80 iconic performances 1/10[ 7 ]
We are proud to present performances in movies that create such a rabid fan following! We hope this list will start a debate, a wave of curiosity among the new movie watchers, younger audiences and that they will flock to the movies. We also hope to renew faith among the older film-goers, who have witnessed the excitement of the premieres, who have been a part of the first-day-first-show madness of cinema. So pick up your tub of popcorn, settle down in your favourite spot in the house and join us in celebrating the finest performances in the movies...
1-Amitabh Bachchan in Zanjeer
The gentleman doctor of Anand is transformed into an angst-filled all-male cop. You forget he was lanky, you forget he lacks the necessary muscles to beat up 20 goons – all you remember are the smouldering eyes and the brooding anger that only take a break during the Yaari hai imaan mera song.
The film has one of the best opening scenes ever where Amitabh wakes up suddenly from troubled sleep. It‘s all so real, you are reminded of your own nightmares.
Bachchan, in the scene where he challenges Pran on his own turf, ear-marked the era of the angry young man. There is no softness in his body language there. He is like a caged tiger, waiting for someone to mess with him so he can unleash his fury. In the blink of an eye, 13 previous flops were forgotten and a phenomenon was born.
2-Aamir Khan in Rang De Basanti
A boy becomes a man through a surreal juxtaposition of the past and the present. Life changing incidents take place. DJ as the lovable wastrel is called for short (his real name is Daljeet Singh) finds himself in a situation that´s stranger than fiction. Who else but Aamir to alternate between a modern young man without a care in the world and an intensely passionate freedom fighter Chandrashekhar Azad who lays down his life for his motherland. For a 40-something actor to convincingly pass off for a 20-year-old is an achievement in itself. Yes, we notice the crow´s feet around his eyes but then it‘s not just the physical transformation. It is how he tricks you mentally into believing he is a youngster with a song in his step. The slight inflections he brings into his voice, his body language and his personality. Watch him playfully flirt with the British documentary maker Sue, or bond with his friends as they take moonlight bike rides and then watch him spontaneously burst into tears even as the world around falls apart. Aamir Khan makes this performance his own, leaving the viewer with no choice but to imprint him as the only one who could have essayed this part. Rang De Basanti is embedded in cinematic history as one of the most powerful films ever made and Aamir´s overwhelmingly passionate turn makes it unforgettable as well.
3-Nana Patekar in Parinda
When a role threatens to topple you over to the realm of over-the-top, sometimes you take the gamble and go with the flow. Which is why Nana Patekar´s frenzied act in Parinda connects with the audience. For one, he looks the part of a neurotic, deranged don to the hilt, his constant smacking of the head hysterically with his hands was a clever personality device and he spawned a new style of delivering dialogue with this one. He gave us the classic we-love-to-hate-this-guy feel, becoming one of the most negative characters ever in Hindi films. He embodies the film — dark edgy and unpredictable. And while we´re at it, one mustn´t forget his performance in Khamoshi, Prahar and Ankush as well.
4-Sridevi in Chaalbaaz
There are roles that you´ve got to work on and then there are roles which sort of grab you by the scruff of your neck, holding you in the vice-like grip of its sheer potential. Sridevi´s dual turn in Chaalbaaz is one such performance. Sure it´s an unabashed comedy-drama and it´s been done twice before once by Hema Malini in Seeta Aur Geeta and the male version by Dilip Kumar (Ram Aur Shyam) but Sridevi infuses a certain quirkiness that adds new sauce to the old as pasta formula. While she plays Manju with a certain offhand madness, she portrayed Anju with a kind of neurotic quivery personality thus totally separating the two. Sridevi´s penchant for giggles and her ability to look distinctly tearful when required polishes these performances to perfection. Hell, she made Sunny Deol and Rajnikant look like sidekicks in the film. Also memorable are her bravura acts in Lamhe and Sadma.
5-Meena Kumari in Pakeezah
Sahib Jaan is so beautiful, a stranger writes her a note on the train: Do not ever put your feet on the ground, they will get soiled. Now Sahib is a nautch girl, and the irony of the note and her doomed love for the stranger touches our hearts.
Meena Kumari was very unwell during the filming of the movie that took 12 years to make, but she fits into the tragic role so well, we come away with a sense of loss of something so pure, so beautiful. There is decadence in the film (men offer her carpets worth Rs 50,000), and the music and lyrics are hauntingly beautiful. But the central figure of Sahib Jaan does not seem to belong. She hankers after a life she knows she cannot have and herein lies Meena Kumari´s talent. She offers us glimpses into the very soul of a singing bird in a gilded cage.
6-Amitabh Bachchan in Sholay
Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra give us their best as Jai and Veeru, two crooks who are offered a chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of the law by saving a village from dacoits. Because this is a buddy film, one cannot look at one performance without mentioning the other. While Veeru is all talk and bluster, Jai is laidback and laconic. And Amitabh Bachchan makes laconic so brilliant that we are still saying, `Tera naam kya hai Basanti!´
His Jai is underplayed. There´s nothing over-the-top about it. In fact, his dialogue is delivered so softly and so subtly that you have to be sharp enough to catch the humour. He allows Veeru to play the brash hero while he follows his friend calmly smoking a cigarette. When Veeru romances Basanti, and happily exclaims, `Kitnee pyaari baatein kartee hai!´, it is Jai who offers us an opinion about Basanti: `Pyaari nahin bahut saari baatein kartee hai!´ Watch him go to mausi and offer the world´s most bizarre proposal in his now famous wry poker-faced manner. Of course, the dialogue is brilliantly written, but what matters is the delivery. And if you try imagining another in the role, nobody measures up. This role also made Amitabh´s best `dying´ scene. After this performance, Amitabh was required to die in many later films!
7-Anil Kapoor in Woh 7 Din
How can you score with a name like Prem Pratap Patiyalewala? Anil Kapoor, despite the corny name, floors us with this stupendous performance in his first ever starring role itself. You warmed to his wannabe musical superstar act. The character´s earnestness, his can do attitude, (despite being not very good at what he does) and unworldly attitude are flawlessly captured by Kapoor. The scene where he tries to make a tune (Lakho mein hazaro mein hai mera mehboob) tells you what great comic timing the actor has. And in the confrontation scene with Naseeruddin Shah and Padmini Kolhapure, the actor´s dramatic abilities come to the fore. Anil Kapoor went on to give many good performances after this, like in Tezaab, Lamhe but like Sachin Tendulkar´s first century, Woh 7 Din will always be dearer to us.
8-Smita Patil in Mirch Masala
Sonbai slaps a subedaar and takes shelter in a spice factory. What makes this simple plot come alive is the complex social, political statement that this little film made when it was made by Ketan Mehta in 1985. Smita Patil had already made a place for herself in the world of parallel cinema and had earned awards for her acting skills with fantastic performances in Manthan, Bhumika, Umbartha and even Chakra. But what she achieves in Mirch Masala is something else.
As the frightened Sonbai, the angry Sonbai, the confused Sonbai and finally the fiery woman who avenges her honour, Smita is mind-blowingly brilliant. When the men of the village are discussing her fate, the emotions that criss-cross her face are a sight you will not easily forget.
She was mesmerising in Subah and Tarang as well.