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10 Jimmy Shergill roles that define his understated style — Birthday special

Gifted with the ability to play a role with simplicity, Jimmy Shergill has delivered consistently and in style. As the actor turns 47 (3 December), we look at 10 performances that saw him at his best.

In a scene from Special 26 (2013)

Shriram Iyengar

That Jimmy Shergill is a good actor is known. Since making his debut in 1996, he has gone on to make a mark in the film industry for his ability to play characters with effortless grace. From Maachis (1996) to Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015) and more, Shergill continues to be a favourite of critics and fans for his understated presence and style.

On the actor's 47th birthday, we look at 10 performances that encapsulate his innate ability to steal the show even in the smallest of roles.

1. Maachis (1996) 

The story goes that Shergill bombarded Gulzar with letters when he heard he was looking for young actors for his film Maachis. It worked, and the director hired him for a small part. It proved to be a stand-out performance in a critically acclaimed film. It would also endear him to two filmmakers, Gulzar and his music composer Vishal Bhardwaj.

2. Haasil (2003)

The film that made Irrfan Khan also saw one of Jimmy Shergill's finest performances. The actor played a naive student who gets pulled into the violent campus politics in Allahabad. Packed with some powerful performances, including one worth a Filmfare for Best Actor in a Negative Role by Irrfan Khan, the film also marked the beginning of Tigmanshu Dhulia and Shergill's partnership. The two would later combine again for Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster (2011). 

3. Munna Bhai MBBS (2003)

The calibre of an actor is determined by his ability to make an impact no matter how small the role. The first film of Rajkumar Hirani's much loved Munna Bhai franchise was a sample of Shergill's ability to do just that. Playing Zaheer, a cancer patient, he managed to make a deep emotional impact despite the short screen time.

4. Yahaan (2005)

While he never had the star shine that some of his peers did, Shergill's choice of films has been praiseworthy. In 2005, he picked this forgotten yet impressive Shoojit Sircar film. Playing an army man in love with a Kashmiri girl, only to find out her brother's link with separatist militants, Shergill brought both romance and maturity to this charming film. It did not work at the box office, but remains a film worth watching.

5. A Wednesday (2008)

This was a film that nobody expected to work with Anupam Kher and Naseeruddin Shah leading the cast. Yet, A Wednesday proved to be a sleeper hit. The film also saw Shergill emerge as a powerful actor with his role as the tough, unruly cop Arif. While he had very few speaking lines in the film, his impeccable dialogue delivery ensured that they remained memorable for audiences.

6. Tanu Weds Manu (2011) 

Kangana Ranaut's fantastic performance and R Madhavan's charm stole the show once again from a belligerent role by Jimmy Shergill. The actor captured the essence of the frustrated guy jerked around by his crush while trying to put on a show of machismo. It suffices to say that there is no other actor who could have fit the role with as much ease as Shergill did.

7. Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster (2011) 

Tigmanshu Dhulia went back to his Haasil actor after eight years to star in this modernized take on the Guru Dutt-Meena Kumari classic. Playing the arrogant Aditya Pratap Singh, the actor was in fine form delivering some punchline-laden dialogues and striding the screen with style. It won him a new following of fans who could not get enough of the lines. 

8. Special 26 (2013)

Neeraj Pandey's fantastic caper had the actor playing the red herring. As the eager but misled cop Ranveer Singh, Shergill brought a faux seriousness that made this entertaining film even more watchable. Joined by Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher and Divya Dutta in the lead roles, the film managed to make an impact at the box office as well. 

9. Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015) 

It would have been unacceptable if Aanand L Rai had gone for anyone else in the sequel of his hit Tanu Weds Manu. Shergill returned as the lover who is thwarted again by R Madhavan's charming doctor. The righteous anger and comic frustration of his character on screen make for an entertaining watch. 

10. Madaari (2016) 

Irrfan Khan and Jimmy Shergill do make for an exceptional cast. After Haasil, the two teamed up again in several films, the latest of which was this one-man crusade, Madaari. While Khan played the vigilante taking on a corrupt system, Shergill played the good man on the side of the law. While his sympathies lay with the vigilante, he continues to follow the law by the book. The film earned rave reviews from critics, and Shergill continued to walk quietly into the shadows.