These Bollywood heroes and heroines made our jaws drop as onscreen baddies too!

Unlike many top actors who did negative roles later in their careers, Shah Rukh Khan started off his film career as an anti-hero.

It is hugely liberating for any actor who is relatively comfortable in one’s career doing roles that fall outside the conventional zone. It gives the artiste a certain abandon where he or she doesn’t have to pander to a certain image.

Following is a list of some Bollywood actors and actresses who have tried their hand at grey/negative roles and found varying degrees of success.

Let us start with “Bollywood Baadshah” Shah Rukh Khan.

Shah Rukh Khan

Unlike many top actors who did these kinds of roles later in their careers, Shah Rukh Khan started off his film career with a spat of anti-hero roles.

Both Baazigar (1993) and Darr (1993) made him a household name much before Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995).

The impact of Shah Rukh in Darr was so much that the audiences hardly remember Sunny Deol. Not surprisingly, the “Bollywood Baadshah” was the obvious choice for the remake of Amitabh Bachchan’s Don (1978).

In spite of comparisons with Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh made the character of Don his own with his stylish performance in the 2006 release. The actor effortlessly played the negative shades.

Aamir Khan

Among the other Khans, Aamir Khan played a character with grey shades to great success in Deepa Mehta’s directorial 1947: Earth (1999).

Here, he played an ice candy man named Dil Navaz who falls in love with Shanta (Nandita Das), a Hindu woman.

Shanta works as a nanny for a wealthy Parsi Family. However, she loves a Muslim man named Hassan (Rahul Khanna).

This is something that Aamir’s character cannot digest. Partition and the ensuing family tragedy change him completely.

As a person who gets swayed by the hate around him, Aamir delivered a brilliant performance. He did a wonderful job of bringing out the many nuances of his character.

Saif Ali Khan

Saif Ali Khan also made a huge impression with his negative roles in Omkara (2006), Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior (2020), and Adipurush (2023).

With Omkara, the actor successfully broke his urban image under the skilful direction of Vishal Bhardwaj.

Even in Adipurush, the actor brought certain energy whenever he appeared on the screen.

Interestingly, Salman Khan is the only Khan who did not play a negative role yet.

John Abraham

Before Pathaan (2023), John did several roles mainly consisting of chest-thumping patriotism and slapstick comedies. Nevertheless, most of these films didn’t click.

But the actor made a strong comeback in Siddharth Anand’s globetrotting entertainer Pathaan.

In Pathaan John’s Jim was not the regular clichéd villain. He is someone who is always a step ahead of Shah Rukh Khan’s Pathaan, which adds to the victory of the protagonist at the end.

The action scenes choreographed between Shah Rukh and John had a lot of grit.

Jim also had a solid back story explaining why he does what he does.

After a series of sub-par outings, John Abraham was finally in form. The best part of his performance was how he expressed his angst in the more dramatic bits.

Tabu

In Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 (2022), Tabu played a double role — one of a dutiful daughter-in-law Anjulika and the other of her twin sister Manjulika who wreaks havoc in Anjulika’s life.

As Manjulika, Tabu let her hair down with a delightfully devilish performance. It was clear that the actress was having a blast.

Apart from Kartik Aryan’s comic timing, Tabu’s double act was another major reason why the film worked.

In Andhadhun (2018), the actress played the wife of a yesteryear movie star. Her character had many layers. She was erratic, vulnerable and deceitful all at the same time. She was simply brilliant in portraying these shades.

Tabu also made a huge impact with Maqbool (2003) and Haider (2014). Both these were adaptations of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and “Macbeth” respectively.

Ranveer Singh

There is no denying that Ranveer Singh’s Alauddin Khilji was more of a caricature meant to glorify the Rajputs in Padmaavat (2018).  But at the same time, his Khilji was easily the biggest backbone of the film.

Ranveer gave an electrifying performance which easily overshadowed both Shahid Kapoor and Deepika Padukone. As viewers, we wanted to see more of him on the screen.

Ranveer’s scenes with Jim Sarbh as Malik Kafur were way more enjoyable than the poetic romance of Shahid and Deepika.

Priyanka Chopra

In Aitraaz (2004), Priyanka Chopra played an ambitious woman for whom fame and glamour are more important than anything else. In this quest, Priyanka’s Sonia marries a much older man (late Amrish Puri). Her desire for fame and success is fulfilled, but she doesn’t get sexual satisfaction from her husband.

In order to fulfil her desires, she tries to seduce her ex-boyfriend Raj Malhotra (Akshay Kumar). However, Raj rejects her advances as he is a happily married man. Sonia gets upset by his rejection and falsely accuses Raj of sexually harassing her.

Priyanka played this role very early on in her career. It was a bold move that could have easily backfired, but Priyanka made a huge impact. In fact, she shined more than Kareena Kapoor, who was playing the conventional heroine.

Alia Bhatt

Alia Bhatt‘s Hollywood debut is not exactly a smashing one, particularly for those who have seen her work in Hindi films. But the actress needs to be credited for taking up a grey character in her very first Hollywood venture — Heart of Stone (2023).

She tries to procure it for the villain without knowing his actual purpose. In the process, she is pitted against Gal Godot, the main protagonist.

In the initial portions, we see Alia’s harsh demeanour towards Gal. There is a visible arrogance in the way she speaks to her.

However, there comes a point when Keya goes through an existential crisis. All this was well portrayed by Alia. There is also a tough fight scene between them in mid-air.

Ajay Devgn

In Khakee (2004), Ajay Devgn played a formidable opponent who creates havoc for the police officers, played by Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar among others.

The actor brought a lot of quirks to his character. The subtle humour that he brought with his dialogues won the hearts of audiences.

His confrontation scenes with Amitabh Bachchan were easily one of the best parts of Khakee. With Khakee, Ajay Devgn showed that he can do a variety of roles.

Amitabh Bachchan

Amjad Khan’s Gabbar Singh in Sholay (1975) is easily one of the most iconic villains that Indian cinema has seen. It is not an easy task to recreate that villainy given how firmly the character has been etched in the minds of the Indian viewers.

But Amitabh managed to play the new-age Gabbar Singh in his trademark style in Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag (2007). If we keep the comparisons aside, the veteran actor was also quite menacing as a villain.

Apart from the above-mentioned actors and actresses, others too did roles that fell outside the convention of hero and heroine.

For example, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan played a character with a lot of vengeance on her mind in both the Ponniyin Selvan films (2022, 2023).

Akshay Khanna in Race 1 (2008) was superb in his role as a scheming younger brother.

In Race 3 (2018), Anil Kapoor played an illegal arms dealer named Shamsher Singh. Of late, he has been doing more negative/grey roles, and the actor seems to be enjoying them also.

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