Hindi cinema has set a benchmark of acting talent, but there is always something special about the live stage performances by theatre actors. In front of camera one can take multiple retakes but while you are on stage you have to make sure that you give your perfect shot in a go. The talent required for that one take shot is completely different. Even though theatre is not that popular in India, it is from there only many stars learned and sharpen their acting skills.
Here is a list of amazing talented stars that Indian theatre gifted to Bollywood:
1. Shabana Azmi
Shabana Azmi made her debut back in 1974 and became one the great actresses of Parallel cinema. She won five National Film Awards and five Filmfare Award, Padma Shri award in 1988 and also praised as “women in cinema” in 30th International Film Festival of India.
Azmi has appeared in more than 120 Hindi and Bengali movies of both mainstream and independent cinema. From 1988, she appeared in foreign projects. She is a social and women’s rights activist. She soon gained stage power and progress and performed plays like Safed Kundali, Tumhari Amrita and A Doll’s House.
2. Pankaj Kapoor
Pankaj Kapoor has appeared in several television serials and films. His most honored movie are Raakh (1989), Ek Doctor Ki Maut, Maqbool. He won has 3 National Film Awards.
Pankaj Kapoor became a household name from the TV series Karamchand and Office Office. He began his career in theatre after graduating from The National School of Drama (NSD).
Saurabh Shukla is an actor, screenwriter and film director. He gained popularity from roles in Satya, Yuva, Barfi, Jolly LLB, Kick, PK, Jolly LLB 2 and Raid. He started his career in theatre in 1984 and now he is famous personality in Bollywood. He has done many plays- Look Back in Anger, A View from the Bridge and many more.
He won the National Film Award in 2014.
4. Deepak Dobriyal
Deepak Dobriyal started his career in 1994 and soon become a recognizable faces in films. In just a few years he gained so much popularity from movies like Tanu weds Manu Returns, Angrezi Medium, Dabangg and many more. He also received a Filmfare award. His performance made people amazed and left a smile on the people’s face.
5. Prithviraj Kapoor
Prihviraj Kapoor was an actor, film producer also director, writer and politician. He began his career during silent era of Hindi films. He worked in 9 silent films and after that in 1931 he performed in India’s first talkie Alam Ara as a supporting role. The patriarch of Kapoor family founded the Prithvi Theatre in 1944.
In 1969, Prithiviraj Kapoor was honored with the Padma Bhushan and in 1971 with Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his work and devoted towards Indian cinema throughout his life.
6. Naseeruddin Shah
Naseeruddin Shah is one of the most respected actor in the industry and an important personality in parallel cinema. He won many awards in his career – 3 National Film Awards and Filmfare Awards and many more. He also honored with the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan awards for his best work contribution to Indian cinema. Movies which gave him more fame are Mirch Masala, A Wednesday, Sarfarosh. In 1977, he formed Motley Productions.
7. Raj Kapoor
Raj Kapoor was an actor, film producer and director. He was the biggest showman in Indian cinema and entertainment history. His acing in Awaara movie was ranked by Time magazine as one of the top 10 greatest performances. His films gained worldwide popularity especially in Asia and Europe. He received many awards during his journey.
8. Shriram Lagoo
Shriram Lagoo was a film and theatre actor in both Hindi and Marathi cinema. He was also an ENT Surgeon. Multi-talented Shriram appeared in more than 250 films including Hindi, Marathi films as well as Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati plays. He directed more than 20 Marathi plays. He won the 1978 Filmfare Award. His autobiography is titled as Lamaan.
9. Seema Biswas
Seema Biswas is an film and theatre actress who belongs to Assam. She get the fame from the role of Phoolan Devi in Shekhar Kapur’s film- Bandit Queen. Seema won the National Film Award for Best Actress for the role. Her other famous films are Khamoshi and won the Screen Award for Best Supporting Actress for this role, Bhoot, Vivah, and Half Girlfriend. This amazing talented actress has been a part of many television shows and done her graduation from NSD. Her mother was her role model.
