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Eternal Struggle

The only roles I was being offered were that of beggars.

Written by Sankhayan Ghosh | Published: July 27, 2012 1:56 am

The only roles I was being offered were that of beggars. I had started to lose my confidence within three years of coming to Mumbai,” confessed actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui,who has gained considerable acclaim following a string of powerful performances in recent films,such as Peepli Live,Kahaani and Gangs of Wasseypur. At the Screen Big Picture panel discussion,the actor spoke of his years of struggle before the recent indie cinema movement highlighted the importance of character actors in the Hindi film industry.

The event,which took place on Wednesday afternoon at Express Towers in Mumbai,highlighted the increasing opportunities and recognition for character actors in Bollywood. Siddiqui was joined by actors Ranvir Shorey,Arunoday Singh,Divya Dutta and Pitobash Tripathy — all of whom have gained prominence through their character specific roles in Bollywood — as Screen editor Priyanka Sinha Jha moderated the talk.

While Siddiqui admits that the scenario has changed for character actors,Shorey believes that it is limited. His recent film Fatso released two years after it was completed for lack of a distributor. “It is a tad better than in the ’90s but script-driven films without stars still find it hard to be made and released,” he pointed out. Paan Singh Tomar suffered a similar fate,although the film did well at the box-office when released earlier this year.

Another challenge faced by these actors is that after experiencing initial success with them,most filmmakers too,begin to pursue stars. “But you can’t blame the directors. I do roles in big films occasionally too — money is funneled towards stars,” said Shorey,who is part of Ek Tha Tiger with Salman Khan in the lead role.

Singh believes that the problem permeates every level of filmmaking,including auditions. “You are only allowed to audition for specific roles that are governed by your physical appearance and factors other than your talent,” said Singh,who plays a pivotal role in Jism 2.

However,success does not ensure good career prospects. Most character actors are easily typecast. While Singh has been offered several “tall,rich NRI-type” roles,Dutta was typecast as the heroine’s chirpy,Punjabi friend after Veer Zaara. “Delhi 6 changed that; now they want me to play a prostitute-with-a-golden-heart,” says Dutta.

The struggle of a character actor in Bollywood is relentless,and the result is often frustrating. “Not just mentally,it breaks you emotionally as well,” said Shorey. Therefore,according to Singh,a practical approach is important. “This is the system,you have to live with it,and make the most of the chances you get,” he said.

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