Five Bollywood veterans who came from theatre

From the stage to the silver screen


News - India & You

January 18, 2017

/ By / New Delhi

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Had it not been for theatre, Bollywood would not have met these actors who changed how Indian cinema is envisaged today, even in the west. Here’s the ‘famous five’ for you.

Naseeruddin Shah


Shah who grew with theatre now also has his won theatre company called ‘Motley’.

An alumnus of the National School of Drama, Naseeruddin Shah is the man you saw in ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ (2003), ‘Monsoon Wedding’ (2001), both international hits and ‘A Wednesday’ (2008), ‘Ishqiya’ (2010), ‘The Dirty Picture’ (2011), just to name a few contemporary Bollywood blockbusters the veteran actor has given.

But, before venturing into the world of movies, Shah would be found on stage, wearing John Lennon dark glasses, acting in a way that would inspire all others working with him. “He was the only one who knew what he was doing as an actor as opposed to the rest of us who were just blundering along,” his wife and actress, Ratna Phatak once shared with an Indian weekly.

After all his years on the stage and on screen, Shah continues to inspire actors and work with some at his theatre company, Motley. His sons Imaad and Vivaan too are part of that along with their sister Heeba.

He has put together some excerpts of his life in his autobiography, And Then One Day.


Shabana Azmi


Azmi was once the face of parallel cinema in India

She pretty much ‘dominated’ the ‘parallel-cinema’ scene in India in 1970s and 1980s. She has acted in films by some of India’s finest art-house directors including Shyam Benegal, Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Aparna Sen, among others. She was bold enough to play lead in the movie ‘Fire’ (1996), a love story of two women with a family connect. Although the movie received acclaim worldwide, it was banned in India.

Her contemporary works too have garnered her acclaim and applauses; be it ‘Umrao Jaan’ (2006) or ‘Neerja’ (2016), she has even provided supporting yet stellar performances.

She is the daughter of the Urdu progressive poet and lyricist Kaifi Azmi and theatre actress Shaukat Azmi, and is married to noted script-writer, Javed Akhtar.

Besides being an actress, she is a strong advocate of women rights and rights of the minorities. Lately, she has also been supporting new filmmakers and showing interest in working with new talents.


 Anupam Kher


Kher is a recipient of Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award

Another in the league of the National School of Drama alumni, Anupam Kher also served as its chairperson in 2001-2004. In his career that has spanned more than three decades, he has won several film awards and the prestigious Padma Bhushan, third highest civilian award in India.

Some of his famous contemporary works include ‘Bend it like Beckham’ (2002), ‘A Wednesday’ (2008), ‘Special 26’ (2013), and the Oscar-nominated film, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ (2012). The actor has also hosted the popular talk show, ‘Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai’, and the quiz show, ‘Sawaal Dus Crore Ka’.



Pankaj Kapur


Kapur is famous for his performance in TV shows ‘Office Office’ and ‘Karamchand’

He is now recognised as one of India’s finest screen actors with his work life spent on stage and in front of the camera for both films and TV. He became a household name with his roles in ‘Karamchandand ‘Office Office’, two popular Indian TV shows. His work in films such as Richard Attenborough’s ‘Gandhi’ won him accolades and hearts internationally.

‘Raakh’ (1989), ‘Ek Doctor Ki Maut(1990), Macbeth adaptation, ‘Maqbool’ (2004), and ‘Matru Ki Bijali Ka Mandola’ (2013) are some of his notable films.




Ratna Pathak


Pathak works with husband Shah at their theatre company ‘Motley’

Theatre is the string that attaches this on-screen charmer to Bollywood and to her husband, Naseeruddin Shah. Ratna Pathak and Shah first met while working for Satyadev Dubey, a renowned theatre director, playwright, screenwriter, actor and film actor and director. Ironically, before they even got married, they acted as husband and wife in Dubey’s play, ‘Sambhog Se Sanyas Tak’, and the journey that followed for both of them is one of the most remarkable one in Bollywood and the Indian theatre scene.

Leaving her mark wherever she worked, Pathak has given some contemporary hits like ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’ (2008), ‘Golmal’ (2010), ‘Khoobsurat’ (2014), and ‘Kapoor and Sons’ (2016) to name a few. Her TV show, ‘Sarabhai vs Sarabhai’ (2004) had enjoyed one of the best TRPs for any Indian comedy show.

After all the years of impeccable stage and screen performances, Pathak continues doing theatre at her and Shah’s company, Motley, and inspires her kids to follow suit; may be just like she followed the steps of her mother and veteran actress Dina Pathak.

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