India’s resume in the art of cinema cannot be overlooked under any particular circumstances. The subcontinent plays host to a multitude of cultures and languages, each with their own unique taste in art and flavour of execution.
As such, in order to incorporate a multilingual nature to their acting personae, actors often move out of their comfort zone and try different territories to explore newer horizons and fulfill their creative desires or to broaden their scope of work. This not only helps them to expand their portfolio, but also to challenge themselves as actors. Not only does a role in a film of a different language ensure that the actor would have to learn a completely new language in order to deliver dialogues, they must do so in a manner which is convincing enough. Their roles would have to inculcate all the nuances of that particular context. Considering how difficult this entire scenario can be, it is no surprise that quite a few big names in the Bollywood industry have tried their hands on such a situation.
Although there are various regional actors who have acted in numerous South Indian film industries, they have not been included in this list because most actors in the South India film industry features in more than one language (South Indian) film in their career. The list comprise of actors who have worked in a minimum three different language films and are still active in the industry:
This multi-award winning actor hails from a small town in Assam, India. However, his humble roots are one which he always bears in mind, but does not allow it to hold him back. This talented actor has acted in a large range of films, with different languages. His performance in the Oscar-winning ‘Life of Pi’ was actually just a part of his acting acumen. Besides English films, he has also acted in French, Norwegian, Marathi, Tamil, Bengali and his native language, Assamese films. At present Adil is busy shooting his next film titled ‘Lorni: A Flaneur’ which is a Khasi language film.
The current Chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India, Anupam Kher has not only dabbled in politics, but also in various films of different languages. Making his debut in 1971, in ‘Tiger Sixteen’, the National Awardee and BAFTA nominated actor has acted in Hindi, English, Bengali, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films.
The resident “Bad Man” of Bollywood is known to be one of the most versatile actors in the country. This is evident when one considers the impact the man has had on Bollywood, Hollywood, and even international cinema. The “I Am Kalam” actor has acted in over 400 films, which include films in Marathi, Hindi, Punjabi and English languages.
One of the biggest Indian actors in the world stage, Irrfan Khan has done it all. From art house projects to independent films to commercial projects, he has lent his talent to all. This ensured that he became proficient in a large number of languages as well. The versatile 52-year-old is also known for his work in Bengali, Tamil, English and Punjabi films, apart from Hindi movies.
Arguably one of the most well-capped actors in terms of multilingual films, Jackie Shroff has been active in Bollywood for over forty years. He has well over two hundred movies to his credit, with a majority of those being in different languages. The multiple time Filmfare nominee has acted in films in eleven different languages. These include Hindi, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Telugu, and Konkani.
This 72 year old veteran actor is well known globally due to his performance not only in Bollywood, but also abroad. The ‘Octopussy’ star is well known for his grasp on Italian, and has acted in Italian movies. Apart from this, he has also worked in Hindi and English films. As an international superstar, his repertoire ranges from theater to Hindi, to Hollywood and then European films.
Kamal Hassan is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to South Indian cinema. Easily one of the biggest names in South Indian cinema, he has expanded his repertoire to include his contributions to the art of acting as a whole. This Padma Bhushan-awardee is also a well-known philanthropist and playback singer. His acting spectrum encompasses Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Bengali films. To top all the language films he has done, Kamal has also acted in a silent film titled Pushpaka Vimana in 1987.
Kay Kay Menon
The Kerala based actor made his debut in 1995 with ‘Naseem’. Since then, the 52-year-old actor has worked in multiple films. He has been awarded and nominated for Filmfare and International Awards for his roles in movies of different languages. Menon has worked in Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil and Telugu films.
The 73 year old thespian and Bollywood actor has been known for many of his roles on the big screen. Arguably, his best performance till date must have been as Shakaal in 1980’s ‘Shaan’. Kulbhushan has worked his magic for Hindi, Telugu, Punjabi, and German films. He was last seen on stage in Kolkata, where he performed in the play ‘Atmakatha’.
One of India’s most well-known faces in the entertainment industry, this 47-year-old Nepalese actress has won four Filmfare Awards. In fact, she has always maintained a healthy balance between her work in commercial films, and her other art house projects. She has worked in films of various languages as well. This includes Nepali, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Kannada. Truly a powerhouse of the industry, she still has a lot of acting left in her.
A veritable legend in the Bollywood and Indian parallel cinema scene, this 68-year-old actor has won multiple awards. In fact, he’s been the recipient of the Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri, Filmfare and National Awards. He made his unofficial debut in 1967’s ‘Aman’, where his small role was uncredited. Since then, he has gone on to act in Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, English, French and German films. Truly a veteran.
Born in Ludhiana, Punjab, the 64-year-old Bollywood legend is the father of ‘Haider’ hitmaker Shahid Kapoor. He has done a fair share of movies in his own time, being awarded the National Award three times for three different roles. Over an extensive career, he has worked in Tamil, Hindi, Punjabi and Konkani-English films.
Best known for his supporting role as the judge in 2013’s ‘Jolly LLB’, for which he won a National Award, this 55-year-old actor is relatively underappreciated by Bollywood fans. His immense talent has landed him an extensive career spanning for over twenty years. He has also been nominated for IIFA awards and Screen awards. So far, he has acted in Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada films.
Tabassum Fatima Hashmi, known nationwide as Tabu, is a National Award winning actress. In fact, for her endeavours, she has won the prestigious award twice, both for the Best Actress category. Although not nearly as active in the industry as she used to be, Tabu has definitely made her mark. In fact, the 46-year-old actress has worked in Hindi, English, Bengali Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Marathi films. Quite a polyglot, it seems.