Denzil Smith

Indian film and stage actor and producer (born 1960)

Denzil Smith
A group photo of Ms Krunti Mazumdar, Shri Pravin Dabas & Ms Emily Hamilton of the film Mem Sahib during the 37th International Film Festival (IFFI-2006) in Panaji, Goa on November 27, 2006.jpg
Smith in IFFI 2006
Denzil Leonard Smith

(1960-11-06) 6 November 1960 (age 63)
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Other namesDenzil L Smith, Denzel Smith
Years active1988–present
SpouseCarissa Hickling
RelativesCheryl Roy-Smith (sister)
Lionel Smith (brother)

Denzil Leonard 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. Smith has acted in over 50 plays and 60 films.[1]

His film credits include Tenet (2020), 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).

His notable television roles include Netflix's Delhi Crime (2019), ITV's Beecham House (2019), Amazon Prime's sitcom Mind the Malhotras (2019) and P.O.W. - Bandi Yuddh Ke (2016–2017) on Star Plus.

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).

Early life

Smith was born into an Anglo-Indian family in Mumbai, Maharashtra 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 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]


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

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-mustachioed 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 2020, along with Sonali Kulkarni and Shernaz Patel, he led the cast in the role of Superintendent Daniel D'Mello in the classic Whodunnit The Mirror Crack'd by Agatha Christie, adapted by Rachel Wagstaff in an Indian version by Ayeesha Menon, directed by the British director Melly Still and produced by international theatre producer Pádraig Cusack, staged at the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (India) in Mumbai.

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

In film

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] 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] Upcoming work includes Bell Bottom (2021 film) with Akshay Kumar, which was filmed in Scotland under COVID restrictions[34] and Penthouse with Bobby Deol.[35]

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,[36] The Lunchbox (2013) with Irrfan Khan,[37] 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[38] and Brahman Naman (2016), a Netflix original release[39] sex comedy, directed by Qaushiq Mukherjee, written by Naman Ramachandran[40] with Shashank Arora.[41]

Smith's most prominent international films include Christopher Nolan's Tenet with John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, where Smith plays Sanjay Singh[42] husband of arms dealer played by Dimple Kapadia and Gurinder Chadha's Viceroy's House on India's partition in 1947 in which he plays the role of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.[43][44]

Smith has also starred in Thalapathy Vijay's Leo (2023 Indian film).[45]

On television, radio and voice

Smith has acted in many Indian television serials as well as international tele-series. Prominent ones include ITV's Beecham House[46] which is Gurinder Chadha's Indian period piece, Netflix's Delhi Crime[47] directed by Richie Mehta on the Nirbhaya gang rape tragedy, renewed for Season 2.[48] Smith also played the therapist in Amazon Prime's sitcom Mind the Malhotras (2019)[49] 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.[50] In 2019, Netflix and BBC cast Smith to play the father of serial killer Charles Sobhraj in their eight-part series The Serpent.[51]

Smith is also in an episode of Made in Heaven (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,[52][53][54] 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 Bug's 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.[55]

Media and events

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.[56][57]

Smith has been involved in charities such as Avehi Abacus.[58] He also conducts voice workshops in theatre institutes and colleges in India.[59][60][61]


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.[62] 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.[63][64] 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.[65][66]

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)[67] Frank Fernand and Anthony Gonsalves –[68] 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."[69] 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.[70][71]


Year Film / TV Series Role Notes
1996 The Return of Sandokan Village Headman Television Series
2001 Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat Mahesh Nair
2002 Mango Souffle Ranjith
2004 Shobhayatra Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru / Dwivedi
Paap Lama Norbu
2005 Ek Ajnabee Lee Kap
Rog Deputy Commissioner Kumar
2006 The Memsahib Prof. Neil Thakker
One Night with the King Prince Carshena
2007 Mumbai Salsa Kay Kay
Frozen Tenzing
2008 Shaurya Brigadier P. P. V. Nair
2010 Lamhaa: The Untold Story of Kashmir Brigadier Sharma
Chase Dr. A.K. Sehgal
2012 Ballad of Rustom Professor
2011 The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Mr. Dharuna, Viceroy Club Secretary
Tripura Shiva Television Film
Impatient Vivek Rameshwar
2013 The Lunchbox Mr Shroff
The Coffin Maker Father John
John Day Priest
Going Away Ray DeCruz
2014 Zid Inspector Moses
Samvidhaan: The Making of the Constitution of India Auctioneer Television Series
O Teri Murli Manohar Mahapatra
2015 Phantom Haider
Dad... Hold My Hand! Father
Bombay Velvet Larsen
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Mr. Dharuna, Viceroy Club Secretary
2016 Ishq Forever Karan
Brahman Naman Professor Bernie (Bernard Jude Kumar Irudayasam) Netflix Series
2017 Viceroy's House / Partition: 1947 Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Jagga Jasoos Manipuri Militant Leader
Manjha Principal Dsouza
Baadshaho Col Rudra Pratap Singh
Aksar 2 Assassin
Woh Admi Bahut Kuch Jaanta Tha Furkhan Quereshi
Black Widow: A Land Bleeds Anthropologist
Naam Shabana
2016–17 P.O.W. - Bandi Yuddh Ke Lala/Jamal Rashid Television Series
2018 Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi Adnan Chow
Baazaar Kishore Wadhwa
Naa Peru Surya, Naa Illu India Activist Politician
2019–2022 Mind the Malhotras Dr Gulfam Rustogi Amazon Prime Video series
Delhi Crime Vishal Chaturvedi Netflix series
2019 Beecham House Netflix
Photograph Hasmukhbhai
Badla Detective Sondhi
The Good Karma Hospital Anish ITV Series
Made in Heaven Mr Swarup Amazon Prime Video series
Bombairiya Rahul Saigal (Nandini’s father)
Skyfire Nalini Ranjan Pant ZEE5 webseries[72]
2020 Tenet Sanjay Singh English film
2021 Silence... Can You Hear It? Commission Sanjay Sharma ZEE5 film
Bell Bottom R. N. Kao
The Serpent Sobhraj Hatchand Bhaonani Netflix and BBC
Dybbuk Father Gabriel Amazon Prime Video film
Hum Bhi Akele Tum Bhi Akele MLA Tsong Disney Hotstar film
2022 Delhi Crime Vishal Chaturvedi Netflix Season 2
2023 White Ant Ashish Short film
Lakadbaggha ACP Crime Branch[73]
Agent Abhijeet Mehta
The Lady Killer Dr. Khurana
Leo Judge Tamil film
P I Meena Kedar Pokhral Amazon Prime Video series
Tiger 3 Home Minister
The Railway Men Railway Minister Netflix series
2024 Showtime Deven Viktor Disney+Hotstar
TBA 3 Monkeys Chief Justice Post-Production
Poachers Nilesh Sharma Filming
Blue: The Colour of Guilt Dr. Gupta Post-Production
Baby Crasto Post-Production
Control Brigadier Khan Post-Production
COVID Stories Jayant Lal Post-Production
Confession Bishop Gregarious Post-Production

Dubbing roles

Animated series

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.
Schirkoa 2022 Hawker (Voice) Animation[74]

Live action films

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
Tenet Himself Sanjay Singh Hindi English 2020 2020
Leo Himself Judge Hindi Tamil 2023 2023


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External links

  • Denzil Smith's Official Website
  • Denzil Smith at IMDb
Authority control databases Edit this at Wikidata
  • VIAF
  • Germany
  • Deutsche Biographie