10 Sportspeople Who Played Leads In Bollywood Films

10 Sportspeople Who Played Leads In Bollywood Films

2 Feb 17 @ 6:12 PM | By Ravi

As Indians, we are obsessed with either films or cricket. When you talk of sports in India no other sport comes close to cricket, not even our national game, Hockey. The lifespan of a sportsman or sportswoman is a maximum of ten years and if you don’t make the cut in your discipline you vanish before you start. Though Bollywood has seen quite a few sportsmen turning actors but the survival has been a lifelong struggle. Bollywood has seen sports-persons doing cameos in films now and then but haven’t made a career out of it as film pundits feel they can’t act for nuts. Many have tried taking up acting full-time post retirement of which some have done it for the fun of it. Every athlete would've bagged some or the other state, national or international award in their respective sport but none of them bagged an acting award. Some athletes who started as leads ended up playing character actors but did gain respect in the film fraternity. As time passed people forgot that they were sports-persons first. We look at some sportsmen who featured in movies and played the lead in a film(s).

  • Dara Singh (Wrestling)

    Topping the list of sportsmen turning actors, Dara Singh takes the cake. He has been a top Indian world champion wrestler who was respected in Sports as well as Bollywood. He was an international wrestler who was known as ‘Rustam-e-Hind’ and was inducted in the ‘Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame’ in the year 1996. He made his first screen appearance in ‘Sangdil’ in 1952 and went on to do a whole lot of B-grade action movies with heroines like Mumtaz and Nishi which included films 'King Kong', ‘Faulad’, ‘Samson’, ‘Rustom-e-Hind’, ‘Sikandar-e-Azam’, 'Lootera', 'Toofan', 'Mera Naam Joker', 'Anand', 'Dharam Karam', ‘Rustom’, 'Karma', 'Qahar', 'Kal Ho Naa Ho' and 'Jab We Met'. He acted in over 100 films before he breathed his last in 2012.
  • Randhawa (Wrestling)

    The brother of Dara Singh, Randhawa too was a wrestler who happen to work in Hindi films. Although, equally popular like his brother, he did carve out a niche for himself and did quite a few films along with his brothers and other actors. His works include films like 'Aadmi Aur Insaan', 'Son of Hatimtai', 'Hercules', 'Faulad', 'Awara Abdulla', 'Duplicate', and 'Henna' and others. Watch Randhawa and his brother Dara Singh in ‘Raakhi Aur Rifle’ 1976 which features Asit Sen and Leela Mishra.
  • Shubha Khote (Cycling)

    Many don’t know that Shubha Khote was a state-level cycling champion who bagged her first role in the Nutan and Balraj Sahni starrer ‘Seema’ (1955) as Putli. She bagged the role because the director was looking for someone who was a good cyclist who had to catch a thief on a cycle in one of the scenes in the film. She was an automatic choice and was selected for the role. Since then, she has starred in a many Hindi and Marathi movies, stage shows and TV serials. She played many roles as second lead especially opposite Mehmood in hits like 'Sasural', 'Bharosa', 'Ziddi', 'Love in Tokyo', 'Grahasthi', 'Humrahi', ‘Tumse Achcha Kaun Hai’, 'Beti Bete'. She later played character and negative roles in 'Paying Guest', ‘Mili’ and 'Ek Duuje Ke Liye'. She received two Filmfare nominations in 1962 for Best Supporting Actress for ‘Gharana’ and ‘Sasural’ but lost to Nirupa Roy. Watch her play a pivotal role in ‘Love In Tokyo’.
  • Salim Durani (Cricket)

    This former Indian cricketer was the first Arjuna Award winner for cricket who played in 29 Tests from 1960 to 1973. An all-rounder, Salim Durani was a slow left-arm orthodox bowler and a left-handed batsman who was famous for hitting sixes when the crowd wanted it. He is most remembered to play an instrumental role in India's series victory against England in 1961–62 at Kolkata and Chennai, respectively. He also played a crucial role in India's victory against the West Indies at Port of Spain in 1971-72. He was offered to play the lead role in BR Ishara’s film ‘Charitra’ opposite Parveen Babi in 1973. That was his solo appearance in films as Parveen went on to become one of the famous actresses of the 70’s and 80’s. Watch the clip which tells us about his role in the film ‘Charitra’.
  • Sandeep Patil (Cricket)

