Actor, producer and politician,Suresh Oberoi started acting in Hindi films from the 70s up until the present. Starting his career with radio shows, he moved to modelling wherein he enjoyed a very successful stint, before he went on to make his debut in films. A popular character actor in the 80s and 90s, he featured in approximately 180 films, as well as TV serials. Known for films such as Laawaris (1981), Namak Halaal (1982), Ghar Ek Mandir (1984), Awaaz (1984), Ek Nai Paheli(1984), Aitbaar(1985) and Mirch Masala(1987), he won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor for Mirch Masala playing the Mukhi, the village headman. Among his most recent appearances on screen are Kabir Singh (2019) in which he played the lead character’s father, and Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi (2019) in which he essayed Peshwa Bajirao II, and PM Narendra Modi (2019).
Born Vishal Kumar Oberoi on December 17, 1946 in Quetta, Baluchistan, British India, his family moved to India post-Partition, settling down in Hyderabad, where they established a chain of medical stores. Schooled at St George’s Grammar School, Hyderabad, he was a sports champion, participating in tennis and swimming, and also winning the President’s Award as a boy scout. Acting came naturally to him, and he and his siblings along with their mother would sing and stage plays on festivals. He played his first role on stage at the age of 7, that of a girl knitting.
Possessing a deep, effective voice, Oberoi was strongly attracted to the performing arts, going on to perform in radio shows and stage plays. He joined the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune, to hone his acting craft. Relocating to Bombay in 1976, he featured in several advertisements for products such as Charminar cigarettes and Lifebuoy soap. By the late 70s, he became one of the leading models of the time.
Making his entry into films with Jeevan Mukt (1977), a family drama directed by Sudhendu Roy, he went on to feature in films such as Arvind Desai Ki Ajeeb Dastaan (1978), Kartavya (1979), Surakksha (1979), and Suraj Bhi Tamashai (1980) in which he essayed the villain. He played the lead role in Ek Baar Phir (1980); however, the film did not succeed at the box office, while the films which featured him in character roles such as Kartavya, Ek Baar Kaho, Surraksha and Khanjar(1980) clicked. His career received a boost when, impressed by his voice, he was cast by Prakash Mehra as the main character in the radio programme Mukaddar Ka Sikandar.
His supporting role as Police Inspector Sharma in the critical and commercial success Phir Wahi Raat (1980), starring Rajesh Khanna in the lead, brought him attention and appreciation. Thereafter, he went on to be cast as a police inspector in several films. Playing Ram Singh in the successful Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Laawaris (1981), fetched him a nomination for Filmfare Best Actor in Supporting Role. He continued to make a strong impact in supporting roles in films like Namak Halal, Kaamchor(1982) and Vidhata (1982). Starring in the lead role in B. R. Chopra's Mazdoor(1983), co-starring Dilip Kumar, one of his best performances as character actor came in Shakti Samanta’s Awaaz, in which he played Police Inspector Amit Gupta. Oberoi received another nomination for Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Ghar Ek Mandir.
In the 80s, Suresh Oberoi featured in good character roles in films like Ek Nai Paheli, Kanoon Kya Karega(1984), Sharabi, Aeitbaar, Bepanaah (1985) and Jawab (1985). He delivered a National Award-winning performance as Best Supporting Actor for theKetan Mehtadirectorial, Mirch Masala. He also featured in films such asPalay Khan (1986), Dacait (1987),Tezaab(1988), Do Qaidi(1989), Parinda(1989), Mujrim (1989), Aaj Ka Arjun (1990), Pyar Ka Devta (1991), Vijaypath (1994), Masoom (1996), Soldier (1998), Safari (1999), Gadar Ek Prem Katha (2001), Lajja (2001), Pyar Tune Kya Kiya (2001) and 23 March 1931 Shaheed (2002). He also acted in the Telugu film Marana Mrudangam (1988) and Kannada film Attahasa (2013). By his own admission, he couldn’t afford to be choosy about his roles, and accepted most roles if the compensation was right, including playing Aruna Irani’s grandfather in a film.
He also made a foray into television, acting in shows such as Dhadkan and Kashmeer. He also hosted Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai, which was earlier hosted by Farooq Shaikh, and presented a glimpse into the lives of film stars by interviewing them, their families and friends. Oberoi also recited a few couplets in the song Dil mein phir aaj teri along with Anuradha Paudwalfor the film Yaadon Ka Mausam (1990). He is also known to write romantic and philosophical poetry.
Suresh Oberoi joined the Bharatiya Janata Party as a primary member in 2004.
On the personal front, he married Yashodara, who hails from a business family, in Madras on 1 August, 1974. The couple has two children – son and actor Vivek Oberoi and daughter Meghna Oberoi.