I do utterly love Bolly and all other woods that come from India especially the rambunctiousness about that cinema ( like there is an impishness about Korean cinema, or a quiet dignity about Iranian) that is definitive of my Indian-ness.
Coming to the point of the post however, there is something about the underdog that has always appealed to me. it’s the quintessential human interest story, is it not? The guys in the fringe who make an impact. The filler with teeth; the guys who put support in supporting.
Here then, is my selection of 5 of the most impactful “that guy” s from Bollywood masala filmdom. The rules are simple:
1. They must not be bonafide supporting actors (so no love for Aruna Irani or Paresh Rawal. too famous)
2. They must not have transcended from that guy ness to genuine recognition including awards or a mainstream fanbase. This is a underdog story after all, non? Also excluded are fallen character actors. (bye bye Rajpal Yadav)
3. This is the most important rule, I think: their presence in the film has to mean good times all around. They cannot be good actors who can’t pick a role. I see this guy lurking in a promo and I am lining up at the cinemas, or at least interested in the DVD, because of him. (This, sadly precludes all those faces you see all the time, but can’t name or care to name. I kind of don’t like that, but I have to limit the list to 5. so long, Sanjay Dutt’s trainer)
4. They have to be professional that guys. That guy in a less than 10 flicks won’t cut it.
5. Lastly, I am removing all cameos and item numbers ( good riddance, Robin Bhatt)
Too much preamble , too less filmy-ness! Onwards, I say:
5. Raja Bundela
He’s just likable. Affable charm, goofy persona, and a cool demeanor. They tried giving him mainstream roles, but he kept on falling down to being the smiling guy just to the right of the ‘hero’.
Why he’s awesome: There’s absolutely no character he cannot build sympathy for. He’s been slapped silly in stupid Govinda films (although he does get to dance in khaki shorts), offed in horrible ways by villains looking to score one up on the hero, and sometimes, just sometimes acted with dubious moral character that got him into way too much trouble than he bargained for. And yet you just look at that goofy smile, think of a cute pup, and go “Awww”
Shining Moment: Should have been Arjun. Or maybe even Ankush. But it wasn’t. He will forever be the guy in that lovely advertisement on Doordarshan that was way ahead of it’s time. Raja Bundela is taking a shower, stops mid soaping lathering session, looks down (yes, they go there, but wait for it…) and looks back at the camera and says: “Sachmuch, kaafi bada hai”. If there was a list of advertisements with thinly veiled innuendo that paved way for the pornography visited upon us on a daily basis (not that I’m complainin’), this ad would make that list. Beloved that guy, forever to be remembered for something that was not meant to be dirty (but let’s face it: it probably was).
Better known to me and my friends as “Jaaju” (see below), this man has made it his business to play every bumbling idiot villain as well as every horror movie cliche. All that remains in his stalwart body of that guy work is to play the bikin clad girl in blood shower, I suppose.
Why he’s awesome: First of all, the name. That’s an awesome and classy name. To top it, there is nothing classy about this man.There is no depth to which he will not plumb in the service of horrible that guy acting. He’s extremely physical though. Using his huge eyes and body and a voice that cannot but remind us of the Punjabi Physics tuition teacher we all had to it’s utmost extent, his presence means at least 15 minutes of fun times of extremely questionable taste.
Shining Moment: He’s played umpteen horror Ramsey bros. cliche characters, but I remember most for his portrayal of Bajaj, aka Jaaju, the quivering idiot of an assistant in Mahaul Theek Hai.
It’s not the terrible acting, it’s the howlarious lines he spews including “Ouno Inni Chamm Jhaado” with a straight face that has cemented him in my head. Check out his full range of constipated facial expressions in this clip here. Make no mistake – he is terrible, but he deserves a spot on this list.
I wish I could have included Vivek Shauq in this list – but he’s done fairly drab roles in nondescript films that Jaaju trumps him.
3. Razak Khan
He has done nothing but bad roles. Weak ass gangster who thinks he is pimp is his forte.
