What makes an engrossing cop flick? Underdog against the system, fiery dialogues, heavy maar-dhaad or the battle between duty and 'zameer'? I have personally always enjoyed a good police drama. A police officer upholding the law against heavy odds always holds a viewer, if executed well. The cop film has changed over the years. The 70s ushered in the image of the 'angry young' officer who takes on the system single handed. It was characterized by the villains who usually dabbled in smuggling and drugs, and heroes who went all out to stop these guys (normally named KK, Narang, etc, which changed to Shaakal, Bhujang, Dang etc. in the 80s and 90s). The 80s hardly had any decent cop tales of note. The villains did get more incredulous though. The late 90s and 00s saw a rejuvination of sorts in the genre and some decent films were made. The underworld took centre stage and power politics and corruption were the new villains.
Here are some films that stand out in this genre.
1. Zanjeer (1973)
This catapulted Amitabh Bachchan to superstardom. It also introduced the 'angry young man' phenomenon. Salim-Javed's story and script was something that the Hindi screen hadn't witnessed before. Add to that the fiery Bachchan and Ajit's famous dialogue delivery and you have a classic. Pran leaves his mark as well.
Most memorable line: 'Yeh police station hai, tumhare baap ka ghar nahin. Jab tak baithne ko nahin kaha jaaye, chup chaap khade raho'.
2. Ardh Satya (1983)
One of the best. Govind Nihalani's stark film had amazing performances from Om Puri and Sadashiv Amprapurkar. Puri as the disillusioned cop, caught between the police violence and bribery on the one hand, and his desire to fulfill his duties to the letter on the other, turns in one of his best performances ever. The film showcases the nexus between politicians and antisocial elements and delves into the psyche of a cop trying to do his duty in difficult times. Vijay Tendulkar writes the script and Nihalani's cinematography and direction brings it to life beautifully.
Most memorable line: Would you believe it, I don't remember any!
3. Sarfarosh (1999)
Aamir Khan as a police officer was a revelation. The talented actor makes the role of ACP Rathod is own. John Mathan's (can someone tell me where he is these days) debut film was a very good film. The movie tried to go to the depth of some of the real reasons behind terrorism and insurgency in India. ÂSarfaroshÂ shows how guns and drugs are smuggled in, across the border at Rajasthan, and how they reach the interiors of India, spreading terror and destruction.
The film will also be remembered for Mukesh Rishi's brilliant turn as an honest police officer and Sonali Bendre's effervescence. The film also had that Jagit Singh classic, 'Hoshwalon ko khabar kya'.
Most memorable line: 'Don't mind'.
4. Shool (1999)
Manoj Bajpai's last memorable role. This intense movie didn't fare too well at the box office, but is still a gem of a cop flick. Co-scripted by Ram Gopal Varma and set in heartland Bihar, it exposes the blatant lawlessness that envelops the grassroots milieu. Bajpai plays a cop who will uphold the law under any circumstances, even disregarding the fact that the he is up against the system itself. The film is focused, has no frills and and has strong performances from an ensemble cast. Shiyaji Shinde plays the evil politician brilliantly. This is one character you will genuinely dislike!
Most memorable line: 'Hum aapke niche nahin, aapke saath kaam karte hain, aur hum dono kaanoon ke niche kaam karte hain.'
5. Khakhee (2003)
Though it borrows heavily from Hollywood, 'Khakhee' is engrossing fare. The film could have done without the songs, I felt. The film tells the tale of 5 officers faced with the task of moving a suspect from one location to another. The trip turns out to be one they never expected and ends up being a battle for survival. The officers realise that they are up against the political machinery which doesn't want the suspect to get to court. The film is fast paced, filled with action and has great direction from Raj Kumar Santoshi. Bachchan is brilliant, Akshay Kumar and Tusshar Kapoor are good, and Ajay Devgan as a negative character is competent.
Most memorable line: 'Hum yahan apna khoon bahakar farz nibha rahe hain, aur udhar apni hai sarkar hamari hi thokne par lagi hui hai. Tchaa!'
6. Gangajal (2003)
Based on the 'Bhagalpur blindings', Gangajal was a very good movie. Twenty years after Govind Nihalani made Ardh Satya, conscientious cops in Hindi cinema were still trying to overcome the same hurdles Om Puri stumbled against. The film questions self justice by the police and the public. This is therefore different from the usual, in the sense that it enforces that the law should be the same for all and also apply to victims who may have unwittingly taken justice into their hands. The end comes with Devgan assuming the role of social crusader, which is a little far fetched, but otherwise, its a very fulfilling cinematic experience.
Most memorable line: 'Sabko pavittar kar denge.'
There are loads of other good films. There is the Nana Patekar starrer, 'Ab tak Chappan' (a great encounter movie), Bachchan's 'Akhri Raasta' , and 'Dev', the masala 'Mein Khiladi Yu Anari', Nasseruddin Shah's 'Encounter-The Killing' and Arshad Warsi's 'Saher'.
Heard a lot about this Kamal Hassan starrer 'Kurudhi Poonnal', which a lot of people have claimed to be one of the best around. Must catch that one.