Tracing Bollywood’s Obsession With The Con Man

This season, the flavour in Bollywood seems to be the heist film. Con men, from time immemorial, much like gangsters and the underworld, have held a prized place in the bosom of Bollywood.

MUMBAI: This season, the flavour in Bollywood seems to be the heist film. Con men, from time immemorial, much like gangsters and the underworld, have held a prized place in the bosom of Bollywood. There seems to be a strange fascination for the con man, the crook, the crafty, wily ‘chor’, who has a heart of gold.

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Bollywood’s con man not only thieves and loots, he also does so with impeccable style and panache.

Vintage Bollywood has several con-films, dotting the timeline, with top heroes like Anil Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Jackie Shroff and even the Shehenshah of Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan trying his hand at playing a devious crook. In the past, films like ‘Shaan’, ‘Kismet’, ‘Khel Khel Mein’, ‘Baap Numberi Beta Dus Numberi, ‘Ek Se Bure Do’, ‘Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena’, ‘Dhamaal’ and ‘Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye’ have intrigued audiences.

Even in recent memory, several Bollywood actors have essayed the part of a crook to near perfection. Arshad Warsi and Naseeruddin Shah in ‘Ishqiya’, the Deol men (Dharmendra, Sunny and Bobby Deol) in ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana’ and ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana 2’, Akshay Kumar in ‘Tees Maar Khan’, the entire Khosla family in ‘Khosla ka Ghosla’ come instantly to mind.

Here’s a roundup of our favourite heroes, who have tread down the con man path in recent times, and enthralled audiences with their deliciously wicked on-screen avatars:

5. Abhay Deol- The ‘different Deol’, as he is known, charted a unique path in Bollywood, choosing off-beat films with high-on-content scripts. Unlike his two famous cousins, Sunny and Bobby Deol, Abhay has carved a niche for himself in ‘off-mainstream’ cinema. Probably his most memorable role is that of ‘Lucky’ in ‘Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye’, the seemingly wealthy youngster who walks away with consumer products like TVs, ACs, sofas, clothes and cars, just for the kick of thieving.

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4. Shahid Kapoor- This Bollywood hero has been a double-duty con man: deceiving and scheming as Charlie, the revengeful small-time punter who takes every shortcut that comes his way, to fulfil his dream of being a bookmaker in ‘Kaminey’; and as Karan, the ambitious, middle-class boy in 1990’s Mumbai, who sets up a million dollar company by duping unsuspecting people in ‘Badmaash Company’. Shahid’s role in both films was varied, but he did full justice to both: as the tough-as-nails Charlie in ‘Kaminey’ (he even perfected two different speech impediments for his double-role in the film- a lisp for Charlie, and a stutter for Guddu), and as the bright, overzealous Karan in ‘Badmaash Company’.

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3. Akshay Kumar- Akshay Kumar has time and again proven to be a chameleon on screen, and one whose acting chops perhaps haven’t been given their fair due. His standout performance in the 2000 cult con film ‘Hera Pheri’ earned him his stripes as a remarkable performer, for his finely nuanced portrayal as Raju, the small-town boy who even sinks as low as to deceive his own mother. Kumar’s Raju is shown to be ready to do anything to make a few extra bucks, and is the glue that holds the entire comical con job together.

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Again, Akshay Kumar proved his mettle in ‘Special 26’, as the straight-faced Ajay Singh, who is in reality ringleader of a daring team of scamsters. Kumar, as the faux CBI officer Ajay Singh was restrained and mature in his performance, and resisted from making a caricature out of his con man character.

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2. Abhishek Bachchan- Two of Abhishek Bachchan’s biggest career hits have been con films, so this probably makes him a near-perfect on-screen con man. In ‘Bluffmaster’, Abhishek was simply marvelous as Roy, the deceptive scamster who wants to avoid making a decent living at any cost. Humorous, witty, sharp, clever and cunning; Bachchan’s depiction of Roy was nothing short of genius. And who can forget when the world discovered Abhishek Bachchan could even sing, for his rendition of ‘Right Here Right Now’ became a chartbuster, and propelled Abhishek into the realm of the super cool.

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In ‘Bunty Aur Babli’, Abhishek was the endearing small-town big dreamer Bunty, who succeeds in pulling off a series of increasingly more daring scams across the length and breadth of the county, with his partner Babli, played by an in-form Rani Mukherjee.

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1. Ranveer Singh- Three film old Ranveer Singh, in two of which he plays the role of a con man, is our numero uno on-screen crook. His sophomore film, ‘Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl’ had him playing the role of a desi John Tucker, who steals from women by making them fall in love with him. Ranveer as Ricky was suave, charming and a pure heartbreaker in the film- sometimes understated, sometimes obnoxiously over-the-top.

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In his most recent release too, Ranveer has essayed the role of a scam artist. In ‘Lootera’, Ranveer Varun Shrivastava entrenches himself in his victim’s household, playing the part of an archaeologist and simultaneously trapping the daughter of the house in the net of his love.

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