This industry is known to have absorbed talent from varied backgrounds. Mid-day shares with you names who started out with small roles but then went on to bag ambitious projects.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui

Started out as: Character actor
New avatar: Nawazuddin has been working in the film industry for nearly 15 years. His first film was the Aamir Khan-starrer Sarfarosh in which he had just two scenes. One of his meatier roles was that of Zilgai in Kabir Khan’s film, New York, but recognition truly came his way post the release of the film Kahaani, where he plays a CBI officer. He then went on to play lead roles in Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur 2, Aatma, starring Bipasha Basu, and Ashim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely.

Daisy Shah

Started out as: Background dancer and assistant choreographer
New avatar: Daisy Shah, who plays the main lead in Salman Khan’s new film Jai Ho, was part of choreographer Ganesh Acharya’s dance group; she has been a background dancer in several Shilpa Shetty and Akshay Kumar films. It was during the shoot of a dance sequence for Dabangg 2 that Salman Khan took note of her. Soon after, he asked her to audition for Sohail Khan’s film and she then landed the lead role. Salman has been recommending her to other filmmakers as well.

Manoj Bajpai

Started out as: Character actor
New avatar: First noticed in Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen as dacoit Maan Singh, he continued to do small roles in films such as Dastak and Daud. It was Ram Gopal Varma, who tapped his potential as an actor and offered him the part of Bhiku Mhatre in Satya, which became his ticket to fame. After this film, Manoj played main leads in Varma’s films like Shool and Kaun?. This was followed by a lean phase but he was cast as a parallel lead in Prakash Jha’s film Rajneeti. Gangs of Wasseypur too added to his popularity. Now the actor continues to shuttle between lead and supporting roles.

Irrfan Khan

Started out as: TV actor
New avatar: He started his career with TV series Bharat Ek Khoj in 1988, where he starred in two episodes. His first film was Mira Nair’s film Salaam Bombay which didn’t get him any eyeballs and he went on to act in low budget films like Ek Doctor ki Maut His work was noticed in Asif Kapadia’s film The Warrior. Then came Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Haasil where mainstream cinema cashed in on his talent. After this, Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool changed his fortunes and he is now among the few Indian actors to star in Hollywood productions. His work in films such as The Namesake, The Mighty Heart, Slumdog Millionaire and Life of Pi has been widely appreciated. He even won the national award for Paan Singh Tomar, and he recently turned producer with The Lunchbox.

Richa Chaddha

Started out as: Character actor
New avatar: Coming from a theatre background, Richa started her film career by playing Dolly in Dibakar Banerji’s Oye Lucky Oye in 2008. Here she was noticed and was then chosen by Anurag Kashyap to play the female lead in Gangs of Wasseypur 1 & II. She then essayed the main female lead in Fukrey and had a smaller role in Ramleela. Currently, she has three films — Isqueria, Tamanchey and Jia Aur Jia — in the pipeline.

Shahid Kapoor

Started out as: Background dancer as he was adept at dancing
New avatar: He was part of the team of background dancers in the films, Dil Toh Pagal Hai and Taal. Upon being noticed by Ramesh Taurani, the producer launched him in Ishq Vishk, a film under
his banner. Today, he has many commercial projects to his credit and is currently shooting for the film, Haider.

Zarine Khan

Started out as: Model
New avatar: She started out as a model and was selected by Subhash Ghai to fill in for Katrina Kaif in a song for his film, Yuvraj. Here Salman was impressed by her work and she got her first big break with Veer in 2010. She was again cast by Salman Khan for a song in Ready and till date has acted in around five films.

Anil Kapoor

Started out as: Character actor
New avatar: He debuted with the 1979 film Hamare Tumhare, but he starred in a lead role in the film Woh 7 Din. This was followed by a spate of hit films and he is also the first mainstream actor to act in two Hollywood films: Slumdog Millionaire and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.
Them too!

Many senior actors in the industry have started from scratch. Here’s a dekko at some of the veterans and their rise in the industry:


Started out as: Junior artiste
New avatar: He began his career as a junior artiste; he started out by punching attendance cards on the sets of the 1959 film Navrang when he was paid Rs 100 a month. He got noticed with the film Shehra and was then launched by V Shantaram in the 1964 film, Geet Gaaya Patharon Ne.


Started out as: Junior artiste
New avatar: Starting out as an extra, Sadhana was first spotted in Raj Kapoor’s film Shree 420 and was later launched by RK Nayyar who cast her opposite Joy Mukheriee in the 1960 film Love in Simla. With the film doing well at the BO, Sadhana went on to become a leading actress. She has had more than 35 hit films to her credit, including Woh Kaun Thi, Arzoo, Ek Phool Do Maali, Hum Dono and Ulfat Ki Naye Manzelin, which was her last film in 1994.


Started out as: Junior artiste
New avatar: She started her career as an extra with the film Stree in 1961. She then got a small role in Sunil Dutt’s Mujhe Jeene Do. This was followed by a series of action films opposite Dara Singh. Her first big break was the film Khilona starring Sanjeev Kumar.

Mithun Chakraborty

Started out as: Junior artiste
New avatar: He started his career as a junior artiste and was mentored by Mahesh Kaul in the early ’70s. Hrishikesh Mukherjee initially offered him a role in one of his films but his scenes were eventually edited out. The film Do Anjane changed the course for him and his turning point was the 1977 film Mrigaya that won him the National Award.


Courtesy: Mid-Day

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