‘Kaamyaab’ Actors: Remember the Face, But Can’t Put a Name to It?
Remembering some of Bollywood’s most memorable character actors.
Sanjay Mishra-starrer Kaamyaab which releases this weekend puts the spotlight on Bollywood’s lesser known character actors. These are artistes we may recognise by face, and yet struggle to put a name to because they aren’t a Bachchan, Kapoor or Khan.
A tribute to the nameless character artiste, the release of Kaamyaab is reason enough for us to celebrate some of these versatile character artistes we’ve seen so often on the big screen. While a few actors like Nirupa Roy, Mac Mohan, Om Prakash, Dina Pathak and Keshto Mukherjee became popular enough for us to recall, here are some actors we may fail to identify:
Sudhir (Bhagwandas Mulchand Luthria)
Always seen with the villain as a side-kick, Sudhir was omnipresent in almost all Hindi films of the 80s and 90s. Yup, he’s the guy you would often spot with a menacing drawl alongside a Ranjit or Prem Chopra. Most remembered for playing Som, one of Amitabh Bachchan’s six brothers in Satte Pe Satta, Sudhir might be recalled by the younger generation for his appearances in Baadshah and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. But, most 80s kids will remember him for playing Jaichand in Deewar - the man who throws a coin at a young Amitabh Bachchan, only to be told “paise utha ke haath mein do”, setting the mood for the super hit dialogue, “main aaj bhi feke hue paise nahi uttha tha”.
You might find it impossible to recognise Jagdish Raj if he isn’t wearing a police uniform. Apparently, even the people at the Guinness World Records couldn’t overlook the fact that Jagdish Raj played a cop in around 144 films and gave him a certificate for it. Actor Anita Raj’s dad, Jagdish Raj played the police inspector in many of Amitabh Bachchan’s successful films in the 70s and 80s including Deewar, Don and Shakti.
Your mausi-next-door, Leela Mishra entered the hall-of-fame of Bollywood character actors just by being a part of the hugely hilarious comedy scene with Amitabh Bachchan in Sholay. Everyone knows her as Sholay’s mausi but she’s fondly remembered for her role in films like Prem Rog, Katha and Sadma too.
David Abraham Cheulkar
Easily one of the most affable faces among Bollywood character actors, David Abraham Cheulkar was a Jewish-Indian who was awarded the Padmashri in 1969. He’s probably as recognised as an Om Prakash or AK Hangal, having been a part of hits such as Chupke Chupke, Khubsoorat, Gol Maal, Baton Baton Mein and Abhimaan. However, it won’t be surprising if not many movie goers actually know his name. David’s most celebrated film remains Boot Polish, in which he played John Chacha and appeared in the song ‘Nanhe Munne Bachche...’. The film was a Palme d’Or nominee at Cannes and won David the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor award for it.
If there’s anyone who could give Jagdish Raj competition when it came to portraying a cop on the big screen, it’s Iftekhar. He was an incredibly talented actor who’s been part of classics such as Bandini, Sangam, Shaheed, Teesri Manzil, Teesri Kasam, Johny Mera Naam, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, The Gambler and Sholay. However, Iftekhar would be popularly remembered for his roles in Amitabh Bachchan-starrers Deewar, Don and Zanjeer. He played the angry-young-Bachchan’s mentor in Deewar. Iftekhar as Daavar is the man who spots a young Bachchan and predicts that he will be a ‘lambi race ka ghoda’ who will leave everyone behind.
Need a sleazy looking comic villain? Enter, the evil Roopesh Kumar. This character actor is yet another well-known face in Bollywood of the 70s and 80s. Roopesh has been a part of hit films such as Andaz, Seeta Aur Geeta, Chacha Bhatija, The Great Gambler and Jaani Dushman, so there’s no way an avid film-buff would have missed seeing him. Also, lesser known facts about Roopesh Kumar - his real name was Abbas Farashahi, he even directed and produced two Hindi films. Also, Roopesh breathed his last on the way to the hospital after having a heart attack while attending the Filmfare Awards ceremony in 1995.
Gita Siddharth was a versatile actor who was a part of both acclaimed art house films like Garam Hava and hugely popular mainstream multi-starrers like Trishul. In terms of her roles, Gita was the poor man’s Nirupa Roy in most Bollywood potboilers of the 80s. Interesting trivia - Gita Siddarth, also known as Gita Kak, was married to TV presenter Siddarth Kak, the man behind the popular Doordarshan series Surabhi.
Remember the “mera baap chor hai” tattoo on Amitabh Bachchan’s arm in Deewar, that left him with so many issues? Satyen Kappu is the infamous ‘baap’ from the super hit Yash Chopra film. Having started his career an actor with IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association), Satyen could transform himself into any role, be it doctor, police office, smuggler, uncle-next-door or trade union leader. Apart from Deewar, it’s his role in Sholay as Thakur Baldev Singh’s trusted domestic help Ramlal, that made Satyen Kappu a familiar face.
The burly Sharat Saxena who kicked off his career as an actor in Hindi films in the early 70s is still going strong. Besides Hindi, Saxena has made his presence felt in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films as well. Most Keralites will remember him as the evil Samar Khan in Mohanlal and Revathi’s super hit comedy Kilukkam. From Tridev to Baghban and from Bajrangi Bhaijaan to Dabangg 3, it’s hard to come across a mainstream Hindi film that does not star Saxena. However, his most memorable role will arguably remain as Daaga - Mogambo’s side-kick from Mr India.
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