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10 Most Overrated Heroes of Indian Cinema

How many non-hero-centric Indian movies are you aware of? I bet not that many.

Image: A shot from Kabir Singh, the third highest grossing film of 2019

Indian cinema revolves around heroes and their machoism. It might even just cease to exist without the rugged and handsome, bad-ass heroes taking centre stage, saving the country and the girl, with stunts that send a hundred goons flying. The fun fact is that in most of these movies, the hero is the greatest goon of them all. But somehow, it is romanticized. Add in a few colourful songs, a few punch dialogues and there, you have a box-office hit!

We, the audience, fail to see the underlying sexism and toxic masculinity behind the façade put up by our most favourite heroes. This, in turn, taints our perception of gender and culture. Bah! It’s just a movie, you would say. No, it’s not! Movies play a great role in influencing mass opinion and colours our perspective of life. But unfortunately, we often do not recognize the good from the bad. From Amitabh Bhachan as the angry young man of the 1950s to the present-day toxic heroes of Indian cinema, the Indian film industry’s plots have remained static, and the Indian mass still devours scenes with unrealistic heroes in highly realistic landscapes. I mean, if there were as many heroes in real life, we wouldn’t need the law at all!

Below is a list of overrated heroes who were loved by the audience, but all that praise is undeserved.

The Raj’s and Rahul’s of Bollywood
Image: Scene from Shah Rukh Khan’s most acclaimed movie Dil Wale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) via Prime Video

Sure, we all fell in love with this handsome face. Young, dreamy and boyish SRK was the guy every girl wanted to date. The Badshah of Romance was able to woo the audience through his characters, who were mostly named either ‘Raj’ or ‘Rahul’. And these movies were not just popular back in the day; they are talked about even today. But looking back at these movies, we can clearly see a stalker in Dil Wale Dulhania Le Jayenge‘s Raj and a sexist in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai‘s Rahul. Don’t be fooled by this pretty face!

Arjun Reddy (2017)
Image: Vijay Deverakonda plays the titular character in Arjun Reddy (2017)

Excuse me while I rant off a list of reasons why Arjun Reddy, Kabir Singh and Aditya Verma are the most over-hyped heroes ever. The hero in these movies is an overgrown man-child who becomes a sex maniac and an alcoholic after his girlfriend leaves him. The movie made 510 million at the Box Office and was even adapted into other languages. The film contains content heavy with sexism, toxic masculinity and body shaming too. The Arjun Reddy character is easily one of the most annoying heroes ever. But this toxic masculinity was applauded by the Indian audience. The movie glorified his roguish behaviour, stalking, machoism and romanticizes the typical angry, handsome hero who is believed to have a kind heart. In this case, an obsessive lover that the audience sympathizes with.

 Mahendra Bahubali from Baahubali: The Beginning
Image: Scene from Baahubali: The Beginning (2015)

Now that the raging fever of Baahubali has died down, people have started to question whether this movie was worth all that hype. After all, what is it but a classic example of hero-worshipping, an Indian version of Thor? Except Thor was at least a half-God. This guy is an unbelievably strong human who can lift mountains and heavy boulders like it weighs nothing. This movie definitely murdered my brain cells in those scenes. No matter how much VFX was used in the movie, the characters were one-dimensional and shallow, and yet it made 650 crores at the Box Office. The horrifying scene in which the hero strips the heroine Avantika of her bare essentials cannot go without mention. All to show her how she would look if she is more feminine. And that, my friends, proves her worth, and she happily falls in love with him. Yay!

Charlie (2015)
Image Source: A still from Malayalam movie Charlie (2015) via Prime Video

This movie received more hype than it deserved, making 420 million at the Box Office and winning multiple awards. The happy-go-lucky hero Charlie was loved by the audience, and Dulquer Salmaan’s performance was highly praised. But other than the cinematography, the movie was lacking in many ways. The plot often lost its focus over the course of the movie, and the character Charlie seemed highly unrealistic. Though after the movie’s release, there were indeed a lot of non-fictional Charlies in Kerala, people aping the hippy hairstyle and clothing worn by Charlie. It’s okay for a one-time watch, that’s all.