10. Om Puri
Late Om Prakash Puri appeared in important commercial Hindi films, also in independent and art films. He is best known for his writer-backed roles in movies – Aakrosh, Arohan , Ardh Satya. He also appeared in television films like Sadgati and Tamas and also done light-hearted roles in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro and Chachi 420. Om Puri can be seen in non-Indian productions in the American and Britain. He won many awards and graduated from FTII and NSD.
On 6 January 2017 he left the world creating a void in Indian Cinema.
11. Girish Karnad
Girish Karnad is a famous name in the Bollywood movie industry and in Kannada too. People call him legend because of his amazing acting talent. When it comes to his achievements as a play writer and a stage actor there is no comparison. He committed his life in movies since the 60s and won many awards during his journey.
He translated his plays in many Indian as well as English languages.
12. Anupam Kher
Anupam Kher has performed in more than 500 films largely in language Hindi and many plays. He has been admired so much by people for his roles both in India and foreign. Whenever NSD student feels to test the skills of a talented actor, he turns to the stage and astonished everyone. His own play Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai, is based on his personal life and has done many broadcasting.
13. Boman Irani
Boman Irani is an actor, voice artist, and photographer. He made his debut in 2003 horror film Darna Mana Hai. Irani gained popularity and success with comedy film Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.. One of his most famous roles is of the lead role he played in I am not Bajirao, the show ran for more than 17 years.
He was so much active in Hindi films and theatres which describe why he fits in every role perfectly. He has done many successful films and his movies rank among the highest-grossing Indian films. He also won the award for his movie 3 Idiots. On 24 January 2019 Irani launched his production house “Irani Movietone”.
14. Ratna Pathak
Ratna Pathak Shah is an actress and director. She is popular for her work in Hindi theatre, television, and films. Her popularity rose to peak for her performance as Maya Sarabhai in the sitcom Sarabhai vs Sarabhai. After doing plays with Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri Ratna got inspired and joined NSD. She has also appeared in many films like Khoobsurat, Golmaal 3 and Lipstick Under My Burkha, Thappad etc.
Ratna Pathak has established herself as one of the theatre icons of India.
15. Alok Nath
Alok Nath is an actor famous for his acting performance Hindi cinema and television. He made his debut in 1982 film Gandhi. Famous for his roles of Babuji (Father) in many Bollywood movies Alok Nath is one the most favorite meme template on social media.
He worked with Ruchika Theatre Group and graduated from Hindu College in DU and NSD.
16. Raghubir Yadav
Raghubir Yadav is a film, stage and television actor, music composer, singer and set designer too. He made his film debut with film Massey Sahib in 1985. He is famous for his performance in Mungerilal Ke Haseen Sapne, Lagaan and Peepli Live. A NSD alumini Raghubir is much more than his achievement in Bollywood. He has acted in more than 70 plays and 2500 show. He has won many awards during his journey including both national and international.
17. Shah Rukh Khan
Shah Rukh Khan is an actor, film producer, and TV personality. The King Khas was a theatre artist while he was in Delhi University. He was a member of the Theatre Action Group and studied under Barry John.
SRK is considered as the one of the most successful film star in the world. He is the co-chairman of Red Chillies Entertainment.
18. Irrfan Khan
Irrfan Khan was an actor who performed in Hindi, British and American movies. He was counted among the finest actors of Indian cinema. He got a scholarship to study from NSD and made his debut with Salaam Bombay in 1987. After his graduation he moved to Mumbai and worked on various, theatre and television roles.
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian expressed Irrfhan Khan as “a distinguished and charismatic star in Hindi and English-language movies whose hardworking career was an enormously valuable bridge between South Asian and Hollywood cinema”.
Irrfan’s death has created such a huge void in the film industry which is almost impossible to fill.
19. Manoj Bajpayee
Manoj Bajpayee is an Indian film actor who has worked in Bollywood, Telugu and Tamil movies. From the childhood Manoj wanted to become an actor. At the age of seventeen, he went to Delhi and applied for National School of Drama but got rejected four times. He continued his studies in college and side by side he did theatre with the help of Barry John.
