7 Malayalam Films That Gave Us Eccentric Gangsters Before Aavesham

On the runup to Fahadh Faasil’s turn as the kooky gangster in Aavesham, we look at Malayalam cinema's most impressionable villains who are heroes in their own stories
7 Malayalam Films That Gave Us Eccentric Gangsters Before Aavesham

Right from the very onset, there has been something refreshing about the way team Aavesham decided to reveal Fahadh Faasil's character in the film's first official teaser. When we first see the actor on screen, we get the caption, ‘Re-Introducing Fahadh Faasil’ which itself is an interesting proclamation to make for an actor with such a versatile filmography behind him. But this claim holds well with all the promotional material let out by the team as it's clear that the actor is venturing into uncharted territories in terms of his on-screen persona. The actor, who has treaded the entire spectrum of filmic eccentricity and pushed boundaries of on screen interpretation of psychotic behavior for some of his most iconic performances, is trying something different for Aavesham by the looks of it.

A still from Aavesham
A still from Aavesham

This kind of no-holds barred theatrics is not something new to Malayalam cinema, especially when it comes to gangster and crime boss archetypes. ‘Shanmugham’ from Black (2004) features Mammootty delivering a forerunner in this archetype of the highly entertaining gangster with an unending array of punch lines, but all delivered with a straight face. We have also seen entirely funny riffs on this with Jagathy’s character ‘Padakkam Basheer’ from Chotta Mumbai (2007) whose introduction scene is a stuff of legend in Malayalam cinema’s pop culture reserves. We also have the slightly muted, subtler iterations of the crime boss figures in movies like Iyobinte Pushtakam (2014), where Jayasurya plays the menacing capitalist ‘Angoor Rawther’ who invokes a communist revolution. The gentle smirk on Angoor Rawther is one of the everlasting images of fierce antagonism from recent history of Malayalam cinema.

Fahadh Faasil, commonly known for his grounded charisma and controlled theatrics in films where less is often deemed more, is finally given a part where more is more. Aavesham will feature him playing a hyperactive, stylish gangster who chews up the scenery with relish. From whatever promotional material has been put out as of now from team Aavesham, you get glimpses of the manic energy of 'Psycho Shammi’ from Kumbalangi Nights (2019), and in other parts, you get to see traces of the flamboyant physicality of 'Joshua Carlton’ from Trance (2020). There is clearly an attempt to amp up the subdued, nuance-heavy side of his screen acting prowess to a more broader, crowd friendly wackiness to the way 'Ranga' is interpreted by Fahadh Faasil, a sentiment even expressed by the actor in his recent promotional interviews.

Let's have a look at a few quirky, stylish gangsters from Malayalam cinema that have left an indelible mark on pop culture:

‘Bellari Raja’ from Rajamanikyam

Streaming on: Sun NXT

The most common comparison comes in the light of the oddball persona and slightly derivative accent that mixes “Kannada” and “Malayalam” dialects. ‘Bellari Raja’ (Mammootty) is a fascinating character type that integrates comedic chops with a heartfelt backstory. The similarly styled ‘Rayban’ glasses and eccentric persona really echoes with Fahadh’s version of ‘Ranga’. Rajamanikyam grounds the fantastical nature of its premise with the self-aware performance by Mammootty, who plays a mysterious outsider bestowed with his mentor’s wealth in a last ditch attempt by the father to teach his own kids a lesson.

The weirdness of the accent and the wacky abandon in Mammootty’s over-the-top performance, lend much gravity to the inherently drab subject matter. Aavesham seems to be drawing from the same well in terms of its leading man’s characterization as the larger-than-life, off-limits prankster who turns up the heat when pushed to it. There are scenes where the overtly stylish swag of the leading man and his colorful personality fill in the pockets of despair in Anwar Rasheed’s exhilarating commercial vehicle.

‘Saidapet Giri’ from Rock and Roll

Played by Manoj K Jayan

Streaming on: Youtube 

An aspiring singer forced into being a gangster out of desperation is fodder enough for a dark, brooding villain origin film all by itself, but director Ranjith uses this dramatic arc for a endlessly fascinating side character in one of his lesser known films. The film in question, Rock and Roll (2007) about a popular jazz drummer trying to win over a playback singer with a musical album is the sort of fun film where you least expect to see such a singular character. However, Ranjith places ‘Saidapet Giri’ as one among the many ciphers representing dead ambition that explodes into rage against society.

Even though the film uses him mostly as a Deus ex machina to drive the hero’s comedic adventures forward, you get a funny crime boss figure who exudes a loving charm in his wake, but also manages to dole out threats and death ultimatums at the drop of a hat. Manoj K Jayan makes him a naive yet forceful figure whose presence demands attention, whenever he pops up on screen. The actor too gets to revel in harmless banter and silly situational humour in the most serious of circumstances with his menacing charm.

