Google fb32x32 twitter linkedin feed-icon-32x32

"Kitne Daaku Thay?"

"Kitne Daaku Thay?"

March 30, 2012

Ten iconic dacoits who made being bad look so good.

Dacoit. Bandit. Daaku. Whatever you call them, in the world of Hindi cinema when bad things happen to good villagers, dacoits are born. While there have been many films with daakus, here’s a look at films and characters who made a place in pop culture, and who took dacoity beyond simple banditry.

10. Dacait (1987)

Can you imagine a baby-faced, soft-spoken, college educated man as a dangerous dacoit? Neither can I, but the Sunny Deol-Rahul Rawail combination does wonders. Now imagine you’ve just graduated college and have noble ideas on the meaning of justice and equality. Do those ideals hold up to the atrocities you witness against your family once you return home? Only if you take matters into your own hands, ala Sunny-paaji as daaku Arjun Yaadav. Is the film as good as the previous Deol-Rawail project, Arjun? Nah. But a title like that is hard to leave out from a list like this.

9. Ganga Ki Saugandh (1978)

Do you like masala daaku films? Do I! Do you like Amitabh Bachchan?? 100% boss! Do you want to see Amitabh Bachchan as a daaku (with a rough and manly name like Jeeva nonetheless) in a masala film?? Well then Ganga Ki Saugandh is a film for you. Never mind the fact that it borrows heavily from Mother India, from the evil money-lender, to the sentimental maa-ke-kangan (mother’s wedding bracelets) angle. This movie doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but did I mention Amitabh is paired with Rekha?? Done deal!

8. Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (1960)

A dacoit drama from one of the most famed production houses in India, Jis Desh Mein does what the RK banner does best: show humanity and goodness triumph against all odds. Raju (duh! Raj Kapoor) is a man with a heart of gold who is kidnapped by honorable dacoits (including Raka, played by Pran), becomes the love interest of a dacoit princess, AND then (in trying to do the right thing,) snitches on his dacoit buddies only to regret it when the cops show up…phew!

7. Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971)

If there was an award for ‘Dacoit I Wish Would Kidnap Me’ Vinod Khanna as Daku Jabber Singh would win it. Handsdown. And for a villain to be noticed for his looks with Dharmendra in the lead is an award in itself. Here’s the story: A reformed criminal is hired by a one-armed, retired army officer with the intent of eliminating a daaku terrorizing a village. Sound familiar? A precursor to Sholay, MGMD is an example of quality films directed by the man who helped define an era: Raj Khosla.

6. Anokhi Raat (1968)

This film is atypical of what we’ve seen when it comes to filmi daakus. It is after all, an Asit Sen film. Beautifully shot in black&white, Anokhi Raat’s USP are its nuanced approach and dose of mystery! The tale of Baldev, an innocent village man who is pushed into life as a dacoit, unfolds over the period of one night, during a frightful storm, inside a haveli, amongst a stellar cast. Thank you Asit –Da for not giving us the usual narrative and hackneyed shots of bandits running amock! And thank you Roshan, for making your final work as a music director one of your most memorable.

5. Paan Singh Tomar (2012)

An army man becomes a world class athlete, and soon becomes a famed Chambal Valley baaghi (rebel) not dacoit…because dacoits are found in parliament. You know this film is based on a true story, because you simply cannot make this stuff up. Dedicating his fine work to the forgotten athletes of India, director Tigmanshu Dhulia takes us on a journey where Tomar starts as a wide-eyed fauji (armyman) to a mature man who sees the world for what it really is. As expected, Irrfan Khan does what he does best…act. And having the characters speak in the dialect of the famed valley adds more depth to this rich film.

4. Bandit Queen (1994)

Another movie based on a true story, this film is so good because it is so difficult to watch. Typically discrimination and exploitation are addressed through a moving (read, cheesy) speech by the protagonist, and caste discrimination is rarely discussed, forget being glossed over. But director Shekhar Kapur chose to recreate the sexual and physical abuse Phoolan endured which transformed her into a vengeance seeking daaku, and ultimately into the legendary Phoolan Devi. As the lead in an incredibly powerful film, Seema Biswas did not portray Phoolan Devi. She became Phoolan Devi.

3. Gunga Jumna (1961)

Guess which film concocted the formula of brothers on opposites sides of the law long before Deewar? How does Gunga (Dilip Kumar) a village man who sings, dances, skillfully plays kabaddi, get pushed into life as a bandit? And which side does younger brother Jumna, (played by Kumar’s real life brother Nasir Khan) ultimately choose? Does he choose to be a loyal brother or a dutiful police officer? The film moves from joy and humor, to heartache and tragedy so beautifully. Few highlights from this fantastic movie: the raw and charming romance between Gunga and Dhanno (Vyjayanthimala), Naushad’s earthy music, well-written Awadhi dialogues, and Kumar’s last shot in the film. Classic all the way!

2. Sholay (1975)

This list would be incomplete without Gabbar Singh, easily the most iconic filmi daaku (or villain for that matter) of all time. Do we know anything about Gabbar’s past? Not really. What led him to become an outlaw? Beats me. The mystery only adds to what we do know: he has no qualms in terrorizing and entire village, and doesn’t flinch while eliminating an entire family, even murdering a child. Anyone who knows anything about Hindi movies can quote a least one or two Gabbar dialogues thanks to Salim-Javed.

