The Outliers

Tags: Films

While the top stars of Bollywood bask in the full glare of the spotlight and walk away with fat pay-cheques and awards, there are a few average lookers who are guaranteed to steal the show each time

The Outliers
By and large, Bollywood is considered to be a haven of nepotism. If the lucky progeny of Bollywood’s A-listers aren’t being launched in a lavish debut film then they are busy being set up by daddy dear for a career behind the camera. As such lakhs of talented and starry-eyed newcomers arrive in the film-industry only to realize that there is no space for them. Mumbai is rife with numerous sad stories of strugglers who survived for years on the fringes of the industry always waiting

and hoping for their big celluloid break. Only a tiny fraction of that number manage to find enough roles to survive in the entertainment industry and

only an infinitely smaller group, the select few, manage to find break-through roles which showcase their superior acting chops and earn them a cult status among discerning fans. For precisely none of them did success come easy. Ignored and scorned for years, they had the wisdom and patience to bide their time all the while performing small roles to keep the kitchen fires burning.

The best thing about time is that it changes. No one knows this better than Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who upon graduating from the National School of Drama (NSD) in the nineties, had to struggle for over a decade. He finally debuted with a small role in the Aamir Khan starrer, Sarfarosh, played a waiter in Shool, then appeared for a few seconds in the opening scene of Munnabhai MBBS. This was followed by a few years of exile in TV land. It was Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday and the epic Gangs of Wasseypur that put him firmly on the map. After that there was no looking back. He stole the show with his role as the bumbling journalist Chaand Nawab in the Salman Khan-starrer Bajrangi Bhaijaan and his impressive roles in Peepli Live, New York, Kahaani, Talaash, The Lunchbox, Raman Raghav 2.0 and the recent Mom have only cemented his reputation as an actor who is in league of his own.

Siddiqui credits his years of struggle to helping him add muscle to his performances. “In this industry, you’ll hear of one or two NSD graduates who make it,” he says. “What happens to the rest? How do they live their lives? Once I too was looked down upon as a rejected actor. I had no work for 12 years and I was a trained actor. Apart from that, I’ve a lot of life experience wherein I observed thousands of people. So now, I’m gradually using my stock of those 12 years. All that experience helps you somewhere or the other, it reflects in your performances.”

In 2012 his fortunes changed when Anurag Kashyap gave him his breakout role as Faizal Khan in the Gangs Of Wasseypur. Today Siddiqui, who will next be seen in Munna Michael, Chanda Mama Door Ke and the Nandita Das-film on Saadat Hasan Manto, says he has no regrets. “I don’t regret I struggled and that I didn't have a backing or that it would’ve been any less difficult had I been a star kid. I’m my father’s son and that’s enough I think.”

Actress Divya Dutta, who has worked in nearly 100 films, has also made her peace with the space character actors occupy in the film industry. In a recent interview she explained why she does not feel there is discrimination between actors and top stars for a role. “I have heard very fine actors like Manoj Bajpayee, Irrfan Khan, Kay Kay Menon and Nawazuddin Siddiqui lament that the discrepancy in the pay scale is too vast, especially when they are roped into commercial films to prop up stars with their acting chops.” In Bollywood it’s all about actors and film stars with a vast chasm in the kind of remuneration they recieve. Does the difference in pay-scale and stature rankle? Dutta has explained the difference stating, “Stature-wise I can never be kept off the same pedestal. I have always been included in the A-list of artistes. If a certain thing is given to the A-lister, it is also given to me. I am not told to keep my staff minimal, or asked why I need a double vanity van. I am very fair in asking for the few things I want, and they give them to me. Pay-scale wise, of course, there are discrepancies. But that is an issue of demand and supply… Also, the film may be selling on so-and-so person’s name because they are bringing in the crowd. But pay scales have increased with every film. And it is increasing for me also. But if I say I want the same remuneration and perks as Deepika Padukone, then it is not happening. I mean, we are two different people. She is a star and an actor of total commercial value. Our graphs are different. I am an actor, I will fit into any role, and I have my significance. People will not call me for anything. They will call me only when they need me. So I have my own brand value. I charge how much I want to charge, and if they need me, they take me. At the same time, if I really want to do something and if it belongs to that smaller scale of film, I will bring down my price. So, I will not do things for money. Money comes. You should be happy doing what you’re doing. I wouldn’t leave a film for money.”

