In this weekly series, Rahul Desai lists 50 of Hindi cinema’s favourite “third wheels” — that is, memorable characters whose roles are little more than fleeting cameos and little less than supporting turns — since 1990. There will be no particular order: just a colourful recollection of emblematic faces who’ve left us craving for more.
For the longest time through the 1980s, Goga Kapoor was Bollywood’s favourite “second-in-line” baddie. He’d have been perfect as one of Gabbar’s henchmen in Sholay, yet he appeared as the supporting villain in many others films opposite Amitabh Bachchan. He was, in essence, the perfect “Dinkar Rao” – a typically shady land-shark type he played in Mukul Anand’s Agneepath, remembered for a classic line he didn’t give (“Hawa tez chalta hai, Dinkar Rao. Topi sambhalo, udd jayega,” Vijay Deenanath Chauhan menacingly warns him), and destined to be overshadowed by Danny Denzongpa’s stylish mega-villain, Kancha Cheena.
Which is perhaps why it’s almost poetic that he gave us one of Hindi cinema’s most memorable “bit” characters by subverting the tone of his own one-note career.
As melodramatic Goan don Anthony Gomes in Kundan Shah’s Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994), Kapoor tips his (mafia) hat to his own tired side-villain legacy – by playing a “softy” retro gangster who, presumably rebelling against masala movies’ favourite template, becomes a diehard fan of the film’s jittery young protagonist, Sunil (Shah Rukh Khan). He spoke like a don, but emoted like a hero. He was everything a menacing filmy outlaw wasn’t supposed to be: emotional, romantic, tragic, generous, lovelorn and – a rarity in Kapoor’s case – the boss.
There’s so much to love about Gomes. He serves as more than just comic relief in one of Bollywood’s earliest, and most sincere, academics-v/s-arts coming-of-age dramas. Who can forget his hilarious tears when he personally identifies with the story of the band’s “Sachi yeh kahaani hai” nightclub performance? Or the way he cutely arrives with a fake mark-sheet (100% in every subject) for a chastised Sunil long after the moment has passed? I was so taken by Gomes that I was convinced that even the wannabe crooks in Goa were inherently good souls. The film ends with Gomes breaking the fourth wall and reassuring the viewers about Sunil’s soon-to-be-healed heart. It’s hard not to look beyond his garish getup and appreciate a chatty old maa-ka-pao living vicariously through his younger “protégé”.
It’s only appropriate that his defining line is sensitively delivered on a beach at sunset while sipping on cheap whisky. “Note math karo, Vasco,” he winces to his abnormally loyal sidekick Vasco, as Sunil’s heartbroken harmonica melody fills the air. “Feel karo, feel.” Indeed. Goga Kapoor was finally feeling it, after two long decades in the business.
Watch Sachi Ye Kahani Hai from Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa here: