The image of the police force, especially cops from the filmmaking capital of India, has been indelibly soiled in the past decade by news reports of corruption, staged encounter killings and shoddy investigations. The movie cop too used to be a comforting authority figure, but over time, some of them came to resemble the criminals they were chasing. Others channelled personal grievances into their jobs, like Amitabh Bachchan’s iconic Vijay in Zanjeer. This fortnight, Rohit Shetty’s Singham, which is a remake of the Tamil superhit with the same name, presents the Indian Police Service officer as a superhero. We pick our favourite cop characters from the movies – the good, the bad and the funny.
Arshad Warsi in Sehar (2005)
Warsi’s SSP Ajay Kumar is based on real-life cop Arun Kumar, whose obduracy earned him 14 transfers in eight years. In an era where it had become fashionable to show Bollywood cops either as lawbreakers or vigilantes, Warsi’s portrayal of a principled disrupter of organised crime in Uttar Pradesh won him wide acclaim.
Yashpal Sharma in Ab Tak Chhappan (2004)
Ab Tak Chhappan is celebrated for Nana Patekar’s portrayal of the good-bad encounter specialist Sadhu Agashe, whose understanding of justice changes when a gangster kills his wife. But the film also has a genuine bad-bad cop, played by the talented Yashpal Sharma, who will go to any lengths to beat Agashe’s “record” of encounter deaths.
Mahesh Manjrekar in Wanted (2009)
The eternally lush-looking Manjrekar is perfectly suited to playing a lecherous, paan-chewing rowdy. In Wanted, Manjrekar is an accessory to the larger crime of rejuvenating Salman Khan’s career. But he does make his presence felt in the role of a greasy-palmed cop who has one eye firmly fixed on Ayesha Takia’s assets.
Aamir Khan in Sarfarosh (1999)
Aamir Khan is Mr Clinical Plus personified in John Mathew Mathan’s Sarfarosh. His ACP Rathod thinks on his feet, plays by the book, and does almost everything right. He does fall for the silliest girl ever, but we forgive him.
Kangna Ranaut in Game (2011)
Hindi cinema has no shortage of cops who arrive at the crime scene too late. However, there is also no paucity of cops who can’t see the truth even when it’s staring them in the face. Kangana Ranaut’s Interpol investigator in Game wins the police medal for keeping her mouth open at all times and letting the so-called target of an investigation crack the case for her. (To be fair to her, it’s the script that’s the real culprit.)
Om Puri in Ardh Satya (1983)
Though Govind Nihlani created his protagonist in the Dirty Harry mould, he also amped up the intelligence levels, adding a crucial psychosexual subtext. Om Puri is unforgettable as a cop battling the system, as well as for conveying a recurring feeling of “napunsakta” (impotence).
Amitabh Bachchan in Shahenshah (1988)
In 1973, Amitabh Bachchan emerged from a series of humiliating flops and shot to stardom as Inspector Vijay in Zanjeer. By 1988, Vijay was a corrupt, paan-loving cop who wore more kohl in his eyes than a cross-dresser. His updated Vijay is a reminder that Bachchan is as good at giggling as he is at smouldering.
By Uday Bhatia, Nandini Ramnath on July 21 2011 6.30pm