Kay Kay Menon doesn’t sound so hopeful. A well-respected actor, he made a name for himself with gritty performances in films like Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Gulaal, Life in A Metro, Black Friday and Sarkaar. When asked why he was hardly ever offered single-hero roles in Bollywood, Menon responded, “I would

love to… See, our country has certain problems, certain psychological problems. We are dynasty lovers. We love the fact that this guy comes from this family and we start giving them concessions.

We are a jingoistic nation — whether it is politics or films or whatever. We can posthumously shower praises and accolades on people, but when they are alive, we don’t bother about them. A classic case is Om Puri. My surname is Menon. I

have no connection with a film industry.

But he went on add that this reality had not made him bitter? “It makes me sad sometimes. We have a role to play and we’ll play that to the hilt. We are making films for posterity, not for a three-day business. That is not a film. It is a money-making business. It is a hit-and-run case where you sell a Ponzi scheme to someone and run off with their money. It’s as bad as that. The only difference is that you won’t get arrested for it. You create a package of sorts with five-six names, market it, and sell it for three days, because you know that on the fourth day, it will crash. You make your money and get out. People are experts at doing that, and it’s legitimate, so who are we to say anything.” Menon says that his goal is to do the best with whatever role he is given. “I try to do something within those parameters that will satisfy (me). But sometimes the parameters are so limited, that you can’t even push that much because it cannot go with the language of the film. Then I would be considered to be dumb. I would have loved to live in a farmhouse, but I can manage well in a one-room flat. Parameters don’t matter.”


in Mumbai, actor-writer Saurabh Shukla says he is grateful for the new lease of life his career has received after his much-appreciated peformances in Barfi and

Jolly LLB. But he also

admits his journey has not been easy.

“Being a good actor is the biggest cross one carries. People would say you belong to a different class, don’t do roles in regular films but I wanted to tell them that I have a house to run. So I do commercial films for which I charge money, but I also do two films a year for free. I guess, in that sense, it all leads up to something,” he has said.

An unparalleled performer, theatre actor, music director, lyricist, singer & scriptwriter Piyush Mishra is considered one of NSD’s greatest talents.

He made his Bollywood debut with Mani Ratnam’s 1998 film Dil Se then pulled off a brilliant act as Kaka, Abbaji’s “left-hand man” in Maqbool and then went on to steal the show in Gulaal. His scintillating performance in Gangs of Wasseypur was simply the cherry on top.

When asked about his years of struggle, Mishra recalls, “I went to Bombay in 1989 but came back within a year to Delhi. I think that was the best decision I ever took. I didn’t know how to struggle and those days were different. I understood that even if Bombay was made for me, this was not the right time. I came back to Delhi and then started theatre, which did really well.” Time and experience has tempered his outlook and he sounds almost pragmatic when asked about what advice he would give aspiring character actors. “See, you have to first judge yourself if you are capable of doing it or not. You have to be your own mirror and see a clear reflection. We all come to Bombay and think that if given a chance we are no less than Amitabh Bachchan or Shahrukh Khan. But you have to first understand the thing that Amitabh or Shahrukh has and you don’t. And you need to work on that.” Mishra has inspired many aspiring actors when he advised that one should never succumb to pessimism or inertia. “My one advice is to keep working constantly. You are not allowed to just sit and relax. You cannot stop working even for a moment. That’s the one thing that has always helped me.”

