With audiences embracing fresh scripts and faces, a new wave of artists once known as supporting actors are making a mark in Bollywood. Be it Pappi from Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015), Ajit Banerjee in Detective Byomkesh Baskhy (2015), Murari from Raanjhnaa (2013) or Dr Baldev Chadha in Vicky Donor (2012), ‘sidekicks’ don’t just support the lead now, they complete the movie.
Writer Himanshu Sharma, whose dialogues in Raanjhnaa earned him a lot of praise, says that as a writer, his focus is to support the story. “There are no roles, only stories. To tell stories, you need characters ... some main leads and some supporting. As a writer, you need to write your story truthfully, using lead and support cast. I believe ‘supporting characters’ mean supporting to the ‘story’ not the ‘main leads’,” he says.
Actor Deepak Dobriyal, whose comic timing in Tanu Weds Manu Returns was applauded, never treated his character frivolously. “I never had the mindset that Pappi is Mannu’s sidekick. Pappi is his own character. I give maximum focus to my own character and it clearly shows,” says Deepak.
Trade analyst Amod Mehra says that content-driven films are bankable financially as a film is not about just actors anymore. “We’ve become more content-based. Earlier, we had a hero, a heroine, and that’s it. Content-based stories need more characters, which play a very important role now,” he says. Filmmaker Anand L Rai agrees: “It’s crucial for me as a filmmaker to get good supporting roles as well. If we get good guys to only do leads, how will I justify a Murari or a Pappi? Filmmakers need to talented actors, and we as directors have to work hard to etch a good character sketch so they get their share of creative satisfaction.”
Actor Ram Kapoor, who’s acted in movies such as Karthik Calling Karthik (2010) and Shaadi Ke Side Effects (2014), agrees, but also says that this has not made things easier for artists who want to make it big. “With the scripts that are written, there is no central male or female lead but five-six people who are main characters. I don’t think that’s going to change. Showbiz is still cut throat competition as it was before, getting work is just as difficult now as it was before. And it will always be,” he says.