There are few actors who weave their way into a film so effortlessly, that you forget where the actor ends and the character begins. Veteran actor Kulbhushan Kharbanda, who started his journey in films with Sai Paranjpye's Jadu Ka Shankh in 1974, is one such actor.
A theatre actor, Kulbhushan Kharbanda has been a part of some of the Hindi film industry's most iconic movies and brought to life memorable characters like these:
1. Shaakal in Shaan
As Shaakal, Kulbhushan Kharbanda joined the league of Bollywood's greatest villains. To date, his evil smile and terrifying persona leave you shivering. It was Shaan that marked his entry into mainstream cinema, and left filmmakers, critics, and the audience, in awe of his talent.
2. Police Patel in Nishant
It was Shyam Benegal's Nishant that first had the audience sit up and take note of Kulbhushan Kharbanda's talent, even though he played a pivotal but small role in the film. And that was because of the way he prepared for the role. As Benegal himself put it in an interview with Reader's Digest, "By the time I filmed with him, there was no question of my directing him. He was already steeped in that world and knew his part very well."
3. Inder Malhotra in Arth
A feminist tale set against the theme of marriage and infidelity, Arth remains one of Mahesh Bhatt's finest films. Kulbhushan Kharbanda was brilliant as the unfaithful husband and egoistic, ambitious director. It's easy to portray a villain who is typically evil, but far more difficult to portray an inherently unlikable character in a humane manner. And yet, Kulbhushan Kharbanda managed it with apparent ease.
4. Ramlal Sharma in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar
For the 90s kids, Kulbhushan Kharbanda is most fondly remembered for his role as the school coach and father Ramlal Sharma in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. His strictness reminded us of our fathers, and while the film is an ode to the spirit of school competitions and friendships, his relationship with his sons is one of the most honest, relatable aspects of the film.
5. Gopi Dada in Ghulami
The film that earned him his first, and only Filmfare Nomination (for Best Supporting Actor), Ghulami was J.P. Dutta's directorial debut. A powerful action-drama set against the backdrop of caste discrimination in India, Ghulami saw Kulbhushan Kharbanda shed his 'parallel cinema actor' image to play, and nail the role, of a typical action-hero.
6. Satyanand Tripathi in Mirzapur
Mirzapur marked Kulbhushan Kharbanda's web series debut. As a wizened old man, who hasn't lost the violent, conniving edge that helped him rule the city with an iron fist, his flawless performance turned Satyanand Tripathi from just another 'weary old man' to a character you look out for.
7. Mr. Gupta in Mandi
Mandi included a stellar ensemble cast, and each actor did complete justice to his or her role. One of these actors was Kulbhushan Kharbanda, who played the role of the unscrupulous landlord and industrialist Mr. Gupta, whose invitation to Rukmini Bai (Shabana Azmi) is what sets the ball rolling for an unfateful relationship between Sushil (Saeed Jaffrey) and Zeenat (Smita Patil).
8. Commander in Maachis
A rare gem in Bollywood's world of melodramas, Maachis remains a brilliant, and sadly, still relevant political drama. Kulbhushan Kharbanda brought a certain gravitas to his role of Commander, one of the leaders of the 'terrorist' organization that Kripal (Chandrachur Singh) seeks after his friend is mistreated by the police.
9. Havaldar Bhagheeram in Border
Kulbhushan Kharbanda's filmography is proof that a talented actor can shine in any role, no matter the star cast of the film or the length of the role. Just like he did with his portrayal of cook Bhageeram in Border. His performance tugged at the audience's heartstrings, even while becoming an unexpected source of comic relief.
These are just a handful of characters in a career spanning over 40 years. While the award-ceremonies may have eluded him, Kulbhushan Kharbanda's memorable characters have always managed to make a mark with the audience.