11 Bollywood Actors Who Pulled Off The Role Of A Transgender With Ease
Posted On: 15 Feb 2021 | Last Updated : 08 Mar 2022 | Views : 73
Transgenders or eunuchs or more commonly known as ‘Hijra’s or ‘Kinnar’ have been a part of our society since time immemorial and will continue to be. Though they were considered as an outcaste by society but however have been a part of our Bollywood movies where they usually appeared in cameos for the fun of it like yesteryear actors - Raj Kishore, Jugnu, Johny Whisky, Ravi Jhankal, Ghanshyam and others. Times have changed since then as we see more actors appear in the role of transgenders or eunuchs to make the narration more gripping and realistic. Though playing the character of a eunuch demands a lot of hard work but some lead as well as supporting actors have gone that extra mile to get into the skin of a transgender character and managed to pull it off with ease. Here’s a list of 10 popular actors who won our hearts with their memorable performances by portraying transgender characters on-screen.
1. Akshay Kumar – Laxmii (2020)
Akshay Kumar is one such popular actor who not just experiments with his roles but also goes all out to surprise audiences to make the narration appealing. Laxmii (earlier titled ‘Laxmmi Bomb’) truly stands out as one of the most memorable performances in his entire career where he played a transgender or eunuch for the first time on screen. A remake of director Raghava Lawrence’s super hit Tamil film Muni 2: Kanchana, Laxmmi Bomb showcased a totally different Akshay Kumar where his eunuch act made fans go gaga over him. Sharad Kelkar too played a eunuch in the horror-comedy but it was an Akshay Kumar show all the way.
2. Ashutosh Rana – Shabnam Mausi (2005), Sangharsh (1999)
Ashutosh Rana played a transgender in not one but two films. The first time he played a transgender character was that of the dreaded Lajja Shankar Pandey in the Akshay Kumar starrer Sangharsh where he kidnapped children and sacrificed them to become immortal. The other time he played a eunuch to the hilt was as the main lead in Shabnam Mausi, a biopic which was based on Shabnam Mausi Bano who was the first transgender Indian to be elected as MLA to the Madhya Pradesh state legislative assembly from 1998 to 2003. Both times Ashutosh Rana managed to grab the attention of the viewers by playing his part convincingly.
3. Johnny Lever – Anjaam (1994) / Ravan Raaj (1995) / Jeet (1996) / Housefull 4 (2019)
Johnny Lever needs to be included in this exclusive list of Bollywood transgender characters for the simple reason that he has done it more times than any other lead actor in the past. A few films that come to mind straightway are Anjaam, Ravan Raaj, Jeet and Housefull 4 where he made us laugh with his comic eunuch act. Despite being loud and playing to the gallery his expressions were enough to set the ball rolling. Though his normal comic acts are far more memorable but his transgender performances go to show his versatility as an actor.
4. Sadashiv Amrapurkar – Sadak (1991)
Sadak probably was the first instance where a eunuch played the antagonist in a Bollywood film. Sadashiv Amrapurkar’s Maharani act of an evil transgender pimp running a brothel easily would end up as one of the top 10 transgender characters in Bollywood. His portrayal of Maharani on-screen was nothing short of brilliance overshadowing all other actors in the film which included Sanjay Dutt and Pooja Bhatt. His performance as Maharani not just sent a chill down the spine of the audience but also generated instant hatred towards him. He was so convincing playing the character on-screen that coming to think of it no one could have played Maharani better than him those days. And, it surprised no one when he walked away with that year's ‘Best Villain’ Filmfare trophy for his memorable act.
5. Paresh Rawal – Tamanna (1997)
Whenever there'll be a mention of the top 10 transgender characters in the Hindi film industry, Paresh Rawal's Tikku performance will rate among the very best. Inspired by real-life transgender named Tikku, Tamanna is remembered for Paresh Rawal’s impeccable act of a eunuch who brings up a little girl who loses her mother. Directed by Mahesh Bhatt, the film was an out-and-out Paresh Rawal show who diligently portrayed different shades to his eunuch character where he tries to prove his unconditional love for the adopted. Paresh’s performance garnered critical praise and appreciation helping the film to bag that year's National Film Award for Best Film on Social Issues in 1998.
