Sanjay Mishra as ageing character actor Sudheer in a still from <i>Kaamyaab</i>.

‘Kaamyaab’ Is a Tribute to the Nameless Side Heroes of B’wood 

Who gets to decide who becomes a star and who is a supporting actor?

Movie Reviews
4 min read


‘Kaamyaab’ Is a Tribute to the Nameless Side Heroes of B’wood

How does one measure success in Bollywood? For that matter, how does one measure success anywhere? When we meet Sudheer (Sanjay Mishra) – a husk of a man with greying hair slouching on a chair in a dilapidated house – it isn’t an image one would associate with someone kaamyaab or successful. The TV anchor asks him to repeat one of his famous dialogues and Sudheer listlessly regurgitates it. The interview doesn’t go as planned, but Sudheer is a man on a mission by the end of it.

As details bleed out slowly, we realise Sudheer played a number of supporting roles during the 70’s and 80’s with considerable success in Bollywood. After being embroiled unwittingly into a scandalous role in his last film, he hung up his boots, but he now is determined to make a comeback. “What changed overnight?” his friends ask. An animated Sudheer explains that at the time he retired, he didn’t know he had done 499 films. He now is desperate for his 500th big screen appearance.

Hardik Mehta’s ‘Kaamyaab’ treads where most mainstream Bollywood films don’t by putting the spotlight on the actor rather than the star. What’s the difference between the two?
Sanjay Mishra as a yesteryear character actor out to score his 500th role.
Sanjay Mishra as a yesteryear character actor out to score his 500th role.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube Screengrab)

That ephemeral star quality – is it cultivated or does a glorious stroke of serendipity bestow it on the person? It’s a tribute to the many memorable performances and performers who have graced the silver screen and been a part of popular culture. They have an unmistakable, almost comforting familiarly about them – a dialogue or a particular role etched out for eternity, a cult following. And yet, they fade away in the presence of the almost blinding focus on the ‘star’.

It’s as much about the strange distinction we make between who we call a supporting actor and who we call a star as it is about the heartbreaking fight for relevance and respect one is forced into in an industry where age isn’t looked upon kindly.

In one particular scene Birbal, Viju Khote, Ramesh Goyal, Anil Nagrath, Lilliput and Manmauji are shown chatting together. It’s a memorable moment; these are people who we recognise immediately and this nostalgia comes with a jab of pain as one realises that we all have been guilty of taking their presence for granted. Like the school principal who on spotting Sudheer knows he is famous because she has seen him in multiple films but then can’t help but ask him his name.

How does one stay relevant in an industry that looks unkindly upon age, asks <i>Kaamyaab</i>.
How does one stay relevant in an industry that looks unkindly upon age, asks Kaamyaab.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube Screengrab)

In the glittering spotlight accompanying stardom many others get washed out. While the film does a fine job of putting across this point, it somewhere restricts itself and doesn’t delve deeper into the subject. But even if mostly operating on the surface level, the requisite emotional play off makes it a fulfilling experience.

Sanjay Mishra brings to life the portrait of a man who mines the wisdom and vulnerability that comes with growing old. It’s a hat tip to his own on screen avatars where Mishra has flawlessly played every character and yet the loudest cheers and whistles are reserved for the entry of the superstar.

There is a quiet dignity that Mishra imbues Sudheer with and makes him his own like few can. Isha Talwar with whom he shares an unlikely friendship, or the delicate, precariously balanced bond he shares with his daughter give us an insight into his emotional make up. Sarika Singh as Sudheer’s daughter who is unable to understand his need to make a come back is brilliant . Deepak Dobriyal in the role of casting director Dinesh Gulati is exceptional. His comic timing has always been on point and the audition scenes with Sanjay Mishra where he directs him to underplay and leave the melodrama of the 80’s behind are a hoot. The humour highlights the fact that while so much has changed in Bollywood so much still hasn’t.

Written and directed by Hardik Mehta, with dialogues by Radhika Anand, Kamyaab is a smart commentary on Bollywood and the magic of star power. How does one deal with being irrelevant after heady days of success? What does it mean to be kaamyaab? Can it mean different things to different people? And while it makes some very relevant observations about the stock characters that Bollywood conjured up – that of the police inspector or doctor or hero ka side kick – it also makes us realise how we all have been guilty of not realising the indelible mark they have left on our collective psyche and popular culture. Kaamyaab is an ode to not just the larger-than-life victory laps on the big screen but also the quiet struggle in staying afloat in everyday life. As Sudheer’s own famous dialogue goes, “Bas enjoying life aur option kya hai?”

3.5 quints out of 5!

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