Bollywood’s unlikely heroes


They may lack the brooding good looks, chiseled jaw and honed physique of the typical leading Bollywood male, but short, fat, balding men are proving that they can still be a screen success.

In an image-conscious industry, actors such as Himesh Reshammiya, Vinay Pathak and Paresh Rawal have found that how they look has not been a hindrance. All admit they are no matinee idols, and may even be past their prime, yet are still a box office draw — suggesting that personality, a sense of humour and raw talent are just as attractive as a pretty face.

At five feet five inches tall, Reshammiya knows he is an unlikely screen presence. The 35-year-old became an actor in 2007 after a career as a successful Bollywood music director.

“It is only people’s love that has made me a hero. I am nowhere near other good-looking heroes of the industry,” he said.

For his debut film, Aap Kaa Surroor, Reshammiya wore a baseball cap to cover his bald patch but audiences didn’t seem to mind. The film more than held its own with two other movies released on the same day with more stellar casts.

Middle-aged Pathak shot to fame as the irritating but endearing idiot Bharat Bhushan in the 2007 film Bheja Fry. He followed up with Mithya, about a struggling actor who has the misfortune of being the double of an underworld don.

All three are modest about their success, arguing that character and acting ability has a more enduring appeal than the hero’s looks.

“If a film is made with heart, honesty, happiness, passion and sincerity it will click. I am not in competition with any hero. My attempt is to make good cinema as much as I can. This is my main objective,” said Pathak.

Rawal, who is nudging 60 and has played bad guys and comic roles, has had a succession of box office hits. He will play three different parts in his upcoming film Oye Lucky, Oye Lucky.

“I don’t consider myself a star, only an actor. I came to this industry in the 1980s to become an actor and not a hero. I knew I would survive because I can act well,” he said.

The demands of acting have, however, led to some compromises for the unlikely leading men.

In his latest film Karzzzz, Reshammiya has had a hair weave. He is also on a protein diet and cutting out pizzas and ice-cream to get in shape for the five films he has lined up. Pathak also shed a few pou-nds for his new film Dasvidaniya. But both insist they are not succumbing to vanity.

Reshammiya still touts himself as an average Joe, albeit one who now has a personal make-up artist in tow. “I have ordinary looks and I guess therefore the common man can relate to me when he sees me on the big screen,” he said.

Pathak added, “I only put on or lose weight according to the characters that I play. I never wanted to be a hero, only wanted to be a good actor. All my films are character driven and not hero driven.”

Rawal agreed, saying his goal is commercial success and critical acclaim. “I don’t want to get trapped into the stardom business,” he said. “Stardom is for a limited time span compared to that of an actor whose acting lifeline is very long.”