The Indian action film is more than just the underworld genre and freely explores a combination of action/crime subgenre like heists, revenge sagas and spy thrillers, some with astounding authenticity.
SHOLAY (1975) - Hindi – Thakur Baldev Singh, a former police officer, hires two petty thieves, Jay and Veeru, to capture alive the dreaded dacoit, Gabbar Singh so he can exact revenge for the massacre of his family.
DEEWAR (1975) - Hindi – When their father, branded a criminal, deserts them, Vijay and Ravi are raised by their righteous mother. While Vijay works at the docks to support the family, and eventually becomes a gangster, in a twist of fate, his brother becomes a cop.
PARINDA (1989) - Hindi – Kishan wants to shield his brother Karan from the underworld but when a friend is murdered, Karan plots revenge by setting off one gang against another. When Karan and his new bride are brutally murdered, it becomes Kishan's cause to bring down Anna, who is responsible for all the mayhem.
DON (1978, 2006, 2011) – Hindi – Remade in 2006 with a sequel in 2011, the original story is about Rita joining the gang headed by the notorious criminal, Don, in order to avenge her sister's death. She discovers that in reality, Don is already dead and at the police's behest Vijay is masquerading as amnesiac Don to infiltrate the gang to get Don's diary.
SHIVA (1989/1990) – Telugu/Hindi – Shiva, a new student in college, becomes a threat to JD, a powerful Student Union Leader with political connections. Shiva ultimately ends up antagonising JD's boss, Bhavani who sets out to annihilate him and those close to him.
SATYA (1998) - Hindi – Satya arrives in Mumbai to make an honest living. When he is sent to prison on false charges, he meets Bhiku and joins his gang. As Satya slips deeper into the world of crime, his chances of having a normal life seem increasingly distant.
BLACK FRIDAY (2004) - Hindi – The film pieces together the motives, the planning, execution and investigations surrounding the 1993 serial blasts that ripped through Mumbai.
MAGADHEERA (2009) – Telugu – Harsha, implicated in the murder of his lover's father, tries to remind her that in a previous lifetime, he was a warrior who fell in love with her, a princess, and their life was brutally cut short by the man reborn as Indu's evil cousin in this lifetime.
ARANYA KANDAM (2011) - Tamil – A little boy and his guileless father come upon a bag of cocaine and get caught in the midst of a gang war triggered by the presumed double-crossing of Pasupathi for whom the cocaine becomes ransom to free his kidnapped wife.
VISWAROOPAM (2013) – Tamil – Nirupama, a nuclear oncologist, hires a detective to trail her effete Kathak-dancer husband Viz who seems to be harbouring some secrets. This inadvertently triggers off a series of happenings that reveal the truth about Viz to be more complex than she imagined.
An edited version of the article was published in Culturama's May 2013 Issue.