Bollywood stars who didn't start off as an actor

While many Bollywood stars were born into showbiz families and have followed in the footsteps of their ancestors, there are some who either didn't dream of becoming actors or simply couldn't step into the showbiz industry at the start of their career despite being passionate about it. When they got their stepping stone in performing arts, they grabbed the opportunity with both hands, left no stone unturned to turn their dream into reality and worked hard to earn their star status and become an inspiration for many. Let's take a look at those Bollywood celebs who made it big even though they came from a humble background.
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Bollywood stars who didn't start off as an actorAmitabh Bachchan, popularly referred to as the "Shahenshah of Bollywood", "Star of the Millennium" or "Big B", was the first born of the well-known Hindi poet Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh) based Harivansh Rai Bachchan and Teji Bachchan. While Bachchan's father was one of the prominent figures in the literary world, his mother had a keen interest in theatre and is believed to had instilled an interest in the performing arts in her son. However, working in films was something that was never a career option for Bachchan. After completing his post-graduation from Delhi University he took up his first job in Shaw Wallace and later worked as a freight broker for a shipping firm called Bird and Co. Although Bachchan was earning well for his livelihood, all these day jobs couldn't satisfy his passion for working in the performing art industry.

By 1968 a young Bahchan gave up his day job and headed for Mumbai (then Bombay) in pursuit of a career in acting. Unfortunately he kept facing rejections because of his height (6ft 3in) and dark skin, both of which were unconventional features for a hero in Hindi movies at that time. Desperate to have a breakthrough in career, Bachchan went for an audition in All India Radio but was turned down as his voice was not found suitable for radio. When he was about to give up after struggling hard for a couple of years, an opportunity to work in the film presented itself, Bachchan grabbed the opportunity, and made his first feature film debut in 1969 as a voice narrator in Mrinal Sen's National Award winning film Bhuvan Shome, which starred the versatile actor Utpal Dutt. His got his first acting role as one of the seven protagonists in Saat Hindustani. Although the comedy drama didn't fair well at the box office, Bachchan received rave reviews in his debut film, Bachchan won a National Award as the best newcomer. However, this didn't put an end to his struggle in Bollywood as at that time the Hindi movie industry was being dominated by legendary actors like Dev Anand, Dilip Kapoor, Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar and Rajesh Khanna to name a few.

Bachchan's next successful release was Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Anand (1971), in which he shared screen space with Rajesh Khanna. Bachchan's role in the classic film earned him a lot of praise and a Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor. Bachchan worked on few other films after that but they didn't give him the success he desired for until his 1973 film Zanjeer. It was the first film in which Bachchan was seen as an angry young man, a role that made people sit up and take notice. He didn't win a Filmfare Award for Best Actor, however, this role propelled his career in the true sense and paved ways for better and more prominent roles, a journey that has created history and has given Bachchan the title of "one-man industry".
Bollywood stars who didn't start off as an actorDilip Kumar was born Mohammad Yusuf Khan to Lala Ghulam Sarwar, was a landlord and fruit merchant in Peshawar, in a family of 12 children. In the 1930s, his family relocated to Bombay, and in the 1940s, a young Yusuf left home for Pune after he fell out with his father. While in Pune, he got a contract to set up a sandwich stall at the army club on the merit of his good written and spoken English. The venture was successful and Yusuf returned home with sizeable savings. In search of his next job, he came across Dr Masani who asked him to accompany him to Bombay Talkies. Over there, he met actress Devika Rani, wife of Himanshu Rai, the founder and owner of Bombay Talkies. He was asked to sign up with the company for an annual salary of INR 1250. At that time, his involvement with the production house was limited to story-writing and scripting due to his knowledge of Urdu. Later on, Devika Rani asked him to change his name to Dilip Kumar, and cast him in a lead role for the film Jwar Bhata (1944), a film that went unnoticed followed by a few other flops.

Kumar was then cast in Jugnu (1947) alongside Noor Jehan who shot him to prominence and became his first major hit at the box office. His next major hit was the 1948 film Shaheed, which was followed by another blockbuster in 1949, Mehboob Khan's Andaz in which he starred alongside Raj Kapoor and Nargis.

