We all remember Batman as one of the greatest superheroes of all time, but his role would be rather bleak without the presence of his formidable enemy, the Joker. Whether it is the Moriarty to Sherlock, the Voldemort to Harry Potter, the Gabbar Singh to Jai and Viru, or the Mocambo to Mr. India, we would be mistaken if we say we do not celebrate our villains just as much our heroes. Character construction of villains follows an intricate and often colored portrayal, often as foils to the heroes to bring out the contrasting characters.
What makes a good villain? A good villain must be complex. Flat stork characters seldom work as well as full-flared ones with psychological variations. It is important to always take into account the fact that there is always a reason because of which someone is inclined to anti-social or ‘villainous’ behaviour. There may be an internal motivation or deep mental agony that causes the quirky evil pop in the antagonist. Remember how interesting a villain Hannibal Lector was- his bone-chilling tendencies of cannibalism accompanied with his keen intellect made a truly prized deviant. Dim characters have hardly ever made good villains. Multidimensionality is very important. It is rare that a person is born evil, and for a human being to become inhumane, there must be a good justification that is either shown or implied. This not only adds depth to the persona of the villain, but also leaves little for assumption, and adds a humanistic touch. Real people are not black and white but all shades of grey, and appreciating this is something one keeps in mind while choosing villains for a plot.
It should be kept in mind that the villain must be a suitable opponent to the hero. The Boy Who Lived should face someone no less feared than He Who Must Not Be Named. Which brings us to the next criterion that makes the evil representative formidable- he must be powerful. Gabbar Singh is the most feared daaku in Ramgarh, and only the Jay and Viru duo can defeat him. Further, almost all villains have peculiar physical appearances as well. Think the wardrobe and look of the Joker, or even the evil stepmother in Cinderella. This distinct appearance is what often creates a lasting impression on the viewers. As surprising as it might sound, our villains tend to be more dramatic than our heroes. The best example to give here would undoubtedly be that of Heath Ledger’s Joker in the Dark Night, that draws little from the comics besides the physical appearance but shows the adoption of a peculiar gait, mannerisms and speech articulation that makes the Joker the Joker. Even remember the grand, slow walk of Voldemort, his long fingers dealing artfully with his wand, very unlike Harry, a more or less ordinary school boy.
Another common technique used to make a villain’s portrayal vibrant is to frame a foil out of it. This is often done by showing sharp contrasts between the hero and the villain. Note the foreign look of Mocambo, and his typically materialistic and anti-national inclinations as opposed to Mr. India’s patriotic socially upholding role. Even visual contrasts work a great deal in creating an optical juxtaposition between the protagonist and antagonist. The black, sharp attire of Maleficent is almost the diametrical opposite to Aurora’s soft, golden-pastel wardrobe.
Plot construction revolves around a transfer of dominance from the villain to the hero generally. Alternatively, this is tweaked in some films, dramas and novels to include a change of heart in the villain, such as that seen in Maleficent.
Largely uncommon plots often see a continuation of competition between the two sides, such as the nearly perpetual opposition of Batman from the Joker in a series. In fact, a good plot sees a constant contest, a believable contest tipping from one side to another, and an ultimate resolution that is a truly remarkable feat. Facing an enemy that is easy to usurp shows no extraordinary quality of the hero, and causes the kind of paper unrealism to creep in that is categorically avoided.
Villains are a big part of the traditional plot. As one shivers or shirks from the sheer evil that resonates out of the villain, it creates sympathy for the hero, and makes the end triumph even more meaningful. The villain holds a great magnitude of importance as one of the pillars that uphold the plot, and the dark in her/him is what causes the hero and heroine to shimmer in glory.
-Contributed by Tinka Dubey
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