They aren't conventionally goodlooking, can't always shake a leg and their movies are not larger than life. Yet actors like Abhay Deol, Farhan Akhtar and Irrfan Khan have managed to find a place on the favourites list of audiences as well as filmmakers.
Abhay, who hails from a film family that produced mainstream stars like Dharmendra, Sunny and Bobby Deol, entered commercial cinema in 2005 with Socha Naa Tha alongside Ayesha Takia.
Although he didn't come across as star material and his debut vehicle failed to create ripples at the box office, his acting abilities were noticed.
Failure notwithstanding, Abhay got offers to work in offbeat and critically acclaimed films – Dev D and Oye Lucky Lucky Oye. The success of these films changed the course of his acting career and he has found a firm foothold in the industry.
The actor, once criticised for his hairstyle and appearance, is now on the rise and even has women swooning over him.
Something similar happened to Irrfan Khan several years earlier, another actor who without conventional good looks has earned a huge fan following.
Critics and audiences initially wrote him off, but now they adore Irrfan. And the credit goes to directors like Vishal Bharadwaj, Mira Nair and Danny Boyle for giving him a chance to prove his mettle in Maqbool, Namesake and Slumdog Millionaire, respectively.
According to film critic Omar Qureshi, earlier formula-based movies were made and heroes were expected to do something larger than life.
“Earlier, movies were formula movies where the hero had to fight with tigers, fight the villain and rescue the heroines. But as storylines have progressed and people are making different movies, it has increased believability in actors like Irrfan Khan and Abhay Deol,” Qureshi told IANS.
Despite a husky voice and ordinary looks, Farhan Akhtar too proved his potential as an actor with films like Rock On, Luck By Chance and Karthik Calling Karthik.
From the earlier lot, Ajay Devgn hit the bull's eye. He did all kind of films - comedy, serious films, action-thriller and horror.
Another actor whom people love watching on the big screen is Rahul Bose. He is short and certainly doesn't have regular hero looks, but the audiences fell for him in Mr & Mrs Iyer, Jhankaar Beats, Pyaar Ke Side Effects and Shaurya.
Not to forget Vinay Pathak and Ranvir Shorey. With their stupendous comic timing, their performances in small-budget films have also been a hit with audiences.
Vinay's talent was visible in Khosla Ka Ghosla, Bheja Fry and Johnny Gaddaar, while Ranvir was appreciated in Traffic Signal, Bheja Fry and the critical and commercial hit Mithya.
Trade analyst Taran Adarsh feels the definition of Bollywood heroes has changed over the years and with scripts becoming realistic, good looks have taken a backseat.
“I am not against goodlooking heroes but with scripts turning real, directors and producers are looking for actors who can fit into such roles. It depends upon what the script demands, whether it requires a guy with average looks or it needs someone with great looks,” he added.
Filmmaker Satish Kaushik insists that these unconventional actors have brought in the concept that the hero is a common man.
“The definition of typical Bollywood actors has definitely changed over the years. In the 1970s-80s and even part of the 1990s, it was said that the actor should be good looking and should know how to dance but the scenario has changed now,” said Kaushik.
“Today heroes define characters, they are just like you and me. This has brought in the concept that a hero is a common man. Actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Rajat Kapoor, Vinay Pathak and Abhay Deol make us believe in this,” he added