Growing up on Hindi movies meant that you were accustomed to seeing larger-than-life heroes, songs made for dancing, over-the-top acting sequences, and exaggerated comedy routines.
But every once in a while, the industry surprises us with an actor who breaks the mould, works from the shadows, and still becomes a crowd favourite. Like Brijendra Kala.
Brijendra Kala, who originally hails from Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, has been in the industry for close to two decades. A veteran film and theatre actor, Kala has starred in over 50 movies in his career. But never appeared for even 50 minutes on the screen in a movie.
And yet, his characters have gone on to take a life of their own, becoming as popular as the film itself. If that does not scream talent, what does?
While today, it seems that every other film has a small role perfectly crafted for Brijendra Kala, it wasn’t always so.
After years of struggle, he finally made his movie debut with Haasil in 2003. But it wasn’t till Jab We Met, where he played the religious taxi driver, hassled into a ‘train chase’, that he finally started becoming a familiar face for the moviegoers.
Slowly, from becoming a familiar face, he became an actor whose performances we looked forward to, be it in a feature film, a short film, or in web series. And he keeps the streak alive with his latest stint in Sherni.
Kala plays the role of Mr. Bansal, Vidya’s boss in the film. His attitude towards work is one that we have come to associate with the quintessential “sarkari karmachari” – to shirk responsibility but enjoy the benefits.
He is a unique culmination of entitlement and fear because when the situation turns grave, he no longer has the option to recite ghazals and ignore the problems.
But the genius of his performance is that for a generation that grew up watching Office Office, his portrayal of a disinterested government officer still appears refreshingly different. Free of cliches, his performance is both, relatable and memorable.
Yes, Kala is that one actor, whose characters you just can’t get out of your head. Because every role he plays is rooted in realism, and yet unexpectedly hilarious.
This is why he ends up reminding you of relatives you’ve seen in your family, the colleagues you’ve worked with, or the friendly but interfering neighborhood uncle. This is why he manages to evoke laughter without offending.
This is why he is one of the industry’s most famous “scene-stealers”. Because he does not need more than 15 minutes of screen time to strike a chord with the audience.
Then be it as the reporter in Paan Singh Tomar, the ‘arrogant’ Tauji in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, the sly receptionist in Qarib Qarib Singlle, or the lawyer who tries too hard in Gulabo Sitabo.
In all these films, and in fact, in his entire filmography, Kala has managed to shine in the smallest of roles, far away from the spotlight. And while stars may crave the spotlight, actors of his stature add just the right flavour even from the sidelines – like that special ingredient, whose presence may be indetectable, but without which, a dish remains incomplete.