Denzil Smith

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Denzil Leonard Smith
Born (1960-11-06) 6 November 1960 (age 58)
NationalityIndian
Other namesDenzil L Smith, Denzel Smith
OccupationActor
Years active1988–present
RelativesCheryl Roy-Smith (sister)
Lionel Smith (brother)

Denzil Smith (born 6 November 1960) is an Indian film and stage actor and producer. Born to Anglo-Indian parents in Mumbai, he is known for his stage and screen roles as a character actor. Denzil has acted in over 45 plays and 50 films.[1]

He has a long-standing association with both Motley Productions for Waiting for Godot and The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, and PrimeTime Theatre for Guahar, August: Osage County and Sammy. Notable international productions include Merchants of Bollywood (2007-2010) and Life of Buddha (2014).

His film credits include Viceroy's House (2017), Brahman Naman (2016), The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015), The Lunchbox (2013), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011), Frozen (2007) and Paap (2003).

Early life[edit]

Smith was born into an Anglo-Indian family in Mumbai, in Maharashtra in India to Benjamin John Smith and Kathleen (Katsy) Maude Shepherd. He has an older sister Cheryl Roy-Smith, and younger brother Lionel Smith. Smith’s father was a civil servant with the Government of India, and possessed a deep love for music and the arts.[2] It was through him that Denzil was first exposed to music and theatre.

Smith's father played the accordion, piano, violin and ukulele. A talented singer, Benjamin was granted a leave of absence to represent India as part of the classical a cappella Paranjoti Academy Choir for an extended tour of Europe in the 1960s. His father died suddenly when Smith was 11.[2]

Smith completed his schooling at St Andrews in Bandra, and studied English Literature at the University of Mumbai.[3]

Career[edit]

Smith began his professional career as a film executive under Indian adman and actor, Alyque Padamsee, who was then CEO of the advertising agency Lintas.[4] In 1988, Smith quit his corporate career to focus on stage acting. He trained in voice at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai, and was guided by Dr. Ashok Ranade and Pratap Sharma.[5]

In theater[edit]

A pivotal play early in his theatrical career was Pearl Padamsee’s Les Liaisons Dangereuse where he first worked with Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak. Shortly after this play, he became a member of Shah’s Motley Productions – a theatre group formed by Naseeruddin Shah, Tom Alter and Benjamin Gilani. Smith played the role of Lucky in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot with Shah, Gilani, and Kenneth Desai.[6] He then went on to do Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, Beckett’s Endgame, The Odd Couple and several other productions.[7] Smith then worked with Satyadev Dubey in Hindi productions such as Sambogh Se Sanyas Tak.

By 1998, he also began working extensively with Lilette Dubey’s PrimeTime Theatre in productions such as On a Muggy Night in Mumbai,[8] Zenkatha,[9] Sammy,[10] August: Osage County[11] and "Gauhar" about the life of Gauhar Jaan.[12] These plays toured both India and various cities in North America, UK and Europe, South-East Asia and Australia.

Smith also played key roles in numerous other productions such as Jawaharlal Nehru in Letters to a Daughter from Prison (directed by Vijaya Mehta and based on the 1984 publication of Nehru's letters),[13] Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar in Toronto, Canada, Vali and Vibishan in The Legend of Ram, Judge Brack in Hedda Gabler,[14] and the solo performer in four monologues written and directed by Zubin Driver in Mumbai vs Mumbai.[15]

In 2007, Smith joined All Star Artists for the Broadway style musical production The Merchants of Bollywood – written and directed by Toby Gough and choreographed by Vaibhavi Merchant – in the lead role of the grandfather, Shantilal, and then later a double role that of "a splendidly-moustachioed narrator" and the sleazy Bollywood director Tony Bakshi.[16] There were 600 shows between 2007 and 2009 in the UK, Europe and Malaysia.[17] and he reprised his role for a run in the UK[18] and Lebanon in 2016. In 2017, Smith re-joined director Toby Gough, choreographer Shruti Merchant[19] and team as the voice of Raj Pakoda in the light-hearted dance musical Taj Express.[20]