20. Yashpal Sharma
Yashpal Sharma is a Bollywood actor and theatre artist. He performs as a stage actor too and has appeared in live Ramlila plays. Yashpal graduated from National School of Drama in 1994 and moved to Mumbai in 1997. We mostly have seen him potraying dark or grey characters in Bollywood.
21. Rajpal Yadav
Rajpal Yadav is an actor famous as a comedian actor in Bollywood. He did a lot of hard-work and shows his best talented performance on stage. Rajpal has been actively involved with Shahjahanpur theatre scene and before entering into Bollywood, he has worked with the Bhartendu Natya Academy.
22. Shammi Kapoor
Shammi Kapoor was very famous in Bollywood during mid-1950s till the early 1970s. He is recognized as popular comedian and successful actors in Indian cinema. He started his career as a junior artist and then worked for 4 years with Prithvi Theatre. He placed his image as rare kind of actor in Bollywood.
Cinema industry lost Shammi Kapoor on 14 August 2011.
23. Raj Babbar
Raj Babbar is a Hindi and Punjabi film actor and politician too. His name is pretty much famous and he became a household name during 80s. Raj Babbar was trained in the Method school of acting at NSD, which is involved in Street Theatre.
24. Kulbhushan Kharbanda
Kulbhushan Kharbanda is an actor who performs in Hindi and Punjabi movies. He is famous for his role of villain in movie Shakaal in Shaan. He started with theatre group Yatrik situated in Delhi in the 1960s. He has performed in many parallel cinema movies and after that he entered in mainstream Bollywood industry.
25. Vinay Pathak
Vinay Pathak is a theater and film actor. He has acted in many films including Khosla Ka Ghosla, Bheja Fry and many more. He started practicing and performing when he was in State University of New York, where he went for MBA. Later the he left his MBA to attend Drama school.
26. Ashish Vidyarthi
Ashish Vidyarthi is an actor who acted in Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, and Bengali movies. He is famous for his villain and character roles. While pursuing BA in History from Hindu College, Ashish joined theatre. He has performed in more than 75 plays with groups like Sambhav , Act One and Ekjute. Hi famous role is of the titular role in the monologue Dayashankar ki Diary.
He was awarded with the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor in movie Drohkaal in 1995.
27. Paresh Rawal
Paresh Rawal is an actor, comedian, film producer and politician. He is famous for his works in Hindi and few Telugu movies. He was a student of Narsee Monjee College and there Paresh used to act in many plays of different languages. He was a regular performer at Prithvi Theatre. His most famous plays includes Khelaiya, Dear Father and Krishan vs Kanhaiya.
28. Rahul Bose
Rahul Bose is a film actor, director, screenwriter, social activist, and a rugby player. He started his stage career with Rahul D’Cunha’s plays Topsy Turvey and Are There Tigers in Congo? Rahul has appeared in many famous films like Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, Pyaar Ke Side Effects, Maan Gaye Mughal-e-Azam and many more. He also performed in the Tamil movies as an antagonist. Time magazine gave title him as “the superstar of Indian art house cinema”. Maxim magazine titled him as “the Sean Penn of Oriental cinema”.
29. Tigmanshu Dhulia
Tigmanshu Dhulia is an movie dialogue writer, director, actor, screenwriter, producer and casting director. Tigmanshu is famous for his role in Gangs of Wasseypur. Dhulia completed his master’s degree in Theatre from the National School of Drama. His director career includes Haasil, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster and Paan Singh Tomar.
30. Rohini Hattangadi
Rohini Hattangadi is famous for her acts in Hindi,Telugu movies and Marathi Soap Opera’s and theatre. She started her career on the Marathi stage. As a student of Delhi-based NSD, Hattangadi mostly worked in theatre. In 1978 Rohini made her film debut in Arvind Desai Ki Ajeeb Dastaan. She got famous because of her good acting roles in these movies Arth, Party and Saaransh. She has acted in more than 80 feature films and produced over 150 plays.
