By Poulomi Das Dec. 23, 2017
In a year where Bollywood has been plagued by disastrous box-office results, mainstream film letdowns, and inconsistent performances by its superstars, it’s the hero’s humble sidekick who has wowed.
Back in 2014, Sahil Vaid ended up giving a whopping 16 auditions to play Poplu, one of the two sidekicks of Varun Dhawan’s Humpty in Shashank Khaitan’s charming Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, a modern-day update on Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. Three years, after a 100-crore box-office hit, and unanimous appreciation from audiences and critics, Vaid reprised his role of the affable hero ka dost this March in the sequel, Badrinath Ki Dulhania. Except, the second time around, he had the role handed to him without any audition. He didn’t have to share sidekick duty with any other actor; this time around, he was the star.
As Somdev, the illiterate, lovelorn, and entitled Badri’s bestie, Vaid singularly infused warmth, impeccable comic-timing, and anguish into what could have easily been restricted to being a stock character, forcing the audience to sit up and take notice of his irrepressible talent yet again. And that too, in a film that boasted of a crackling chemistry between its two leads, Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt. Somdev is the guy who will not end up with the girl he loves, but yet we can’t help but root for him.
In a year where Bollywood has been plagued by disastrous box-office results, mainstream film letdowns, and inconsistent performances by its superstars, men like Sahil Vaid — ones whose wonted obligation is to make the hero look larger than life — have been a constant. The hero ka dost, until this year, was an underwritten character, solely existing as a prop for punchlines. He was unremarkable and it was difficult to differentiate one from the other.
But, 2017 changed that.
2017’s sidekicks have one thing in common: They’ve all risen above weak storylines, limited screen time, and the unbearable weight of the film’s “star presence” to deliver noteworthy performances.
After Rajkumar Hirani’s Circuit, delivered flawlessly by Arshad Warsi, Bollywood has had a lull in spectacular sidekicks
Vikrant Massey’s earnest roommate act as Shailesh in Half Girlfriend was the only redeeming factor of the disastrous film adapted from an wholly unnecessary book. Besides giving Arjun Kapoor a masterclass in how to get the Bihari accent right, Massey’s distrustful Shailesh, unwilling to change his worldview, seemed believable in a cinematic universe headlined by an actress who is magnetically attracted to rains and a Bihari prince. Massey also stood out in a brief role among the talented women in Alankrita Srivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha but he knocked it out of the park in Konkona Sen Sharma’s A Death in the Gunj. As the fragile Shutu, he delivered one of the finest performances of 2017. Massey’s year then, has been the kind of evolution that sidekicks dream of.
There was also Herry Tangri’s (best remembered for playing Yuvraj Singh in M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story) Haryanvi sidekick in Behen Hogi Teri that provided the perfect foil to Rajkummar Rao’s Gattu. As Bhura who unwittingly ends up getting caught in Gattu’s chaos, Tengri gives a face to every neighbourhood best friend, stealing scenes with his faultless comic timing.
As Somdev, the illiterate, lovelorn, and entitled Badri’s bestie, Sahil Vaid singularly infused warmth, impeccable comic-timing, and anguish into what could have easily been restricted to being a stock character. Image credit: Dharma Prodctions
As Somdev, the illiterate, lovelorn, and entitled Badri’s bestie, Sahil Vaid singularly infused warmth, impeccable comic-timing, and anguish into what could have easily been restricted to being a stock character.
Image credit: Dharma Prodctions
Matching Tengri was Rohit Chaudhary in the immensely enjoyable Bareilly Ki Barfi, a film that witnessed two of the country’s finest young actors share the screen. To stand out in a film boasting of the collective brilliance of Rajkummar Rao, Ayushmann Khurrana, Pankaj Tripathi, and Seema Pahwa is no mean feat, but Chaudhary manages to shine in a small role. Just like Deepak Dobriyal’s chawl-residing Shyamprakash Kori, in Hindi Medium.
As the large-hearted neighbour of Irrfan Khan, Dobriyal is a complete hoot, whether it is him trying to fake an accident to help Khan’s Raj Batra, or delivering hilarious takes on poverty with a straight face. The actor artfully transforms Kori’s naivete into comedy; especially in a scene where he pushes Khan out of an ATM booth, assuming that his poverty has led him to stealing money. He’s equally earnestly innocent in the scene where he helps Khan clean a floor of his house, mistaking him as the servant.
After Rajkumar Hirani’s Circuit, delivered flawlessly by Arshad Warsi, Bollywood has had a lull in spectacular sidekicks, but now Sahil Vaid, Vikrant Massey, Herry Tengri, Rohit Chaudhary, and Deepak Dobriyal seem to have come to the rescue of this potentially important character to make sure that the humble hero ka dost does not get cowed down any longer.
Bollywood biggies collectively took up the task of being mediocre this year and the sidekicks came to their rescue. And 2017 would have ended up being the year where an out-of-bounds Varun Dhawan, a lacklustre Shah Rukh Khan, a frighteningly dull Salman Khan, and a misguidedly awful Hrithik Roshan reigned, if not for these fabulous supporting actors, and for that, Bollywood’s gotta bow before them.
When not obsessing over TV shows, planning unaffordable vacations, or stuffing her face with french fries, Poulomi likes believing that some day her sense of humour will be darker than her under-eye circles.