1. Mujhe Jeene Do (1963)

This is the daaku movie. PERIOD. Yes, Sunil Dutt has played a dacoit in Mother India (albeit, briefly) and in the mediocre Pran Jaaye Par Vachan Na Jaye, but this time it’s different. Produced by Dutt and shot under police protection in the Chambal Valley, MJD goes beyond exploring what turns a man to a life of crime and what ultimately leads him to redemption. Director Moni Bhattacharjee’s film emphasizes humanity, whether it’s asking what will become of the child of a Hindu daaku and a Muslim nautch girl? Or whether a feared bandit will ever be deemed as reformed in the eyes of society? Dutt’s portrayal of Thakur Jernail Singh shifts from dark and menacing to vulnerable and sympathetic. Waheeda Rahman’s grace in full effect, and the chemistry between both is on a different level in the naughty and sensuous mujra, 'Raat Bhi Hai Kuch Bheegi Bheegi'. This film does full justice to the genre…and then some.


  • sanjeev singh baghel
    sanjeev singh baghel
    07.07.13 11:25 AM
    create a new movie on Rambabu gadariya was the face of terror upto 20 year for bad peaople
  • Shivani Tripathi
    Shivani Tripathi
    19.05.12 08:16 PM
    @Avinash Rana Thanks for the kudos! I think the context of the conversation makes a difference. But after watching 'Bandit Queen', it's tough to make jokes about Phoolan!
  • Avinash Rana
    Avinash Rana
    17.05.12 04:52 AM
    i was looking for a list of daakus from bollywood. recently i have been calling my friend by names of famous daakus...for fun...and i ran into ur compilation...thanks a lot...its a seriously nice one...good job...i wonder if u have noticed that when u call a person by name of any male daaku, it appears funny and is taken lightly and humourously, while the few female daaakus of bollywood are figures of tragedy, does'nt really tickle the funny bone in nyone...
  • kareena kapoor
    kareena kapoor
    13.05.12 05:13 PM
    How do i become a bollywood singer without any talent shows?
  • Shivani Tripathi
    Shivani Tripathi
    15.04.12 09:24 PM
    @k tripathi: Thank you for the feedback! It's much appreciated. I'm sure you'll enjoy's a very well-made film.
  • k tripathi
    k tripathi
    15.04.12 09:20 AM
    Fantastic list! You have included all my favorite movies. After reading your list, I will watch Paan Singh Tomar.
  • Shivani Tripathi
    Shivani Tripathi
    04.04.12 07:16 AM
    @smanteris Thank you so very much for the praise...the encouragement is greatly appreciated! My family deserves a lot of credit for making me the film buff I am :)
  • smanteris
    03.04.12 07:06 AM
    Wow Shivani! What a great piece! Your writing is exceptional with short, concise descriptions of each movie! All of us enjoyed it!
  • Shivani Tripathi
    Shivani Tripathi
    03.04.12 06:11 AM
    @angrykopite Thank you for the compliment!
    You'll love Sunil Dutt's performance no matter what your opinion of 'MJD'. Happy viewing!
  • angrykopite
    02.04.12 10:07 PM
    turned out to be quite a nice read.well done.i have to see mujhe jeene do.
  • Jen
    01.04.12 01:14 AM
    Agree with Rupert! Sholay was remarkable! I guess I watched it around 15 times or so!! :D
  • Shivani Tripathi
    Shivani Tripathi
    31.03.12 09:56 PM
    @Arnab: Thank you! I agree...'PST' and 'BQ' did a great job of showing the torment Paan Singh and Phulan endured. Their crimes as daakus seem justified!

    @Rupert Wind: Thanks for the comment, Rupert! I fall more in love with 'Sholay' each time I see it. Do leave comments after you watch the other daaku films. Happy viewing!
  • Shivani Tripathi
    Shivani Tripathi
    31.03.12 09:34 PM
    @Diana: Thank you so much for the praise and encouragement! And thanks for hinting that my nickname of Indian Movie Database is well earned :)
  • Rupertt Wind
    Rupertt Wind
    31.03.12 08:39 PM
    I love Sholay the most, its irresistible!

    nice compilation! I made it a point to watch each one of these.
  • Arnab
    31.03.12 11:00 AM
    This is a very interesting compilation, never thought in this way actually.Having seen almost all of them, Paan Singh and Bandit Queen to me are the ones who justifies the life of a daaku and how they actually ended up being so.
  • Diana
    31.03.12 09:54 AM
    Wow Shivani, great article!! I love your filmi passion, it really comes through in your writing :) and omg kabbadi is soooo hard, lol! it's definitely training games for future daakus
  • Shivani Tripathi
    Shivani Tripathi
    31.03.12 06:30 AM
    @Shai: The film can get preachy at times, but Dutt's range is such a treat. Easily one of his best, and famed, performances. I hope you enjoy 'MJD'!
  • Shivani Tripathi
    Shivani Tripathi
    31.03.12 06:29 AM
    @Juzar Noorani : Thank you for the kind words, Juzar! I'm glad you enjoyed the piece.
  • Shai
    30.03.12 07:47 PM
    I'm going to have to check out "Mujhe Jeene Do". Sounds like a missed gem!
  • Juzar Noorani
    Juzar Noorani
    30.03.12 02:36 PM
    Wow! A wonderfully compiled list about "Bollywood" Dakus. The very thought of having such of a compilation gives me the creeps. Most of these seem to be from chambal and wanted by police of three states. Iconic Indian Daaku!

Leave a comment