31. Piyush Mishra
Piyush Mishra is a film and theatre actor, music director, lyricist, singer and scriptwriter. In 1986, Mishra graduated from National School of Drama. After that in Delhi itself he started his career in Hindi theatre and for the next decade Piyush portrays himself as a theatre director, actor, lyricist and singer.
32. Rajkummar Rao
Rajkummar Rao is a film actor famous for his work in Bollywood. Rajkumar Rao graduated from the DU and after that he went to study acting at the FTII. Later he moved to Mumbai to purse his careen in acting. He actively participated in theatre with Kshitij Repertory and Shri Ram Centre while doing his studies in Delhi University.
Rajkummar is a natural actor and has given movies like Newton, Bareilly Ki Barfi.
33. Makarand Deshpande
Makarand Deshpande is a film actor, writer, and director in Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Marathi, Telugu, Malayalam cinema, and Indian Theatre. He is famous and mostly seen performing roles like supporting, comical roles and pivotal roles in many films. Makarand has directed more than 5 films.
Makarand Deshpande has given a big contribution in theatre and has written 350 full-length plays. He performed in more than 50 short plays and 40 full-length plays, including Sir Sir Sirla, Joke, Maa In Transit, Krishna Kidding and Shakepearcha Mhatara.
In 1990 he started his journey at Prithvi Theatre with the help of Sanjana Kapoor. Ansh Theatre Group was started by him in the year 1993 with Kay Kay Menon.
34. Sanjay Mishra
Sanjay Mishra is a film actor known for his work mainly in Bollywood and TV. Thanks to movies like Dum Laga Ke Haisha and Aankhon Dekhi because of which we get to know this amazing artist. Sanjay Mishra graduated from NSD in 1989.
35. Kangana Ranaut
Kangana Ranaut shifted to Delhi when she was just 16 years old. While trying her careen in modeling Kangana also participated in theatre under the supervision of Arvind Gaur. She took part in Gaur’s theatre workshop at the India Habitat Centre. There was one incident when one of the male actor went missing, Kangana played his part along with the role of woman.
36. Kalki Koechlin
Kalki Koechlin is a French actress and writer. She studied drama at Goldsmiths, University of London, and side by side she managed to do work with local theatres company. She made her screen debut in the drama Dev.D (2009). She can be seen in two of the highest-grossing comedy dramas – Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.
37. Nimrat Kaur
Nimrat Kaur is an actress who started as a print model and went on to act in theater. Nimrat is an amazing actress and drives people attention who likes good acting. She appeared in many SRCC stage plays of Delhi University. After shifting to Mumbai, Nimrat was seen in plays like Baghdad Wedding and All About Women.
38. Nandita Das
Nandita Das is an Indian actor and director. She has acted in over 40 feature films in ten different languages. She made her directorial debut with Firaaq. Her first book was Manto & I. Nandita also writes and acts in many plays like Heads Ya Tails, Mother and Between the Lines.
39. Rajat Kapoor
Born on February 11, 1961, Rajat Kapoor is an actor, writer, screenwriter and film director. From childhood he decided to become a filmmaker. Rajat joined the Delhi-based theatre group Chingari in 2013 and later he moved to Pune to attend FTII.
Rajat Kapoor is a master of offbeat cinema and is the man behind the cult classics Akhon Dekhi and Raghu Romeo. In 1984 he made his directorial debut – Marx Frisch’s Firebugs.
40. Radhika Apte
Radhika Apte has worked in Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Telugu, Malayalam, Bengali, and English-language movies. She made her directorial debut with The Sleepwalkers. Radhika was connected with Mohit Takalkar’s theatre troupe Aasakta. Actor Rahul Bose seen her perform in play Bombay Black and suggested her name to director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury. Aniruddha cast her in movie Antaheen. She also acts in many Marathi plays includes Tu, Purnaviram, Matra Ratra and many more.
After getting recognition from Gangs of Wasseypur 2 there has been no looking back for Nawazuddin Siddiqui. He graduated from National School of Drama (NSD) in 1996. After graduation Nawaz worked with the Sakhshi Theatre Group alongside Manoj Bajpayee and Saurabh Shukla.
