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Anil Kapoor’s Best

Posted by Kokolicious on February 26th, 2009


Suddenly, he’s become India’s most prominent international star.

Anil Kapoor is one of Indian cinema’s most consistent actors of all time, and after his turn in Danny Boyle’s world-conquering Slumdog Millionaire, he is the one ‘Bollywood star’ the West is most exposed to.

And while the world is just discovering Kapoor’s charms, we’ve long been beneficiaries of the man’s talent. He’s delivered his best even in the unlikeliest of cinema, and can always be counted on to make the screen light up with that goofy grin.

Here then, for our friends in the West and for all of us to celebrate one of our best leading men, is a list of his ten finest films. It is a contentious list, of course, but we go with chronological order.

Woh Saat Din (1983)

Anil Kapoor, he of the fiddle-worthy pyjama drawstrings, carries a harmonium with his name painted on the side: Prem Pratap, Patialawale. The struggling singer enters the film singing Tere mere beech mein from Ek Duje Ke Liye, proceeding to extoll the virtues of Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s composition, his hardcore Punjabi accent belying his articulate understanding of music. As he drags along a hapless young sidekick and grapples with finding a bachelor’s accomodation in Bombay, we see an idealistic young musician given to prayer and scruples, and it is this extreme naivete that is impossible to not be charmed by. This was where we first truly saw the actor’s iconic grin, and in a way, Hindi cinema would never be the same.

Mashaal (1984)

For a fledgling performer with just a few films to his name, a full-length role opposite screen legend Dilip Kumar would be reward enough. Yet Kapoor grabbed the opportunity this Yash Chopra film offered with gusto, managing to consummately outshine the screen veteran even if armed with a clear supporting role. Kapoor’s Raja was a street tough, irascible and hard as nails, yet thanks to the charismatic way the actor played him, it was tough not to like him even before he straightened up to fly right.

Mr India (1987)

In my book, the single finest scene of Kapoor’s entire career comes in this Shekhar Kapur masterpiece when he, playing the scruffy Arun Bhaiyya, finally slips on the invisibility bracelet. Even as little Jugal yelps around in fear, it is Kapoor’s incredulous exuberance that drips off the screen as he revels in the impossible coming true. The boy is thrilled, but it is Kapoor’s unadulterated glee that makes this scene one of the most magical moments in our cinema — and the rest of the film isn’t far behind at all. Incredible stuff.

Tezaab (1988)

In one of his career’s landmark performances — and the one that won him is first Best Actor trophy at the Filmfare Awards — Kapoor plays Mahesh, a jingoistic newly-enrolled Navy man. His love for Mohini (Madhuri Dixit, breaking through herself with this N Chandra film) leads Mahesh to arrest and exile from the city of Bombay. He does return, but as Munna, a cold-blooded gangster with vengeance bloodying his eyes. A bravura performance, dripping with screen presence and versatility as Anil goes from utterly likable to undeniably frightening — and every shade in between.

Ram Lakhan (1989)

Dhin a dhin ta.

This Subhash Ghai romp wasn’t Kapoor’s film at all — he played kid brother to Jackie Shroff and took second place in the film’s credits — but, with typical scenestealing, he made it entirely his own. Ram Lakhan is the perfect example of the cheesy Bollywood revenge saga, with every element from a widowed mother (and fights over her husband’s ashes) to a bizarre villain named Sir John to a central conflict between two brothers, one a criminal, one a crime fighter. And yet the only reason this film works — and it absolutely does — is because of the infectious earnestness Kapoor thrusts into the Lakhan role. It is a role — crook, flirt, misled youth — we’ve seen a million times before and since, but Kapoor’s inimitable panache makes sure we remember that Lakhan Is Still His Name.

Parinda (1989)

To this day the finest underworld film in Hindi cinema — one that gangsters in Mumbai borrowed slang from instead of the other way around — Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Parinda was also India’s official entry to the 1989 Oscars. Kapoor played Shroff’s younger brother yet again, and the way he emerged with more plaudits this time around showed that this was an actor not bound by trifles like screentime. He was just hungry to do better. Kapoor plays a young man sheltered from crime by his tough sibling, but when he sees his best friend killed he turns to those rivalling his brother’s gang. In drama later echoed in films like The Departed, Kapoor plays off one gang against the other and takes the film intensely forward until we are shocked by the gruesome finale. A pitch-perfect performance from everyone on board.

Lamhe (1991)

In Yash Chopra’s most progressive film — so progressive it was considered scandalous and flopped miserably despite being one of the director’s finest works — Anil Kapoor shaved off his ‘stache. He also left all the outrageousness at the door — a staple of that period’s cinema — as he played Viren, a Rajasthani prince, showing masterful restraint and tremendous subtlety as he went from falling in love with Sridevi to trying to absorb her loss to falling in love with her yet again. The plot was complex and Kapoor — still called Kunwarjee by several fans — did the job brilliantly, reining himself in throughout the film and showing his pent up angst completely in only a couple of outbursts.

1942 A Love Story (1994)

A lovingly crafted period film, Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s wonderfully mounted production featured Kapoor as the wealthy Naren Singh who falls for Manisha Koirala’s Rajjo. And while star-crossed lovers from different strata of society weren’t new to Hindi cinema at all, Chopra’s backdrop featured Indians as subservient to the British or rallying against them, and this further tore the young romantics asunder. Kapoor falls in love with wide-eyed wonderment, and is utterly charming till he reached the central conflict, after which his role takes on an unexpected intensity. Gripping stuff.

Pukar (2000)

It was Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Pukar that got Kapoor a Best Actor National Award, and while the film has its share of flaws, Kapoor rises above them to deliver an outstanding acting job. Playing wronged Major Jaidev Rajvansh, Kapoor captures beautifully the anguish of a noble man spurned by his peers. He is stripped off his uniform and dismissed from the army, and elderly citizens spit on his ‘traitor’ status. And Kapoor just seethes from the inside, seethes with anger and hurt and betrayal and shame. Wow.

My Wife’s Murder (2005)

And we end with an indie, with a neatly made taut thriller by first-time director Jijy Philip, which shows just how marvellously solid Kapoor’s remained over the years. In My Wife’s Murder, he plays perpetually beleaguered video editor Ravi Patwardhan, who happens to — without fuss, entirely by accident — kill his nagging wife. So real does Kapoor make the situation that he forces us to relate to it, to the way the similar could concievably happen to either of us, and the wonderful little film rests on this magnificent portrayal of a constantly persecuted man.

It’s hard taking a filmography showing off such yeoman service to cinema and keeping the list down to 10. Virasat, Meri Jung, Chameli Ki Shaadi, Eeshwar, Taal and Beta were a few films which almost made the cut, but many more spring immediately to mind.

 Source: Rediff


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