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Arshad Warsi: The Character Actor That Heroes Can’t Do Without


It wouldn’t be entirely misplaced to call Arshad Warsi a versatile actor. Be it a gangster, a bumbling sidekick, a cop, a drunkard who burns with passion for a not-so-simple woman, a righteous lawyer on the verge of losing his mind, there aren’t many roles that he can’t play.

With the actor turning 50 today, one would hope he’s out there doing what he does best, and more often than not, outshining the performances of the lead actor he’s often roped in with.

Having begun his career as an assistant director and a choreographer in the late 80s and early 90s, Arshad Warsi’s career graph probably has more flops than hits, purely from a numbers perspective. Hailing from a non-cinema background, with no godfathers to look up to, Arshad’s steady three-decade career calls for a celebration.

In 1996, with Tere Mere Sapne Arshad made his onscreen debut, playing the role of the middle class boy, Balu, who briefly experiences the rich life. His moppy hair, 100-watt smile, and dialogues delivered with more gusto was noticed, paving the way for a more unconventional actor in Bollywood. An industry full of well-built heroes with conventional good looks and a long lineage, audience in the 90s was suddenly introduced to an average-looking actor with great comic timing.

Arshad Warsi in a still from ‘Tere Mere Sapne’

If the 90s had Arshad starring in cheesy family dramas with all things melodramatic, the 2000s witnessed a different phase of the actor. Sure, he continued playing supporting roles, often dubbed as the funny friend of the hero, the 2000s also had him feature in roles that would eventually be recognised as his major breaks.

As Circuit in Munna Bhai MBBS, Arshad’s acting as the faithful and quirky friend of Sanjay Dutt’s Munna drew applause and resurrected his career. It also got him typecast as the hero’s funny friend, a role that he played in Hulchul, Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya, and Salaam Namaste and then the Golmaal franchise.

Arshad Warsi as Circuit in ‘Munna Bhai MBBS’

Though Golmaal is his most successful movie, there are other roles that ought to be the highlights of his career. In Ishqiya, playing the role of Babban, Arshad Warsi was given equal screen time as the other actors and a performance that put him at par with stalwarts like Naseeruddin Shah and Vidya Balan. Calling it impressive would be a gross understatement, with Arshad Warsi’s Baban perfectly encapsulating the simple-minded man-child who eventually grows up under the influence of a strong woman.

He delivered an equally versatile performance in Dedh Ishqiya, Jolly LLB and last year’s Irada, where in the latter, he remained more subdued than his usual,effusive self.

His last film might have been yet another Golmaal film, a series that never seems to stop, but he has a few movies in the pipeline including three comedies – Fraud Saiyyan, Bhaiyyaji Superhit, and Total Dhamaal. There were also rumours of another sequel to Ishqiya.

For an actor who started off with small means and worked his way up, it’s time he gets his due.

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