Few genres are as image-obsessed as the gangster film, and Hindi cinema is no exception. Don wouldn’t be the same without his white suit, or Bheeku Mhatre without his billowing floral shirts. The first wave of gang leaders and street toughs took inspiration from the hard-boiled Hollywood cinema of the previous decades: ties and long coats, hats and cigarettes. As colour came in, the crime boss became campier, more colourful: This look stretched from the 1960s all the way to the end of the 1980s, from Teja to Mogambo. But when the hero played the mob boss, as Amitabh Bachchan did in Deewar (1975) and Don (1978) or Ajay Devgn did in Company (2002), the look sobered up, became more aspirational. Finally, there’s the bhai, the wisecracking street hood making up in sheer confidence what he lacks in sophistication.

THE CRIME BOSS - Wackily costumed villains (like Ajit, right) were a staple from the 1960s to the end of the 1980s.
THE CRIME BOSS - Wackily costumed villains (like Ajit, right) were a staple from the 1960s to the end of the 1980s.
THE DON - The dapper don look was initiated by Amitabh Bachchan in Deewar (1975) and continued in slick films like Company (2002).
THE DON - The dapper don look was initiated by Amitabh Bachchan in Deewar (1975) and continued in slick films like Company (2002).
THE BHAI -  From Tezaab (1988) to Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai (2010), the bhai’s look reflects his street origins and improvisational drive.
THE BHAI - From Tezaab (1988) to Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai (2010), the bhai’s look reflects his street origins and improvisational drive.
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