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The real stars of Bollywood
March 11, 2004
There was an article once in a foreign publication saying Johnny Depp is one of the most underrated actors of his time. We are talking about the actor of What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Ed Wood, Donnie Brasco and From Hell, which was truly exceptional.
Depp eventually turned the tide in his favour. And how!
In theory, playing a roguish pirate would never lead to an Oscar nomination. In reality, it did. His comic turn as Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was so inspiring that the Academy had to reconsider their options.
Coming to Hindi films, in recent times, even the most regular performance by an actor seems to get hyped as award-worthy.
Preity Zinta is a good actress. But her performance in Kal Ho Naa Ho wasn't anything extraordinary. Kareena Kapoor was average in Chameli. But after the young actress tom-tommed her streetwalker act to the skies, no one was left with anything to say.
Evidently, hype or hits make a good performance. Flops are not counted.
But what about those actors who give more than what they get? Here's taking a look at some of Hindi cinema's underrated performers.
Motilal: A natural. At a time when dramatic acting was at its peak, Motilal introduced the concept of spontaneity. For instance, his Chunnibabu in Devdas was any day more convincing than the lyrical Jackie Shroff of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's version. While everyone remembers Kundan Lal Saigal, no one really gives a thought to Motilal.
Balraj Sahni: Subtlety was his middle name. His gentle, compassionate voice conveyed myriad emotions realistically. When Sahni came on screen, it never seemed like he was acting. He always became the character he portrayed. The well-educated Sahni was as good as his peers -- Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand -- if not better. Take Do Bigha Zameen, Anuradha, Kabuliwallah, Haqeeqat, Seema and Garam Hawa.
Dharmendra: It is rather unfair that despite great performances in so many films (Satyakam, Anupama, Chupke Chupke, Sholay, Nauker Biwi Ka), Dharmendra never really got his due. Romance, comedy, action, drama -- the big-hearted Jat handled every genre effortlessly. Yet when it came to awards, he lagged far behind his contemporaries.
When he finally received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Filmfare, the man got really emotional. At the awards night, Dharmendra was at his candid best. He recalled how he had hoped he would win every year, but never did.
Shashi Kapoor: His suave sense of humour and infectious smile were the perfect foil for the angry young man Amitabh Bachchan (in Deewar, Trishul, Silsila, Kabhi Kabhie). While Big B enjoyed the limelight, Shashi Kapoor's graceful support was overlooked.
The youngest sibling of Raj and Shammi Kapoor entered films long before AB. He made an impact as the young Raj Kapoor in Awaara. Although he had great potential, Kapoor got stuck in the rut of fluffy chocolate hero roles. He played roles of substance late in his career (Junoon, Kalyug, Vijeyta, Utsav, Muhafiz).
Vinod Khanna: He began his career as an anti-hero (in Man Ka Meet). But his handsome face soon landed him the part of hero. Gulzar tapped his talent in films like Mere Apne, Achanak, Meera and Lekin.
He was considered Amitabh Bachchan's strongest rival. Together, they formed a formidable team though. Had Vinod Khanna not given it all up to meet his spiritual needs in Osho's Ashram, life would be different for him. His second coming could never restore his original position in the industry.
Rishi Kapoor: Sometimes when an actor is incredibly good-looking, there is a tendency to neglect the actor in him. Something like that happened to Rishi Kapoor. Although he is mostly associated with gorgeous sweaters and his successful pairing with Neetu Singh and a whole lot of pretty faces, Rishi survived superstars like Amitabh Bachchan and the consecutive action films phase. Instead of following the if-you-can't-beat-them-join-them credo, Rishi continued to indulge in the romantic/family drama genre.
Rishi Kapoor is a complete natural in front of the camera -- take the child actor in Mera Naam Joker or the lover boy in Bobby, Khel Khel Mein, Kabhi Kabhie, Karz and Chandni.
Salman Khan: He is popular. He is always in the news. Think Salman. Think trouble. Never films. His knack of walking into trouble has overshadowed people's perception of him as an actor.
But Salman has delivered terrific performances in many films (Maine Pyaar Kiya, Saajan, Andaz Apna Apna, Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, Khamoshi, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Tere Naam). He can be sensitive, vulnerable, funny, aggressive and charming as his role demands. He goes about his role so casually that the effect is very believable.
Akshaye Khanna: It's plain bad luck that Akshaye Khanna's career never took off the way it ought to have. The actor has always been at ease in front of the camera. Unfortunately his first film, Himalayaputra, was a box-office turkey.
Akshaye had to wait till J P Dutta's Border to reassert his presence. In a looks-conscious film industry, his receding
hairline didn't make things any better. Except for an occasional Dil Chahta Hai or Hungama, the actor is mostly lying low.
Deepti Naval: Deepti Naval never found herself mentioned in the same breath as, say, Smita Patil or Shabana Azmi, her colleagues from the so-called art cinema. Strange, considering that the petite Naval has done a fair share of offbeat roles as well.
She displayed a flair for comic, serious and sensitive roles in Chashme Buddoor, Kisi Se Na Kehna, Saath Saath, Ek Baar Phir, Kamla, Mirch Masala, Angoor, Katha and the recent Leela and Freaky Chakra.
Juhi Chawla: Everyone loves Juhi Chawla. But no one takes her seriously as an actress. Recognised for her super comic timing in films like Bol Radha Bol, Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke (for which she won the Filmfare Award for Best Actress), and Ishq, Juhi evolved to be part of new age films like Jhankaar Beats and Teen Deewarein.
It is hard to miss the humour in her eyes and vivacious presence on screen. But at a time when even frivolous performances get accolades, it is sad to see Juhi get ignored.
There are many more names that come to mind.
What do you think? Who do you think are Hindi cinema's unsung heroes/heroines?Feel free to share your experiences with stars and your views on films! I will try and incorporate it in this column. And do let me know about films you would like to discuss.
Email Sukanya Verma!