The PR machinery of Bollywood celebrities and their choice of roles usually creates a certain image that stays with them. But once in a while, we see them portraying characters that we could have never imagined them in. Such has been the impact of these unconventional casting decisions that we can’t imagine anyone else doing them now.

Here’s a look at 20 such castings which were very unconventional but turned out to be masterstrokes: 


1. Ranbir Kapoor – Barfi!

Ranbir is regarded as the next big superstar who is going to rule Bollywood for decades to come. Of course, we saw him dance and sing and be the loveable Hindi film hero in many films. But then, he did Barfi. This was a film where he played a mute character and yet conveyed so many emotions with finesse. For an actor, that could be the biggest challenge but Ranbir overcame all the difficulties with his sheer brilliance.


2. Varun Dhawan – Badlapur

Varun Dhawan is the definition of ‘cool’ in Bollywood. With his initial releases like Student of the Year and Main Tera Hero, he carved a chocolate boy-hero image for himself. So when he did a role as complex and layered as ‘Raghu’ in Badlapur, everyone was surprised. His progression in the movie from an ordinary man to one full of vengeance was surely a high point in not just the film but his career too.


3. Rani Mukerji – Black

Rani in her heyday was the perfect girl-next-door. The roles she did in Saathiya, Hum Tum and Bunty aur Babli perfectly complemented her vivacious, full of life image. But then, she did the role of a lifetime where she played a blind girl. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black saw Rani go completely de-glam with full focus on her acting. This is easily one of the best Rani Mukerji performances that we have ever seen.


4. Alia Bhatt – Highway

Alia Bhatt was just one-film old when she did Highway. The girl who debuted in Student of the Year as this sassy fashionista was nowhere to be seen in Highway’s Veera. Alia completely shed her ‘just a pretty face’ image with this one.


5. Kareena Kapoor Khan – Chameli

Kareena was already a star with films like YaadeinKabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and Mujhse Dosti Karoge. So when she chose a film like Chameli, a lot of eyebrows were raised. Chameli was the story of a prostitute and Kareena showed that it took a huge heart and fine acting talent to break stereotypes and do a film not many would have done at the time.


6. Hrithik Roshan – Guzaarish

Hrithik is regarded as the best dancer of Bollywood and his Greek God looks have been responsible for thunderous box office collections. However, Guzaarish put Hrithik in a wheelchair and the actor made sure he looked convincing in a completely de-glam role. Hrithik pushed the envelope with Guzaarish and added another stellar performance in his filmography.


7. Priyanka Chopra – Barfi!

Jhilmil in Barfi! was certainly one of the most innocent & heartwarming characters that we have seen in recent times and Priyanka’s portrayal of her was just perfect. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the diva, Priyanka Chopra, was not at all visible and all one could see was the autistic girl, Jhilmil, that she was playing in the movie.


8. Shah Rukh Khan – Darr

Darr came much earlier in King Khan’s career and thankfully so. He was not the superstar yet when he did Darr but it was still a courageous attempt to play a crazy stalker. Darr was the fuel that propelled his career to new heights and is remembered even today for its famous dialogue, K-K-K-K-Kiran.


9. Karisma Kapoor – Fiza

Karisma Kapoor was on the top of her game when she did Fiza and considering her happy-go-lucky image on-screen, it was always going to be a hard mould to break. She was popular for her commercial and fun films like Raja Hindustani and Dil To Pagal Hai and that’s precisely why Fiza was the game changer for her. Fiza was the story of a girl looking for her brother in the back drop of terrorism and Karisma blended perfectly into the film.


10. Anil Kapoor – Lamhe

Lamhe is one of those cult films which was way ahead of its time. Anil Kapoor played the role of a young man smitten by a beautiful woman and ages into a suave gentleman who is still longing for that love. Anil Kapoor along with Sridevi made this 1991 film worth remembering. 


11. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan – Raincoat

When the most beautiful woman in the world decides to go for a plain-jane avatar on screen, it’s only acting talent that can save the day and so it did. Aishwarya in Raincoat as the lonely housewife was quite unexpected as the audience had seen her in all her glory in films like Hum Dil De Chuke SanamMohabbatein and Devdas. Raincoat still remains as one of her best performances.


12. Anushka Sharma – NH10

Anushka is known to experiment with her image quite frequently. She started off with a simple, girl-next-door image and quickly transformed her into a glamorous diva with her next few films. However, she underwent a massive shift with NH10. The character she played was of a woman whose life changes in a matter of few hours and she then has to take control of the situation to save her life. Her role demanded physical and verbal violence and Anushka pulled it off brilliantly.


13. Riteish Deshmukh – Ek Villain

Riteish Deshmukh is the go-to actor for multi-hero comic films and he does it pretty well too. Naturally, it was quite surprising to see Deshmukh in the role of a psychopath serial killer in Ek Villain. He essayed the role of a man who vents out his frustration by murdering women and that won him a lot of accolades.


14. Amitabh Bachchan – Paa

Amitabh Bachchan has seen and done it all, yet he manages to surprise his audience every single time. In Paa, he played the role of a 12-year-old suffering from a rare genetic disorder. The make up surely amped up the effect but due credit has to be given to Big B for his amazing performance as a pre-teen boy.


15. Vidya Balan – The Dirty Picture

This film was loosely based on the life of Southern actress Silk Smitha. Vidya had earlier been criticized for her body type but picking up this role and performing it brilliantly silenced her critics once and for all. Balan received a National Award for her role in this film. 


16. Saif Ali Khan – Omkara

Saif has seen quite a fair share of success and failure in his Bollywood journey so far . He joined the industry in the ’90s and was often seen in the likes of Main Khiladi Tu Anari and Yeh Dillagi. With films like Dil Chahta Hai and Hum Tum, he created a rather metro sexual image for himself. But Saif’s rugged performance as Langda Tyagi caught everyone’s attention and it can easily be regarded as one of his finest performances so far.


17. Urmila Matondkar – Kaun

Urmila made a mark in the industry with Rangeela and strengthened her position with films like Judaai and Satya. But Urmila in Kaun was a result of an out-of-the-box casting. The climax of the movie with Urmila on the terrace is till capable of sending shivers down the spine. Word of advice: Don’t watch this if you’re alone at home!


18. Raveena Tandon – Daman

Daman, directed by Kalpana Lajmi was the tale of a woman being married into an upper class family and the physical and mental violence she has to go through within the marriage. Raveena was more of a ‘commercial’ actress when she did Daman and it was a pleasant surprise for her fans. She even got a National Award for her performance in the film.

Hindustan Times

19.   Madhuri Dixit – Mrityudand

The Dhak Dhak girl was the epitome of talent and beauty in the ’90s and she still is. After starring in blockbusters like Dil, Khalnayak and Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, Madhuri took up this film. Made by Prakash Jha, the story of this film was set in Bihar, but Madhuri pulled off her de-glam character brilliantly.


20. Sridevi – Sadma

Sridevi was fairly new to the Hindi film industry when she played the role of a woman who has a car crash and is then left with the intelligence of a 7-year-old. Prior to this film, Sridevi had only done a couple of roles in Hindi films but the manner in which she did justice to her character in this film is commendable. Sadma still stands out as a milestone movie in her career.


Keep those surprising roles coming, guys!