Deepak Dobriyal

Popular Characters: Pappi, Genda and Rajoh Tiwari

Films: Tanu Weds Manu, Omkara, Gulaal, Delhi-6, Maqbool, Dabangg 2, Tanu Weds Manu Returns etc

This 5 ft 8 inch actor may weigh a scrawny 68 kilos, but he makes quite the impact with his cinematic punches. With many awards, accolades and A-list films under his belt, Deepak Dobriyal boasts of a resume in film that many A-list celebrities would be envious of. Dobriyal’s acts are lasting and his distinguished and indelible performances far outlive the movie itself. There’s no chance you could have missed his performances in movies like Gulaal, Delhi–6 and Dabangg 2 or the very recent Hindi Medium. The 42-year-old comes from humble roots, born in Pauri, Garhwal, Uttarakhand, he completed his education from the Government Boys Senior Secondary School Begumpur.

Starting his acting career with theatre is possibly why he’s so good at his job. In 1994 he worked with eminent theatre director Arvind Gaur for 6 years playing characters of Girish Karnad, Bertolt Brecht and William Shakespear. Thus familiar with the finer aspects of character acting in 2007 he won the Filmfare Special Performance award for Omkara. Often referred to as ‘Pappi’ from his famous character in the films Tanu Weds Manu I & II in 2012 and 2015, Dobriyal made his debut with the 2003 film Maqbool. The Tanu Weds Manu series earned him nominations for the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award 2016; he won the IIFA Award for Best Performance in a Comic Role and the Apsara Award for Best Actor in a Comic Role for Tanu Weds Manu. In 2015 he won the Most Entertaining Actor in a Comedy Role (Male) for Tanu Weds Manu Returns at the Renault Sony Guild Award along with the award for Best Performance in a Comic Role for Tanu Weds Manu Returns at the Star Screen Awards.

While studying for his Bachelor of Art Degree in 2000 in Delhi University he joined the Act One Theatre Group and Acting and Improvisation, N.K. Sharma. He has acted in plays like Desire Under the Elms, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, The Good Person of Szechwa.

Upcoming Movie:

Idi Prema Katha Kadu (Telugu)

Release Date: 25 Dec 2019

Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub

Popular Characters: Manu Sharma, Arun ‘Chintu’ Kumar Singh and Sadiq

Films: No One Killed Jessica, Raees, Tubelight, Tanu Weds Manu 2, Jannat 2, Raanjhanaa etc.

Despite his young age, Delhi boy Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub has made a mark on the silver screen. Everyone knows it’s hard for a 32-year-old to land meaty roles on the big screen, but Md. Zesshan Ayyub landed his first ‘big’ role in 2011 at the age of 27 in the film No One Killed Jessica. Acting is not incidental to Ayyub, as this Kirori Mal College graduate has studied performing arts at the acclaimed National School of Drama (NSD). He has been nominated thrice for his supporting role in Raanjhanaa and has also won the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival award.

Young boys often land in Bollywood with stars in

their eyes to assay the role of the hero; Md. Zeeshan Ayyub has no qualms

about playing the

villain. One can recognise him for his negative roles—playing the lead Manu Sharma in No One Killed Jessica and more recently he played Shah Rukh Khan’s partner-in-crime in the film Raees.

With over 15 movies to his name the actor personalises his roles with style and has appeared as the main protagonist’s best friend in three consecutive movies— Mere Brother ki Dulhan (2011), Jannat 2 (2012) and Raanjhanaa (2013). Zeeshan has also shared screen space with Salman Khan in the 2017 film Tubelight.

The actor has tried his hands at television and made an appearance in in Kyunki Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai where he played he character “Abhimanyu.” He is married to TV Actress Rasika Agashe and in 2015 they couple gave birth to thier daughter Raahi.

Current Projects: Aiyaary (filming) (directed by Neeraj Pandey) 2018; Moothon (filming) 2018; Pashmina (pre-production) 2018; Untitled Aanand L. Rai Project (announced) 2018

Swara Bhaskar

Popular Characters: Anarkali, Chanda Sahay, Bindiya

Films: Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Raanjhanaa, Guzaarish, Nil Battey Sannata, Anaarkali of Aarah

Bhaskar needs no introduction, you might know her as Anarkali from the 2017 feature Anaarkali of Aarah, but many of you might not know that her full name is Swara Bhaskar Chitrapu.

