20+ Bollywood Celebs who started their career as background artists

Bollywood is a fortune world, and many have tried their luck here. Many of them have got it, while majority failed. It’s quite surprising to know that many successful actors and choreographers of today have earlier worked as less significant background dancers. Let us list a few of them.

1. Deepika Padukone – Coming in the top of the list is the reigning queen of Bollywood. Thank God, she never appeared as a background dancer. Yet she appeared in one of the fashion shows where Fardeen Khan was the ambassador. She was seen walking behind Fardeen Khan, among a group of models. She walked as a background model for the show. Deepika has been associated with modelling for a while before she made her Bollywood debut. She also appeared in a few ads and a couple of album songs composed by Himesh Reshammiya.

2. Shahid Kapoor – He was a background dancer in the late 1990s before he appeared in a couple of album songs. He was seen in the popular Le Gayi Le Gayi song of Dil To Pagal Hai and Kahi Aag Lage of Taal, featuring Karishma Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai respectively. He was a part of Shaimak Davar’s dance troupe then. Later he got the big break through the song – Ankhon Mein Tera Hi Chehra, and never looked back.

Shahid Kapoor wrapping the Pallu for Ash for the song ‘Kahi Aag Lage’

3. Akshay Kumar – The superstar of Bollywood has struggled a lot to reach the position what he is right now. During his struggling years, Akshay Kumar has worked as a background dancer for multiple number of films. At present he is one of the topmost cashable actors of Bollywood. 

4. Diya Mirza – Former Asia Pacific Pageant title holder Diya Mirza appeared in a Tamil film, En Swaasa Kaatte as a background dancer for the song, just one year before she won the Pageant title. Mink Brar did an item number – Jumbalaka Jumbalaka for the film, and Diya appeared as a background dancer for the song. She was then into modelling, and soon she was featured in album song ‘Jaane Kyon Mein’ featuring Sonu Nigam. Very soon she made her film debut through Rehna Hai Tere Dil MeinJumbalaka Jumbalaka song was later reused for Bollywood film – Thakshak.

Diya Mirza next to Mink Brar in red dress for Jumbilikka song, seen more or less throughout the song

5. Daisy Shah – She was seen as a background dancer for Salman Khan’s song, Lagan Lagi for the super hit movie, Tere Naam. Later she got opportunity to star with Salman Khan for the super hit film, Jai Ho. She went on to become a Bollywood celebrity very soon.

6. Farah Khan – The ace choreographer of Bollywood who is successful film director now, Farah Khan too started her career as a background dancer. She was seen in the song Hum Hain Nawjawaan, from the 1986 movie, Sadaa Suhagan, and Govinda was featured in the song.

7. Remo D’Souza – The ace choreographer of Bollywood at present, Remo worked as a background artist in the second half of 1990s. He was seen in ‘Mere Mehbooba’ song from the movie Pardes, featuring Shah Rukh and Mahima. He was one of the background dancers who dance with King Khan for the song. He was also seen as a background dancer for a song sequence featuring Urmila and Akshay Kumar.

8. Sushant Singh Rajput – ‘Cricket star of Bollywood’ Sushant was seen in the title song of Dhoom-2 in 2006 featuring Hrithik Roshan. He started off as a background dancer of Bollywood, before he landed into lead role in Kai Po Che.

Sushant Rajput Singh next to Hrithik in green&yellow strip shirt for the song – Dhoom Again. He was seen throughout the song

9. Padmini – Popular south Indian actress Padmini has a successful career in Bollywood as well. Her first appearance for a Bollywood film was for the movie, Kalpana released in 1948, where she was seen as a background dancer. She was only 14 then, and it was her debut film too. Later she was associated with Indian film industry for nearly three decades.

10. Saroj Khan – One of the most successful choreographers of the industry, Saroj Khan started her career as a background dancer in the mid-1950s. She has worked in many movies as a background dancer. She was dressed as a guy in the popular song, Aayiye Meherbaan featuring Madhubala.

11. Smriti Irani – Currently she is a well-known politician. She became a household name after she played the lead role in India’s longest running soap, Kabhi Saas Bhi Kabhi Thi. Before that she has shaken her leg with Mika Singh for a popular video as a background dancer.

12. Kajal Aggarwal – Currently the south Indian queen, she has also appeared in a few Bollywood movies. She has appeared as a background dancer behind Aishwarya Rai for the movie – Kyon Ho Gaya Na. She was seen in the song, Pyar Mein Sab Uljanein Hain. 

Kajal as one of the friends of Ash for the song – Pyar Mein Sab Ulchaney Hain

13. Sadhana Shivdasani – The mystery girl worked as a background artist for Raj Kapoor’s Shri 420. She was seen as a chorus singer in the popular Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh.  After the release of Love of Shimla in 1960, she went on to become a big star of 1960s.

