Bollywood sells on the brand of an actor’s stardom. Yes, they’re mutually exclusive, but extremely necessary to survive in Bollywood. If you’re an actor, you don’t need any stardom. And if you’re a star, it doesn’t really matter if you can act.
There’s a horde of actors who play supporting roles to the protagonists, give the film a new lease of credibility and yet they go unnoticed. The stars walk away with the massive paycheck, and these actors slowly become ‘has-beens’. We compile a list of some of the most significant actors in mainstream Hindi films, who we hope eventually get their due in the future.
1. Radhika Apte
Famous for her sensational contribution to regional cinema (Bengali, Tamil, Marathi) she made a quiet, beautiful debut in Shor: In The City. After that, she followed it up with films like the critically-acclaimed Hunterrr and Badlapur. We hope to see many more brilliant performances before she is put down as an ‘art-house actress’.
2. Bhoomi Pednekar
She is the find of 2015. Making her debut opposite Ayushman Khurrana as the pleasantly plump Sandhya – she broke all stereotypes of what a mainstream Hindi film actress should look like to carry a ‘hit film’. Adequately supported by Ayushmann, Bhoomi won everyone’s hearts with her performance.
3. Manu Rishi
Manu made a splash in Bollywood with Dibakar Banerji’s Oye lucky lucky oye! as Abhay Deol’s sidekick ‘Bangali’. He also cracked us up with his bumbling performance in Phas Gaye Re Obama! We wish to see more of him.
4. Tahir Raj Bhasin
You don’t really expect exciting antagonists from Yashraj. Pradeep Sarkar’s Mardaani saw the rise of a particular young kid who is the head of a human-trafficking syndicate, engaging in a battle of wits with Rani Mukherjee – a police officer. Tahir Raj Bhasin impressed plenty of people with the way he held his own, and made a sinister character out of Walt.
5. Surveen Chawala
A TV veteran and know for her work in Punjabi films, she grabbed the eye-balls with the racy Hate Story 2. However, she used her oomph and showcased some acting chops in Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly - we hope she arrives.
6. Anand Tiwari
He got everyone’s attention with his line in the Tata Tea commercial – “If you’re not voting during elections, you’re sleeping.” He has played many many likeable roles in movies like Udaan, Kites, Go Goa Gone . He was easily the best thing about Aisha along with Amrita Puri and recently came into the spotlight with Detective Byomkesh Bakshy as Ajit. We sincerely hope he gets his due!
7. Manish Chaudhary
He’s been around for a long long time, and yet he made his first solid impact as an actor on me as the Abhay Deol’s elder brother in Socha Na Tha and then as snarling, greedy businessman in Rocket Singh. After that he’s again gone back to the father roles – when in fact he deserves more.
8. Abhimanyu Singh
He was one of the primary reasons why Gulaal was a solid film. His electrifying presence in the first half of the film as the braveheart in the midst of college politics in the hinterlands of Rajasthan, turned many heads. He’s played few significant roles after that film, barring his portrayals of villains in South Indian films. Highly underrated.
9. Naveen Kaushik
He made a lasting impact as the senior salesman in Rocket Singh. Sadly no one’s really seen a lot of him after that movie, barring a few ads or some bank manager in some film. Only wish he would get more opportunities.
10. Gulshan Devaiah
The psyched-out rich brat from Shaitan, or his Kannadiga portrayal in That Girl In Yellow Boots and now to Bhansali’s Ramleela and his latest outing, Hunterrr – Gulshan Devaiah has actually played it selective up till now – however, deserves more fame and spotlight.
11. Ranvir Shorey
It’s really sad that THIS guy is still on the list. He’s one of the most gifted actors who made a dent with their supporting roles in Pyaar ke Side Effects, Khosla ka Ghosla – and he’s had some terrific collaborations with Rajat Kapoor in the form of Mithya and Fatso! With the impending release of Titli - we hope he finally gets the applause he deserves so so so much.
12. Rajesh Sharma
Really well-known in the Bengali film industry, this man made a solid first impression in Khosla ka Ghosla as Boman Irani’s secretary. Ever since, he’s played bit-roles with high impact in No one killed Jessica, Special 26, Luv shuv tey Chicken Khurana and Ghanchakkar.
13. Vikrant Massey
Starting out as a TV actor, Massey made a smooth transition into films by playing a supporting role to Ranveer Singh’s character in Lootera . His performance was earnest, and he will next be seen in Zoya Akhtar’s next Dil Dhadakne Do. We wish him luck!