In addition to his acting career, Smith also regularly curates theatre programming at Celebrate Bandra.[21]

In film[edit]

Smith has worked in a range of independent, Bollywood and international film productions. One of Smith’s early films was Mango Soufflé (2002), an adaptation of Mahesh Dattani’s successful English stage play On a Muggy Night in Mumbai, which was centered around the lives of gay men in Mumbai. The film starring Atul Kulkarni, Rinkie Khanna, Heeba Shah and Ankur Vikal, was promoted as "first gay male film from India." [22]

He is known for roles such as the Tibetan monk Lama Norbu in Paap (2003), directed by Pooja Bhatt and starring John Abraham, and as Tenzing in the film Frozen (2007), based in Leh and Ladakh. Among the many independent films he has worked in are Shobhayatra (2004), where he played Jawaharlal Nehru, The Memsahib (2006), Mumbai Salsa (2007), Chase (2010), Lamhaa (2010), Impatient Vivek (2011), Tripura (2011), Ajita Suchitra Veera's Ballad of Rustom (2012), John Day (2013), and Dad... Hold My Hand! (2015). In 2017, Smith played the role of the Principal in the Marathi film Manjha (2017), directed by Jatin Wagle.[23] Recent films include Ritesh Batra's Photograph, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in February 2019[24][25].

He's also been featured in many Bollywood films such as Ek Ajnabee (2005) with Arjun Rampal, Amitabh Bachchan and Parizaad Zorabian, Zid (2014) and Bombay Velvet (2015) directed by Anurag Kashyap with Anushka Sharma and Ranbir Kapoor,[26][27][28] Kabir Khan's Phantom (2015) with Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif.[29] More recently, Smith appeared in the crime drama Baazaar (2018), as the Manipuri militant leader in Disney's Jagga Jasoos (2018) [30], the emergency period action film Baadshaho (2017)[31], comedy Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi (2018)[32] and as a detective in the mystery thriller Badla directed by Sujoy Ghosh and starring Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu.[33]

Smith has featured in several international productions that have achieved both critical and commercial success – One Night with the King (2007) with Omar Sharif and Peter O’Toole,[34] The Lunchbox (2013) with Irrfan Khan,[35] The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015) with Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Dev Patel, Bill Nighy and directed by John Madden[36] and Brahman Naman (2016), a Netflix original release[37] sex comedy, directed by Qaushiq Mukherjee, written by Naman Ramachandran[38] with Shashank Arora.[39]

Smith's most prominent international film til date is Gurinder Chadha's Viceroy's House on India's partition in 1947 in which he plays the role of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.[40][41]

On television, radio and voice[edit]

Smith has acted in many Indian television serials as well as international tele-series. Prominent ones include Netflix's "Delhi Crime"[42] directed by Richie Mehta on the Nirbhaya gang rape tragedy, the therapist in Amazon Prime's sitcom Mind the Malhotras (2019)[43] and "P.O.W.- Bandi Yuddh Ke" (2016-2017) on Star Plus for which he won 2017 Indian Television Academy Awards Best Actor in a Negative Role.[44] Smith was also in an episode of "Made in Heaven (TV Series)" (2019) on Amazon Video, C.I.D. (1997-2013) on Sony, Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin (2012-2014), Hansa: A Love Story, Rishtey and Time Bomb 9/11 on Zee TV, The Sword of Tipu Sultan (1990) on Doordarshan, The Return Of Sandokan on Italian National TV, and Samvidhaan: The Making of the Constitution of India (2014) produced by Rajya Sabha TV and directed by Shyam Benegal.

Smith regularly lends his voice for various radio dramas, documentaries and advertisements. His voice has been featured in Tiger's Eye and The Mrichhakatikaa for BBC Radio,[45][46][47] and on Personality Hour for Times FM.