    Arguably the most flamboyant batsman along with Kapil Dev in the early 80’s who could turn a match in no time. Though his career as a cricketer was short-lived but the high-point for him came when he cracked a century against the pace of Dennis Lillee and Rodney Hogg in Australia in 1980-81. He made his test debut in 1980 and played 29 Test Matches scoring 1588 runs whereas in 45 ODI's he scored 1005 runs. He was a member of the 1983 World Cup winning team too. He played his last ODI in 1986 against England after which got dropped. He is currently the chairman of selectors of the BCCI. He made his Bollywood debut in the full length Hindi movie ‘Kabhi Ajnabi The’ which was directed by Vijay Singh starring Poonam Dhillon, Ramesh Deo, Iftekhar, Debashree Roy and wicket-keeper Syed Kirmani playing the main antagonist.
  • Nafisa Ali (Swimming)

    Nafisa Ali was a national swimming champion from 1972-1974, who also won the Miss India title in 1976 and was the runner-up at the Miss International contest in 1977. She made her acting debut in Shyam Benegal’s ‘Junoon’ opposite Shashi Kapoor in 1979 which dealt with the Indian Mutiny. After ‘Junoon’ she took a break and returned to the silver screen with Amitabh Bachchan in ‘Major Saab’ in 1998. Later she was seen in ‘Bewafaa’ in 2005, ‘Life In A... Metro’ in 2007 and ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana’ in 2010 with Dharmendra. Watch a scene from "Life In A Metro" featuring herself and Dharmendra who meet after a long time and cherish old memories.

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  • Rahul Bose (Rugby)

    Rahul Bose was a part of the first Indian national rugby team to play in an international event. He participated in the Asian Rugby Football Union Championship playing at scrum-half and right-winger positions, respectively. After quitting Rugby, he joined Bollywood to become an actor, director and screenwriter. He appeared in Hindi and Bengali films such as ‘Mr. and Mrs. Iyer’, ‘Kalpurush’, ‘Anuranan’, ‘Antaheen’, ‘The Japanese Wife’, ‘Takshak’, ‘Pyaar Ke Side Effects’, ‘Maan Gaye Mughal-e-Azam’, ‘Jhankaar Beats’, ‘Chameli’ and ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’. Watch the movie ‘Jhankaar Beats’ directed by Sujoy Ghosh starring Sanjay Suri, Juhi Chawla, Shayan Munshi, Rinke Khanna and Riya Sen.

  • Ajay Jadeja (Cricket)

    Ajay Jadeja was known more for his ODI matches than Test matches. A brilliant cricketer who played for India but was overshadowed by a 5-year ban for match-fixing which was later quashed by the Delhi High Court in 2003. He won many accolades and was a popular cricketer who played 15 Tests and 196 One Day Internationals for India between 1992 and 2000. An excellent fielder who played in three world cups of which the most memorable being the 1996 world cup quarter-finals against Pakistan at Bangalore. He has been a commentator and analyst for various TV shows. He played the lead in two movies ‘Pal Pal Dil Ke Ssaat’ opposite Mahi Gill in 2009 and ‘Khel’ in 2003 opposite Celina Jaitley which also had Sunny Deol and Sunil Shetty. Watch a song from the movie ‘Khel’ in the voice of Shaan and Sunidhi Chauhan.

  • Leander Paes (Tennis)

    Probably India’s most successful tennis player who currently plays in the Doubles events in all grand slams and Davis Cups. He won the Wimbledon Junior title and a total of more than 13 Grand Slam titles in Doubles and Mixed Doubles. He has been the recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 1996-97, the Arjuna Award in 1990, and Padma Shri in 2001, respectively. He made his Bollywood acting debut in the film ‘Rajdhani Express’ in 2013. The film was a socio-political thriller, where he played one of the leads having grey shades. It is believed that he has also been offered his first Hollywood film which he plans to do shortly. Watch some of his scenes from ‘Rajdhani Express’.
  • Vijendra Singh (Boxing)

    Vijendra Singh is a professional boxer who has won almost every medal at all levels in different boxing competitions. He became the first boxer from India at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, where he won a bronze Olympic medal. This was after he won medals at the Asian Games which was followed up by receiving the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award—India's highest sporting honour and Padma Shri. He made his Bollywood debut as an actor in the movie 'Fugly' which released in 2014 and starred Jimmy Shergill, Mohit Marwah, Kiara Advani, Arfi Lamba, Anshuman Jha. Watch the movie as Vijendra plays one of the leads in this thriller.