Top 10 Theater Actors Who Made It To Bollywood

7:25 am 15 Nov, 2013


There is an ever-existent burning debate on what is really better – theater or movies? Both have their own merits and peculiarities and so a comparison is not really justified. Maintaining a balance between the two, there’re some talented actors who have moved from theater to the big screen. Not only did they earn fame for themselves in the commercial world (and parallel cinema), but also proved theater artists can be good (and successful) actors on the celluloid. Here are top 10 theater actors who had their own share of struggle and made it to Bollywood.

10. Rajpal Yadav:

Born with a funny bone and one of the eminent names in the list of Bollywood comedians, Rajpal Yadav knows perfectly well how to evoke laughter even under the most uninteresting circumstances. The versatile comedian has been connected with Shahjahanpur Theater (in Uttar Pradesh) since a very young age. Thereafter, he joined Bhartendu Natya Academy in Lucknow. It was only after years of active theater, did he graduate to Bollywood movies.

Rajpal Yadav - Theater Actors Who Made It To Bollywood

9. Tigmanshu Dhulia:

Someone, who is known to double up both as a director and actor effortlessly, Tigmanshu Dhulia took a Master’s degree from the National School of Drama and completed his course in 1989. Thereon, he took to active theater and has been a part of many theater plays. He is better known for his direction in the cult movie ‘Pan Singh Tomar’ that went on to win the National Film Award in the Best Film category in 2012.

Tigmanshu Dhulia - Theater Actors Who Made It To Bollywood

8. Ashutosh Rana:

No one can beat the guy when it comes at method acting. His spellbinding performance in ‘Sangharsh’ and ‘Dushman’ still gives goosebums to one and all. An actor with an impeccable hold over Hindi language, Ashutosh has also worked in the film industry down south.

Ashutosh Rana - Theater Actors Who Made It To Bollywood

7. Shabana Azmi:


Extensively involved in theater, films and television, Shabana Azmi comes from a very distinguished background. Daughter of renowned poet Kaifi Azmi and wife of veteran song writer in Bollywood Javed Akhtar, Shabana has been actively involved in theater even before completing her course in acting at Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). She is currently a member of the Rajya Sabha.

Shabana Azmi - Theater Actors Who Made It To Bollywood

6. Shahrukh Khan

Very few known that ‘King Khan’ staged theater for a long time during his Delhi days. Manoj Bajpai, another popular Bollywood actor who graduated to cinema from theater, was his batch mate at Barry John’s theater learning academy in Delhi.

Shahrukh Khan - Theater Actors Who Made It To Bollywood

5. Om Puri:

Alumnus of National School of Drama, where Nasseruddin Shah was a co-student, Om Puri has been performing theater plays for over three decades now. Known for unconventional roles, Om Puri has staged many plays alongside Nasseruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi. Winner of Padamshree Award, he has a wide experience in all forms of theater art.

Om Puri - Theater Actors Who Made It To Bollywood

4. Irrfan Khan:

The actor known for his versatile talent and captivating eyes, is also a product from National School of Drama (NSD) who took Bollywood (and Hollywood as well) by storm in the last decade. The National Award winning actor forayed into Bollywood through theater and television.

Irrfan Khan - Theater Actors Who Made It To Bollywood

3. Manoj Bajpai:

Certainly one of the breed of the most talented actors, Manoj Bajpai is the other shining example of theater actors making Big in Hindi cinema. Rejected four times at the National School of Drama, the ‘Sardar Khan’ from ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ did theater with Barry John at Barry’s Drama School for many years alongside Shahrukh Khan.

Manoj Bajpai - Theater Actors Who Made It To Bollywood

2. Piyush Mishra:

The renowned theater actor, lyricist, music director, singer and script writer, Piyush Mishra also graduated from National School of Drama in 1986. Thereafter, he continued performing Hindi theater. It was only in the year 2002; the gifted actor shifted his base to Mumbai and took on the mettle to establish himself in the Hindi film industry.

Piyush Mishra - Theater Actors Who Made It To Bollywood

1. Nasseruddin Shah:


Veteran film actor and director, Nasseruddin Shah is widely considered the finest stage actors of Bollywood. Winner of Padma Bhushan, Padam Shri, three National Awards and numerous Filmfare Awards, Shah had attended National School of Drama in the early 1970s. It was here, he honed his acting skills. He became active in mainstream Bollywood movies in 1980 with a film named ‘Hum Panch’ although he had done a few previously too.

Nasseruddin Shah - Theater Actors Who Made It To Bollywood

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