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When Kulbhushan Kharbanda Played Bollywood’s Most Terrifying Villain in This 80s Movie

by Joe Bourn

Kulbhushan Kharbanda gave life to the character of Shakaal in the film.

In the 1980 film Shaan, veteran actor Kulbhushan Kharbanda, the villainous character Shakaal, stunned the audience.

A bigger hero or protagonist in a film needs to be balanced by a menacing villain. While there have been dozens of film antagonists over the years, one particular Hindi film villain from the 80s stands out. If you haven’t guessed yet, we’re talking about the super-villain Shakaal, played by veteran actor Kulbhushan Kharbanda, in the 1980 film Shaan. Shakaal’s villainy and danger quotient is reflected by the fact that his men were all dressed in identical white suits. His lair was on an underwater-like island, surrounded by swimming sharks and crocodiles. Shakaal was one of the most technologically advanced villains of the 1980s.

Kulbhushan Kharbanda, now 79, was last in news for his role in Mirzapur. His portrayal of Satyanath Tripathi aka Bauji made him a household name and earned him more recognition than he had already achieved during his long career. His role as Bauji – who was a feared and perverted character – reminded many of Shakaal. Even some 3 decades later, Kulbhushan Kharbanda has proved that he has what it takes to be the villain on screen.

Shaan was directed by Ramesh Sippy and starred an ensemble cast of Sunil Dutt, Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Shatrughan Sinha, Raakhee Gulazar, Parveen Babi and Bindiya Goswami. Ramesh Sippy was trying to recreate the magic of Sholay with Shaan. although it didn’t reach the same level of success, it was a reasonable hit.

Much of the film’s success goes to the elaborate design of Shakaal’s high-tech hideout. Kulbhushan Kharbhanda was so deep in his character that people shuddered every time he rubbed his bald head on screen as he showed danger in the film. Shakaal didn’t even hesitate to have one of his own men feed his crocodile in an act of rage.

Shakaal’s persona bore a striking resemblance to the villain Blofeld from the famous James Bond films, a fact that cannot be ignored. Blofeld also wore a similar outfit, had a bald head and was equipped with a number of strange gadgets that could cause a storm. Ramesh Sippy created the character Shakaal based on Blofeld and it was something Indian cinema had never seen before. This is why Kulbhushan’s Shakaal ranks with Amrish Puri’s Mogambo and Amjad Khan’s Gabbar Singh as one of Hindi cinema’s most iconic villains.

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