In the illusionary world of celluloid, who doesn’t like a good dose of crime?
Although almost all of us are moral, law-abiding citizens, movies about gangsters, crime syndicates and the mafia tend to dominate popularity charts for reasons better explained by Freud’s personality theory.
In any case, as a die-hard fan of mafia movies, villains present offers I often can’t refuse.
Here are 6 gems from the land of wayward cinema:
1. Nayagan (1987)
Dons in early ’80s Bollywood were a paan-munching, dancing oddity.
However, it was Mani Ratnam who quietly brought gritty realism into mainstream Indian cinema.
Nayagan is Sakthivel (performed brilliantly by Kamal Haasan), a young man from Madras who rises to claim the top spot in Bombay’s underworld.
Ilaiyaraaja’s haunting score, Mani Ratnam’s directorial brilliance, the ingenuity of its sets (Dharavi recreated in Madras) and a poignant climax, make this film relevant even today.
Heavily inspired by The Godfather, the film is also loosely based on the life of Varadarajan Mudaliar, Dharavi’s underworld boss back in the day!
2. Oldboy (2003)
Gangster fan boys would know this Park Chan-Wook Korean masterpiece.
Choi Min-sik plays Oh Dae-su, a loud drunkard who’s suddenly kidnapped and held captive for about 15 years in a small room.
Although not an outright gangster flick, the film’s mysterious premise provokes the lead character enough to unleash a level of one-man violence that remains the film’s highlight.
It’s a relentless, twisted tale that gathered rave reviews and a Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.
Words of advice: avoid the 2013 American remake by Spike Lee.
3. Eastern Promises (2007)
David Cronenberg strikes slow and easy in this film about a midwife (Naomi Watts) who is pressed to investigate a Russian mob boss’ crime in London, where blood and DNA also play massive roles.
Viggo Mortensen displays characteristic flair as a Russian mob enforcer in this gritty, definitely NSFW film.
Apart from the lead characters, Vincent Casell provides ample ammo for the film to reach an explosive, bizarre conclusion on the Russian mafia’s ruthless ways.
For bike lovers, watching Watts thump around London’s exquisite locations on a vintage Ural is also one of the film’s highlights.
4. Cell 211 (2009)
Spanish movies are synonymous with golden light, humour and a go-easy, street-smart nature.
Rubbing against that time-tested grain is Cell 211, which shows the hazardous nature of a prison officer’s job. A riot breaks out and the high security block’s inmates take over the jail.
To survive, Juan (Alberto Ammann) needs to keep his act together and convince the inmates, especially the boss Malamadre (portrayed by Luis Tosar), that he’s a fresh prisoner as well.
A beautiful cinematic take on survival and the brotherhood of gangsters within the concrete confines of a penitentiary.
5. Aaranya Kaandam (2011)
Director Thiagarajan Kumararaja delivers a neo-noir crime story from Chennai about an ageing gangster, Singaperumal (played with ease by the still-handsome Jackie Shroff).
A huge stash of cocaine has arrived in the city, and the two biggest mob bosses and their lieutenants aim to make it their own.
The day-long plot thickens with enough twists, while showcasing Chennai’s dark side with panache.
However, it’s the climax, which points at the intelligence of South Indian filmmakers who’ve consciously moved beyond Chuck Norris-style nonsense usually associated with the region.
6. Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)
What needs to be said about this film? Anurag Kashyap’s sole aim is to bring uncomfortable truths of rural India (especially the north) to the living rooms of Indian families, and for that he deserves the longest standing ovation.
The two-part movie is India’s legitimate answer to Tarantino flicks and the characters it spawned have gone on to become household names.
The kick-ass soundtrack is an added bonus. If you haven’t seen or heard of this film, you better hope that Faizal doesn’t come after you.
Image Credit: Behance.net