Chulbul Pandey from Dabangg
Image: Salman Khan as Chulbul Pandey in Dabangg series

When Robin Hood is put in a Bollywood movie, you get a dramatic comedy film with exaggerated scenes and dialogues. The movie made 2.19 billion at the Box Office, and Chulbul Pandey was loved so much by the audience that it paved the way for Dabangg 2 and Dabangg 3. There is also talk of Dabangg being adapted into an animated series. Salman Khan’s roles have always been quite toxic, but this one would win the crown for machoism and the sexist movie of the decade

Murugan from Pulimurugan (2016)
Image: Mohanlal’s iconic pose from Malayalam movie Pulimurugan (2016)

Step aside, Chulbul Pandey, Pulimurugan can defeat man-eating tigers, not just human villains! Another movie to celebrate the Mohanlal phenomenon; that is what can be said about the movie Pulimurugan that made 152 crores at the Box Office. This time he is the messiah of the people of Puliyoor, saving them from ferocious tigers. Throughout the movie, there are unnatural and impossible fight sequences. And don’t even get me started about the scene in which a seven-year-old boy tackles a ferocious tiger to the ground. People who tend to think while watching a movie will find it reeking of heroism. A great disappointment for Mohanlal fans; that’s what this movie is!

The Triple Heroes of Mersal (2017)
Image: Tamil actor Vijay’s blockbuster movie Mersal (2017)

Again, the same cliched plots and storylines, but the movie made 260 crores at the Box Office. The characters in the movie were underdeveloped, and the triple roles were not very spectacular. The success of the movie owes more to the fame and popularity of the actor Vijay than to the plot of the movie. The film did not present anything new at all, just a Tamilized version of many movies already known to the Indian audience.

 Raja from Pokkiri Raja (2010)
Image Source: A still from Mammootty-starrer Pokkiri Raja (2010) via Prime Video

Pokkiri Raja is another overhyped example from Malayalam cinema. There is absolutely no story, the comedy was more annoying than ever and even the songs were not up to the mark. Not even rich people have 50 cars behind them all the time. This rowdy-slash-hero who is a good brother and a mercenary at the same time – tough yet selfless – is a goon straight out of a comic book. The characters have no depth, and the plot just worsens until the end. But the movie had a very happy ending. It made 16.5 crores at the Box Office and was remade into Hindi and Telegu.

Kabali (2016)
Image: Rajinikanth’s iconic sene from Kabaali (2016)

This famous Rajnikanth movie involves another Indianized Robin Hood. Kabaali glorifies violence, as usual since the hero kills for reasons that can be totally justified. The focus remained too much on the hero and very little of the villain was shown. The movie hence failed to build any suspense and the plot was dragged on for too long. I plead you to switch off your brain when you sit down to watch it. The movie, all in all, failed to live up to expectations.

Don from The Don Series
Image: A Shah Rukh Khan still from Don 2 (2011)

90’s kids will definitely remember this blockbuster starring SRK, the King of Bollywood. The famous catchphrase of this movie was ‘Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahi, na mumkin hain’. (Not only is it difficult to catch Don, but it is also impossible.) True, it is hard to catch the logic behind this movie. This action-thriller made 275 crores at the Box Office and was even made into a sequel. The rowdy anti-hero played by Shah Rukh Khan was loved by the Indian audience. But going back to some of the far-fetched action scenes and incompetent police officers on a wild goose chase to catch the cunning Don, it is quite clear that this movie is just this overrated because it had the face of SRK on the poster. The movie clearly reflects some of the action scenes we are already familiar with in Hollywood movies like I don’t know, uh, Mission Impossible?

So, what do you think? Tell us in the comments below.

Written By

A stargazer with a penchant for words and chocolates. A fan of Greek lore and dystopian novels.



  1. Adi Menon

    July 22, 2021 at 7:21 pm

    Apart from Don, I can agree with everything else. I like Don. He’s actually well portrayed by SRK.

  2. Adi Menon

    July 22, 2021 at 7:22 pm

    Apart from Don, I can agree with everyone else.

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