Five actors who transformed themselves radically for a role

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Mumbai (21/09/2023): Sushmita Sen, Amitabh Bachchan, Maniesh Paul, Aamir Khan and Bhumi Pednekar, went to great lengths to morph into their characters

Method acting is often looked down upon in Hindi cinema as most roles in mainstream entertainment are created to please the gallery and rely on mannerism driven performances. However, we pick some performances from films and OTT shows where actors have gone to great lengths to transform themselves into characters that were in direct contrast to their real life personas.


Sushmita Sen – Taali

From the way, she drapes her pallu to the manner in which she sits before a hospital in rain to protest against its discriminatory policies, to her voice, Sushmita Sen stuns with her powerful portrayal of transgender activist Shreegauri Sawant in ‘Taali’, a superhit OTT series created by Arjun and Kartk and directed by Ravi Jadhav. Released on August 15, the show features Sushmita in a towering, career-defining performance and she spent six months immersing herself in the script to get it right. She gained weight and worked on her voice, diction, body language and mannerisms. To sensitively etch Ganesh’s life before his transition into Gauri, she even wore a ‘male guard’ to get into his skin and nailed his walk. During the shoot, she sat through over two hours of makeup everyday and then the former Miss Universe unmistakably became Gauri Sawant; body, mind and soul.


Amitabh Bachchan – Paa

In this unusual R. Balki film, a sixty something Amitabh Bachchan pulled off the impossible feat of portraying a child. With the help of prosthetics and make-up that at times took over six hours, the actor morphed into Auro, a 12-year-old boy suffering from progeria, a rare genetic disorder that accelerates aging. It is to the credit of the director and the actor that not once did he look anything but convincing while throwing tantrums before his mother (Vidya Balan) and grandmother (Arundhati Nag). His own son Abhishek Bachchan played his estranged father in the film and their scenes together did not look incongruous and in fact moved the audiences to tears. Bachchan not only realistically depicted the characteristics of progeria but also won the audience over with the wide-eyed innocence, guileless smile and body language of a young boy who also radiated the wisdom of an old soul.


Maniesh Paul – Rafuchakkar

In this Arjun and Kartk creation and Ritam Srivastava directorial, Maniesh Paul made his OTT debut and played no less than five characters with great conviction. He took audiences and critics by surprise by displaying his versatility and histrionics in the series and broke past his jovial and a tad limiting image of a television and award host. He gained 10 kgs and then lost 15 kgs over a span of four months to play a con artist who dons multiple looks and avatars to dupe people. He seamlessly transitioned from a pot-bellied middle-aged man to a ripped bodybuilder with the help of a rigorous workout regime and diet plan. The use of prosthetics and makeup also helped him to disappear into his characters.

Aamir Khan – Dangal

He played a college student in his mid forties in ‘3 Idiots’, a lean, impoverished farmer in ‘Lagaan’, an amnesiac killing machine in ‘Gajini’ and an erstwhile, out-of-shape wrestling champion who was once an Olympic medal aspirant in ‘Dangal’. It goes without saying that Aamir Khan is the master of method acting. In Nitesh Tiwari’s ‘Dangal’, he plays Mahavir Singh Phogat, an ageing patriarch driving his daughters to become world beating wrestlers but we also see the lean, ambitious athlete he once was. The contrast between the two personas is unbelievable and a BTS video documented the way the actor shredded extra weight over months to gain the muscled fitness of a young Mahavir Phogat. But even more stirring than his physical transformation was Aamir’s nuanced portrayal of a father who, with his unwavering determination and tireless love, steers his daughters towards greatness.

Bhumi Pednekar – Dum Laga Ke Haisha

In this Sharat Katariya directorial and 2015 Yashraj Films release, Bhumi Pednekar played Sandhya, an academician married to a man who cannot see beyond her weight and humiliates her to a point where she walks out of the marriage. To play this role convincingly, Bhumi defied the idea of a picture perfect debutante heroine, put on weight and was almost 90 kgs during the film’s shoot. She also managed to convey with great dignity and grace that casual fat shaming within families is toxic, that women are not just their body types and have a brain and a heart too. For her impressive performance, she ended up winning the Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut.

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