14. Arshad Warsi – Before he made his Bollywood debut in the year 1996 with Tere Mere Sapne, he appeared in ‘Help Me’ featuring Jeetendra and Kimi Katkar, and the song belonged to the movie – Aag Se Khelenge released in the year 1989.

15. Isha Shervani – Along with Shahid Kapoor, Isha Shervani was also featured as a background dancer for the song ‘Kahi Aag Lage’ from Taal. She was seen in an ash colour dress in the song.

16. Neetu Chandra – She is not a big star, yet a familiar face in Bollywood. She started her career as a background dancer, and was seen in the music video, Mere Babu Chail Chabeela aside Sophiya Chaudharyas a background artist.

17. Zoya Akhtar – She worked as a background dancer for Mira Nair’s Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love long back in the 1990s. Later she established as a leading filmmaker of present times.

18. Sajid Khan – Sajid Khan is yet another film celebrity who worked as a background artist for the song, ‘Help Me’ featuring Jeetendra and Kimi Katkar. Arshad Warsi was another well-known celebrity who was featured in the same song.

19. Anurag Basu – The popular director has worked in Bollywood as a background artist during early days. In fact he left his college days to become a background dancer. He says, a background dancer gets more than a junior artist.

20. Ayan Mukherji – Ayan Mukherji was seen in a blink-and-miss role in Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. He was seen in the popular ‘Tumhe Dekho Naa’ song in a green dress carrying a packet. SRK and Rani Mukerji also appear in the same frame. Years later he did a blink-and-miss role in his own directorial venture, Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani.

21. Geeta Kapoor – Now she is a leading choreographer of Bollywood film industry. But only a few know that she was seen in ‘Tujhe Yaad Na Meri Aayi’ song as a secondary background dancer for the film, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.

22. Anushka Sharma – And last but not the least, one of the leading ladies of Bollywood today. Anushka has worked as a background artist for 2006 movie, Lago Raho Munna Bhai, and a few ads before she landed into the dream role in SRK starrer, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi in 2008. Her face appears in a poster of Hirani’s  Lago Raho Munna Bhai, where you can see Sanjay Dutt in the same frame too. Quite co-incidence, years later Anushka played lead role in Rajkumar Hirani’s PK, where Sanjay Dutt played a pivot role. She was seen as one of the background artists of this popular Spinz Talc ad featuring Anjana Sukhani in lead role.

Anushka in ‘Oh La La – Spinz Talc’ ad

Television actress Mauni Roy aside Aishwarya and SRK in Ishq Kamina song of Shakti: The Power also needs mention here. Many lead actors of today have done similar bit roles or less-significant roles for many films of leading Filmmakers. Before I conclude, let me take a few names. Nawazuddin Siddiqui has played a few less significant roles before he earned big in Bollywood. He was seen as a pickpocket in Rajkumar Hirani’s Munna Bhai MBBS. He was later seen in a cameo role in the popular Emotional Athyachaar song of Dev D.

Nowadays film directors too make blink & miss appearance in Bollywood film, either directed by them or friends in the industry. Karan Johar and Farah Khan in Kal Ho Na Ho, Farah Khan and Nikhil Advani in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Ashutosh Gowarikar in Kabhi Haa Kabhi Naa, Jatin Lalit in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (their debut film as music directors), Imtiaz Ali in Black Friday, Tabu in Mein Hoon Na, Imran Khan’s wife aside him in a dance sequence for Ek Mein Aur Ek Tu, Kiran Rao in Dil Chahta Hai and many more. If we recollect Bollywood 1960s, Subhash Ghai player Rajesh Khanna’s (Suraj – character of son in the movie) friend in the movie, Aradhana. In those days Subhash Ghai dreamt to become an actor, but later became a showman of Hindi cinema giving many top class films. 

Conclusion

Those days have gone when background artists were less significant and paid less. Now many dancers are very serious in this profession, they even assist choreographers in their work and regularly do stage shows and reality shows. A seasonal, but successful background dancer earns more than 1 lakh rupees, and it’s not at all a small amount.

These celebrities have also given as a great lesson to learn. Opportunities are never small or big. Those who are able to utilize even small opportunities are the real stars. They are surely going to win. If I have missed any name in the list, please let me know.

Also read a few more miscellaneous articles of Bollywood cinema. Just click on the image links to read 

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Sandy

A freelance writer and blogger by profession since October 2011, interested in writing over a wide range of topics. Hope you enjoy my writings. I belong to one of the beautiful places of the world, Kerala, nicknamed as 'God's own country'.

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2 Responses

  1. Very interesting read. I already knew a few of them, however some of them were really a surprise to me like Kajal Aggarwal in Kyun Ho Gaya Naa!

    • Sandy says:

      Yes, she is. Now she is a top star down south, though she got limited success in Bollywood, through movies like Special 26, Singham etc. Both these movies were hero oriented, and she got only less space.

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