Mola Ram was the high priest of the Thuggee and leader of the cult, serving as the main antagonist in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
The son of a Thuggee priest, Mola Ram emigrated from Bengal to Pankot in search of three Sankara Stones. With two already in his possession, Ram believed all five would empower the Thuggee to destroy their British persecutors and establish his goddess Kali's reign on Earth. In Pankot, he found a powerful ally in Chattar Lal, the Prime Minister of Pankot Palace. Ram poisoned Pankot's ruler, Maharajah Premjit Singh in 1930 and with Lal's help, subdued the heir: Premjit's young son, Zalim. The pair restored the palace's long-neglected Kali temple, and set up a mining operation beneath the palace, with the intent of locating the remaining stones.
After stealing one of the stones — known as the Shiva Linga — from the village of Mayapore, Mola Ram's plans were thrown into disarray in 1935 by the American archaeologist Indiana Jones and his companions Willie Scott and Short Round. The trio freed the village children Ram had enslaved as miners, and stole the three stones in the high priest's possession. As the trio made their escape in a mine car, Mola Ram ordered his followers to flood the mine in hopes of drowning them, but they managed to escape.
Mola Ram and his followers pursued them to a narrow rope bridge, where they had the trio cornered. As one of Ram's henchmen held Willie hostage, Jones demanded she be released but Mola Ram refused, confident that he had the upper hand. Jones then threatened to drop the Sankara Stones into the river below. Ram called his bluff, declaring that the stones would be found, but Jones surprised Mola Ram by cutting the bridge, a move which sent many of the Thuggee warriors to their deaths in the crocodile infested waters. Mola Ram clung to the remnants of the bridge, however, and continued his battle against Jones, even going so far as throwing one of his own surviving men off the bridge in an attempt to dislodge the archaeologist. As Mola Ram and Jones struggled for control the stones, Jones' invocation of Shiva caused the stones to glow red hot. The move caught Ram off guard. As he tried to take one of the Sankara Stones, it burned his hand and made him lose his balance. He subsequently fell into the river and was torn to shreds by the crocodiles.
Following Mola Ram's demise, people searched the river and found no signs of his body. Rumors began to circulate that his body had disappeared from the river and, despite statements by the British that the high priest was dead, they were unable to provide any evidence to prove it, moving to punish anyone who publicly said otherwise.
Maharajah Singh also publicly declared Mola Ram deceased and offered $2,500 to anyone that could provide proof, or information on who might have taken the body.
However, the stories circulating that Mola Ram haunted the ruins of the flooded "Temple of Doom" pleased both parties, as Singh and the British were keen to keep others away from the area.
Behind the scenes
Amrish Puri portrayed Mola Ram in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Though he is the main antagonist, he does not appear until an hour into the film.
Mola Ram is named after an 18th-century Indian painter. George Lucas wanted Mola Ram to be terrifying, so the screenwriters Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz added elements of Aztec and Hawaiian human sacrificers, and European devil worship, to the character. To create his headdress, make-up artist Tom Smith based the skull on a cow (as this would be sacrilegious) with a latex shrunken head. Puri was chosen as Spielberg and Lucas did not want to cast a European actor and apply dark make-up. In the role, Puri resembles Eduardo Ciannelli, who played the cult leader in Gunga Din, an inspiration on the film.
In early drafts of the story, the burning Sankara Stones actually release Mola Ram from the same "Black Sleep of the Kali Ma" he inflicts on Jones before falling to his death, hinting that he may not have been in control of his actions. It was also intended that Mola Ram, after falling from the bridge, be killed by landing on the embankment below, followed by the crocodiles tearing apart his corpse.
When Mola Ram is eaten, the Wilhelm scream can be heard.