Brijendra Kala has a knack for avuncular characters. In the February 17 release Runningshaadi.com, the 48-year-old actor plays the uncle of lead character Ram Bharose (Amit Sadh), who runs a website that helps couples elope and marry. Kala sports a pencil moustache and a beret in Amit Roy’s comedy and gives his character a distinctive look that sets it apart from other similar characters he has played in various films.
Kala is one of the current cinema’s most popular scene-stealers. His memorable appearance as a shabbily dressed uncle in Rajat Kapoor’s Ankhon Dekhi (2013) earned him praise and roles in over a dozen movies. Kala’s comic performance as the pesky Shibbo Babu, who hangs out at his brother-in-law’s crowded house in Ankhon Dekhi, bolstered a career that has seen many hiccups.
Born in Mathura, Kala was involved with local theatre groups in the city before he moved to Mumbai in 1992 to try his luck in Hindi films. In 1996, he was cast in Brij Kau Birju, a Braj Bhasha film. Kala worked as a dialogue writer for television serials such as Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii when he realised that he wasn’t getting too far with his acting career.
Kala had to wait until 2003, when he was cast in a tiny role as a newspaper vendor in Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Haasil. After playing the chirpy director of a family soap in Rajat Kapoor’s Raghu Romeo (2003), Kala struck a friendship with the filmmaker and appeared in his subsequent films Mithya (2008), Fatso (2012), and Aankhon Dekhi (2013).
The breakthrough came in another Tigmanshu Dhulia movie. In Paan Singh Tomar (2012), a biopic of the athlete who becomes a dacoit, Dhulia played a mousy journalist who interviews Tomar (Irrfan). Kala’s comic performance as a hapless man gathering his wits when faced with danger, which was expressed through a nervous twitch, a stammering voice and obsequiousness, was among the movie’s highlights.
As the greasy-palmed ticket collector Pant in Chalo Dilli (2011), the astrologer and lawyer Suresh Vashisth in Jolly LLB (2013), and a constable in Rustom (2016), Kala has effectively played an authority figure with a sense of humour that goes beyond the call of duty. In PK (2014), Kala has the pained expression of a busy vendor selling idols outside a temple. He wants to look pious, but his face displays a wealth of quizzical emotions without too much effort. Kala’s deadpan style and his common man personality allow him to effortlessly slip into such roles.
In MS Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016), Kala played the commentator Shukla, engaging in comic banter with his co-commentator and announcing the on-field cricketing brilliance of a young Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Sushant Singh Rajput) in Ranchi. Kala’s own on-screen exploits make him the funny man next door who is at the top of his game.