Bollywood actors who took a giant leap

Starting off with rather embarrassingly small roles to managing to get meatiest roles, these actors are true success stories

These actors, struggled hard and long enough and were seen in tiny roles in their debut films. But soon their roles started bigger and bigger, thanks to their talent. hitlist talks about a few ‘rags’ to riches story...

Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Nawazuddin Siddiqui

Debut film: Sarfarosh (1999)
The lowdown: Before Nawazuddin became one of the most recognisable faces of independent cinema in India, he starred in movies that gave him very little room to prove his worth as an actor. Playing a criminal in the Aamir Khan-starrer Sarfarosh, he barely had a scene in this crime drama; he then went on to essay a similar role in Munnabhai M.B.B.S. (2003).

Shreyas Talpade
Shreyas Talpade

Debut film: Aankhen (2002)
The lowdown: Shreyas may have won appreciation in films such as Iqbal (2005) and Welcome to Sajjanpur (2008), but his story was quite different when he started out more than a decade ago. In Vipul Shah’s film Aankhen, he played a garrulous tea vendor.

Shahid Kapoor
Shahid Kapoor

Debut film: Taal (1999)
The lowdown: If you remember watching this film, you will recollect a scene where after the song Kahin Aag Lage Lag Jaye ends, a lanky fellow runs across the stage and dances alongside Aishwarya Rai. That young man was Shahid Kapoor, who had doubled up as an extra in this Subhash Ghai film.


Debut film: Salaam Bombay! (1988)
The lowdown: Although Asif Kapadia’s The Warrior (2001) was the film that made people sit up and take notice of Irrfan’s talent, he made his debut in Mira Nair’s Oscar-nominated film. He played a letter-writer who charges the child protagonist money for penning a letter to his mother.

Boman Irani
Boman Irani

Debut film: Everybody Says I'm Fine! (2001)
The lowdown: He’s best remembered for his roles in films like 3 Idiots (2009) and Jolly LLB (2013), but when Boman made his big screen debut, his character didn’t even have a first name. After starring in the Rahul Bose-directed film, Everybody Says I'm Fine!, Boman took on several memorable roles.

Second time lucky
Actresses who embarked on their careers with barely-there roles only to manage better ones in their next film…

Mallika Sherawat
Mallika Sherawat

Debut film: Jeena Sirf Merre Liye (2002)
The lowdown: If you think Khwahish (2003) was Mallika’s debut film, you’re mistaken. She had a minor role in a forgettable film called Jeena Sirf Merre Liye that starred Tusshar Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor. Murder (2004), later on, put her under the spotlight.

Kajal Aggarwal
Kajal Aggarwal

Debut film: Kyun...! Ho Gaya Na (2004)
The lowdown: She played friend to Aishwarya Rai’s character in this film. But after this outing, she disappeared from Bollywood for seven years only to star in Rohit Shetty’s commercial hit Singham (2011), opposite Ajay Devgn.

Pooja Chopra
Pooja Chopra

Debut film: Fashion (2008)
The lowdown: Director Madhur Bhandarkar gave her a break in this National Award-winning film only to offer her another minor role in Heroine four years later. She scored her first leading role in Commando last year.

Blast from the past

Other stars who have had humble beginnings
Asha Parekh made her debut with a film called Aasha (1957) — for which she wasn’t even credited — before making a splash with Dil Deke Dekho (1959).

Asha Parekh

Rajendra Kumar was hardly noticed in Jogan (1950) when he starred alongside Dilip Kumar. It was much later that he earned the nickname ‘Jubilee Kumar’.

Rajendra Kumar

Both Jeetendra and Mumtaz worked as junior artistes in the 1960s, before filmmaker V Shantaram introduced them in Sehra (1963).

Jeetendra and Mumtaz

Yesteryear actress Sadhana faced the camera for the first time as a background dancer for a song in Raj Kapoor’s film, Shri 420 (1955).


Helen too was a background dancer when she started out. She was first seen in Raj Kapoor’s Awara (1951), after which she went on to be known as Bollywood’s original item girl.


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