‘Airport Jimmy’ from Hotel California 

Played by Jayasurya 

Streaming on: Disney +Hotstar 

A wisecracking smuggler, also engaged in prostitution and kidnapping, is not your idea of a fun, empathetic hero character. However, Jayasurya takes on this morally deplorable character trope and turns the very tackiness in its conception into a stylistic tick with his innate charm. The actor is introduced into a non-linear, multiple character driven plot involving pirated CD’s, political conspiracies and a missing sperm box, all with silly humor sprinkled all over the absurd situations, which he takes one hundred percent seriously, as if his life depended on them.

The actor holds the film’s campy tendencies at bay with his restrained swagger. There is a quality of quiet intensity and world weariness in the way ‘Jimmy’ approaches even the most absurd turn of events, and the performance combines subtlety with a brewing sense of  theatrics and self seriousness.

‘Ananthan Nambiar’ from Nadodikkattu 

Played by Thilakan 

Streaming on: Youtube 

‘Ananthan Nambiar’ is one of the trickiest villain archetypes to have graced Malayalam cinema history. Sreenivasan, who also wrote the film in addition to being one of the main leads alongside Mohanlal, infuses a lot of his characteristic ironical humour to the much dreaded foil to the jobless leading men mistaken for CIDs. Ananthan Nambiar (Thilakan), however is designed as a villain who sees himself as a threatening force of nature, but often comes across as a clueless idiot caught in a series of mistaken revelations. The writing and filmmaking carefully treat him as an inept person put in charge of a concealed smuggling empire.

This is as much a physical performance as any from the ace actor, as we get to see Thilakan revel in the theatrics of the crime boss. There are scenes where we get ‘Ananthan Nambiar’ being turned into a slapstick comedian with regards to his body movements and reaction shots where he can be seen responding viscerally to the most silliest of throwaway lines. The masterful precision in Thilakan’s earnestness coupled with the genius screwball energy in Sathyan Anthikad’s filmmaking ranks this among the very best of comedic villains to have ever come out of Malayalam cinema.

‘Dude’ from Aadu

Played by Vinayakan

Streaming on: Disney + Hotstar 

Dillman Edakochi aka Dude is the perfect synthesis of absurd comedy injected into an otherwise perfectly violent gangster trope. There occurs a perfect marriage of material and actor in a way the volatile crime boss on a mission is presented on screen. Vinayakan cleverly keeps a low profile for most scenes with minimal lines but snaps at the right time with the most laugh-out-loud comebacks that negates all sense of intensity conveyed through the character’s styling.

Vinayakan is cast perfectly as he switches effortlessly between the corny fun side of ‘Dude’ and his physical performance abilities lend a tactile energy to the Aadu films, where we get a villain who is the least aware person in the whole cast of comedians, working in a highly improbable terrain of storytelling. His inability to pronounce certain words and his tendency to suddenly flip out in between otherwise violent circumstances, add to the personality of this one-of-a-kind villain.

‘Madhura Raja’ from Pokkiri Raja 

Played by Mammootty

Streaming on: Zee5

From the slightly corny line delivery, the stilted attempts at speaking undecipherable english to the exaggerated body and hand movements, Madhura Raja had all the reason for being a ridiculous caricature but Mammootty sells the antics of the Tamil-tinted Malayali gangster with aplomb.

Mammootty feels so at home playing the slightly off-kilter gangsters and often grounds the silliness with unparalleled charisma. The actor makes even the cringey one-liners and repartees come alive on screen and push the film away from its masala cinema trappings to make it a living character with quirks and a certain cadence. Thanks to the well-balanced pitch of Mammootty’s persona, firebrand dialogues and action sequences make sense even though we never see the character take anything seriously in the film’s runtime.

Darvin from Darvinte Parinamam

Played by Chemban Vinod Jose

Streaming on: Jio Cinema

A film to be titled after its villain’s name itself is a path-breaking idea for a feature film and this Prithviraj Sukumaran-starrer goes the extra mile by rooting its central narrative conceit by charting the villains’ arc of redemption. This film had Chemban Vinod Jose play a ruthless gangster with a peculiar MO, who crosses paths with an ordinary man with adverse consequences.

As suggested by the title, the film maps out his journey from being the unrelenting tyrant to a better person by the end of the film. The performance is elevated by Chemban Vinod Jose’s rough exterior and menacing screen presence but the makers keep the levity intact at all times by his interaction with his team of idiotic gang members.

Related Stories

No stories found.