The young actor has already received recognition for her roles and won the Zee Cine Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role- female in the film Tanu Weds Manu and Raanjhanaa. She also won the Screen Awards Best Supporting Actress for Ranjhanaa and the Screen Awards Best Actress – Critics choice for Nil Battey Sannata. Bhaskar has received international recognition and won the Best Actress award at the Silk Road International Film Fetival for Nil Battey Sannata

The 29-year-old comes from an army background and is the daughter of Naval officer Chitrapu Uday Bhaskar (who is a professor of cinema studies).

Alongside being an actor Swara is also a trained Bharatnatyam dancer under Guru Leela Samson. She has a Bachelors degree in English literature from Miranda House, University of Delhi and enrolled in JNU to complete a Masters in Sociology.

She was associated with N.K. Sharma’s Act One theatre group and has made several television appearances. Swara has even hosted shows like Rangoli and Shyam Benegal’s Samivadhan. She was the main lead in the web television series It’s not that Simple. She can be remembered for her endearing roles in Tanu weds Manu as Payal Sinha Singh; an aggressive lover Bindiya in Raanjhanaa and Radhika Talwaar in Guzaarish.

Upcoming films: Mango and Veere Di Wedding

Radhika Apte

Films: Badlapur, Hunterr, Manjhi- The Mountain Man, Phobia (2017), Shor in the City, Parched, X: Past Is Present, Kaun Kitne Paani Mein, I Am, Rakht Charitra I & II, The Waiting Room etc.

Don’t be fooled by her tiny size, this powerhouse of talent has proved she has the ‘It’ factor.

Apte like most other actors began her career with theatre. But in less then a decade, the 30-year-old has already been featured in over 30 films and is a popular face in both Hindi and regional cinema like Tamil, Telugu and Marathi.

Don’t be fooled by her good likes either, she is an economics and mathematics graduate from Fergusson College and the daughter of Pune’s leading neurosurgeon Dr.Charudutt Apte. There’s more, she’s also a trained classical dancer having learnt Kathak under Rohini Bhate for eight years and has studied contemporary dance at London’s Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music.

Yes, she is not typical, and unlike other actors her marriage to British Composer Benedict Taylor in 2012 hasn’t come in the way of her acting either. She has received numerous nominations like the Stardust Award for Performer of the Year (Editor's Choice) for Manjhi -The Mountain Man; Producers Guild Film Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and Stardust Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Badlapur; Screen Award for Best Female Debut for Rakht Charitra I amongst others. Her first major role was in 2009 Bengali social drama Antaheen, but one more familiar with her portrayal in films like Badlapur and Shor in the City.

Apte played Lajjo in Parched for which she received the Best Actress at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles and was nominated at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne. At the Tribeca Film Festival in the United States, she won the award for Best Actress for her role in Madly. Apte has also Acted in short films like Darmiyan, Vakratunda Swaha, Anurag Kashyap’s That Day after Everyday, Stories by Rabindranath Tagore and has participated in a plethora of critically acclaimed plays across the country.

Upcoming FilmS: Shoot the Piano Player

Tillotama Shome

Popular Characters: Alice and Aruna Ahmedi,

Films: Monsoon Wedding, Hindi Medium, A Death In The Gunj, Children of War, Sold, The Letters etc.

Tillotama Shome

Popular Characters: Alice and Aruna Ahmedi,

Films: Monsoon Wedding, Hindi Medium, A Death In The Gunj, Children of War, Sold, The Letters etc.

A petite, young and dusky woman of about 5'3, contrived her way into the industry like a boss, meet Tillotama Shome. Fame came knocking at her door after a long haul in theatre. From the humid but sultry city of Kolkata, Tillotama got a chance to explore the many colours of India while growing up. She took refuge in art and went to the popular Lady Shriram College. Knowing deep down in her gut that she was meant to make it big, she followed the likes of Shakespeare and Milton with a Masters in Literature.

While her parents looked forward to a literary mascot in the making, Tillotama’s interests in acting grew once she joined Arvind Gaur's Asmita Theatre Group. Burning midnight oil, the 38-year-old sensation went to New York to study theatre. She didn’t begrudge learning or teaching and even taught theatre to 3rd degree convicts at a high security US prison.

