The theatre blurs the line of a screen between its makers and the audience. It is a place where emotions come alive. The theatre gives the audience a chance to experience raw, real emotions and great stories.
Every actor should definitely perform in theatre at least once in their life to have an experience of a lifetime. It is terrifying yet exciting to step on stage and perform in front of a live audience. There are no retakes and hence no room for mistakes. It helps them become better performers and hone their skills. While being a part of a theatre group, the actors don’t just learn how to act but also about what goes around backstage. It gives them a wholesome experience.
Bollywood houses some of the most notable actors hailing from a theatre background. They have brought their perfect craft of acting from theatre to the Bollywood screen and have given the audience great performances. Below is a list of some of the most noteworthy Indian stage actors-
With many revered roles, both in India and abroad, Anupam Kher is unquestionably a distinguished Bollywood performer with a strong theatre background. A National School of Drama actor in Bollywood, his acting skills and prowess are unmatched. After becoming one of the most accomplished Indian stage actors, Anupam Kher stepped into Bollywood with the film Saaransh in 1984 and, since then, has given the audience many noteworthy performances. He is not only a celebrated actor in India but is also lauded and praised internationally. The depth and originality Anupam Kher brings to his characters proves that he is one of the most polished and famous theatre artists in India.
Before landing a role in Rajkumar Hirani’s Munnabhai M.B.B.S, Boman Irani was already amongst the famous theatre artists in India. He trained under Hansraj Siddhia from 1981 to 1983. Boman Irani aces every character he portrays and performs with sheer perfection. One of the most proficient Indian stage actors, his play I’m not Bajirao ran for over 17 years.
Lillete Dubey is a known face in the theatre fraternity. She started acting in plays during her time as a student in Delhi. Apart from being a dedicated Indian stage actor, Dubey also took up directing and has directed many plays, including Mahesh Dattani's Dance Like a Man that has completed 497 shows across the world, including a two-week run on Broadway. In 1991, the actress set up her own theatre company - The Primetime Theatre Company. Lillete Dubey started her Bollywood career with the film Zubeidaa in 2001 and has acted in more than 50 films.
Let us begin with one of the oldest actors, Prithviraj Kapoor, who started his career in Indian cinema during the silent film era. The head of the now-famous Kapoor clan was one of the most talented and famous theatre artists in India. He was a founder of the Indian People’s Theatre Association and even founded Prithvi Theatres, a travelling theatre company based in Mumbai, 1944. Prithviraj Kapoor worked in nine silent films before he bagged a supporting role in India’s first sound film Alam Ara in 1931. From there on, Prithviraj Kapoor, one of the most recognised Indian stage actors, had a successful career in Indian cinema but always remained connected to his background of theatre.
During his time at Delhi University, the now-prominent Bollywood actor Rajkummar Rao was simultaneously doing theatre with Kshitij Repertory and the Shri Ram Centre. One of the most skilful Indian stage actors, he then moved to Pune and enrolled in the Film and Television Institute of India. The actor made his Bollywood debut in 2010 with Love Sex Aur Dhokha and has come a long way since then. After making appearances in outstanding movies such as Stree, Newton, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Made In China, Ludo and many more, Rajkummar Rao is getting the recognition and success that he truly deserves. Looking at his acting calibre, it can be undoubtedly said that Rajkummar Rao is one of the most sought-after and famous theatre artists in India.
‘The Show Man’ of Bollywood was one of the most prominent actors and famous theatre artists in India. He learnt the fundamentals and essence of acting, production and everything that happens backstage by being an active part of his father’s theatre group. Raj Kapoor began his successful journey in Bollywood with the film Inquilab in 1935 as a child artist. His films attracted and impressed the audience all around the world, especially Asia and Europe. Raj Kapoor was undoubtedly one of the finest Indian stage actors and brought the same finesse to the Indian film industry.
One of the finest actresses Bollywood has ever seen, Shabana Azmi, is also amongst the notable and famous theatre artists in India. She is a five-time National Award winner and was recognised with the Padma Shri Award. One of the most powerful Indian stage actors, Shabana Azmi started her journey in Bollywood with the film Ankur in 1974 and has appeared in more than 120 films in Hindi and Bengali. Some of her iconic plays include Safed Kundali, Tumhari Amrita and A Doll's House.
Best known for her role of ‘Hansa’ from Khichdi, Supriya Pathak is an acting powerhouse. She is one of the most capable Indian stage actors of Bollywood and Gujarati theatres. Supriya Pathak first appeared on stage in the play Mena Gurjari directed by her mother. She made her debut in Bollywood with the film Kalyug in the year 1981 and went on to become a great actress with films such as Vijeta (1982), Bazaar (1982), Masoom (1983), Wake Up Sid (2009), Ram-Leela (2013), etc. One of the most talented and famous theatre artists in India, Supriya Pathak is well-appreciated by the audience for her exemplary performances.
Like Anupam Kher, Seema Biswas is a National School of Drama actor in Bollywood. Though she entered Bollywood with Shekhar Kapur's biographical film on Phoolan Devi, she was one of the most celebrated Indian stage actors much before that. Seema Biswas worked with renowned artists like Bhupen Hazarika, Bishnu Prasad Rabha back home in Assam and was a part of Bollywood films like Khamoshi: The Musical (1996), Bhoot (2003), Vivah (2006), Half Girlfriend (2017), etc.
Another National School of Drama actor in Bollywood, Sanjay Mishra is one of the most famous theatre artists in India. He made his debut in Bollywood with the film Oh Darling! Yeh Hai India! in 1995 but it was films like Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015) and Ankhon Dekhi (2014) that made him shine. Sanjay Mishra is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable Indian stage actors.