Have you ever heard from the mothers scaring their kids to sleep by saying, “soja bacche, nahi toh Gabbar aajayega” or “khana khaale, nahi toh Gabbar aajayega.” Who was this man, Gabbar Singh that every kid feared?
Well, It was in the late 70s that the film SHOLAY came up with an interesting character, Gabbar Singh. A villainous dacoit, who subsequently emerged as a hero, not only because of his laudable acting but also because of his dialogues that had entered the people’s vernacular. But what inspired this character? Was it the stories in the books? Or were there really, fearsome dacoits lurking in the remote regions that drew inspiration?
Dacoits also referred to as bandits, were a group of robbers with arms. They hunted for their prey from the areas rich in ravines and dense forests, such as Chambal and Chilapata forests.
Let’s introduce you to the renowned Dacoits that were the source of inspiration of some of the movies!
1. GABBAR SINGH- SHOLAY (1975 Film)
According to the books, the character of Gabbar Singh in the film, Sholay was not conjured up. He was one of the most dreaded Dacoits Chambal had ever seen. His reign was of terror and bloodshed. Said to him by some saint that if he lops off 106 noses, Police would not kill him, which propelled him to lop off at least 26 noses and many he encountered, in the most inhuman fashion. A Gujjar by caste joined the gang of Dacoits, straightaway plunging into the path of murder, dacoity, and kidnapping. Within few months, he formed his own gang. When he drew suspicion that the police had surrounded his hideout, he rushed to the man who he thought was the suspected informer and killed 21 people by lining them up and shooting them at a point-blank range.
2. VEERAPPAN- VEERAPPAN (2016 Film)
An Indian brigand from South India, Veerappan was highly active in the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu for nearly 30 years. He started off as a poacher and a sandalwood smuggler, to becoming a killer of police officers, forest officials and informants (mainly who resisted his activities). Police officials made several attempts to abduct and kill him but every unsuccessful attempt was met out with double the killing on their side. He even kidnapped actor Rajkumar and former chief minister of Karnataka. The former was released in exchange for ransom while the latter died in an encounter that failed.
He was the most elusive Dacoit, having killed 184 people, half of them being police officials. He was also wanted for smuggling ivory worth 2.6 million USD and about 10,000 tons of sandalwood worth 22 million USD. Finally, he was encountered in October 2004 by Tamil Nadu SPECIAL TASK FORCE (STF). His death was described as the death of a demon by the guardian. There is a movie made in his name, VEERAPPAN. He is a famous Dacoit of Hindi Cinema.
3. PAN SINGH TOMAR- PAN SINGH TOMAR (2012 Film)
From being an Indian Soldier to a highly recognized sports athlete and then to becoming a Dacoit, Pan Singh Tomar had his own reasons to be. Soon after the recognition of his talent as a runner, he discovered an interest in steeplechase running. He thrived to become a seven-time national steeplechase champion and represented India in the 1958 Asian Game. After pre-mature retirement from Indian Army, he returned to his native village only to find his family indulged in a land dispute with Babu Singh, a rich lord in the area. He eventually gained notoriety as a dacoit when he shot Babu Singh for beating up his 95-year old mother.
The interview which he gave to the local newspaper with a toyed bullet, declaring the reason that instigated him to kill 8 villagers, prompted the administration take his case seriously. The law enforcement agents shot him dead. A movie, PAN SINGH TOMAR in his name released in 2012.
4. PHOOLAN DEVI- BANDIT QUEEN (1996 Film)
Born in a low-caste family in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Phoolan Devi also known by the name, Bandit Queen was an inspiration to the women. Married at 11, she faced consecutive years of assault by her husband. She ran away from her home and joined a gang of bandits. The high caste outlaws gang-raped her several times. But such incident didn’t curtail her courage or confidence; instead, it instigated a fire in her, a fire to avenge. She formed her own gang and took vengeance by charring all 22 of them to death. She instantly caught attention. In 1983, she committed 48 criminal offenses including murder, plunder, arson as well as kidnapping for ransom. She underwent trial for 11 years. Two years after her bail, she stood for the Lok Sabha elections from the Samajwadi party in UP and won the elections to serve as an MP. BANDIT QUEEN is a 1994 film based on the life of Phoolan Devi.
5. SEEMA PARIHAR- WOUNDED: THE BANDIT QUEEN (2006 Film)
An actress and a member of the Samajwadi Party, Seema Parihar did not begin as such. Born in a Thakur family, two dacoits kidnapped her in 1983 at the age of 13. She too started dacoity. She propelled on to become a leader of her gang, engaged in looting, kidnapping, and murder. After Phoolan Devi, she spread terror in and around the jungles of Bihand for almost 18 years. She killed 70 people, kidnapped 200 people and looted around 30 houses. Once jailed, she faced 29 charges, 8 counts of murder and half a dozen of kidnapping. She also appeared in big boss after she filed the petition in the Allahabad high court seeking permission to appear in the program. She also starred in the movie, WOUNDED made on her own life story.
Dacoits are not the stories in the books or the things of passé. They still loiter unabated with the gang of bandits in the areas of Bhind and Morena, hiding in the deep forests, firing bullets in the air and indulging into their age-old-fashion of robbery, kidnapping and spreading terror. People know these Top 5 Dacoits of the Hindi Cinema so well that their names are enough to instill fear in them.
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