14. Brijendra Kala
An extremely well-known face in the movies, and shockingly enough, hardly anyone even knows his name. He was that goofy taxi driver in Jab We Met , the idol seller in PK , the reporter in Paan Singh Tomar. Deserves so much more recognition!
15. Suraj Sharma
The boy from Life of Pi made a huge impact with his heart-felt debut, and then followed it up by playing an integral part in the fourth season of Homeland. It’s strange, being a Delhi boy he hasn’t been approached or been seen in anything closer home.
16. Adil Hussain
He won over everyone with his sarcastic-yet noble middle class husband in English Vinglish. He’s a revered figure in the national theatre scene, and he’s also played several small roles in Kaminey, Lootera, The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Life of Pi. He belongs in the league of Irfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddique.
17. Pawan Malhotra
He’s probably the most recognizable face in this whole list and yet he’s hardly made any fame in this acting profession. Outstanding performances in Black Friday, Jab We Met, Delhi 6, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag have ensured that he will live on in our consciousness forever! Also, it wouldn’t be so bad if we took our hat out for his stellar performances.
18. Saqib Saleem
Made an impression with Yashraj’s Mujhse Fraandship Karoge and Mere Dad ki Maruti and after that really shone through in Karan Johar’s short in Bombay Talkies. This talented newcomer, who also happens to be Huma Qureshi’s brother, is in the fray for becoming the next big thing in Bollywood. We hope, he does.
19. Swara Bhaskar
She played significant parts in Anand L Rai’s Tanu weds Manu and Raanjahana. She has been making headway into the ad sector, endorsing brands like Dove, Sprite etc.
20. Ali Fazal
Known as the kid who strums ‘Give me some sunshine..’ in 3 Idiots, Ali Fazal has played many significant parts in films endorsed by big names including Shahrukh Khan and the Bhatts. He even did a small cameo in the seventh instalment of the Furious franchise.
21. Kunal Roy Kapur
That fat guy from Delhi Belly, with the tummy problems – or better known as the brother of UTV honcho Siddharth Roy Kapur and VJ-turned-actor Aditya Roy Kapur. He’s worked in a few indie films like Loins of Punjab Presents .
22. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub
The antagonist in No One Killed Jessica, he did a splendid job as the despicable Manu Sharma. He followed it up with supporting roles in Raanjhana and Mere Brother ki Dulhan. So underrated.
23. Amrita Puri
The best thing about Aisha along with Anand Tiwari, she hasn’t got any major opportunities apart from Kai Po Chhe. She’s a fantastic actor and deserves so much more in terms of projects, fame and money.
24. Jimmy Shergill
Known as the Shahrukh Khan for the B-grade films, he’s more than a competent actor which he has proved in films like Sahib, Biwi aur Gangster and so many others.
25. Vijay Raaz
Not many people might take him seriously for his looks, but it still remains a fact that he was the best thing about Delhi Belly and Dedh Ishqiya . He also plays an integral part in the most tender love story of the 2000s in Monsoon Wedding .
26. Shreyas Talpade
Stellar debut in Iqbal followed up with another brilliant performance in Dor saw him land a role alongside Shahrukh Khan in Om Shanti Om. And after that a few films with Sajid Khan, Farah Khan and Rohit Shetty spelled doom for his career. Deserves so much more!
27. Atul Kulkarni
Known for his stellar performances in Chandani Bar and Rang De Basanti - Kulkarni made a name for himself for the supporting roles and the antagonist. Still a major proponent of Marathi films – people should watch him unleash his brilliance in regional film Natrang.
28. Rajkumar Rao
Making his debut in a very unlikable role in Dibakar Banerji’s Love, Sex aur Dhokha – it took him just one scene in Talaash alongside Aamir Khan to prove his worth as an actor when he gets caught in the middle of a fight between his boss and his wife. With strong leading roles in Shahid , Queen and Citylights - he still hasn’t got his due as an actor.
29. Vipin Sharma
Coming into the spotlight with a father routine in Aamir Khan’s Taare Zameen Par - Vipin Sharma has played a few interesting characters after that in Paan Singh Tomar and Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana.
30. Aditya Srivastava
Popular as CID’s Abhijeet – he played the role of lifetime in Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday. As Badshah Khan, he owned the film as the misled fundamentalist manipulated to bomb the city of Bombay in ’93.
