Salman, Katrina, Hrithik and Farhan have their place in Bollywood’s firmament. But the year 2011 belongs as much to actors who have been noticed despite not playing lead roles, garnering attention purely on the strength of their performances. As sections of the industry once again turn their attention to strong scripts, supporting characters are being fleshed out better, requiring actors who know their craft and are earning accolades as a consequence.
Here are our picks of some of the Best Supporting Actors of 2011 so far:
It’s a sign of the times that the blockbuster ‘Delhi Belly’ is being celebrated for its ensemble cast and not for Imran Khan alone. Walking away with the most kudos is Vijay Raaz playing the film’s even-tempered yet ominous gangster. Is there another man who could have summoned up a more vacant expression on his face at the sight of human excrement pouring out on his table? Doubtful.
‘Delhi Belly’ is a second coming of sorts for Raaz, best known so far as Dubey in Mira Nair’s ‘Monsoon Wedding’.
“I don’t want to chase roles. I’m happy with what I get. Perhaps I’m not hungry enough, which is why I don’t have a secretary here, and despite Miraji’s advice, I’ve not got myself an agent in the West,” says the 42-year-old whose coming films include Ram Gopal Varma’s ‘Department’ and ‘Pranam Walekum’, which marks comedian Sanjay Mishra’s debut as director.
He’s done 18 films so far. But it’s with his 19th—‘Murder 2’—that the phenomenally talented Prashant Narayanan has been embraced not just by critics and a niche audience, but by the masses too. A Kerala boy brought up in Delhi, 41-year-old Narayanan doesn’t believe in mincing words.
He says he is not interested in “products”.
“I call Aamir Khan and all these things products because they’re looking for their Friday, Saturday, Sunday billing, that’s all, whereas I want to do films you can still love after five years.”
At the moment he is lapping up the recognition for his turn as a serial killer in one of 2011’s biggest hits. “So far people have known me by the names of the characters I’ve played, but when I went to a theatre after ‘Murder 2’, people were yelling out my name. It was amazing,” he says.
In an industry often constrained by conventions and formulae, Rajeev Khandelwal is part of the change he wants to see. The irrationally-violent policeman he played in ‘Shaitan’ has put the spotlight firmly back on this former TV superstar.
It was not the lead role, but “I don’t look at roles in terms of hero and supporting actor,” says the handsome 36-year-old. “I want to deliver solid performances that people will notice.”
He adds: “People said I was taking a risk when I quit ‘Kahiin To Hoga’, when I chose an offbeat film like ‘Aamir’ for my Bollywood debut and when I returned to TV to host ‘Sach Ka Saamna’. But it’s worked, hasn’t it?”
Up next: ‘Soundtrack’ in which he plays a DJ who turns deaf, ‘Raakh’ where he is a small-town shaayar in love with a married woman and ‘Sach Ka Saamna Season 2’.
Most viewers who watched ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ had one question on their lips: Who’s that girl? You know the one with the chocolate-coated voice playing Kangna’s friend?
The name is Swara Bhaskar and she’s a post graduate from Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, who knew she wanted to act ever since ‘Chitrahaar’ “ruined my life”. Says the 26-year-old, “
“I don’t want to be a character artiste. After shooting ‘Tanu Weds Manu’, I waited 10 months before accepting another film because I was clear that I wanted lead substantial work now. I’m a greedy actor. I want to grow.”
An Orissa boy with no godfathers was unlikely to have it easy in Bollywood. But the road is smoothening out for Pitobash whose performance as Mandook, the small-time crook, stood out in the midst of a talented ensemble cast in ‘Shor In the City’. Pitobash got himself an Engineering degree to assure his family that his future was secure. He then followed his dream and studied at FTII, Pune, before heading for Bollywood. This week audiences will see him as a jealous dhabawala in ‘I Am Kalam’.
Coming up next: Shirish Kunder’s ‘Joker’ with Akshay Kumar and Dibakar Banerjee’s ‘Shanghai’.
Chandan Roy Sanyal:
Producer Vashu Bhagnani’s ‘Faltu’ was meant as a re-launch vehicle for his actor son Jackky. It has also ended up as a turning point for Chandan Roy Sanyal who was first noticed by cineastes in a small role in Vishal Bhardwaj’s ‘Kaminey’. In ‘Faltu’, Sanyal shared equal screen space with Jackky and earned more than an equal share of praise. He’ll soon be seen in Hema Malini’s directorial venture ‘Tell Me O Khuda’ among other films.
“There’s a space for every kind of actor in Hindi films today,” he says, “Even for a regular guy like me who’s just 5 feet 5 inches tall.”
The acting honours also go to… Bollywood award juries this year will have a tough time finalizing nominees for the Supporting Actor/Actress categories. Can they leave out Sucheta Khanna, star of the TV serial ‘Lapataganj’ who played the Canada-crazy Punjabi girl in ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana’? Not if they’re still to recover from her throwaway line to Bobby Deol: “Tussi bade impotent ho ji.” Khanna, Poorna Jagannathan (‘Delhi Belly’), Radhika Apte (‘I Am’, ‘Shor In The City’), Arjun Mathur (‘I Am’), Arunoday Singh (‘Yeh Saali Zindagi’), Kriti
Malhotra (‘Dhobi Ghat’), Deepak Dobriyal (‘Tanu Weds Manu’) and others like them are flag-bearers of a changing Bollywood.
Says Rajesh Sharma who played the committed yet corrupt cop in ‘No One Killed Jessica’: “I was drawn to Jessica because policemen in Hindi films have either been good or bad guys, this man was good and bad.” And in today’s Bollywood, nothing succeeds like change.
(The writer is on Twitter as @annavetticad)