Veteran Bollywood actor Gulshan Grover, who started out as a hundred percent villain, has played a gangster in several movies during his more than three-decade-long career in the film industry. Movie fans have seen him squaring off against Bollywood’s mightiest heroes for a long time, even earning him the moniker ‘Bad Man’.
But the recently released web film, “Bad Man,” takes the multi-faceted actor to the good side. Even though he switched sides to play a fictionalized version of himself in this comic caper, Grover still won over the hearts and minds of the fans with his stellar performance.
“Bad Man,” produced by Viacom 18 and directed by Soumik Sen (“Gulaab Gang”), follows the iconic Bollywood villain, Grover, who decides to start life afresh at 60 by launching himself as a hero in his home production.
Featuring Grover in the lead, the 80-minute mockumentary, divided in four parts, is filled with celebrity cameos. Farah Khan, Jackie Shroff, Rishi Kapoor, Manisha Koirala, Mahesh Bhatt, Chunky Pandey are among the many popular faces in this film, who star as themselves. The film is available on Viacom 18’s digital platform Voot.
Grover recently won the ‘Best Actor’ award at the Silicon Valley Film Festival in San Francisco, Calif., for “Bad Man,” which shines a light on the funny side of Bollywood.
“Recognition as the Best Actor for such a film, which is a pioneering effort by Viacom India in many ways, is great,” Grover told India-West. “It’s the first film where someone whose whole brand has been playing the bad guy, his iconic character is the name of the film, and that same villain plays the hero in the film. My villain friends have turned heroes but nobody has ever played the title character.”
Grover added: “The audiences were saying that it reminded them of Peter Sellers’ performance in ‘Being There’ or Michael Keaton’s performance in ‘Birdman.’”
Grover, arguably the most impressive nemesis Bollywood heroes have dealt with, theorized that “real villains” in Hindi films are now dwindling in numbers.
“I am the only specialized villain star-actor left in the business and unfortunately that title will finish once I am gone, because in present day and time there aren’t any possibilities of an actor making a huge career and gaining stardom and popularity by just playing the villain, the bad guy,” he told India-West. “It’s very difficult now as there are not many films that are made in which there is a larger role of a villain.”
The star villain of Hindi cinema, Grover carved out a niche for himself in Bollywood with his effective portrayal of negative roles. But he noted that wasn’t easy to come by.
“I always say I am a villain out of choice. I am not a reject hero,” Grover told India-West. “A good looking actor with average acting can play a hero, but to play a villain in a film, you have to be a very good actor and it’s especially tough if you’re working in many films simultaneously.”
Grover is among the first commercial actors to expand his career beyond the realm of Bollywood. Having made a successful transition from Bollywood to Hollywood by starring in big-budget films like “Desperate Endeavors” (2011) and “Beeper” (2002), Grover today feels content that he paved the way for the younger generation, adding that he is hopeful that more talent will join the bandwagon.
“I am very happy and proud to have created a mud path in India between Bollywood and Hollywood,” he remarked. “And now the mud path is being cemented and followed by colleagues like Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Irrfan Khan, Anil Kapoor, Anupam Kher and so many others.”
Grover, who lent his voice to the character of Fleshlumpeater in the Hindi dubbed version of Steven Spielberg’s fantasy adventure film, “The BFG,” also starred in the just released Indo-Aussie venture, titled “UnIndian” starring Australian cricketer Brett Lee.
“When I landed on the sets in Australia, the first thing Brett said to me was, ‘Thank you for doing my film. Without you being in this character, this film would be incomplete.’ That of course meant that he had seen my work, he knew who I was and how significant it was for the film to have me play the character,” Grover said, adding that Lee was a great entertainer.
“You look so handsome and so vulnerable, where is that dangerous Brett Lee? He said, ‘Mate, just wear a pair of pads, have a bat in your hand and I’ll show you,’” he said.
Discussing the various stumbling blocks and hurdles on his road to success in Hollywood, Grover told India-West, “There was no internet and they did not know of our presence, how popular we were and how fantastic our films were.”
“All they had seen were some great Satyajit Ray films in some festival or the other. Making them sit for three and a half hours to watch Hindi films without subtitles was very difficult,” he said. But once they were exposed to the “iconic Indian cinema,” Grover said American filmmakers started to love it.
Grover, in spite of having appeared in more than 400 films over the years, is still the trendsetter he has always been, and inspires huge love from his fans. He believes that he has “matured” in his work and “this exposure in Hollywood and in the western cinema has got him better and more ready and excited.”
“I somehow can’t relate to the number on IMDb about me that I have really done all those films,” he said. “I just feel that I have done some work and I have a large amount of work to do. I have so much inside me. ‘Bad Man’ is one example of that because no star-actor had taken on a film like this where the humor is on you.”