Bollywood film characters have the power to create a special space within our hearts, where fictional stories become realities for us.
There have been several roles which we remember – be it for the good, bad or ugly. Equally, there are certain personalities one wishes to have not seen and forget.
Then there are some endearing characters whom we remember because they felt incomplete, died or circumstances for them were harsh.
Especially in Hindi cinema, we have unrequited love or perhaps are ill-fated to a miserable life, make us empathise with them strongly.
As such, Filme Shilmy reflects on a list of Bollywood film characters who simply deserved better.
Raju – Mera Naam Joker (1970)
Raj Kapoor’s underrated classic Mera Naam Joker chronicles the three stages of life: childhood adulthood and old-age through the lens of Raju, the adult version also played by the filmmaker himself).
During his childhood days (played by Rishi Kapoor) we see his unrequited infatuation for his teacher (Simi Garewal).
Then in the later stages, he faces one-sided sentiments in romance, witnesses his mother’s death while he performs a circus-act, fighting to make ends meet.
His miseries are disguised through as he dons his avatar as a joker. That smile remains constant even though it breaks him, but he still carries on.
Anand – Anand (1971)
Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anand won several awards in India and was also commercially successful.
“Babumoshai, Zindagi Badi Honi Chahiye, Lambi Nahin.” Anand (played by Rajesh Khanna) is a terminally ill patient who teaches the essence of living, even during the final times of our lifetime.
With songs like “Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli”, the happy-go-lucky character smiles through pain and difficulty.
The fact that the character is so endearing, hopeful and optimistic, it makes one feel why do bad things happen to good people?
Pooja – Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! (1994)
HAHK is a classic Hindi film which exudes familial warmth, romance, foot-tapping songs, presenting Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit’s never-seen-before chemistry as Prem and Nisha.
The most loveable personality in the film, however, is Pooja (Renuka Shahane), Nisha’s sister who gets married to Prem’s brother, Rajesh (Mohnish Behl).
There is a pristine, smiley and warm feel to Pooja, who becomes the motherly figure to Prem and her in-laws.
At the pivotal time when she expresses the joy of her brother-in-law falling in love with her sister, she accidentally falls down the stairs, resulting in us feeling distressed for the duration of the film.
Aman – Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)
Beyond the commercial exterior, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai addresses the hypocrisy of the male’s attraction towards women.
Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan) is a college ‘stud’ (or Casanova) who falls in love with Tina (Rani Mukerji) due to her effeminate virtues.
In the process, is oblivious to the fact that his androgynous friend Anjali (Kajol) loves him. Aman (Salman Khan) is everything that one would desire: successful, charming and a gentleman.
Despite him wholeheartedly loving Anjali (albeit one-sided), he lets her go to her love and walks away when he is by far the most chivalrous character.
Megha – Mohabbatein (2000)
In Mohabbatein, Shah Rukh Khan plays Raj Aryan, a music teacher who seeks revenge on a university Dean Narayan Shankar (Amitabh Bachchan) for separating him with his loved one, Megha (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan).
Megha is shown to be a pristine and dutiful daughter who studies at her father’s institute and though seen briefly in flashbacks, we feel endeared by her.
Even after she finds out that Narayan Shankar her separated her from Raj, small nuances start to make us sympathise with her, especially because she tries to act normal.
Megha ending her own life is heartbreaking and disturbing. Seeing her as an apparition supporting Raj each time makes one sorrowful with her conclusion.
Chandramukhi – Devdas (2002)
A tragic love saga like Devdas, in hindsight, shows how two women suffer due to the self-destruction and cravenness of a man.
One on hand, Paro (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), chooses a life of pride as an aristocrat, whereas Chandramukhi (Madhuri Dixit-Nene), selects her love as a reverence.
We see Chandramukhi’s journey from a charming, charismatic and bejewelled courtesan to a self-less anchoress almost.
However, despite having a heart of gold, she faces shame, disgrace and dejected by society. Her sole gain in life was Devdas (Shah Rukh Khan) and she loses that too.
Aman – Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003)
Kal Ho Naa Ho is a movie which amalgamates two pivotal aspects of one’s life – health and romance. It tells the story where almost every character fights a defect of some sort.
Aman Mathur is an angel… Almost literally, he’s like the ‘Anand’ of the film as he tries to bring joy and fixing relationships which are broken.
However, the cruel irony of Aman doing such things is that he fights for every breath due to his deteriorating health from a terminal illness.
The fact that he selflessly lets his love go and does not get the happy ending he deserves pains us. Even now.
Zooni – Fanaa (2006)
Fanaa is a very delicately love story. Why we say that because it does not glorify or romanticise the idea of terrorism.
Zooni Ali Beg (Kajol) a visually-impaired Kashmiri girl who falls in love with a tour guide in Delhi until one day he ‘dies’ until one snowy evening, he returns at her door-step.
