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Published: Verve Man, October 2011

Some say women are suckers for punishment, others believe that the young rebellious teen attracts the irresponsible Willoughby, while a grown woman is always in want of a decent man. History is witness to many a woman falling flat in the face while chasing a rogue beau. Sitanshi Talati-Parikh examines the shining Indian silver screen examples of lovable dangerous men

Straight-laced men don’t make for racy fantasies, skipping heartbeats and sexual tension. They lack the edge, the drive, the sizzle, the power to tug at our heartstrings and wreak sweet havoc with our lives. Women are attracted to danger like a moth to a flame – there has to be reason that phrase has become a cliché. There’s something inordinately sexy about a man who knows what he wants and will stop at nothing to get it. Getting a playboy’s attention is not necessarily about a notch on the belt as much as it is about being alluring enough to grab his attention. And deep down inside, every woman attracted to a naughty bloke feels that somewhere, there is a chance that she can fix him. That she can be the person he will surrender to, will change for, and will eventually become some version of the Utopian male they have in their head. And so they all fall.

They Work With Passion

This obsession with the men who are not quite toeing the line possibly began with Amitabh Bachchan’s Angry Young Man. Not a bad lot, but a man who is roaring with discontent – he’s full of testosterone, a desire to avenge all that’s wrong. He’s not passive. He’s not even passive-aggressive. He’s raging male. With a whole bunch of adolescent hormones. You know he has passion – for what he believes in – and you can easily imagine how that would translate – in bed and out of it. Shahenshah’s (1988) avenger became Shah Rukh Khan in Baazigar (1993). He played his hands, the cards turned in his favour and he got his own back, albeit with a massive amount of gore. The cinema of the 70s through the 80s threw up seething, vengeful heroes, those who were not apologetic about treading on a few lives. Recently, Aamir Khan’s Ghajini (2008) – with Khan’s character looming large over the messy revenge scene – in his own words, brought back the action genre with a Dabangg (2010).

They Steal Our Hearts

With the exception of chiseled-chin Vinod Khanna who debuted in cinema as the bad guy, it is only post 2000 that we have become somewhat sophisticated about our wayward heroes. Hrithik Roshan in Dhoom 2 (2006) oozed charm and stunning sex appeal – he didn’t even have an excuse about being bad, he just was.

Luckily though he wasn’t out to kill anyone, just cop a few shiny ones. Maybe it is the Dhoom franchise that has successfully converted our picture-perfect heroes into those with grey shades. Who cares if the guy you date is a bit of a thief? If he looks half as good as John Abraham from Dhoom (2004) or Roshan, or can provide half as much intellectual stimulation as Aamir Khan (the upcoming villain in Dhoom 3)…that would be a love life worth writing home about. Moot to point out that no one really notices the unshaven, paunchy good guy, the cop: Abhishek Bachchan. Has anyone ever wanted the good guy to lose as badly as in the Dhoom movies?

They Kill Us Softly With One Look

Going back a few years, can one deny that Saif Ali Khan actually became sizzling hot on screen in 2004 – in his comeback era – in the completely negative role Ek Hasina Thi? Which girl wouldn’t succumb to his charms? He made being a rogue look cool. And soon after in Being Cyrus (2005). All this, while maintaining his status quo as a premier romantic hero; and ironically, if not surprisingly, consolidating his screen appeal with repeated negative roles – including that of the recent clandestine terrorist in Kurbaan (2009).

They Play Good Cop, Bad Cop With Our Emotions

Anil Kapoor in Ram Lakhan. Was he good or was he bad? It’s hard to tell, even after watching the classic repeatedly. In Shahenshah, Amitabh Bachchan played an ineffectual corrupt cop, while fighting for justice, out of the system. Women go weak-kneed over a man in uniform, especially if it’s an errant cop out to play Robin Hood. The success of Dabangg – and Salman Khan shaking his uniformed body to national hysteria – heralds the revival of cop dramas and high-risk love lives.

They Cleverly Win Us Over

Ishwar ‘Langda’ Tyagi in Omkara (2006) completely took the movie to different heights, and the disgust one felt for the character was smudged with grudging admiration. You give a man brains and his mental prowess is bound to not go unnoticed.

They Wield Power Over Our Thoughts

Ajay Devgn made underworld dons appear cool – with an enviable display of control, smoothness and above all, power. As Al Pacino proved in Scarface (1983) that power attracts women, Devgn proved it with Company (2002) and a few years later with Once Upon A Time In Mumbai (2010). In fact, in OUATIM, Emraan Hashmi managed to keep his girl by his side despite ill-treating her. Katrina Kaif’s character fell in love with the Pratap politicians – played by Ranbir Kapoor and Arjun Rampal – who preferred to work the wrong side of the system in Raajneeti (2010). Forget women, even film-maker and actor Farhan Akhtar admits a strange fascination with Don’s character, leading him to remake the old classic. There is a natural instinct in women – as much as they like to nurture, they like to be protected. And who better to protect them than an unstoppable man who can rule a better part of the world?

Their Good Outweighs Their Bad?

Movies on real-life characters tend to tread on eggshells, portraying a primarily positive perspective of characters that have been perceived as heading down the wrong path. Guru (2007), for instance, portrayed the protagonist, Gurubhai (loosely based on Dhirubhai Ambani) in a very favourable light, in the role of an inspiring leader. Sarkar (2005), where Amitabh Bachchan plays a character assumed to be based on Bal Thakeray, creatively designed like The Godfather, showed him to be a man of steel and goodness parcelled with a lack of concern for human life.

They Win Our Sympathy

While Shiney Ahuja’s character in Gangster (2006) and Sanjay Dutt’s Raghu in Vaastav (1999), were all about the fallen man – looking desperately for love’s respite or salvation, Imran Khan’s Kabir in Kidnap (2008) saved face with his inner good guy winning over the bad. John Abraham touched a soft spot in his I’m-a-terrorist-but-a-good-guy in New York (2009). You may not be able to love these characters, but they do win your sympathy – and strangely that is a way into women’s hearts, sometimes.

They Need Rescuing

A step up from the sympathy vote is actually pulling them out of the quagmire. Abhay Deol has made it his prerogative to be the lack-lustre hero – think Dev D (2009) in particular – who’s always finding himself and losing his love. His women have to deal with his incapacities, and many love him despite it. Sanjay Dutt’s Ballu in Khalnayak (1993) immortalized the hero who loved, lost and died a pitiful love life.

They Have Converted from Lover to Lover Boy

You know this has to be about Salman Khan. He made every girl fall in love with Prem from Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) and then ran away from this good guy image, and embraced that of the playa. He played the field in every possible movie – even played the role of the playing-the-field-mentor in No Entry (2005), and carried a successful bunch of romantic comedies on merely his inability to remain faithful.

And so it goes that there’s nothing like a wayward love interest to make life a bunch of prickly roses. And there’s probably a make-your-bed-and-lie-on-it pun there somewhere….