It's a refreshing time in cinema, when mainstream filmmakers are giving casting a serious thought and looking at faces beyond the usual suspects.
While Irrfan, Kay Kay and Nawaz have cemented their places as actors who command their own space even in the presence of an Amitabh Bachchan or a Salman Khan, there is an interesting breed of talented actors who may not get too much screen time, but have slowly and steadily made an impression with their impactful performances.
1. Sanjay Mishra
A popular face on television and a part of several multi-starrer comedies such as Golmaal, All The Best, Dhamaal and Welcome, Mishra caught everyone's attention in the satire Phas Gaye Re Obama.
But he truly came into his own as the lovable Bauji in Rajat Kapoor's Aankhon Dekhi, where he showcased a never-before-seen side of his acting prowess. Playing a variant of the same part in YRF's Dum Lagake Haisha, Mishra won hearts across the spectrum and followed it up with a sensitive portrayal in the critically acclaimed Masaan.
But this acclaim has not led Mishra to ditch his origins.
In SRK's Dilwale, Mishra revisited his mimicry talent (particularly that of 70s' villain Jeevan) and comfortably stole the show with his puns. Ironically this actor, who today never fails to bring a smile on everyone's faces, once played a cold-blooded hitman in Ram Gopal Varma's Satya.
2. Deepak Dobriyal
Who would have thought that the slimy suitor from Omkara would go on to play a lovable character like Pappiji in the Tanu Weds Manu movies? Apart from Munna Bhai's Circuit, the motor-mouth Pappi Ji is perhaps the most memorable sidekick in recent cinema history. Sandwiched between his loyalty towards Manu and his own messed up circumstances, Deepak Dobriyal is arguably the chief catalyst of the plot in the Tanu Weds Manu franchise. From the bumbling body language to the razor-sharp dialogue delivery, Deepak never misses a beat.
3. Rajesh Sharma
Be it the shrewd producer in The Dirty Picture, the crude uncle in Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, the obedient team player in Special 26 or Datto's supportive elder brother in Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Rajesh Sharma is always a pleasure to watch on screen. However bizarre be the premise, Sharma's style of delivering lines and his comfort with the Haryanvi dialect, add a realistic touch to any character that he performs.
4. Adil Hussain
Here's one actor we want to see much more of. A stylish persona, coupled with a supreme command over English and Hindi, provide a certain sophisticated, urbane vibe that comes across very effectively on screen. As Sridevi's snobbish husband in English Vinglish, Adil's performance was extremely believable and he managed to make us care for his point of view, despite the obvious chauvinism of the character. Adil's next big Bollywood release will be John Abraham's Force 2.
5. Prakash Belawadi
One of the many highlights in Airlift is the bitter-sweet interaction between Katyal (Akshay Kumar) and the perpetually grumpy George (played to perfection by Prakash Belawadi). Be it the traitor in Madras Café or the righteous cop in Talvar, Belwadi's intense eyes and impeccable dialogue delivery are his biggest strengths. And he uses them to great advantage to elevate even the simplest of moments on screen.
6. Manav Kaul
As the scheming minister with many a skeleton in his closet, the actor makes a solid impression as Yazad Qureshi in Wazir, holding his own in the presence of Amitabh Bachchan and Farhan Akhtar. Kaul made his first big impression on the silver screen as the nasty politician in Abhishek Kapoor's Kai Po Che. He followed it up with a different and moving performance in Hansal Mehta's Citylights. It's with Wazir, though, that Kaul has really cemented his place as an actor of substance, with some speculating he may be the next Nawazuddin.
He will soon be seen with Priyanka Chopra in Jai Gangaajal. In this film he plays the villain but in his own words it is his most "emotional" character. Admittedly star-struck by PC (whose work he has admired in Kaminey and Barfi) Manav says actors like Nawaz in Bajrangi Bhaijaan or Irrfan add a wow factor to the film and directors today appreciate the need to cast good actors even in the smallest of parts. Armed with a confident screen presence, Manav is at his best when essaying unpredictable characters with shades of grey.
7. Kumud Mishra
His simple words of wisdom - that a broken heart is a must to make great music -- to a wannabe musician (Ranbir Kapoor) in Imtiaz Ali's cult flick Rockstar have become one of the most quotable lines in recent memory. Last year in Varun Dhawan's Badlapur, Mishra was suitably intriguing as the cop with conflicting motives of his own.
These days he has been winning praise from all quarters for his restrained portrayal of a bureaucrat - in Airlift -- who tirelessly manoeuvres his way around the system to remotely back Akshay Kumar in the evacuation out of Kuwait. His touching speech to the reluctant pilots is easily one of the most stirring moments of the film, followed by the climax where he lets his eyes do all the talking as he selflessly lets a minister enjoy the limelight while he quietly watches with a sense of satisfaction and relief.
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