The fact that Zooni is discovering her new-found freedom and yet never allows her disability toward sight to stop her from living to the brim yet fragile.
We feel empathetic towards her because as an innocent woman, she loved one man and that same man turns out to be a cold-blooded terrorist, deceiving her, forever.
Veronica – Cocktail (2012)
Veronica in Cocktail is free-spirited. When she gets attached to the timid/traditional Meera (Diana Penty), a stranded victim of false marriage, it becomes an amicable friendship.
Soon enough, she is heartbroken to know that her best friend is in love with Gautam (Saif Ali Khan) a man she has a sexual relationship with eventually falls for.
Her character challenges the double-standards of how men choose to sleep with a woman like Veronica, but then choose to marry a domesticated person like Meera.
It’s heartbreaking to see someone as generous as her get emotionally hurt. At the same time, it’s a stark reminder of how society unjustly categories women.
Ishaan – Kai Po Che! (2013)
Since his debut in Kai Po Che! Sushant Singh Rajput played characters which were so pure-hearted and hopeful. He is an actor, we dearly miss and always will.
The movie is about three friends, Ishaan (Sushant Singh Rajput), Omi (Amit Sadh) and Govind (Rajkummar Rao), who wish to launch their own sports shop and sports academy, until politics changes everything.
Ishaan Bhatt is a district level cricketer who is passionate about his sports and generously supports/encourages youths, with full sincerity.
We see him as this aspirational and charismatic youngster, who is always there for his friends and loved ones… But ultimately faces a tragic conclusion.
Paakhi – Lootera (2013)
Not just the character of ‘Paakhi’ (played by Sonakshi Sinha), but Lootera as a film deserved a better reception since it is a masterpiece.
Set in the era of the 1950s, against the backdrop of the Zamindari Abolition Act by the newly independent India, it tells the story of a young conman (Ranveer Singh) posing as an archaeologist and the daughter of a Bengali zamindar.
The fact that Paakhi is alone, suffering from a life-threatening illness and deceived by the person she loved the most, one feels empathetic with her cruel circumstances.
In a way, our sentiments are quite similar to the way we felt towards Zooni in Fanaa.
Kashibai – Bajirao Mastani (2015)
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani narrates the story of the Maratha Peshwa Bajirao I (1700–1740 AD) and his second wife.
The film claims to not be an ‘affair’ between the Peshwa (Ranveer Singh) and princess Mastani (Deepika Padukone), but a pure love between the two royals.
However, even though the film is headlined by the two, it is Kashibai who steals the show with her dutiful, generosity and pure-heartedness.
Just to even imagine one’s partner being with someone else, having children with them, whilst you’re left to pick up the pieces, is very heart-wrenching.
Saba Taliyar Khan – Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016)
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is essentially a film which looks at the dynamics of romance and friendship in contemporary society.
After Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) gets heartbroken after having unrequited feelings for his friend Alizeh (Anushka Sharma), which is when Saba (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) a middle-aged, divorced poet enters his life.
Whilst Saba is beautiful and somewhat successful, we see her battle this inner-loneliness where she seeks to be desired, rather than the one having to chase.
However, despite the fact that she loves Ayan, seeing that he doesn’t feel the same about her, she takes the mature decision of letting him go. She deserved better and so did Alizeh!
MC Sher – Gully Boy (2019)
There are a handful of films in which the supporting actor/character overshadows the lead and Gully Boy is one of those movies.
The film is a coming-of-age story about an aspiring street rapper from the Dharavi slums of Mumbai, who strives to overcome his emotionally-challenging circumstances.
Shrikant Bhonsle aka MC Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi) is a confident and well-known local rapper whom the aspirational rapper aspires to be.
In a day and age when egos are bruised easily, MC Sher generously dedicates himself into making his friend a success story, whilst he smiles at his own setbacks. We need to see more of him and how he copes with the difficulties of life!
Noor – The Last Color (2021)
The Last Color addresses the deep-rooted taboo regarding widows in Vrindavan and Varanasi in India, extending to recent days.
Set in the 80s, it deals with how a 9-year old tightrope walker named ‘Chhoti’ befriends one such widow named Noor and promises to uplift her spirits in living.
Noor (Neena Gupta) adheres to the customs and the ‘traditions’ after her elderly husband died when they got married at a young age. So many women in reality like her have suffered and it’s awful.
One feels empathetic towards the suffering of Noor. The fact that she only had one glimmer of hope through Chhoti but is mercilessly snatched from her, makes one feel despaired.
In life too, we always strive to find the perfect ending or some sort of closure which sadly is not always possible.
The Bollywood film characters explored in this article too are also within the fabrics of our society, which is perhaps why their stories seem so human and relatable.
If anything, these characters teach us to value ourselves and to find a completion even in an incomplete circumstances,