Kumar's successful journey in Bollywood continued till 2001 and he appeared in several hit films until that time. However, the film that he is most remembered for is 1960's epic historical film Mughal-e-Azam, in which he portrayed Prince Salim, who revolts against his father, Mughal Emperor Akbar (played by Prithviraj Kapoor) and falls in love with a courtesan (played by Madhubala). He has received many awards throughout his acting career, including 8 Filmfare Best Actor awards and 19 Filmfare nominations. He was honoured with the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993. The veteran actor who was honoured with Padma Bhushan in 1991, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1994 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2015, holds the Guinness World Record for winning the maximum number of awards by an Indian actor.
Bollywood stars who didn't start off as an actorDev Anand was born as Dharamdev Anand in Gurdaspur district, Punjab (British India) (presently Narowal district, Pakistan). Anand was the third of four sons born to Pishori Lal Anand, a well-to-do advocate. Anand also had a younger sister, who is the mother of filmmaker Shekhar Kapur. After graduating in English, Anand left for Bombay (now Mumbai) in pursuit of a career. His first job was at the military censor's office at Churchgate, for which he got paid a monthly salary of INR 165. Later on he worked as a clerk in an accountancy firm for a salary of INR 85. Even though he was spending his days in the film city, taking up acting as a career didn't cross his mind until he saw the veteran actor Ashok Kumar's performance in films like Achhut Kanya and Kismet. These are the films that encouraged him to become an actor and he became a member of the Indian People's Theatre Association.

Anand made his debut with Hum Ek Hain (1946), a film that also marked the beginning of friendship between him and another actor who went on to become a legend too in future - Guru Dutt. After that, Anand continued working in few other films as the leading man however, he didn't get much success. Even for some of his films, success was credited to the female lead.

It was not until 1948 that Anand got his first break when Ashok Kumar cast him as a hero for Ziddi (1948), which became an instant hit and put Anand at the pinnacle of success. The evergreen hero of Bollywood industry didn't have to look back after the success of Ziddi, and delivered numerous hit films during an acting career that spanned across 66 years.
Bollywood stars who didn't start off as an actorRajinikanth is undoubtedly the biggest star of South Indian cinema, and one of the most popular and most influential actors of Indian cinema. The actor, who is at the peak of his stardom, hails from a humble background. He was born the youngest of four siblings in a Bangalore-based working-class Marathi family to a police constable father and a housewife mother. His birth name was Shivaji Rao Gaekwad after the valiant Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji. After his father retired, his family relocated to Bangalore where he also lost his mother at a very early age. He completed his schooling in Bangalore, he started working and took up various jobs in Bangalore and Madras, including that of a coolie and carpenter. He also got a job in the Bangalore Transport Service (BTS) as a bus conductor. While on this job, he started working in few plays, a passion that he developed while in school.

As his passion for acting grew, Rajnikanth enrolled himself to the Madras Film Institute where he got noticed by Tamil film director K Balachander. Balachander gave Rajnikanth his debut film - the 1975 Tamil-language drama Apoorva Raagangal. Although based on a controversial subject, the film received wide critical acclaim as it went on to win three National Film Awards and several other film awards, and put Rajnikanth on a prominent spot in the South Indian film industry. It was Balachander who gave Rajnikanth his first lead role in the Tamil film Aval Oru Thodar Kathai (1974).

By 1980, Rajnikanth established himself as a popular actor in the South Indian cinema. In 1983, he starred in his first Bollywood film, Andha Kanoon, alongside the Bollywood biggies Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini. The film went on to become one of the highest-grossing films of that time. By the 1990s, Rajinikanth established himself as a superstar, with a huge string of successful films, enormous popularity and fan base across the nation. The journey of success that Rajnikanth embarked on way back in 1970s is still continuing with Kochadaiiyaan and Lingaa being his latest hits from 2014. The legendary actor has also won many awards and accolades in his acting career spanning nearly four decades, in addition to Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan honours in 2000 and 2016 respectively.
Bollywood stars who didn't start off as an actorAkshay Kumar was born Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia to a Hari Om Bhatia, a military officer and Aruna Bhatia. He, along with his parents and a sister lived in Delhi's Chandni Chowk and later moved to Mumbai where he lived in Koliwada. He did his schooling from Don Bosco School and enrolled in Mumbai's Guru Nanak Khalsa College for higher education, but dropped out after a year and went to Bangkok to learn martial arts. By that time he had already attained a black belt in Taekwondo. While in Bangkok, he learned Muay Thai and worked as a chef and waiter. After he returned to Mumbai, he became a martial arts trainer. One of his students, an aspiring photographer, recommended Kumar into modelling which ultimately led to a modelling assignment. This assignment prompted Kumar to switch his career from trainer to a model, as he made more money within the first two days of shooting in comparison to what he earned in a month as trainer.

