Let the Beloved Drunkards Countdown begin!
6. Om Prakash in Zanjeer (1973)
This is probably my favorite Om Prakash role . . . and also might be the most brief. Portraying a man who's family, constitution, and reputation was destroyed by the same gang Amitabh's Vijay wants to dismantle--Om Prakash is the rare essential drunkard--appearing just before the climax to ensure that our hero knows exactly what's at stake in his mission for justice.
Not only was the graveyard scene my second favorite part of Zanjeer (my first is Sher Khan, what else?) but I feel like it showcases OP's strengths perfectly. He is one part liquor, one part humor, and one part hard-won wisdom. It's a cocktail that is more poignant than predictable; and unlike most filmi Christian drunkards, this fellow isn't there just for laughs or to steer the hero wrong. He also looks a bit like Eli Wallach in this scene, don't you think?
5. Dharmendra in
most things Sholay (1975)
Everybody "knows" about Dharmendra's real-life relationship with alcohol. It's almost as famous as his relationship with Hema Malini, and perhaps just as prone to mythological retelling. Dharmendra played a lot of drinkers (if not drunkards) over the course of the 70's, but Sholay's Veeru is surely the best remembered (and perhaps the most sympathetic) of the lot.
Veeru isn't a bad fellow, but he isn't exactly good, either. He's the happy-go-lucky half of Jai/Veeru jodi, and the mischievous half of the Basanti/Veeru life partnership. Furthermore, if anyone could make a drunken rant and suicide threat seem endearing, Veeru certainly did. I don't think we ever find out if he gives up the bottle, because his eventual choice to give up a life of petty crime for a higher purpose duly papers over his previous moral failings. But personally, I'd like to think the sight of his beloved dancing on glass from broken liquor bottles cures him for once and for all.
4. Mithun Chakraborty in Ashanti (1982)
I had some issues with Ashanti, but all those issues disappeared whenever Mithun's bootlegger character staggered into the frame. Not only does he cast into sharper relief the bad-assery of the trio of female avengers, he often begs them to "rescue" his chastity . . . unashamedly letting the ladies hog the limelight.
Though he may be a drunkard, this wastrel also happens to run a business to serve other wastrels, guards his underworld territory with an iron fist (even if if it means half-naked mud fights with the Bob Christos of the world), and is a no-nonsense landlord. Not too shabby for a guy with such consistently high blood-alcohol levels.
3. Amitabh Bachchan in Suhaag (1979)
This character was not just my first Amitabh role (and remains my favorite Amitabh role), but it's also probably my favorite filmi wastrel role in terms of story arc. Suhaag is also an extremely palatable mash-up of the usual masala dilemmas. For once, the "bad" brother is not really bad, he's just a drunkard with a mommy-complex. If only Amit (Amitabh) had been slapped as a child when he began engaging in (forced) drinking, like his priggishly perfect brother (Shashi Kapoor)!
Amit is a fanatical devotee of Durga, a creative defender of courtesans (why didn't sandal-fighting ever catch on?), a useful friend, and of course, an eventual graduate of the Rekha Rehab Institute. Usually in Hindi films, people seem to drink themselves to death, or just choose to magically give up alcohol. In my experience, it's unusual to see the painful process of leaving an addiction . . . and brilliant to picturize that process on a sexy courtesan song. [Incidentally, this song confounded my teetotaler mother, who wasn't sure whether to be impressed or scandalized by its "conflicting" themes of sensuality and moral reform. To me, this is the Desai magic at its best.]
2. Rakhee in Doosra Aadmi (1977)
|I use this screenshot as an avatar fairly often--so I figured I had to mention why eventually.|
While some of the strength of her character is surely due to Nisha's sensitive treatment in the script, AND the art department's choice to give her a living space that actually looks "lived in", it's still obvious that the character's raw humanity comes from Rakhee herself. In the 70's (much less now) it takes guts to play a female character that is (A) significantly older than oneself, (B) having an affair not just with a married man, but a younger married man, and (B) an alcoholic. It was the role of a lifetime, and should have made Rakhee into the poster-child of complicated, introverted, and single women (with a past) everywhere.
1. Helen and Pran in Gumnaam (1965)
All you really need to know about Gumnaam is that it is a very stylish interpretation of Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None." Oh yes, that and Pran and Helen Get It On in an extremely satisfying "We're condemned to die, these are the last days of the empire, so let us be merry" fashion.
This movie as a whole is amazing, but by far the best aspect of the film (besides Jaan Pechaan Ho) is the Helen/Pran jodi. Unfortunately for the rest of the characters in the ensemble, they easily steal the show with their combined powers of smoky presence and seedy charm. Though their plot isn't especially villainy driven, they still radiate a weary blackmarket, underworld vibe . . . as they pull each other into a descending spiral of desperate hedonism. And while their characters aren't particularly smooth at survival, they are still the coolest people I would never want to be.
Which wastrels always steal your heart?