Since Abhi my colleagues at Sepia Mutiny have apparently stopped doing their earlier hourly updates on what Kal Penn is up to, I feel it is incumbent upon me to remind readers that second-gen actor Kal Penn plays one of Lex Luthor’s henchmen in the new film Superman Returns (aka, the “American version of Krrish“). Reviews have been pretty positive, though there are still some signs that the film may be a load of “Kraptonite” (or, in a nod to Manish, Krraptonite!), but how can that stop me from loyally supporting the ABCDeNiro?

And no, he doesn’t play a vaguely middle-eastern terrorist type. Nor does he speak in a bad Indian accent. In fact, in the final cut of the film, I gather, Kal Penn doesn’t have any speaking lines at all. Also, his character is named “Stanford.” Ah well: if they don’t have you playing the demonic terrorist, they’ll have you whipped as the “model minority.” Sigh.

At least he’s on the right side. From the trailers, this version of Superman seems like one of those movies with a hero so annoyingly earnest you end up rooting for the bad guys to win. Of course, with bad guys as charismatic as Kevin Spacey (or indeed, Kal Penn), that comes pretty easily. Can you think of other examples in this genre? Bad guys so diabolical and cool that you’re practically depressed when they’re finally vanquished at the end?

145 thoughts on “SuperModi

  1. Hey no fair. I only have like two Kal Penn posts if you check the archives. I think your are confusing Kal Penn with Bobby Jindal who I blog about a lot more often. :)

  2. Can you think of other examples in this genre? Bad guys so diabolical and cool that youÂ’re practically depressed when theyÂ’re finally vanquished at the end?

    Any movie with Amrish Puri as the bad guy. His roles in Mr. India, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and many others are simply classic.

  3. It’s not so much that he’s a model minority, but he was ‘colour-blind cast’. Of course that’s a misnomer, but he was cast as the character who would’ve been assumed to have been white in the original script. Like Morgan Freeman as Red – perhaps they thought Kal just seemed right. I dunno Amardeep, I don’t think Brandon Routh’s Superman is THAT earnest, he’s been bumming around away from Metropolis for five years and seems to have stopped doing his job – when the fillum starts, that is. I’m looking forward to it about as much as SoaP.

    I’ve just been checking out, talking of Superman, and it’s fantastic. It’s a little NSFW, but only because it says ‘Superman is a Dick’ on various pages; the pics are all kosher. If you haven’t heard of the Superman is a Dick phenomenon, now is the time to learn.

  4. Bad guys so diabolical and cool that youÂ’re practically depressed when theyÂ’re finally vanquished at the end?

    That includes just about any Christopher Walken movie…

  5. is such a stupid site. just goes to show you can put any crap you want on the internet

  6. Cool baddies? Where do I start? I can’t think of that many cool goodies, bar BLADE and BATMAN.

    Hannibal Lecter, Krang, Skeletor, The Joker, Venom, Predator, Terminator, all the Lex Luthors except the New Adventures John Shea or something, Doctor Evil, the Borg (ehhrrmm, not sure about them), Silver Surfer, Bloefeld…there are so, so many and I’m too hungry to think carefully.


  7. “Bad guys so diabolical and cool that youÂ’re practically depressed when theyÂ’re finally vanquished at the end?”

    darth vader. although the poor prequels ruined his coolness. also any movie in which marlon brando or any other favorite actor in a “bad guy” role is vanquished because they tend to outshine everyone else.

  8. GujuDude — Yes, Amrish Puri is perfect. (He also did a solid “psycho dad,” as I recall — ala DDLJ)

    Abhi, my apologies — Manish is/was more of a Kal Penn stalker! (Also, Vinod and Sajit seem to have posted a fair bit on him.)

  9. I can’t think of that many cool goodies, bar BLADE and BATMAN.

    Don’t forget The Crow. Coolest of the cool goodies.

  10. Darth Vader would probably take the cake from for most people WGiiA. And you’re right, Hayden F*cking Christensen ruined it, not as much as Luca$$ who superimposed his dorky face on every available copy of Jedi, arrgh!

