit of this incredibly talented man that all it took was his cruel laugh and characteristic widening of the eyes to send shudders down the spines of many who witnessed his greatness in action on screen.
Rao Gopal Rao
Known for his gruesome portrayals of lead antagonist roles this time with a touch of humor, Tollywood veteran Rao Gopal Rao is one of the absolute bests when it comes to the play of the villains. It indeed is this dual characteristic of his trademark style of donning the villainous reputation that makes Rao so much of a distinctive assertion in his tremendous acting prowess. Be it the two time National Award winner Mutyala Muggu that also earned Rao widespread acclaim for his work or the blockbuster Mana Voori Pandavulu, or more commercial ventures like Ooruki Monagadu and Gang Leader, Rao ensured that he shone through in each of his many appearances, further asserting his might as among the actors who also are the top Tollywood villains ever.
He might be known as the Action Star or Macho Star of Telugu cinema but actor cum playback singer Gopichand has enough tricks up his sleeve that renders him also as realistic as a probable villain. Beginning his negative foray with the trendsetter Jayam and proceeding forward with Nijam and Varsham before reestablishing himself as the defiant hero, Gopichand sure is a man of definite flexibility- and adaptability- in histrionics.
He is as popular a villain in mainstream Bollywood as he is in the Telugu film industry. And veteran actor Prakash Raj gets as menacing as he could in each of his onscreen appearances to emerge as among the top villains of Tollywood. His command over a host of regional languages has made him one of the most sought after actors in Indian cinema. And the absolutely brilliant Prakash Raj disappoints none as he enacts even negative characters in the most remarkable of ways.
A National Film Award winner for Best Actor, Raj has also clinched the Best Villain title in a number of award shows that only point to his popularity even as an actor playing negative roles. Whether it be his screen presence or his personality, the brilliance of his histrionics or his tremendous grasp over the character he portrays, Prakash Raj invokes the awe of disgust to emerge as the hero even in each one of his villainous avatars.
For someone who has acted in over 250 films as a villain, it is only a testament to his evil but nevertheless commanding image and identity that actor Rami Reddy remains gruesomely laughing in. Known also for his character roles and comic timing, it indeed is the versatility of Reddy that has rendered him immortal in his credibilities as a cinematic genius. From starring in the trendsetter Osey Ramulamma to the acclaimed Ammoru and of course in the hit Ankusam that which in fact established him as the quintessential villain for times to come, Rami Reddy has left quite an imprint to emerge as the most memorable of Tollywood villains.
Sweeping awards and raking up all the acclaim with his very first Telugu movie Sye that saw him cast as the antagonist, there’s no doubting Pradeep Rawat’s avatar when it comes to being outright menacing. Also notable in his many Bollywood outings be it as villain or otherwise in acclaimed films like Lagaan and Ghajini, Rawat’s acting prowess extends as well to a host of films in the many regional industries and in television.
Another gem of Indian cinema who has proved his versatility through a range of regional film industries is Ashish Vidyarthi. Most celebrated for his many memorable roles as a villain even when he has delivered equally exemplary performances in his other castings, Vidyarthi truly is a phenomenal baddie to watch in his rage inducing evil looks. Having made his Telugu film debut in 2000, it has been an illustrious two decades for the veteran actor in the Tollywood industry during which he has made his mark as a villain. Awarded also for his intimidating and engrossing performances in his many characters exhibiting ample grey streaks, this National Film Award winner actor sure has made his mark substantially enough to emerge as among the top villains of Tollywood.
There’s little about Indian actor that needs special introduction. As one of the handful of stars with a pan Indian appeal, this striking presence in person as much as he is in each of his characters is an enigma altogether. But even with his numerous acting stints in Tollywood and Bollywood, it indeed is Daggubati’s casting as the villains that render him so immensely popular. Particularly as the antagonist in the record shattering Baahubali franchisee of movies, the National Award winning producer and enterprising businessman touched the heights of fame and adulation. Add to that his striking looks and imposing physique, and here’s a villain worthy of even more of the love that we have forever been showering our heroes with. Being negative is indeed the new positive of the times!