Despite the murderous glances she was determined to make a mark. She got her big break in Mira Nair’s The Monsoon Wedding for which she received critical acclaim. Tilllotama was set to achieve even bigger things. Cutting the chase she bagged the role of Irrfan Khan’s daughter in an unconventional folktale Qissa and had one swooning over her unabashed portrayal of a girl raised as a boy.

Her thirst to leave an imprint made her excel at her work in movies like Children of War, Shanghai and recently A Death in the Gunj. Tillotama Shome bagged the best actress award in the New Horizons Competition of the seventh Abu Dhabi Film Festival for Qissa. After this there was no looking back and even her decision to marry Kunal Ross couldn’t keep her away from the business of cinema.

In the recent hit Hindi Medium, Tillotama proved that she could play more than just the tragic hero and her character was like a breath of fresh air. She has portrayed an obnoxious and fashion crazy character with panache. Reliving her fascination for literature especially Shakespeare, she decided to participate Rajat Kapoor’s play What is Done, is Done, in US and India which is a take on Macbeth wherein she ignites her inner clown.

Upcoming movie: Kadvi Hawa

Rajesh Sharma

Films: Parineeta, Khosla ka Ghosla, Ishqiya, No one killed Jessica, The Dirty Picture, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, B.A. Pass etc

At 17, Rajesh Sharma joined a drama academy and featured in plays like Gudia ki Ghar and Rangakarmi. Sharma hails from Ludhiana in Punjab and is an alumnus of the National Shool of Drama. He started his career in 1996 with appearance in Maachis and has gone on to act in many Bengali and Hindi films. He was also the understudy to Usha Ganguli in Rudali.

He debuted in 2006 and has already been featured in over 60 films in the last two decades.

In 2015 and 2016 he featured in two films on sport—Azhar and

M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story playing the role of MK Sharma and Chanchal Banerjee respectively. He has acted in films

which have been blockbusters like Parineeta, Khosla Ka Ghosla,

Kranti, Ishqiya and No One Killed Jessica. He was the indomitable Selva Ganesh in The Dirty Picture and Pandit in Ghanchakkar.

Rajesh has a deep connect with Bengal, having studied in Bhawanipur Adarsh Hindi High School in Kolkata. He married Bengali Actress Sudipta Chakraborty in 2005, and after a divorce he married Sangeeta Sharma in 2011.

Along with Bollywood, Sharma has made a mark in the regional Bengali Film Industry and acted in movies like Romantic Noy, Nishwar Rahoshyo, Teen Yaari katha, Life in Park Street, Astra, Darling, Om shanty etc

Upcoming Movie: Toilet: Ek Prem Katha starring Akshay Kumar

Anant Vidhaat Sharma

Films: Gunday, Mardaani, Sultan, Mardaani, Vaada, Shaadi se Pehle and Milenge Milenge

You can tell Anant takes acting seriously by just looking at his favourite actors Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqi. The young lad started out as an assistant director to Satish Kaushik in the movies Vadda, Shaadi Se Pehle and Milenge Milenge.

But he realised quickly he was meant to be in front of the camera not behind it. So Anant went to Poland to train for a grueling three years. The road from a theatre actor on the streets of New Delhi to Yash Raj Films hasn’t been easy.

Sharma has shared screen space with Salman Khan in Sultan as his friend Govind and was cast in Gunday by Ali Abbas Zafar. What one doesn’t know about Anant is that he is trained in Kalaripayattu (Martial art), so maybe next up is some action and adrenaline pumping roles for this young actor.


  • Hard disks, flash and cloud storage would become passé soon

    The multi-billion dollar data storage industry globally may undergo a revolutionary makeover in the next few years.


Stay informed on our latest news!


Sandeep Bamzai


By June 1945, as the Second World War was winding ...

Urs Schoettli

Dragon Days are here

This is a very crucial year for the People’s Republic ...

Zehra Naqvi

A fraction of a pale blue dot

“Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those ...