Has also dubbed in Hindi feature films like Hanuman, House of Flying Daggers, The Boolean Conspiracy, Up, Bolt, James and the Giant Peach, Amar Chitra Katha, A Bugs Life, Shoot At Sight, Making of The Mahatma, Kung Fu Hustle and Red Cliff. He has done and several voiceovers for commercials, corporate films and documentaries.[48]

Media and events[edit]

Smith’s love of music – Jazz in particular – has translated into being a regular host of jazz festivals, music and other events. He regularly hosts Jazz tribute concerts on International Jazz Day at the National Centre for the Performing Arts and Blue Frog in Mumbai. He also co-hosted the META awards in 2014 with Perizaad Zorabian.[49][50]

Smith has been involved in charities such as Avehi Abacus.[51] He also conducts voice workshops in theatre institutes and colleges in India.[52][53][54]

Producer[edit]

Denzil Smith (r) plays the lead of the mentor, with Rhys D'Souza as the mentee in StageSmith Productions' Bombay Jazz, a play inspired by the lives of Jazz musicians in Bombay's film industry (now popularly called Bollywood) – February 2015

Smith founded Stagesmith Productions in 2006 with an aim to produce Indian English Theatre rooted in homegrown narratives. Its first production, titled Jazz, starred actor Bhargava Krishna, saxophonist Rhys D’souza, and featured musical compositions by Merlin D’Souza.[55] The play opened to a full-house at the Prithvi Theatre Festival in 2007, and won a 'Best Actor' award for Krishna at the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards in 2008.[56][57] The play has also been credited with laying the seed for Fernandes’ now-iconic book on the history of Jazz music in India and Goan Jazz musicians in Bombay’s film industry – Taj Mahal Foxtrot: The Story of Bombay’s Jazz Age.[58][59]

In 2015, StageSmith revived Jazz, and renamed it Bombay Jazz with Smith himself playing the mentor – an amalgamation of jazz musicians Sebastian D’Souza, Chris Perry, Micky Correa, Chic Chocolate (also known as Louis Armstrong of India)[60] Frank Fernand and Anthony Gonsalves – [61] with saxophonist Rhys Sebastian D’Souza playing the mentee.

In 2016, StageSmith created a new production "Poetrification" dubbed as "Your moment to get smashed by some poetry & music."[62] In the performance, Denzil Smith, Danish Husain, and a musician craft a performance of poetry, music, and banter. Denzil performs pieces by English poets from the sub-continent - Dom Moraes, AK Ramanujan, Jeet Thayil, Arundhathi Subramaniam - while Danish recites Urdu poets - Ghalib, Noon Meem Rashed, Faiz, Zehra Nigah, Afzal Ahmed Syed. Through this, Adil Manuel or Beven Fonesca weave words with music.[63][64]

Filmography[edit]