To have his first portfolio shot, he worked as an assistant for a photographer for over a year without payment. In parallel, he kept working as a background dancer in various films. Kumar made his feature film debut with Mahesh Bhatt's Aaj, although his screen appearance was only for 17 seconds as a Karate instructor. He then appeared in a couple of other films however his major break came with Abbas-Mustan's 1992 thriller drama Khiladi, a film that made Kumar a star overnight. Kumar then went on to work in all releases of the Khiladi franchise to date, and is popularly known in the industry as Khiladi Kumar.

Kumar has delivered several hits since and has bagged many awards and accolades in addition to Padma Shri in 2009. Besides Khiladi franchise, the films he is best known for are Mohra (1994), Main Khiladi Tu Anari (1994), Hera Pheri (2000), Dhadkan (2000), Ajnabee (2001), Waqt (2005), Bhagam Bhag (2006), Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007), Singh Is Kinng (2008), Gabbar is Back (2015), Brothers (2015), Airlift (2016) and Rustom (2016). In addition to continuing his successful acting career, Kumar has also become a film producer. He now co-owns the production companies Hari Om Entertainment and Grazing Goat Pictures along with his wife, former actress Twinkle Khanna, the daughter of legendary superstar Rajesh Khanna and actress Dimple Kapadia.
Bollywood stars who didn't start off as an actorNawazuddin Siddiqui was born in Uttar Pradesh to zamindar Muslim family. He was the eldest of eight siblings. After acquiring a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry, he worked in Vadodara as a chemist for a year, before leaving for Delhi in search of a new job. While in Delhi, he was drawn into acting after watching a play and decided to get admitted to National School of Drama (NSD) in New Delhi. For that he acted in over ten plays with a group of friends, which apparently was one of the criteria for admission. After graduating from NSD, he relocated to Mumbai in 2004, which was one of the worst years of his struggle. Unable to pay rent, he ended up sharing an apartment in Goregaon with an NSD senior in return of which he had to cook meals for the senior.

Nawazuddin's first screen debut was in Aamir Khan starrer 1999 action drama Sarfarosh. He also made a brief appearance in Rajkumar Hirani's Munnabhai MBBS, and played the role of a thief who tried to pick the pocket of Sunil Dutt. The first movie that brought Nawazuddin to limelight was Anurag Kashyap's Black Friday (2007), a film that also paved way for more powerful roles. His first lead role was in Prashant Bhargava's Patang in which he played a wedding singer Chakku. This is the film that earned him huge international acclaim and forayed him into mainstream cinema. He garnered further appreciation after pathbreaking performances in Peepli Live, Kahaani, Gangs of Wasseypur, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Badlapur, and Manjhi - The Mountain Man.

In an acting career that started quite late, Nawazuddin not only secured a strong foothold in the Hindi movie industry but has won many film awards for his strong acting talent including a National Award.
Bollywood stars who didn't start off as an actorBoman Irani is undoubtedly one of the strongest actors in Bollywood and he has proved it in every feature film he has appeared to date. Strangely enough, Irani neither hails from an acting background nor did he plan to become a Bollywood actor, although he had a passion for acting. Born and bred in Mumbai, he graduated from Mithibai College in Mumbai followed by a polytechnic diploma course. He then joined the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel, and worked there as a waiter and room service staff. After that he joined his mother to run their ancestral bakery shop in South Mumbai. Irani became a professional photographer in 1987 and continued doing so until he stepped into Bollywood 13 years later.

Irani's passion for acting developed during his school and college days for which he undertook professional training in the 80s. He was also mentored by Alyque Padamsee, the veteran theatre actor best known for the portrayal of Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Gandhi. He worked on few stage plays, a couple of television serials, and some commercial advertisements after that nothing of which gave him a career breakthrough.

Irani started his acting career in films in 2000 at the age of 39, however the first time he was recognised as an actor was for his role in the 2003 comedy drama Munnabhai MBBS. He then went on to act in numerous other films and garnered a lot of awards and accolades for Lage Raho Munna Bhai, 3 Idiots, Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd, Waqt and Veer-Zaara to name a few.
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