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Meet Bhuvan Arora—Farzi’s Firoz who redefined Bollywood’s ‘best friend’ trope

It took Bhuvan Arora over 5,000 auditions and a decade of hard work to get the recognition and love he is receiving after Farzi.

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Bhuvan Arora has cracked what most Bollywood actors couldn’t—making the hero’s best friend more than a sidekick. Arora, who plays Shahid Kapur’s bosom buddy in Amazon Prime’s Farzi, stands out as Firoz, the earnest, honest, streetsmart friend Aamir Khan popularised in Rangeela and Ghulam in the 1990s. With a firm grasp of the Mumbaiya dialect, the Delhi-born actor delivers a solid performance.

The world has suddenly woken up to Arora’s talent, flooding his social media with congratulatory messages and bombarding him with calls. There is an unspoken pressure to take on new gigs, but he appears quite unfazed. “I love the appreciation, but I feel that it is a by-product of the craft…I want to be more than myself every day. I want to become a better actor,” he says earnestly.

It was Arora’s  2015 Flipkart advertisement that prompted Raj and DK – the creative duo behind Farzi and The Family Man (2018) – to call him for the role. In this ad, he plays a Delhi bus conductor who speaks at supersonic speed, and the effect is comic. Initially reluctant to play the part because it seemed small, Arora soon relented, and the rest became history.

Evoking laughter with style

Farzi walks the tightrope between a crime saga and dark comedy, combining both elements to create a nail-biting thriller. Firoz, as Arora puts it, is the “moral compass” to Shahid’s Sunny, his childhood friend, confidante, and brother who helps execute his worst ideas.

The showrunners also deserve credit for creating someone as special as Firoz and scouting the perfect face for him too. After all, they were the ones who cemented Manoj Bajpayee’s position on OTT, making the best use of his iconic deadpan humour and seamless dialogue delivery in The Family Man. “We write the characters and stories first, and then look to see who will fit in,” Raj had said in an interview with Film Companion. Spotting Arora is another feather on their casting cap.

Arora’s dialogue delivery almost always evokes laughter in the show, and is now his signature style. But if he had the choice to play another character in Farzi, Arora says he would have chosen Mansoor Dalal, the comical don portrayed by veteran actor Kay Kay Menon. ”

Arora loves to observe people and listen to their stories. It is no surprise then that he managed to create a crackling bromance with Shahid in Farzi. “I asked him [Shahid] to treat me like his younger brother, Ishaan [Khatter]”.

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The journey from Captain Rathore to Firoz

In a show with names like Shahid, Kay Kay, and Vijay Sethupathi, Arora’s endearing, comical and heartfelt act shows his refusal to be overshadowed by terrific performers.

But it’s not the first time Arora has delivered a performance as remarkable as this one. Before he became Firoz, Arora played the misogynistic Captain Rohan Rathore in Alt Balaji’s Test Case (2017). The 10-episode series had Nimrat Kaur play Captain Shikha Arora, the first woman admitted to the Indian Army’s Special Forces Unit. As she struggles to make her presence felt in an all-male group of soldiers, the poisonous and egotistical Rathore gives her a difficult time. She tolerates sexist jokes, shares showers with naked, ogling men, puts up with toxic masculinity and fragile egos, and gets sexually assaulted. While Arora has never appreciated Rathore’s outlook on life and women, he says taking “moral stands” on characters isn’t what actors should do. Their job is to convince audiences of their character’s attributes—good and bad.

Arora’s portrayal of Rathore was not over-the-top. Despite moments of high octane drama and dialogues, mostly against Nimrat Kaur, he was able to induce just the right amount of distaste for his character, without becoming a caricature.

Even the character’s eventual change-of-heart felt believable. The show does not redeem him entirely, but Arora’s performance makes one feel a degree of sympathy for him, and that is testimony to the actor’s range and talent.

“I got a lot of hate messages from women after the show came out, and I take that as a compliment,” he says.

Even his former co-star Nimrat Kaur is all praises: “Bhuvan is one of the most lovely, spontaneous, entertaining, high energy and fun actors I have ever had the great pleasure of sharing screen space with. His sense of humour and brand of professionalism has made for some of the most memorable work experiences of my professional life yet. And whatever the world has seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg.”

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The hero’s best friend

Armed with a degree from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), he started with ads and small roles in films like Shuddh Desi Romance (2013), Tevar (2015) and Naam Shabana (2017).It took over 5,000 auditions and a decade of hard work to get the recognition and love he is receiving now.

His first major gig was playing the ‘hero’s best friend’ in Shuddh Desi Romance, and it is ultimately the same role that got him the long-overdue fame he deserved. Farzi’s Firoz is not entirely a Raj and DK invention; Arora makes the role his own through multiple ‘improv’ or spontaneous theatrical sequences. This includes an important scene toward the end, where he and Sunny squabble over a shipment of counterfeit notes. “Not yours, not mine, come centre,” Firoz says, reminding one of the haggling shoppers at Delhi’s Sarojini Nagar market.

The 36-year-old is a self-confessed “foodie”. It’s been a while since he left Delhi, but the actor makes it a point to enjoy Lajpat Nagar’s ‘Dolma Aunty’ momos whenever he is home. Arora says that if Firoz were a Delhi-based man, he would use cuss words differently. “The dressing sense would change, and the attitude would change completely. The thing with Delhi is—Dilli se hoonBaaki aap khud laga lo,” he adds.

Considering people now address him as the character he played, would he advise Firoz against his questionable life choices? “I think Firoz would give me advice, especially on how to save money better.”

(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)

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