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Rediff dives in to villain roles played by The Boss
(Tuesday, 22nd May 2007)

Rajni as the hero is good. But Rajni as the villain is better.

This actor's metamorphosis from a baddie to a hero and vice versa was quick and unique, which could not be replicated by any other Indian actor so far.

We take a look at some of the unforgettable roles:


After meeting Rajni at the Adyar film Institute, filmmaker K Balachander saw the potential in the actor and cast him in a negative role in his debut film Apoorvaragangal, in 1975. The director also rechristened him Rajnikanth.

This film with Kamal Haasan and Srividya in lead roles had an offbeat theme dealing with complex relationships.

The film heralded the beginning of the anti-hero phase of Rajni's career, lasting from 1975 to 1977. Here, his was a comparatively insignificant cameo role, where he dies in the end. Towards the climax he is seen wearing rags with a beedi in his mouth.

Rajnikanth impressed many though some thought it an inauspicious beginning. But time proved them all wrong, and how! 

Moonru Mudichu

His role in another film by K Balachander titled Moonru Mudichu (1976) was meatier. The film saw Kamal Haasan as the hero, a perfect foil to Rajni's villain.

Moonru Mudichu is a story of treachery, murder and vengeance of a strange kind.

Rajni plays a shady character who covets his best friend's (Kamal) girl, enacted by Sridevi. He pulls out all the stops to impress her and when that fails, he kills the unsuspecting Kamal by drowning him in the lake.

Later financial exigency forces Sridevi to marry an elderly man not knowing that he is Rajni's father. Sparks of hatred and vengeance fly when the two meet as stepmother and stepson.

Rajnikanth's villain in Moonru Mudichu is slimy and scheming, introducing a new acting style with individual mannerisms like flipping the cigarette in the air and then catching it between his lips.

He also added the trademark swagger, the rotating of his black-rimmed sunglasses, and a staccato style of dialogue delivery to his repertoire with this film.

16 Vayathinile

In September 1977, 16Vayathinile was released, which earned Rajnikanth's first award from Arima Sangham.

By this time producers and directors were very impressed with Rajnikanth's talent. One of them was debutant director Bharathiraja, who cast him in the villain's role in 16Vayathinile.

Bharathiraja was also the producer and scriptwriter of this new genre of pastoral film, which was true to village life in characterisation, costumes and dialect.

Like the two previous films, this one too, starred Kamal Haasan and Sreedevi.

Rajni is Parattai, a village rake idling away his time with his cronies and passing lewd comments to the damsels passing by.

Meanwhile, Sridevi is seduced and ditched by a new wily vet. Kamal as the handicapped and retarded 'Chappani' is more like a watchdog -- loving and protecting her. In the climax Kamal kills Rajni to save her from his clutches.

Rajni's Parattai is in a way an extension of his villan in Moonru Mudichu, but the villainy is more pronounced and transparent here. He repeats the punchline 'Ithu eppadi irukku?'(How's that?) with lecherous glee to the delight of his fans.

Repeated punchlines, merrily lapped up by the increasing multitude of his fans, became a part of Rajni's acting style and the trend continues to this day.


Avargal, released in February 1977, was considered a progressive and radical film by the seventies' standard. It was another K Balachander movie with Rajnikanth playing an abusive and sadistic husband.

Avargal tells the story of a hapless woman walking out of an oppressive marriage to seek employment in the city and start life afresh. When she is about to be united with the man she loves the sadistic husband once again enters her life.

With studied guile he worms his way into her life as a supposedly reformed and repentant man. When the vulnerable woman is all ready to give him a second chance he shows his true colours, leaves her and goes back to his already existing second wife and child.

Balachander ends the film on a note of poetic justice. The man gloating over his own treachery turns away only to be hit in the eye by a flying stick accidentally aimed by the urchins playing nearby.

In Avargal, Rajnikanth gave a classic performance projecting a combination of two contrasting facets of villainy -- both openly sadistic and wily. He actually outdid himself as the wily scheming man.

Like all the other films, here too, Kamal stars in this film as the heroine's widower colleague.


Avargal was followed by Gayathri, released in October 1977.

The film, based on a novel by the same name by eminent Tamil writer Sujatha was directed by lesser known director R Pattabhiraman.

This tale of degradation and debauchery is about a husband making pornographic films of his wife (Sridevi) without her knowledge and then blackmailing her.

The film is all about how Sridevi rescues herself from her husband's clutches through her diary with the help of Jaishankar, the hero of the piece.

The movie was a hit and won Rajni much critical acclaim.

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