Year Film Role Notes
2020 Ezra Priest Post-Production
2019 Beecham House Maharaja of Kalyan Netflix Season 1
2019 Mind the Malhotras Dr Gulfam Rustogi Prime Video Season 1
2019 Delhi Crime Vishal Chaturvedi Netflix
2019 Photograph Hasmukhbhai
2019 Badla Detective Sondhi
2019 The Good Karma Hospital Anish (TV) ITV Season 3, Episode 2
2019 Made in Heaven Mr Swarup Prime Video Season 1, Episode 6
2019 Bombairiya Rahul Saigal (Nandini’s father)
2018 Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi Adnan Chow
2018 Baazaar Kishore Wadhwa Nawab's Enemy
2018 Naa Peru Surya, Naa Illu India Activist Politician
2017 Viceroy's House / Partition: 1947 Muhammad Ali Jinnah
2016-17 P.O.W. - Bandi Yuddh Ke Lala/Jamal Rashid (TV)
2017 Jagga Jasoos Manipuri Militant Leader
Manjha Principal
2017 Baadshaho Col Rudra Pratap Singh
2017 Aksar 2 Assassin
Woh Admi Bahut Kuch Jaanta Tha Furkhan Quereshi Filming
2017 Black Widow: A Land Bleeds Anthropologist
2017 Naam Shabana
2016 Ishq Forever Karan
2016 Brahman Naman Professor Bernie (Bernard Jude Kumar Irudayasam)
2015 Phantom Haider
2015 Dad... Hold My Hand! Father
2015 Bombay Velvet Larsen
2015 The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Mr. Dharuna, Viceroy Club Secretary
2014 Points of Origin Dr Ambani (Short)
2014 Zid Inspector Moses
2014 Samvidhaan: The Making of the Constitution of India Auctioneer (TV Series)
2014 O Teri Politician
2013 The Lunchbox Mr Shroff
2013 The Coffin Maker Father John
2013 John Day Priest
2013 Going Away Ray DeCruz
2012 Ballad of Rustom Professor
2011 The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Mr. Dharuna, Viceroy Club Secretary
2011 Tripura Shiva (Telefilm)
2011 Impatient Vivek Rameshwar
2010 Lamhaa: The Untold Story of Kashmir Brigadier Sharma
2010 Chase Dr. A.K. Sehgal
2008 Shaurya Brigadier P. P. V. Nair
2007 Mumbai Salsa Kay Kay
2007 Frozen Tenzing
2006 The Memsahib Prof. Neil Thakker
2006 One Night with the King Prince Carshena
2005 Ek Ajnabee Lee Kap
2005 Rog Deputy Commissioner Kumar
2004 Shobhayatra Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru / Dwivedi
2004 Paap Lama Norbu
2002 Mango Souffle Ranjith
2001 Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat Mahesh Nair
1996 The Return of Sandokan Village Headman (TV)

Dubbing roles[edit]

Animated series[edit]

Program title Original voice Character Dub Language Original Language Number of Episodes Original Airdate Dubbed Airdate Notes
Captain Planet and the Planeteers David Coburn Captain Planet Hindi English 15 September 1990 – 11 May 1996 Hired by Cartoon Network India.

Live action films[edit]

Film title Actor Character Dub Language Original Language Original Year release Dub Year release Notes
Batman Forever Val Kilmer Bruce Wayne / Batman (First Dub) Hindi English 1995 1995 Saptrishi Ghosh dubbed this role in second Hindi dub.
The previous actor of the character was Michael Keaton and the Hindi dubbing actor was Samay Raj Thakkar.
Batman & Robin George Clooney Bruce Wayne / Batman (First Dub) Hindi English 1997 1997 Performed alongside Shanoor Mirza who voiced Chris O'Donnell as Dick Grayson / Robin, Anil Datt who voiced Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dr. Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze in Hindi.
The Phantom Billy Zane Kit
Walker / The Phantom
Hindi English 1996 1996 Performed alongside Shakti Singh who voiced James Remar as Quill in Hindi.
Hellboy Corey Johnson Agent Clay (First Dub) Hindi English 2004 2004 Performed alongside Rajesh Jolly who voiced Ron Perlman as Hellboy in Hindi.
V for Vendetta Hugo Weaving V
(First Dub)
Hindi English 2005 2005
Blade: Trinity Wesley Snipes Eric Brooks / Blade (First Dub) Hindi English 2004 2004
Captain America: The Winter Soldier Robert Redford Alexander Pierce Hindi English 2014 2014 Performed alongside Joy Sengupta who voiced Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America in Hindi.
Ant-Man and the Wasp Laurence Fishburne Bill Foster Hindi English 2018 2018
Avengers: Endgame Robert Redford Alexander Pierce Hindi English 2019 2019
Dumbo Alan Arkin J. Griffin Remington Hindi English 2019 2019

References[edit]

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External links[edit]