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The 5 defining roles of Arshad Warsi – Birthday special


The actor best known as Circuit from Munna Bhai MBBS has made a career playing light-hearted, jovial characters.

Mayur Lookhar

Few actors in Hindi cinema today are as naturally gifted as Arshad Warsi. He is not a comedian, but Warsi’s comic timing and adrenaline have made him popular with fans. Warsi, who began his career as a choreographer, was discovered by Jaya Bachchan who recommended him for her husband Amitabh Bachchan’s production Tere Mere Sapne (1996), a romantic comedy. As Warsi turns 49 today (19 April), we look at the defining roles of his career. 

Circuit’s circus – Munna Bhai MBBS (2003) 

Arshad Warsi's most loved and successful film. The actor owes much to the Munna Bhai franchise, which not only resurrected his career, but also elevated his status in the industry. Circuit has been the single most defining role in Warsi’s career. Though Sanjay Dutt was perfect as the golden-hearted tough Munnabhai, it was Arshad Warsi as his wisecracking sidekick Circuit who stole the show. Warsi was the livewire that electrified the franchise. This classic sequence from the first film proved that Circuit could go to any length to make his boss Munnabhai happy. The audience just did not stop laughing, though Circuit is unlikely to ever be chosen an Atithi Devo Bhava (Guest Is God) ambassador for India Tourism.

'Black' comedy – Golmaal: Fun Unlimited (2006)

Arguably the finest of the Golmaal franchise. Rohit Shetty took cheeky but good-natured digs at some celebrities. This rib-tickling scene had Gopal (Ajay Devgn) and Madhav (Warsi) disguising themselves as the blind elderly couple Somnath (Paresh Rawal) and Mangala (Sushmita Mukherjee) to evade college principal Mirchandani (Manoj Joshi). Warsi pulled off a spoof on Rani Mukerji’s character from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black (2005). Unfortunately, Warsi, Shetty and company failed to repeat the magic in subsequent Golmaal films. Poor Joshi must have been left with sore cheeks at the end of the shooting. Let’s just hope Devgn and Warsi did not need too many retakes for this scene. 

Beware of Babban – Ishqiya (2010) and Dedh Ishqiya (2014)

The Golmaal franchise lost its sting after the first film. Arshad Warsi was getting monotonous with his comedy routines. He needed a new lease of life. That came in the form of Babban, the misfit criminal who gets taken in by the charms of women. Kohl-rimmed eyes, shabby clothes, a rustic accent and rustic humour, Warsi had never played such characters before. The dark film had its appeal with Warsi and co-conspirator Naseeruddin Shah returning for a second film, Dedh Ishiqya (2014). Warsi earned a Filmfare nomination for Ishqiya. 

Name like a directory – Dhamaal (2007)

An underrated comedy, Indra Kumar's Dhamaal was an official remake of the 1963 American film It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. While the prime plot remained the same, the desi humour was added on. Without being demeaning, Indra Kumar spoofed the South Indian tradition of incorporating the father's and forefathers' names and even the region in one's name. This particular sequence had one gentleman incorporate many streets of Tamil Nadu and popular Indian and Sri Lankan cricketers in his name. Astonishingly, he went on to claim that this was just his pet name! No wonder this overlong introduction had Adi (Warsi) tearing his hair out and banging his head in disbelief.

None like the original – Jolly LLB (2013)

Though the Munnabhai franchise was Warsi’s biggest hit and he was brilliant in those films, producers still fought shy of casting him as a solo lead. Warsi got his big chance with a little film, Jolly LLB (2013), directed by Subhash Kapoor. The trailer looked enticing but not many would have put their money on Warsi succeeding as the solo lead. But the actor and the film sprang a surprise, winning over audiences and critics. Jagdish Tyagi emerged as a Jolly good fellow with this lighthearted courtroom drama that was partly based on a widely reported hit-and-run case in Delhi. This was not an out-and-out comedy film like some of the others in this list, but Warsi’s innocent shenanigans were amusing. It was a shame that the producers replaced him with another Jolly, Akshay Kumar, in the second film. While the latter helped bring in the moolah, Jolly LLB 2 was a rather poor film in comparison to the first one.