    Keep the suggestions coming people, I’m enjoying it.

  11. Tim Curry’s performance as “Darkness” in “Legend” was probably the best thing about the movie. Cool makeup effects in the age before CGI.

  12. goldfinger (the best bond villain in my opinion). also, ralph fiennes in schindler’s list (totally robbed of an oscar for that performance). trying to think of some female baddies.

  13. Bong Breaker,

    I was going to suggest Vader but several people here seem to have beaten me to it. He is the archetypal coolest baddie of all, though.

    I also think the current Lex Luthor in Smallville is pretty suave and the actor playing the role is doing a very good job indeed.

    Others ? Well, Klingons in the last few Star Trek spin-offs have been pretty cool, although obviously the line between good guys/bad guys has been blurred for them in recent years. I liked Kurn and Martok the most; both very charismatic.

    Megatron ? Yep, good childhood memories. Also Galvatron. And yes I know they’re the same guy.

    Who else ? I’ll have to think about it, but examples off the top of my head would be Amitabh Bachchan in Deewar (and Don), Danny Denzongpa in Agneepath, Akshay Khanna in the second half of Humraaz (especially the last 20 minutes or so). More recently, I thought Saif Ali Khan in Ek Hasina Thi was diabolically good too. Yes, I’m not kidding. Stop smirking. I haven’t seen Bluffmaster yet but Nana Patekar seems charismatic enough in the various clips I’ve seen.

    The new Dr (Gaius) Baltar in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica is absolutely superb.

    Let’s not forget Michael Douglas’s portrayal of Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.

    And, of course, Gabbar Singh in Sholay.

  14. sorry, forgot to add Christopher Lee as scaramanga in man with the golden gun. another super cool bond villain.

  15. trying to think of some female baddies.

    Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in Batman 2.

    Hell, that reminds me — Jack Nicholson as The Joker in the first Batman movie. What a performance. Okay, he was basically playing himself, but still stole the show.

  16. Ed Harris as “Christo” in The Truman Show.

    Ed Harris as “Major Koenig” in Enemy at the Gates.

  17. Hmmm. This has got me thinking.

    Milton’s Satan is the hero of Paradise Lost. The bad guy gets all the best lines, God ends up looking like an uptight goody-two-billion shoes.

    The real challenge might be to find a comprehensively drawn bad guy (no stick figures, that would be too easy) that we really, really fear or dislike.

  18. Vikram,

    And how can one forget Khan Noonien Singh…

    You read my mind!

    Also, Tommy Lee Jones in Under Siege. Another Ed Harris one: as General Hummel in The Rock.

  19. Larry Hagman’s portrayal of JR Ewing on Dallas.

    Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast. My God, what a completely ranting psychopath. Now that guy really was scary.

  20. “And, of course, Gabbar Singh in Sholay.”

    how could i forget that? great choice.

    another candidate is the shark from Jaws (named as a top villain by the afi). that thing was scary for its time and even the ride at universal studios, even though you know it’s a fake shark, has the potential to give you a jolt the first time it appears. when it gets blown up in the movie you feel relieved but you also feel a weird sense of loss.

  21. Probably one of the best cinematic depictions of a cool bad guy is Edward Fox in “Day Of The Jackal”.

  22. Damn, I nearly forgot. Gene Hackman playing the Sheriff in The Quick and The Dead.

    Nasty guy, but insanely charismatic. I’ve seen the movie several times purely for his performance. He was brilliant.

  23. “Milton’s Satan is the hero of Paradise Lost. The bad guy gets all the best lines, God ends up looking like an uptight goody-two-billion shoes.”

    wow that brings back memories. i remember reading it in high school and thinking what a cool, sexy, intriguing, attractive-in-a-sort-of-forbidden way character satan was.

    “The real challenge might be to find a comprehensively drawn bad guy (no stick figures, that would be too easy) that we really, really fear or dislike.”

    exactly. i think if a character is comprehensively drawn or portrayed, it’s very hard to completely fear or dislike them because then we realize that they have good facets as well and human facets, like everyone else, and a part of us, maybe even against our will, is drawn to that.