6. Prashant Narayanan - Murder 2 (2011)
Many may not remember but actor Prashant Narayanan’s misogynistic cross-dressing eunuch act as Dheeraj Pandey in Murder 2 is worth a mention. His portrayal as a psychopath serial killer who pretends to be a customer, contacts call girls only to kill them mercilessly, sent chills. Prashant Narayanan’s performance as a eunuch was not just eerie but also dark and spooky which eventually was the only saving grace in this psychological thriller film in the Murder film series. Though the film seemed to be a remake of the 2008 South Korean movie The Chaser, the makers claimed that it was inspired by the 2006 Nithari killings that took place in Noida, UP.
7. Mahesh Manjrekar – Rajjo (2013)
Talk about Bollywood actors who played transgenders or eunuchs on screen, who can forget Mahesh Manjrekar’s portrayal as a transgender named Begum in Kangana Ranaut starrer Rajjo. Rajjo was a love story that revolved around a nautch girl Rajjo (Kangana Ranaut) who is a part of the dying ‘Kotha’ culture of Mumbai and falls in love with Paras Arora (Chandu). The ‘Kotha’ which is run and managed by Begum (Mahesh Manjrekar) can do anything to keep the culture alive. Mahesh’s act as the ruthless Begum was the only interesting character that added sheen to the narrative in this much forgetful Sahitya Akademi Award-winning writer Vishwas Patil directorial.
8. Arif Zakaria – Darmiyaan: In Between (1997)
One of Bollywood’s much talked about films of the 90s was director Kalpana Lajmi’s Darmiyaan which released in 1997. The story which drew similarities to Mahesh Bhatt’s Tamanna (1997), was that of an actress who discovers that her son is a eunuch and is in a dilemma whether to keep him or hand him over to the third gender community. Arif Zakaria’s portrayal as the transgender son of on-screen actress Kirron Kher drew a lot of praise earning him a National Film Award nomination. Though the film was ahead of its time, it was reported that Shah Rukh Khan was approached to play the role before Arif was signed on.
9. Nirmal Pandey - Daayraa (1997)
Many would have forgotten but Nirmal Pandey's transgender act in Daayraa can be placed among the top 10 transgender roles in Bollywood. Nirmal in the role of a transgender in Amol Palekar’s controversial film Daayraa initially didn’t get to release in Indian theatres but eventually did. The plot involved a romantic relationship between Nirmal Pandey who played a transvestite character and Sonali Kulkarni who played a physically abused woman who begins to dress up like a man. Though the film dealt with a sensitive issue it used folk songs to narrate the story. Nirmal Pandey set a benchmark of sorts with this film as he went on to become the only actor to bag the Best Actress award at Festival de Valenciennes held in France.
10. Ravi Kishan – Bullett Raja (2013)
Saif Ali Khan starrer Bullett Raja saw Ravi Kishan play sharpshooter Sumer Yadav who is a contract killer but to evade Saif’s gang dresses up like a eunuch to seek political help. Though many may not recall Ravi Kishan’s transgender act but it surely was an interesting twist to the action-packed drama directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia where Saif played the titular role and had the company of Jimmy Sheirgill, Sonakshi Sinha, Chunky Pandey and Gulshan Grover.
11. Vijay Raaz – Shabnam Mausi (2005), Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022)
Another brilliant Bollywood actor who played a transgender or eunuch to perfection on-screen was none other than Vijay Raaz. The actor played the role of a eunuch on two occasions, the first being an important role in the Ashutosh Rana starrer Shabnam Mausi where he was seen alongside Ashutosh Rana as a close associate while the next time he played one was in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi. His portrayal of the unforgettable Raziabai in Gangubai Kathiawadi opposite Alia Bhatt overpowered the latter whenever the two came face to face on-screen.