Posted On Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 07:25:06 AM
|Irrfan has been quietly and consistently giving strong performances in most of his films. Strange that Bollywood needed a Paan Singh Tomar to remind them that there is a gem amongst them
What was the name of that terrific actor, the overweight, short man playing the role of a nervous reporter who got the scoop of his life — an interview with Paan Singh Tomar? He was so remarkable sitting on the floor, leaning against a wall, struggling to get up and sit down because of his weight, stuttering as he asked Irrfan Khan’s Tomar questions. All this while Tomar ate a sumptuous meal, topped with hot gulab jamuns, dunked in a bowl of ice cream.
I checked IMDb.com and realised his name was not listed. I asked UTV to send me press notes on the film. They sent me a brief email that listed the main actors. But there was no mention of this actor. There was no detailed cast and crew listing, the kind that I am used to receiving from Hollywood and American independent films.
I was on a deadline and had to finish my review of the film. And I regret that I never mentioned that bright actor’s name. It was not until a day after PST was released that I learned about him from a journalist friend in India.
His name is Brijendra Kala and there is a reason why I was drawn to his face and strong performance in PST. He has played small supporting roles in many films. He was the wacky cab driver in Jab We Met who took Kareena Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor on part of their journey, after they missed their train.
“Arre who cares for small actors?” my friend asked in a cynical tone.
Yes, he is right and that is indeed tragic. In a star-obsessed world that Bollywood thrives on, so many of the brightest talents of Indian cinema are ignored. Nobody features them on the covers of film or society magazines. On the other hand, there is too much focus on the top-ranking, good-looking and youthful stars — even some who do not have much of a box office pull.
Irrfan Khan’s towering performance in PST seems to have stunned many people. In the last week, I have read comments by quite a few people — some otherwise thoughtful in their observations — that Irrfan is the real Khan of the Hindi film industry. But Irrfan has been quietly and consistently giving strong performances in most of his films (barring a few lapses on his part). Strange that Bollywood needed a PST to remind them that there is a gem amongst them.
Another such gem is Nawazuddin Siddiqui. He is bold, confident and consistently good in each film that he has worked in. I first noticed him in Firaaq, although enough people have told me that I should revisit Black Friday to appreciate his talent. He was in New York and Peepli Live — where he delivered a heart-breaking performance. Siddiqui played a small but significant role in PST. He has done solid work in Patang, Dekh Indian Circus, Chittagong. Alas, all three films have yet to be released. This weekend, he has gotten some notice for his work in Kahaani. Then there are two other big projects — Talash and Gangs of Wasseypur, and the long-awaited Miss Lovely.
All of these films make Siddiqui one of the busiest actors in Hindi cinema. I doubt if any Bollywood star can match his diverse roles and the depth of his performances, but he is still waiting to receive the recognition that he truly deserves.
This can be a long list. There is Tannishtha Chatterjee who gave a star-making performance in Brick Lane and was delightful in her small roles in Road, Movie and Barah Aana. And Chatterjee’s co-star from Barah Aana — Arjun Mathur, who has done interesting work in films ranging from Luck By Chance to I Am and in two shorts — Positive and Migration.
I can bet if Paan Singh Tomar was an American independent film, some enterprising filmmaker would have noticed Kala and started to write a script casting him in the lead. It would be the kind of role that could be played by Paul Giamatti or Phillip Seymour Hoffman. In India, those things rarely happen.
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