Bollywood finally sets stage for theatre veterans

New Delhi, April 21 For long they've played second fiddle to mainstream actors in films despite a strong theatre background. But the tables have turned for veterans like Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Irrfan and Om Puri who graduated from stage to

Saturday, April 21, 2012 | 12:23:51 PM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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New Delhi, April 21 (IANS) For long they've played second fiddle to mainstream actors in films despite a strong theatre background. But the tables have turned for veterans like Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Irrfan and Om Puri who graduated from stage to screen and are bagging prominent roles in Bollywood.

The change is more than welcome, says Anupam, who recently played the key role of a blind man in Pramod Joshi's "Chhodo Kal Ki Baatein".

"It is good to see that theatre actors are finally getting acceptance. This is happening because Indian filmmakers today are looking forward to making meaningful cinema and they want actors who can add authenticity to the role," Anupam, a graduate from National School of Drama (NSD), told IANS.

Anupam, who also runs an acting school called Actor Prepares, admits his theatre experience helped him essay the role of a blind man with ease. This was also the case with his other memorable performances in "Saaransh", "Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara", "Khosla Ka Ghosla" and "A Wednesday".

Another NSD graduate, Irrfan, is doing wonders in his career.

His recent release "Paan Singh Tomar", a small budget film, turned out to be a winner in the critics' circle and also raked in moolah at the box office.

For director Tigmanshu Dhulia, Irrfan was a natural choice as he knew no one could do a better job of essaying the national level athlete-turned-notorious gangster than him.

"He (Irrfan) really worked hard and that is why I chose Irrfan because an actor like him could only do justice to this role," said Dhulia.

There are others like Boman Irani, Mohan Agashe, Manoj Bajpayee, Vikram Gokhale, Kirron Kher and Lilette Dubey, who made a successful shift from theatre to filmdom.

Unlike earlier, when most producers would just run after top league stars, a lot of filmmakers are now willing to take a chance with veterans as well as newcomers. And they do so with full confidence.

"Other stars don't have time to do such things (films). I wanted an actor who completely surrenders himself to the subject's need and does whatever is required and he (Irrfan) did that. He is a great actor," added Dhulia.

Irrfan has earlier given hardhitting performances in films like "Maqbool", "Life in a Metro", "The Namesake" and "7 Khoon Maaf". He even entered the international film world with projects like "A Mighty Heart" and "Slumdog Millionaire" and he has also been cast in "The Amazing Spider-Man".

Another formidable name from the theatre world is Naseeruddin Shah. In showbiz for the past 35 years, he was most associated with off-beat and parallel cinema. But that has changed with time.

He has proved his versatility with recent projects -- be it as a cricket coach in "Iqbal", a common man ready to change the system in "A Wednesday", a conman in "Ishqiya" or a casanova in "The Dirty Picture".

He feels lucky he is able to do so many roles even after so many years.

"It is extremely gratifying, flattering almost, that so many young people find place for me in their films. I'm probably being offered better parts now than I was being offered five years ago or for that matter in my 35-year-old career," said Naseer, who is now looking forward to the release of his solo lead "Michael".

A rare feat that is for a 61-year-old.

Om Puri, who went to the NSD for three years, followed by a stint at Pune's Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) to polish his acting skills, also admits it is a joy to see veterans like them are finally getting recognition and a chance to play roles of their choice.

NSD alumnus Raghuvir Yadav is especially content with the space theatre actors are getting in commercial Indian cinema.

"It gives me immense happiness and pleasure to see that NSD pass-outs are getting so much appreciation. There are many actors in both television and films whose acting lacks depth," said Raghuvir, who is known for his performances in films like "Lagaan" and "Peepli Live" and most recently featured in "Gandhi to Hitler", where he played Hitler.

(Priyanka Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])

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