Like most ‘outsider’ newcomers in Bollywood, Gulshan Devaiah started his stint in the industry with brief roles. But he still caught the attention of the audience and a section of the industry. And with his latest role in Badhaai Do, he has charmed the audience once again, and that too, in just a matter of minutes.
Devaiah, who debuted with That Girl in Yellow Boots in 2010, has come a long way in the last decade, continuously pushing the bar with his film choices. Here’s a look at some of his most memorable performances:
One of the first films to bring Devaiah to the limelight, Shaitan was a crime thriller that was the polar opposite of Bollywood’s idea of crimes or thrillers. But, equipped with a cast of mostly newcomers, Bejoy Nambiar managed to gift a crime thriller that has become a cult classic over the years. And as the slightly unhinged, rich brat Karan ‘KC’ Chaudhary, Devaiah brought a devilish intensity to his role that attracted you to the character, albeit begrudgingly, despite his less-than-noble actions.
2. Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela
Even though he had a comparatively smaller role in the film, he still managed to catch the audience’s attention – which, considering his co-stars, including the indomitable Supriya Pathak, is saying something. His impeccable grasp of the accent and seemingly natural performance in Ram-Leela rightfully earned him the tag of scene-stealer.
In a country where the concept of adult comedies has still not gone too far away from double-meaning jokes and sexist comments, Devaiah picked a movie on sex addiction as his first lead role. It was perhaps Hunterrr that made it clear to critics and filmmakers, that you can’t box Devaiah in a ‘type’. After all, in a country where sex is taboo and leading heroes can stalk heroines but not pleasure them, Devaiah’s Mandar Ponkshe still found a fan following. And though the film certainly left a lot to be desired, his performance was spot on.
4. A Death in the Gunj
A Death in the Gunj gave us the different shades of patriarchy in all of its supporting cast (male and female) and focused on Massey to show the devastating effects of toxic masculinity and general apathy. And in this patriarchal shade card, Devaiah played the quintessential Indian male, who may not instigate abuse, but would not stop it either. His self-centered worldview keeps him oblivious to the harsh reality around him – until it comes to personally affect him.
5. Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota
Devaiah was a laughter riot in Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, and it was a sheer joy to watch him nail two completely diverse characters in a double role that is far better than any that mainstream Bollywood has gifted us in recent times. I mean, we have villains we admire, but to make a villain endearing, yet psychotic? Has to be Devaiah’s magic at play (ably supported by the director, Vasan Bala). Similarly, who else but Bala and Davaiah to nail the unusual combination of a karate guru who is weak to the point of being pitiable?
6. Ghost Stories
Chances are you may have not recognized Devaiah in the movie (he starred in Dibakar Banerjee’s segment) in the first look – he played the little girl’s father, turned into a man-eating monster. And in what is easily the best film of the anthology, Devaiah is harshly evil, not just as the monster, but also as the ‘rescuer’ who wastes no time in passing a disparaging remark about ‘inferior citizens’. That malicious glint, right at the end, is hard to get out of your mind.
Devaiah might just be the lucky charm in Indian filmmakers’ tryst with anthologies, because just like Ghost Stories, in Unpaused too, it was the segment starring him (directed by Raj and DK) that shined the brightest. As a hypochondriac living in a future where viruses have become the norm and social distancing is a way of life, Devaiah managed to make even his character’s eccentricities charming. And who else but him to play the unusual lead of an unusual love story!
The show failed to deliver on a premise that was nothing short of fascinating. But at no point did Devaiah fail to deliver in his role of a down-on-his-luck writer, with a penchant for ‘lucky’ escapes. His pitiful expressions tugged at your heartstrings, even as his misadventures left you laughing. And in a show where little made sense, his performance still kept you hooked enough to sit through the end.
His brief filmography, listed here, has a far more diverse range than most stars have in their lifetime. And while Devaiah may not be a ‘hero’, his film choices have been nothing short of heroic. Clearly, complex characters are his forte, and we can’t wait for him to charm us yet again.