  24. Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown in the 1968 original “The Thomas Crown Affair”

  25. How about King Kong? I cried for him. And Frankenstein. Although I guess he’s not really a baddie, just has the reputation.

    The various Godfathers, specially Al Pacino.

  26. The various Godfathers, specially Al Pacino.

    Hmmm. I think they were more like “anti-heroes”, rather than outright villains (I guess the same applies to my previous suggestion of Amitabh in Deewar & Don, along with Gordon Gekko). Otherwise we may as well start including Amitabh as Vijay Dinananth Chauhan in Agneepath, both Bachchans in Sarkar, and so on (plus some of Shahrukh Khan’s earlier films).

  27. Regarding female villains, Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct is the only notable performance I can think of right now. Unless you want to include Priyanka Chopra in Aitraaz.

    In fact, going down the Bollywood route, I guess you could also include Bipasha Basu in Jism. Not sure if it ranks up there with the “coolest baddies of all time”, though.

  28. Although I didn’t actually like her, Priyanka Chopra had that one line in Aitraaz, where she goes “Yes Raj!! Show me you’re an animal!” That one was snort worthy and made it worth watching that crappiest of movies.

    Oh, and I also like the woman who played Hamlet’s mother in Kenneth Branagh’s version, I never paid attention to Gertrude until I saw her.

    And Severus Snape, yeah, I’d root for him versus waaaay to earnest Harry Potter but only in the movies.

  29. some food for thought on female baddies:

    “In the American Film Institute’s recent poll of Hollywood’s 50 greatest heroes and 50 greatest villains, one thing is particularly striking. Of the top 10 heroes, only two are women. However, the top 10 villains include six females. Men outnumber women on both lists. Nonetheless, women still look rather shady. They take up 15 positions among the top 50 villains, and only eight among the heroes, including one (Lassie) who was played by a succession of boys. For those who haven’t done maths recently, this suggests that the bad girls outnumber the good ones nearly two to one.”

  30. i agree with bong breaker’s (first comment) I think the fact that kal penn is cast at all in a role that isn’t specifically indian is pretty awesome actually.

  31. I have to say, watching the film with Kal in it, while its fantastic that he’s not playing a turrist or even a tourist for that matter, I still expect him to talk about smoking a joint or a bong or a shlong or some other word that rhymes with ‘ong.’

    But to his credit, he’s balanced Uncle Tom’ing and keeping it real, in an industry where nothing is real.

  32. Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction

    I second that. An amazing performance. 40s and 50s film noirs have some great female baddies. Two that immediately come to mind – Jane Greer in Out of the Past and Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity .

    What happened to the Harold and Kumar sequel?

  33. More cool female villains: “Number Six” in the new Battlestar Galactica. She’s hot. She’s tall. She’s blonde. She’s very leggy. And she’s a very bad girl indeed. What more do you want ?

    (Also quite a complex, multifaceted, “shades of grey” character, like her “aashique” Baltar who I mentioned earlier.)

    Rebecca Rommjin-Stamos was good in a film called (wait for it) Femme Fatale a couple of years ago. Stylish movie, probably quite dodgy in some aspects. Some completely gratuitous girl-on-girl action too, for those of you who enjoy watching that kind of thing. Yes you, I’m talking to you. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. And stop crossing your legs at the image, it ain’t hiding nothing and you ain’t fooling nobody.

    For the slightly older desis on SM:

    Female villain: Diana in V. Very cool male villain: There used to be a Dubai-based Indian series on the Zee network called Dastaan during the mid/late 90s. The main hero was Parmeet Sethi, but the villain was played by Ashish Vidhyarthi and was called Lankesh. Some of you may remember him — very dark, goatee, slicked-back hair, had a limp and used a cane, always immaculately dressed. I thought he was brilliant, very charismatic* indeed and to some extent the highlight of the show.

    *Apologies for using this word so frequently on this thread but it’s the most appropriate term for these people ;)