No matter the OTT platform, the genre, or the lead cast, there are certain actors who find their way to our screens, every time we stream something online. And yet, despite being the wall that supports the show, these actors are often shoved to the sidelines as the ‘supporting cast’. But they deserve more.
Here are some of the finest actors from the Hindi-language film industry, who deserve to be in the spotlight, not the shadows:
1. Sheeba Chaddha
Whether it’s a high strung socialite (Badhaai Ho), a grieving, conflicted mother (Mirzapur), or a suppressed artist and dutiful wife (Bandish Bandits), Sheeba Chaddha is the woman for it. Truly, she is unparalleled in her ability to speak volumes through expressions alone.
2. Rajesh Tailang
Rajesh Tailang played the idealistic father in Mirzapur with the same ease with which he played a strict coach and loving father in Selection Day and a man burdened under the responsibility of keeping alive a flawed legacy in Bandish Bandits. Talk about a natural performer.
3. Ayesha Raza
It’s a truly talented actor who can make even similar characters appear unique. Ayesha Raza, Hindi movies’ favourite ‘mother’, is easily one such star. From TVF Permanent Roommates to Gunjan Saxena, she’s a constant in shows and movies, leaving a lasting impression, despite limited screentime.
4. Rajshri Deshpande
An actor whose filmography includes some of the finest, most experimental movies and shows to have released in recent years (Sacred Games, S Durga, Choked, Manto, etc.), Rajshri Deshpande has constantly proved how you can win over the audience, even with a small role.
5. Satyadeep Mishra
Mishra, who made his Bollywood debut with the 2011 thriller No One Killed Jessica, is a star who has never shied away from experimenting with roles. However, apart from P.O.W. – Bandi Yuddh Ke, he has mostly appeared in brief, though pivotal roles in shows and films.
6. Rajesh Sharma
Whether it’s perfecting the comic timing, acing a serious character, or playing the creepy villain, Rajesh Sharma has done it all. And done it with such ease, it’s almost as if he was born to play the roles, no matter how diverse they may appear. Truly an underrated star.
7. Deepak Dobriyal
Pappi Bhaisaab may have become one of his most memorable roles, but cinephiles have been in awe of his ability to command the audience’s attention since his brief role in films like Gulaal, Shaurya and Omkara. A truly talented performer, Deepak Dobriyal is easily one of the finest actors of our generation.
8. Seema Pahwa
Seema Pahwa is one of the most natural performers from the film industry, who has constantly proved her talent on the silver screen and on the stage. An actor turned filmmaker, Seema Pahwa is a star who has the ability to carry an entire project on her shoulder, if only, given the chance to.
9. Manoj Pahwa
Yet another phenomenal performer who never got his due, Manoj Pahwa may be most famous for his comic timing but a quick glance at his filmography proves that he is an actor who can nail any role you throw at him. In recent years, movies like Mulk, Article 15, etc. have allowed him to shed his image of ‘comic relief actor’, to emerge as one of the industry’s most dependable stars.
10. Manu Rishi
To date, there are few ‘supporting characters’ as famous or well-loved as Bangali from Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!. Then again, there are few actors in our industry as talented as Manu Rishi. A character artist whose performance never fails to charm the audience, he is an actor we wish to see more of.
11. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub
It’s a real mystery why an actor, who has been impressing both, critics and the audience, since his debut (No One Killed Jessica), and has been a part of some of the industry’s highest-grossing films (Tanu Weds Manu 2, Raanjhana, Article 15, Raees, etc.) has played the lead in only one film in his almost decade-long career. Whatever be the case, he is one star we always look out for!
12. Adil Hussain
It’s a real shame that an actor, who has made India proud globally (What Will People Say, Star Trek) with his acting prowess, continues to be relegated to brief roles in mainstream cinema (Kabir Singh, Good Newwz, etc.). He is in the league of stars whose finesse as a performer is impossible to dissect because his performances always appear intuitive.
13. Abhishek Banerjee
Internet’s favourite villain, Abhishek Banerjee is a rising star who has slowly made his way to the audience’s heart, prompting filmmakers to take note of his talent. Here’s hoping that he is not typecast with the success of Pataal Lok, but rather, given a chance to truly flex those acting muscles.
14. Namit Das
After making his acting debut with TV shows like Pancham and Mumbai Calling, Namit Das first appeared on the silver screen in the coming-of-age drama Wake Up Sid. Since then, he has continuously impressed with his performance, then be it as the duplicitous friend in Aarya or the conscientious shoemaker in A Suitable Boy.
15. Divya Dutta
Easily one of the most talented yet underrated stars on the list, Divya Dutta has been a part of the film industry for over two decades. A National Film Award winner, Divya Dutta has never been shy of experimenting with roles and has many critically-acclaimed performances to her name.
16. Aparshakti Khurrana
There’s more to Aparshakti Khurrana than just being the ‘other Khurrana brother’ and he has proved it by delivering one fabulous performance after the other. However, it’s high time that the star, who has shared screen space with actors like Manoj Bajpayee, Kay Kay Menon, Aamir Khan, etc., is given a chance to play the hero, and not just the ‘hero ka dost’.
17. Tisca Chopra
Author, producer, and actor extraordinaire, Tisca Chopra has made a place for herself in the industry as an actor who is incapable of delivering a false performance, no matter the story. And yet, barring a few short films and web series, the industry has not provided her the roles she deserves.
18. Brijendra Kala
In a list of our industry’s finest character artists, veteran actor Brijendra Kala would certainly find a place right at the top. His realistic portrayals never fail to leave a mark, even in brief roles. An actor, whose ever performance is a masterclass in acting, Brijendra Kala is in a league of his own.
19. Neeraj Kabi
Sacred Games once again brought the spotlight on Neeraj Kabi. But, the fact of the matter is, he has been delivering one groundbreaking performance after the other, ever since he became a part of the industry. An accomplished theatre artist, Kabi’s filmography includes movies like Ship of Theseus, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, etc.
20. Geetanjali Kulkarni
Geetanjali Kulkarni was an absolute revelation in Gullak, completing acing the portrayal of a middle-class housewife and mother, more interested in receiving attention than solutions to her problems. But, Gullak was certainly not the first or the last time that her performance floored the audience. A notable talent in Marathi cinema, Geetanjali Kulkarni is a star everyone, from cinephiles to actors, should look out for.
21. Atul Kulkarni
The winner of two National Film Awards and the Best Actor award at the 2019 Vienna Independent Film Festival, Atul Kulkarni has worked in films across six different languages. One of the most accomplished stars, not just on this list but in the film industry, Atul Kulkarni is almost unmatched in his ability to get into the skin of his characters.
22. Gopal Dutt
It’s impossible to not smile the moment you think of Gopal Dutt because his comic timing is undoubtedly flawless. An alumna of NSD, Gopal Dutt is one of the few actors who can convincingly portray any character, no matter how far removed from real life.
23. Kumud Mishra
To date, Kumud Mishra’s Khatana, from Rockstar, remains one of the kindest, most memorable fictional characters. Then again, which role of his hasn’t been memorable? Be it the understanding father in Thappad or the conflicted officer in Article 15, Kumud Mishra has left the audience awestruck each time he has appeared on the screen.
These actors have the ability to carry an entire show or film on their able shoulders, and yet, are often relegated to blink-and-miss appearances. It’s time we finally award them the recognition they deserve.