National Film Awards are the most prestigious Indian film awards, that recognize talent across India. But while these stars won the National Film Award, Bollywood still could not find a script where they could play the lead: 

1. Surekha Sikri

Three-time National Award winner, Surekha Sikri was the kind of star who proved that age can't overshadow talent. And even though her acting prowess was no secret, Bollywood failed to cast her in a leading role.

Surekha Sikri
Source: OTT play

2. Ashish Vidyarthi

Ashish Vidyarthi won the National Film Award for Supporting Actor for his performance as Commander Bhadra in Drohkaal. But Bollywood was far too content with casting him as the 'token villain', never giving him the chance to lead. 

Ashish Vidyarthi
Source: Daily Pioneer

3. Rajeshwari Sachdev

Latthe Di Chadar may be the video everyone remembers her for, but Rajeshwari Sachdev's filmography includes multiple movies, across languages, that constitute groundbreaking cinema. And yet, even after winning the National Film Award for Shyam Benegal's film Sardari Begum, Sachdev never played the protagonist in a Bollywood movie. 

Rajeshwari Sachdev
Source: TOI

4. Atul Kulkarni

Kulkarni, who won the National Film Award twice, for Hey Ram and Chandni Bar, has acted in movies in 6 different languages. But he has never been cast as a lead in a mainstream Hindi-language film. He was, however, cast as a lead in the Marathi drama, Natarang. 

Atul Kulkarni
Source: Latestly

5. Suhasini Mulay 

Suhasini Mulay won the National Film Award for Hu Tu Tu in 1999, but apart from the 1982 Assamese film Aparoopa, she never got the lead role. In fact, she started appearing in 'mother roles' in 2001 itself, with Lagaan

Suhasini Mulay
Source: India Today

6. Amruta Subhash

An NSD graduate, Subhash is a regular in Marathi-language cinema and even won her National Film Award for the 2015 film Astu. But Bollywood still wants to cast her in supporting roles only. Though web series and short films have provided her with meatier roles, it's time mainstream cinema recognizes her talent as well.

Amruta Subhash
Source: HT

7. Annu Kapoor

Annu Kapoor won the National Film Award in 2013, for Vicky Donor. However, he has been winning over the audience with his brilliant performances for over 4 decades now, but never as a leading hero. 

Annu Kapoor in Vicky Donor
Source: IMDb

8. Manoj Joshi

A Padma Shri recipient, Manoj Josh is a theatre, TV, and movie veteran, who won the National Film Award for the Marathi drama, Dashkriya. But he has been relegated to mostly comedy roles in mainstream cinema, and never played the lead.

Manoj Joshi
Source: Desh Gujarat

9. Pallavi Joshi

Pallavi Joshi became a household name with her phenomenal performance in the drama, Alpviram. But while she still got to play the lead in certain art films and regional-language movies, mainstream Hindi cinema was far too content to cast her as 'heroine's friend' and nothing more. SMH. 

Pallavi Joshi
Source: Wikimedia

Apart from this list, there are also actors, like Divya Dutta or Neena Gupta, who were not given the chances they deserved, In fact, Neena Gupta won the National Film Award for Woh Chokri in 1994, but the closest Bollywood came to casting her in a lead role was in 2018, with Badhaai Ho. Finally, in 2019, she starred as the lead in The Last Color.

Neena Gupta in the last color
Source: Indian Express

While some actors did star as leads in regional-language cinema or Indie movies, mainstream Hindi-language lead roles remained elusive. At the same time, popular actors, with not nearly enough talent, continued to dominate the silver screen. And that, is a real travesty.