Kaamyaab still
Kaamyaab still Image Credit: Supplied

Film: Kaamyaab

Cast: Sanjay Mishra, Deepak Dobriyal, Isha Talwar

Director: Hardik Mehta

Stars: 3.5 out of 5

Has there ever been a Bollywood award for the ‘best extra’ in a film?

Hardik Mehta’s stirring film ‘Kaamyaab’ is a heart-warming tale that chronicles the life of Sudheer — a fading background actor in Hindi cinema — that is played brilliantly by Sanjay Mishra and makes you want to spearhead a campaign for it.

You are likely to turn on your cheerleader mode for all those unsung supporting actors who live in the shadows of superstars all their lives after watching this touching bittersweet drama.

‘Kaamyaab’ is a searing portrait of the indignities that these character actors face on a daily basis in their line of work that’s known to worships its top-bill superstars and success exclusively.

These ‘extras’ are never the bride or groom, but are relegated to being waiter at every wedding. But the film never allows its actors to wallow in that self-pity.

Mishra is aptly cast as Sudheer, a retired background actor who realises that he has done 499 roles in his uneventful career and tries to resurrect his career thinking his 500th roles could be a milestone in his life.

The movie charts his comeback riddled with the harsh reality that he’s at the bottom of the Bollywood food chain and that your ego gets eroded every day. He’s a non-entity to many, a realisation that dawns on him towards the end.

Mishra — as a consummate ‘character actor’ who uses alcohol as a crutch to perform — revels in his troubled role. His transformation from a demoralised, disillusioned, out-of-work artist to a man determined to earn the dubious distinction of acting in his 500th role is spot on.

But he never cuts a sympathetic, sorry-figure. And that’s one of the wins of ‘Kaamyaab’, it never tries too hard to impress. It presses your buttons nonetheless.

Seasoned actor Deepak Dobriyal as the smarmy casting agent is a hoot. The scenes in which Dobriyal tries to make Mishra’s character tone down his melodrama — that worked in the 80s and 90s films — during an audition round is comic gold. The disconnect that Sudheer feels with the entertainment industry and how he fails to roll with the changes in his line of work makes him endearing. His frailties as an actor and his failure as a father to a daughter who fails to understand his passion for cinema is wonderfully showcased.

Actress Isha Talwar as an actress hopeful and his sprightly neighbour is a revelation. Their unlikely bond of friendship makes it an interesting slice-of-life drama. Sudheer’s relationship with his frustrated, pragmatic daughter who doesn’t understand her father’s passion for acting adds up.

Be warned that his film, backed by Drishyam Films and Red Chillies Entertainment spurred by Shah Rukh Khan, moves at a languid pace and takes some time to warm up. But once you connect, the sum of its stirring scenes make it a good, engaging watch.

The climax where there are no happily-ever-after perfect endings wrap things up nicely.

Mishra’s character Sudheer may be an actor who’s inconspicuous and forgotten, but he’s a superstar in our eyes.