42. Neeraj Kabi
Neeraj Kabi is a film and theatre actor, theatre director, and acting coach. He is famous for his works in International films and Bollywood, theatre, and TV. People started recognising him after the release of Ship of Theseus. He has been active in theatre since 1997, and has attended, worken on numerous workshops.
43. Pavan Malhotra
Pavan graduated in Arts from Hansraj College, Delhi University. After graduation Pavan joined theare in Delhi and then moved to Mumbai to try his luck in cinema. He made his film debut in the movie Ab Ayega Mazaa (1984). Remember the role of Tiger Memon he played in movie Black Friday.
44. Lillete Dubey
Lillete Dubey is an stage and film actress and a theatre Director too. She acted in both national (Hindi) and international (English) theatre, TV and movies. Lillete started her career with Barry John in Delhi and was the founding member of his group -Theatre Action Group (TAG) in 1973.
When she was studying at LSR (Delhi) at that time she started working on her acting skills in plays. She has directed many plays, most famous play – Mahesh Dattani’s Dance Like a Man. This play has completed 497 shows all over the world which includes a two-week run on the Broadway.
45. Richa Chadda
Richa Chadda is famous for her role as Bholi Punjaban in Fukrey series. She made her debut with a minor role in movie Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!. But in 2015, Richa debuted in an important role with Masaan. The movie received a standing ovation when screened at the Cannes film festival.
Richa has also worked in theatre play Trivial Disasters. The play was first staged in 2014 and was directed by Atul Kumar starring Richa Chaddha, Cyrus Sahukar, Kalki Koechlin and Purab Kohli.
46. Huma Qureshi
Huma Saleem Qureshi is an actress and model who mostly acts in Bollywood movie. Qureshi graduated from Delhi University in History. She has worked with many theatre directors-NK Sharma, Sohaila Kapur, Aamir Raza Husain and Rahul Pulkeshi. After that she moved to Mumbai. Anurag Kashyap noticed her acting skills during the commercial shoot and signed her for three-film deal with his company only.
47. Supriya Pathak
Supriya Pathak is mainly popular and everyone knows her as Hansa from Khichdi. Supriya father Dina Pathak was a Gujarati theater artiste. Her elder sister Ratna Pathak is also a theatre artist and a film actor.
48. Konkona Sen Sharma
Konkona Sen Sharma is an actress, writer, and director who mostly work in Hindi and Bengali films. She is the daughter of filmmaker–actress Aparna Sen. Konkona shared the stage with Rajat Kapoor, Vinay Pathak, Ranvir Shorey and Sheeba Chadha for Atul Kumar’s theatrical play The Blue Mug. The play was toured worldwide.
She gained appreciation and popularity from English language movie Mr. and Mrs. Iyer.
49. Pankaj Tripathi
Pankaj Tripathi is considered as one of the most talented in cinema. He completed his graduation from the National School of Drama in 2004 and then he moved to Mumbai. The breakthrough he got after his role in Gangs of Wasseypur, there was no looking back.
50. Vinay Varma
Vijay Varma started his acting journey from his hometown and work as a theatre artist. He has been involved with theatre for more than thirty years. Vinay started his theater career with the play Coffee House Mein Intezar in 1980 and since then he has directed over 30 plays and acted in more than 50 of them. Few of his notable performances are in Natasamrat, Raktbeej, Main Nathuram Godse, Kanjoos Makkhi Choose.
51. Sheeba Chaddha
Sheeba Chaddha was born and grew up in Delhi. There she developed interest in theatre and started taking theatre workshops. She is also involved in running a theatre group, “The Company Theatre” in Mumbai.
52. Shweta Tripathi
Famous for the role of Golu Gupta in web series Mirzapur (2018), Shweta started her career as a production assistant and associate director. Shweta started a theater company called All My Tea Productions in 2008. The group focuses on light-hearted comedy.
Her notable performances are in Masaan (2015) and Haraamkhor (2017).
53. Abhay Deol
Born in the influential Deol family Abhay started acting at a very young age. He started to act in theater at his school. In fact once Abhay revealed that he got into acting not because of his father but because he was into theatre since school.