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  • Shades of Grey: The Complex Antagonists of Telugu Films

    Typically, films portray villains as nefarious entities who inflict suffering and engage in heinous acts, particularly against women. These characters are crafted to contrast sharply with the hero, who is destined to triumph over the villain’s misdeeds, culminating in a satisfying conclusion. Yet, the landscape of villainy in cinema isn’t uniformly black and white. A number of antagonists, though appearing malevolent, actually harbor commendable goals but are driven to opposition by their flawed approaches. We’ll explore examples of such complex antagonists in Telugu cinema, revealing those who weren’t entirely villainous by nature.

    Robo 2.0 – Pakshi Raju

    In the film Robo 2.0 directed by Shankar and starring Rajinikanth, Akshay Kumar portrayed the villain Pakshi Raju, a man who adored birds. He campaigns against the use of cell phones due to the radiation they emit, which he believes is killing the birds. When his pleas are ignored, leading to the death of many birds, he takes his own life in despair and returns as a formidable force to avenge the birds. He puts the public through various ordeals until Rajinikanth’s robot character intervenes and saves the day by defeating him.

    Nenu Local – Naveen Chandra

    In the film Nenu Local starring Nani and Keerthy Suresh, Naveen Chandra plays a character with a villainous shade. He falls in love with the heroine before the hero does and returns as a police officer due to a condition set by her father. During his absence, the hero and heroine fall in love. Angered, the heroine’s father decides she should marry Naveen Chandra. Despite Naveen Chandra’s attempts to thwart Nani, the hero ultimately wins his love.

    V – Nani

    In the film V, directed by Indraganti Mohan Krishna, Nani plays an antagonist who commits a series of murders, challenging DCP Aditya (played by Sudheer Babu) with puzzles. However, there’s a strong motive behind Nani’s killings. He seeks vengeance for the murder of the woman he loved, executed by the villains. He becomes a vigilante to serve justice for her death.

    Ninnu Kori – Nani

    Although Nani is the protagonist in Ninnu Kori, he shows a selfish side. Learning that his ex-lover is married, he visits her home, intending to break up her marriage. However, after seeing her unwavering love for her husband, Nani changes his heart and leaves, sacrificing his love for her happiness.

    Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu – Rao Ramesh

    In the film Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu, starring Venkatesh and Mahesh Babu as brothers, actor Rao Ramesh plays a character that comes off as antagonistic. A wealthy individual, Rao Ramesh criticizes the hero’s family for their financial status and suggests Venkatesh and Mahesh find employment to improve their situation. Despite his advice being well-intentioned, his arrogant attitude paints him as the villain in the story.

    Magadheera – Srihari

    In Magadheera, Srihari captivated the audience with his performance as Sher Khan, second only to Ram Charan. He portrays a formidable antagonist who attacks the kingdom where Kala Bhairava (Ram Charan) serves as a commander. The hero showcases his valor by defeating a hundred men from Sher Khan’s army. Impressed by the hero’s courage and valor, Srihari, keeping his word, assists Ram Charan in another life.

    Pushpa – Shatru

    In the movie Pushpa, actor Shatru plays the role of DSP Govindappa, who is determined to curb red sandalwood smugglers. However, as the hero is involved in red sandalwood smuggling, Shatru’s attempts to apprehend him inadvertently turn him into a villain in the eyes of the audience.

    Parugu – Prakash Raj

    Directed by Bommarillu Bhaskar, this film stars Allu Arjun and Sheela Kaur. Prakash Raj, who plays the father of the heroine, initially disapproves of Bunny’s love for his younger daughter. Moved by the father’s anguish for his estranged elder daughter, the hero resolves to reunite her with the family. Though Prakash Raj appears as a villain until the climax, he eventually understands the love his younger daughter has for Bunny and consents to their marriage.

    Vikram – Kamal Haasan

    In this film, Kamal Haasan forms a gang under the alias of Mask Man and commits a series of murders. He seeks revenge against drug mafia leader Santanam (Vijay Sethupathi), who killed his son, a police officer. Kamal Haasan transforms from a seemingly negative character, struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, into a hero with his actions in the second half.

    Republic – Ramya Krishnan

    Directed by Deva Katta and starring Sai Dharam Tej, Ramya Krishnan plays a villainous role as a regional party leader. Initially portrayed as a good politician aiming for the welfare of the people, her true nature shocks the audience once revealed.

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