31. Pitobash Tripathy
Catching everyone’s attention in Shor In The City – he earned a significant role in Dibakar Banerji’s Shanghai and International project Million Dollar Arm. Amazing actor deserves more work!
32. Annu Kapoor
He’s been the untapped potential for far too long. Winning hearts as Dr Chadha in Vicky Donor – Annu Kapoor has been around for far too long without getting his due credit as an actor.
33. Amole Gupte
Making his debut in Vishal Bharadwaj’s Kaminey – Amole Gupte played the role of Bhau with elan and the poise of a veteran. He followed it up with his own film called Stanley ka Dabba.
34. Deepak Dobriyal
Another find by Vishal Bharadwaj – Deepak Dobriyal is one of the best things about Omkara. He has also played significant roles in Shaurya, Tanu Weds Manu.
35. Sanjay Mishra
He became a household name when he did his Apple Singh routine during the ’99 Cricket World Cup in England. He’s been around doing his bit in Rohit Shetty films and Rajat Kapoor films. He finally got a long-awaited role of a protagonist in last year’s Ankhon Dekhi.
36. Rajat Kapoor
Virtually unknown before his gig as Mahesh Uncle in Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai – he became popular after Madhur Bhandarkar’s Corporate. He’s directed a spate of well intentioned films, however, deserves so much more as an actor.
37. Yashpal Sharma
Better known as Lakha from Lagaan , he’s played great characters from all those Prakash Jha films and Ab Tak Chhappan . Brilliant actor!
38. Kay Kay Menon
So might disagree about whether it would be right to call him ‘underrated’. Watch Black Friday and Shaurya and ask yourself again, does this man not deserve more?
39. Richa Chaddha
Breaking out in Dibakar Banerji’s Oye Lucky Lucky Oye as Dolly, she came into her own in Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur as Najma Khatoon. She has a raw energy about herself that needs to be acknowledged before she’s long forgotten.
40. Vrajesh Hirjee
He’s done hero’s best friend routine and the film’s comic element only too many times. He’s a much better actor than the opportunities that have been presented to him.
41. Nandita Das
Making a mark in a series of films in the late 90s alternate cinema like Deepa Mehta’s Fire and 1947: Earth. She got so fed up with the regular fare of Bollywood, she took a sabbatical and directed the hard-hitting Firaaq. It’s Bollywood’s loss that she isn’t doing films anymore.
42. Neeraj Kabi
It is difficult to stand out in a film like Ship of Theseus. The concept of the film is unlike anything that’s ever been made in India. And yet Neeraj Kabi does it with the elan of a seasoned warrior – deft, sharp, not eager to impress. He pushes up the credibility of Detective Byomkesh Bakshy by a notch.
43. Manoj Joshi
Featuring regularly in all Priyadarshan movies for comic relief or the Gujarati-spouting uncle, Manoj Joshi has played his roles to perfection. Only recently, he owns each and every scene in Hasee Toh Phasee as the father of the bride.
44. R Madhavan
This young heartthrob from South might have had his share of stardom, early on in his career. However, he’s a much more polished actor than the love stories he’s been known for – just watch that pre-intermission scene in Guru.
45. Imaad Shah
Naseeruddin Shah’s elder son made his debut in the forgettable Dil, Dosti Etc. He’s played supporting roles in films like The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
46. Ashutosh Rana
Bollywood’s take on Silence of the Lambs was only remotely watchable because of this man’s electrifying persona. No one can match his intensity as a villain!
47. D Santosh
Shot to fame as Rajguru in Rajkumar Santoshi’s The Legend of Bhagat Singh - he’s played significant supporting roles in Khakee and Rocket Singh: Salesman of the year.
48. Arshad Warsi
Such a fine actor and yet needs to make a movie with Jacky Bhagnani to support himself these days. For those who haven’t seen Sehar or Jolly LLB – his performance lifts these mediocre films by a notch.
49. Ronit Roy
His discovery in Udaan was almost like a fairytale for any TV actor looking to make it in films. Starring as the abusive, alcoholic father in Jamshedpur – Ronit Roy steals every scene he’s in. Anyone think that was a fluke? Watch Ugly.
50. Rajit Kapur
The original Byomkesh Bakshi – he played only one memorable role in Hindi films. In Vikram Bhatt’s Ghulam he plays the elder brother to Aamir Khan’s character and in one scene’s altercation, Kapoor shows his mettle as an actor. Terribly underutilised.