The Bollywood Horror genre requires a revival.
Even after so many years, the Hindi film industry seems to incorporate passe tropes of a horror film – especially jumpscares and loud music during spooky moments.
Regional cinema, has some first-rate scary films especially Marathi cinema, with ventures like Lapachhapi.
But whilst some Bollywood horror films might not be up-to-scratch, we have witnessed a plethora of eerie characters which haunt us today.
These characters may not all be villains or from a horror film (per se), their level of creepiness nonetheless ranks high.
Filme Shilmy picks 10 favourite actors who played creepy characters!
Madhubala: Mahal (1949)
Imagine you’re in a deserted mansion and all you hear is an unknown voice singing, a beautiful lady swinging in a beautiful garden and a chandelier moving mysteriously.
“Aayega Aanewala… Aayega, Aayega.” If this song doesn’t freak you out, maybe Madhubala as an apparition will.
Not only did this film kickstart Madhubala’s career, but it also shows that a ghost does not need to be stereotypically white.
Beauty can be haunting too.
Shah Rukh Khan (SRK): Darr (1993)
Stalking is creepy.
SRK takes stalking to another level in Darr as he plays the scorned, obsessed lover, Rahul.
For his ‘love’ Kiran (Juhi Chawla), we see Rahul do everything: etch I love you in blood, relentlessly and anonymously call to say “I love you Kkkiran” and maliciously inflict pain.
We get to see a dual side to Rahul. During his public persona, we observe a quiet and well-mannered boy.
His private persona is nerve-wracking as one witness an uncontrollable, emotional and violent demeanour are alarming.
It is worrying that characters like Rahul could actually exist within our society without our knowledge.
Ashutosh Rana: Dushman (1998) & Sangharsh (1999)
Ashutosh Rana plays a sadistic serial killer in both films Dushman and Sangharsh.
But the motives and degree of creepiness vary between both characters.
Gokul Pandit is motivated through lust and stop at no cost in mercilessly killing the women he rapes.
The background music and Gokul’s menacing screen-presence is truly unsettling.
It is the ordinary representation of Gokul Pandit that is unsettling.
Comparatively, Ashutosh’s avatar as Shankar Pandey in Sangharsh is more visually striking.
Shankar’s killings are driven by superstition.
The thought that a religious fanatic – who believes in the sacrifice of children to gain immortality – is on the loose, is frightening as hell.
Furthermore, Shankar Pandey’s erratic behaviour and actions send shivers down our spine.
Manoj Bajpayee: Kaun (1999)
Manoj Bajpayee might not be the antagonist in Kaun, but nonetheless, his character is creepy.
He plays a businessman who keeps pestering a lonely lady (Urmila Matondkar) on a stormy night, where a serial killer is on the loose.
The way he keeps saying ‘ma’am’, smiling continuously and his speckled look give us the creeps.
Subsequently, the eerie effect is enhanced when the lady looks at him through a peephole.
Plus, the fact that the man is so adamant to come in, makes the viewer question his intentions.
There is definitely something unsettling about this character!
Ajay Devgn: Deewangee (2002)
Ajay Devgn’s first role as an antagonist and my goodness his performance is brilliant.
In this thriller, Ajay plays Tarang, a singer accused of murder.
More than looks, it is the thought process of the character that gives goosebumps.
The fact that Tarang fakes to be suffering from split personality to hide a murder that he committed is hair-raising.
Urmila Matondkar: Bhoot (2003)
Urmila Matondkar’s award-winning performance is spooky as ever.
The former scream queen plays Swati, who gets possessed by a woman named Manjeet – who allegedly committed suicide and whose son died too.
With minimum dialogues during the possession sequences, we feel the presence of Manjeet!
Urmila’s expressions and body language as a possessed lady are chilling.
In addition to the creepy aspect, we get to see more emotions of the Manjeet character through the possession.
Shabana Azmi: Makdee (2004)
Shabana Azmi is one of the most graceful and beautiful actresses in Indian cinema.
But in 2004, she gave goosebumps to all of us by playing a ‘Makdee’, meaning witch.
Makdee’s appearance is striking:
A light-blue skin, long sharp nails, big teeth and rope-like hair.
The outlook is unconventional to a stereotypical witch.
Many of us 90s kids have seen this film and as a result, had nightmares.
The eeriest sequence is where the young girl Chutki (Shweta Prasad) envisions Makdee swinging in the school playground.
Makdee’s hysterical laugh, teasing expressions haunt us to this day.
Vidya Balan: Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007)
Split personality carries foreboding connotations.
When one thinks they know an individual, another persona of that person is exhibited.
Vidya’s character focuses on this very scary aspect.
From a smudged bindi, jewellery and sari worn roughly to the deep voice, Manjulika is a sight one cannot forget.
The exorcism scene spooks us to this day.
It is during this sequence where one realises how much of a tormented and hateful soul Manjulika is.
Moreover, the fact that Manjulika is just a character of a delusional mind is frightening.
Adah Sharma: 1920 (2008)
“Test, Test, Test”… Remember this spine-chilling chant?
1920 is Adah Sharma’s first film and she plays a possessed woman, which is truly commendable.
Adah plays Lisa, a mixed-Race girl who gets possessed by the soul of a treacherous sepoy soldier.
The way Sharma moves, her expressions, tone of voice and look is petrifying… Definitely not for the faint-hearted.
In fact, her performance can be said to be India’s response to Linda Blair from The Exorcist.
Saswata Chatterjee: Kaahani (2012)
Bob Biswas (player by Parambrata Chatterjee) is a merciless assassin, similar to Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men.
But Bob’s innocent outlook and subdued demeanour, who constantly gets rebuked by his boss, is what gives us the creeps.
Prior to executing each murder, he simply says ‘Namaskar’ and shoots his prey.
If this is not menacing, then we don’t know what is.
Undoubtedly, Bob ranks amongst Indian cinema’s most blood-curdling villains.
Overall, these are a few of our favourite performances.
Some honourable mentions go to Sushant Singh (Jungle: 2000), Swini Khara (Phoonk: 2008), Revathy (Raat: 1992) and many more.
If you fancy watching any of our listed films above, just make sure you keep the lights on at night!