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Bollywood's surprise package: unforgettable character artists

In Anurag Kashyap's latest film Shorts, one couple gave a stellar performance. Ratnabali Bhattacharjee and Vineet Singh lived their roles in the short film Shor. We bring you a list of small time actors who continue to remain larger than life thanks to their characters.

bollywood Updated: Jul 18, 2013 14:49 IST
Durga M Sengupta
Durga M Sengupta
Bollywood,character artists,Anurag Kashyap Shorts

"Who was that actor? He was so good!"

It's not unusual for regular movie goers to be heard uttering these words after a good movie. While lead artists are the most discussed, no film is complete without its fair share of character artists. (No, please don't start naming exceptions.)

We attempt to bring you a list of actors who added that extra dash of colour in a film.

Unanimous agreement is rare among critics. Shor, a short film from Anurag Kashyap's Shorts, has been the latest recipient of this prestigious unanimity award. The main reason, of course, are the actors in the film. Ratnabali Bhattacharjee and Vineet Singh play the role of a couple from Varanasi struggling for survival in Mumbai.
The film shows the transition of these characters caught in the monotony of life, to a sudden surge of emotions when the circumstances get fatal.

Both the actors have essayed the role to perfection, competing neck to neck with established character artists like Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Huma Qureshi.

"Both Vineet Singh and Ratnabali Bhattacharjee are excellent, and the direction is assured," writes Subhra Gupta in Indian Express.

"Ratnabali Bhattacharjee and Vineet Singh play off each other beautifully as an impoverished couple trying to get by in Mumbai. She tailors clothes at a sweatshop; he is unemployed and insecure," notes Nandini Ramnath in Live Mint.

Raanjhanaa's cast has been the talk of the town. But our focus isn't on Dhanush. Swara Bhaskar and Mohammaed Zeeshan Ayyub play a memorable duo as Dhanush's friends in the film.

One particularly memorable scene is when Bindiya (Swara Bhaskar) visits the doctor Zoya (Sonam Kapoor) is to marry. Her initial discomfort at being used for Kundan's (Dhanush) antics to eventual jubilation at being able to carry out the task is quite real. Real to the point where you begin to enjoy the moment with the girl who loves Kundan with all her heart.

Another commendable actor in the film is Vipin Sharma who plays the role of Kundan's father. Sharma, however, has played the role of a father to perfection before and we're sure you remember this character. As Ishan's father in Taare Zameen Par, Sharma showed us how an extreme transition in the sensibilities of a character need not always be impossible to believe. His most memorable shot from the film is when he finds his dyslexic son read out a tough word like 'amphitheatre' from a notice board.

Dolly Ahluwalia as Vicky's mom in Vicky Donor was beyond hilarious. From her Delhi Punjabi accent, to her drunken character itself, Dolly was a laugh riot who lived the role. As a lower middle class parlour aunty, Dolly showed us how glamour isn't necessary to get a role right. Our favourite scene is when Dolly and Biji (Kamlesh Gill) have an inane conversation in their drunkenness.

Another mother who caught our fancy in fiercely patriarchal Paa was Arundhati Nag who played Vidya Balan's maa in the film. Nag, who the National Award for Best Supporting Actress, was quite a delightful naani to Auro (Amitabh Bachchan). The camaraderie between the actors is one high point in the film.

Moving away from the immediate family, we arrive at Geet's uncle in Jab We Met. Pavan Malhotra, best remembered for his dialogue, "Wo sab tu chod, ye bata, Geet kahaan hai?!" in the film, had his comic timing well in place. As a fanatic neighbour in Delhi-6, Malhotra yet again proved his mettle. His ability to capture moods and swing on them like a pendulum is well worth a mention.

Another actor who caught our eye as he trudged along the galis of Delhi-6 was Deepak Dobriyal. If you have seen this film, you'll remember the young shopkeeper who loses his goat and then all his wares to senseless riots. Dobriyal also won a special Filmfare award for his brief but unforgettable role in Omkara as Rajoh Tiwari. An Indianized version of Othello's Roderigo, Rajoh is the perfect stalker.

You must remember Bob Biswas -- your friendly neighbourhood serial killer? In fact he has a Facebook page to himself. "Nomoshkar, ek minute" is probably his only dialogue in the film, but Saswata Chatterjee needed no other in Kahaani. A silent and yet smiling serial killer, Chatterjee played a possibly never before scripted character to perfection. Clean, like his murders.

Parambrata Chatterjee as Inspector "Rana" also deserves a mention. However, Bob's acting just about overshadows everyone else in the film.

Speaking of Bangali babus, do you remember "Shonamoni" Chandan Roy Sanyal in the film Kaminey? Can you imagine Dhan Te Nan without the deviant best friend, brother-in-crime to Shahid Kapoor's character? Sanyal is the perfect example of a foil who enriches a film with his sheer presence.

But then small time actors in the lead also often make an exceptional mark. One such artist who caught our fancy is Rajat Barmecha in Udaan. Barmecha's smile is infectious. And that's exactly the sweetness the film needed.

We end our list here. Leave a comment with your suggestions. We'll gladly add them with due credit!

Readers' suggestions:

- Aayan Boradia as the young step brother in Udaan.

Vikasbrisbane - Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh's on-screen kids in Do Dooni Char: Archit Krishna and Aditi Vasudev as Sandy and Payal Duggal

Hitaishi Singh - Barun Chanda as Sonakshi's zamindar father in Lootera. But as wiki will tell you, Chanda is best remembered for his role in Satyajit Ray's Seemabaddha.

ItsJyoti - Zakir Hussain in Shor in the City and Atul Kulkarni in Yeh Mera India and Rang De Basanti. Thanks for pointing this one out! His recitation of Sarfaroshi ki Tammannah gives me goosebumps every time I watch RDB.

Thanks for your comments! Keep reading.

First Published: Jul 14, 2013 20:11 IST