Inside the Campy Cult of B-Grade Hindi Film Dacoits

Pop Culture

Inside the Campy Cult of B-Grade Hindi Film Dacoits

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

T

he dacoits of Bollywood – once regulars in films like Sholay (1975), Dacait (1987), Yateem (1988), and Bandit Queen (1994) – are back in Abhishek Chaubey’s Sonchiriya. Well, at least temporarily.

The last time we encountered a proper “daaku” on screen was in Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Paan Singh Tomar seven years ago. Dacoits have always been a polarising figure in Bollywood narratives. At one point they were “baaghis” (rebels) who stood against oppression of all kinds, including caste discrimination. And then they were the daakus who came in and looted villages without mercy. Yet more often than not, Bollywood reduced dacoits to lusty, villainous figures; their methods and exploits making them all the more suitable to be branded anti-heroes. Soon enough, their quirks and individuality were lost to catchphrases like “Kitne aadmi thhe?” And as Bollywood started modernising and embracing urban stories, the humble old dacoit became a pariah.

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