The world of villains has always been so fascinating in popular culture. More often than not, in novels, in movies, and in comic books, they occupy if not more then equal screen/page/story space as the heroes. Sometimes, as in the case of Joker (who I can safely say was one of the most enchanting for-bearers of evil in recent times, as well as entertaining) their characters receive more care in the hands of their creators and more attention from the audiences. Even back home, if not for Gabbar and his eccentric dialogue delivery, Sholay would hardly be the eternal Bollywood classic that it is. Other examples that come to mind include Mogambo, Shakaal etc. and then I think Indian cinema lost the plot on the villains thereafter( because I can hardly recall a screen villain worthy of the same stature in the recent past!)
Also, evil enjoyed a decade long run in the name of Voldemort spread across the seven chronicles of the Harry Potter series. The magnificence of Harry’s heroism could only be measured fairly in face of the evil he was chosen to destroy, a villain considered so dark as to earn the endearment of ‘he who must not be named’ by the world’s most powerful wizards. In short, evil was the backdrop in front of which all ‘good’ is read and examined. In most tales we have grown up on, we always knew who was to be loved, who was to be hated and how much. A clear world of black and whites.
I recently picked up ‘Immortals of Meluha’ and its sequel ‘Secret of the Nagas’ because of the books’ popularity within the women folk in the metro, since every 3rd person was reading them. (On an unrelated note, I think it is a great way to find your next read!) The books are a work of fiction recounting the story of Lord Shiva on the premise that he was once a mortal who rose to God status only through his great deeds across the sub-continent. He is brought into the India kingdom from Mount Kailasha ( where he lives as a tribal) after being identified as the ‘Neelkanth’ ( the one with the blue neck), the man who is prophesied to destroy ‘evil’ according to an old legend. Without giving away much of the plot, the stories progress with Shiva moving from West to East across the subcontinent while his definition of ‘evil’ is challenged through various empires. He wages war on some, losing some of his finest men and friends only to find out that what he viewed as ‘evil’ was either a difference in perspective, way of life, or just grossly misunderstood intentions. What is most delightful about the tale, is Shiva’s realization that his biggest responsibility was to establish an absolute evil before he could destroy it, if at all. His journey reveals, that each empire, each tribe awaits the Neelkanth as their own savior from what plagues their lives.
Amish Trivedi’s tales have no Voldemorts ( Nagas yes, but I have a hunch they won’t be declared pure evil either), no Gabbars or Jokers. It is much like our own lives, where there are no clear heroes, no absolute bad guys, just a very morally testing battlefield with only viewpoints to fight. Go read!