Inspite of power packed performances, a character actor cannot aspire to scale the same heights of his contemporary actors if the films in which he has worked have not hit bull's eye. The irony of the situation is that the character actors who have strong notions of etching out the characters have to work in films which though they give them full scope to explore their talent find that they do not have hit films in their oeuvre that can provide them long term sustenance. Two cases in point are those of Pawan Malhotra and Pankaj Kapoor. Pankaj Kapoor gave a real powerhouse of performance after a long time in a mainstream commercial cinema HALLA BOL, but as the film could not become a hit he is still looking for an opportunity to display his oeuvre. Reference to HALLA BOL is being eluded to and not that of MAQBOOL or THE BLUE UMBRELLA as these films were off mainstream. Incidentally, Pankaj Kapoor came up with another stellar performance in DHARM, which gave him international recognition also, even then he still has not been able to break the conundrum and have his kitty full with various diversified nature of roles.
Pawan Malhotra is another example of the same kind. He had a good performance in MY NAME IS ANTHONY GONSALVES and in fact his was the character which was the central character in the film, however as the film could not be a commercial success, Pawan Malhotra is in the same league as Pankaj Kapoor, even though he has a super-duper hit to his credit in the form of JAB WE MET. Incidentally Pawan Malhotra had a good hit to his credit in the form of DON as well, but both these films have not been able to provide him the foothold that he has been searching for in the industry for more than twenty years.
The scenario as it has developed again begs the question that those who use the channel of cinema of the serious type as a channel vehicle to launch their career in the mainstream Hindi film cinema find it very difficult to have a strong mooring. The time it took for Naseerudin Shah and Om Puri to attain the same is an ample testimony to the same. The only exception to this rule so far has been Smita Patil who just took the commercial cinema like a duck to the water probably because her breaks as and when they came where with right banners and right actors. The same may happen with Pankaj Kapoor post DHARM and Pawan Malhotra may have to look for some other role of this kind to break into the international arena.
As a matter of fact if one is serious to make a career at the international level, the recognition is much more and success that Irfan Khan has had for him is a living testimony to the fact. The crunch probably lies in the fact that an artist, who aspires to work in the Hindi films, has the desire that his performance in a mainstream commercial cinema should be his passport to success and not a success that has been achieved in an international arena. This is what seems to be the driving force and keeps on cajoling the artists to keep on tolling hard to strive for the success that could transform them into a commercial star. Probably, they have to get under the skin and do it commercially, that is to keep aside the veneer of an actor from the genre of other cinema and then success may just be around the corner for them.