Why he’s awesome: But what forte it is! He owns the weak gangster waiting for a bitch slap to go all crumbling weasel howling kitten on us. And he’ll take one from anyone – when Farooq Sheikh can call your bluff, you’re really asking for it. But don’t take my word for it. Hit his imdb page and gape at the awesomeness of the names of his characters. Usman Kujli. Babu Karela. Rajjo Tabela. He’s even played a character called Qutub Minar.
It probably would be a tie between his Ninja Chacha (watch above video straight at the point where he unleashes his awesome here) or the straight up cynic Keshav in Roop ki Rani Choron ka Raaja.
I don’t have a video, but bad movie aficionados will remember the part where Anil “Black Forest Cake” Kapoor meets Jugraj for the first time. AK smarms his way into Kher’s trust, but Keshav the smart one (!) is having nothing of that. He quickly retorts: “Isko kuch nahin maloom hai, iske kandhe per to kabootar hai” (The man knows nothing; he has a pigeon on his shoulder). Oh Razak Khan, you teach us all. You teach us so much.
Men with Pigeons on shoulder clearly know nothing.
Sudhir beefcake for breakfast, girls.
If there was someone perfect to dub Christian Bale’s ridiculous Batman voice in the Batman and Terminator films, Sudhir is it. His gravelly voice and almost always surly demeanour has lent themselves to a certain niche that only he filled, and that remains empty even now.
Why he’s awesome: Contrary to what you may think Sudhir was never rape king. Heck, he wasn’t even minor rape fiend. However! He was almost always lecherous. This distinction is important, because you cannot love rapists. (Bollywood doesn’t know that yet, but hopefully you’ll tell them.) Sorry losers whoslip on their own drool over a woman, with no obvious hope in hell – that’s a hard task too, but when it’s Sudhir, you can’t help but guffaw. There is no question what’s on his mind, but he’s not gonna get there. is he?
Despite the above stereotype, he has played enough loud angry Hulk Smash characters that make his list of roles quite multifaceted. Actually, I prefer him in his angry hulk mode more, because it’s always good times.
Shining Moment: Would have to be Satte Pe Satta. Of the brothers playing each day of the week, he is the surly, angry, shrieking and bellicose Monday. Not only does he completely symbolise Mondays, his pining for a girl this time around has an innocence to it that will never again be captured on film.
He’s no Anil Kapoor or Raja Sen, but what a ‘stache, non?
This guy is the Stephen Lang of Bollywood. Not because he is a Shakespearean thespian, but because when you need a strong willed man with enough charisma to fill a frame to come and chew entire mountains of scenery and yet remain authentic, you call this man.
Why he’s awesome: Even when he was just a dude up against Mithun in a boxing ring, he was a formidable physical presence and a world weary ire that simmered on the surface. The go-to guy to play suave 2nd ring villains (never a henchman, but a deputy in his own right) called Daga or Doga or some such, his physicality was a menace and his presence a welcome relief over the minus-personality heroes of the time. That he always held his own against the likes of Mithun, Anil Kapoor, and Rajnikanth makes him THE that guy.
Guess who is Champion RaghuRaj?
In the aforementioned film about boxing with Mithun, he basically played Apollo Creed. And when a man out Apollo Creeds Apollo Creed, that there’s a truck full of awesome.
If memory serves correctly, he also has the distinction of being one of the few people who offed Rajnikanth in a film. How many people can boast of being awesome-er than Rajni, if only for dodgy script requirements? Using his powers for good and not evil, he also did some not so memorable character roles, but always, always with the enjoyable screen presence and the promise of a fun half hour.
Would be when he punches the living shit out of a whiny Aamir Khan:
Ostensibly, the film had him as the lead bad guy, but the real villain of the ill-conceived copy of On the Waterfront was Aamir’s past. Sharat still steps up to the plate and delivers a physical performance like no other. And look at him. That man’s huge.
Of course this would have made him a known guy over a “that guy”, but this film, apart from making Rani Mukherjea popular, did nothing. And poor Sharat was yet again left playing the old sullen guy with only half an idea what people are up to; twirling his moustache at them, going “Bah! Humbug!”
So there we are. These are my favourite underdogs of Hindi cinema. Some are camp, some are genuinely awesome. Some I just enjoy watching on screen. But all of them are faces you have seen and possibly ignored all your lives. Anyone I left out criminally?