Bollywood's unlikely heroes
Dictionary defines hero as 'a person, typically a man, who is admired for courage or noble qualities.'
Bollywood defines him as a person who loves to make a grand, action-packed entry, beat the villain into pulp, romance the heroine over a bunch of songs and dance, wear leather jackets and fancy aviators. And, lately, also ensure every new release garners a 100 crore opening.
At the same, there are gifted character actors demonstrating their mettle in films that doesn't require them to play a secondary protagonist around the afore-mentioned hero but play one themselves.
Here's a look at this unconventional strain of leading men in Hindi films.
Boman Irani, Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi
He's played the hysterical funnyman in hits like Main Hoon Naa, Munnabhai films, 3 Idiots and the not-so-nice fella in Don, Khosla Ka Ghosla and Veer Zaara.
And while these films earned him suitable acclaim, the 52-year-old actor was never quite considered for the male lead's post until Bela Bhansali Sehgal cast him as a lonely lingerie salesman who finds true love in choreographer turned director turned actress Farah Khan in the upcoming comedy, Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi.
Image: Poster of Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi
Paresh Rawal, Oh My God
While his colleagues like Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri have worked in several solo hero films, Paresh Rawal appeared content playing the villain, comic or an emotional supporting character for a vast portion of his career. Not anymore.
The Hera Pheri gets the lion's share in his soon-to-release OMG! Oh My God. Although the film also stars Akshay Kumar (producer too), this one primarily revolves around Rawal's refusal to believe in God. It's a big screen adaptation of the latter's play Krishan Vs Kanhaiya.
Image: Paresh Rawal in Oh My God
Irrfan Khan, Paan Singh Tomar
One of the most acclaimed films of the year, Paan Singh Tomar starring Irrfan Khan in the titular role not just brought in rave reviews but raked in some moolah as well.
It is quite heartening to see film industry's most talented Khan get his due in a film which about a real-life athlete turned outlaw that relies entirely on his grit and convictions to make it work.
Image: Irrfan Khan in Paan Singh Tomar
Rajpal Yadav, Main, Meri Patni Aur Woh
In a physicality obsessed industry, Rajpal Yadav has to contend playing the bumbling buffoon film after film.
But the good-humoured actor was only too glad when the opportunity to play leading man knocked his door in Chandan Arora's Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon co-starring Antara Mali. His commitment as the dedicated, gullible husband garnered notice. Ditto for his portrayal of an insecure other half to Rituparna Sengupta in Main, Meri Patni Aur Woh, again directed by Arora.
Image: Rituparna Sengupta and Rajpal Yadav in Main, Meri Patni Aur Woh
Anupam Kher, Saaransh, Daddy, Khosla Ka Ghosla
In his late 20s, Anupam Kher played a bereaved senior citizen in Mahesh Bhatt's Saaransh. But his power packed performance in a central role justified Bhatt's curious casting decision.
Though he flourished playing the goofball, heroine's father or a vile baddie for decades, his ability to pull the audience in strongly-scripted, gimmick free experiences like Daddy and Khosla Ka Ghosla make him an ideal choice to playing convention-defying lead roles.
Image: Anupam Kher in Khosla Ka Ghosla
Omkar Das Manikpuri, Peepli Live
Not many had heard of theatre actor Omkar Das Manikpuri till he became known to everyone as the hopeless, exploited Natha of Peepli [Live].
And while he obviously isn't channeling a dance-around-trees personality, his performance and the film both won enough appreciation to assume his movie career would take off in a major way, which it hasn't as opposed to his Cannes-fresh co-star Nawazuddin Siddiqui .
Image: Omkar Das Manikpuri in Peepli Live
Ranvir Shorey, Mithya, Fatso
From VJ to hero's buddy or comic sidekick, Ranvir Shorey stole quite a few thunders with his characteristic wit and effortless timing in films like Pyaar Ke Side Effects, Khosla Ka Ghosla, Singh is Kinng.
Other than a forgettable romantic interest to Mallika Sherawat in Ugly Aur Pagli, Shorey's true calling as a credible solo player was realised with the favourably reviewed Mithya and the recently released Fatso.
Image: Ranvir Shorey in Fatso
Vinay Shukla, Chalo Dilli, Bheja Fry
While on Ranvir Shorey, can Vinay Shukla be far behind? The baby-faced actor has made a name with his good-natured frolic in films like Khosla Ka Ghosla, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Jism.
But if you thought he'd be relegated to the sidelines, you have another thing coming. Pathak reaffirmed that it doesn't matter if one doesn't have the physique of Salman Khan or Hrithik Roshan's looks so long they are backed by a solid script like Bheja Fry. Proving there's more to him than comedy, he displays his range in films like Dasvidaniya and Chalo Dilli as well.
Image: Vinay Shukla in Bheja Fry
Kader Khan, Hum Hain Kamaal Ke
He may have established himself as a classic comedian and potent dialogue writer but Kader Khan, along with Anupam Kher, proves that the twain can hold your interest in a film devoid of Govinda's dances and Madhuri Dixit's charisma with their collective hilarity in Hum Hain Kamaal Ke.
Although this complete rip-off of Hollywood's See No Evil, Hear No Evil was no BO draw, it sure makes for an ideal video library rental for an unabashed 90s enthusiast.
Image: Kader Khan in Hum Hain Kamaal Ke
Asrani, Chala Murari Hero Banne
A comical jailor in Sholay, unfeeling rogue in Koshish, a sentimental domestic help in Parichay, a gracious secretary in Abhimaan or a sly, competitive colleague in Chhoti Si Baat, Asrani has essayed a variety of roles in his long-running career before he enlisted himself for a permanent slot in Priyadarshan brand of comedies.
Around the late 1970s, however, the character actor did try his luck as solo hero in the cheekily titled Chala Murari Hero Banne, directed by Asrani himself, which despite an inventive storyline and a plethora of starry guest appearances failed to click.
Image: Asrani in Chala Murari Hero Banne