Asia’s 25 Greatest Actors of all time (CNN) — India represented by Bachchan, Guru Dutt, Pran, Nargis, Meena Kumari


In the history of the Academy Awards (airing on March 7th), only two Asians have ever taken home a Best Actor or Actress statue (we don’t count Ben Kingsley as true Asian). Yet Asia has produced incredibly talented thespians that have changed the course of their nation’s cinematic history. In anticipation of Oscar night, we’ve narrowed the list of greats to 25. Roll the credits…

Zhou Xun

China: Zhou Xun

The seductive Zhou Xun is arguably the most adept of China’s “Four Young Dan actresses.” She’s certainly the most dedicated: Xun confessed to CNN that she showed up on the set of “The Message” intoxicated, in order to get into the mind of her hard-drinking character. Her accolades include multiple Best Actress awards for “The Equation of Love and Death” and “Perhaps Love.”

Best Role: In “Suzhou River,” a 2000 film noir directed by Lou Ye, Xun enthralled audiences as the femme fatale star of a mermaid show.

Gong Li

China: Gong Li

Art house darling Gong Li is both muse and star in Zhang Yimou’s most celebrated films. She made a memorable debut in 1987’s “Red Sorghum,” following up with “Raise the Red Lantern” and “The Story of Qiu Ju.” These roles established her, according to Asiaweek, as “one of the world’s most glamorous movie stars and an elegant throwback to Hollywood’s golden era.”

Best Role: Chen Kaige’s “Farewell My Concubine” was the first Chinese film to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1992. Premiere Magazine ranked Li’s headstrong courtesan the 89th greatest performance of all time.

Ruan Lingyu

China: Ruan Lingyu

One cannot speak of China’s golden era of silent cinema without mentioning Ruan Lingyu. She starred in 29 films between 1926 and 1935, playing women struggling with love, work and modern city survival. When the pressures of public life led to her suicide at the age of 24, 300,000 devastated fans followed her coffin through the streets of Shanghai.

Best Role: Lingyu’s “The Goddess” (1934), in which she plays a devoted mother driven into prostitution, is considered the pinnacle of Chinese silent film.

Leslie Cheung

Hong Kong: Leslie Cheung

Leslie Cheung was the leading man of the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, starring in a flush of hit movies that are now considered modern Hong Kong classics. He received international acclaim for his heartfelt turns in “Farewell My Concubine” and three Wong Kar-Wai films. In 2005, he was voted “Most Favorite Actor in 100 Years of Chinese Cinema.”

Best Role: Cheung’s role as an idealistic young cop in John Woo’s “A Better Tomorrow” (1986) was widely considered his debut as a serious actor.

Josephine Siao

Hong Kong: Josephine Siao

Josephine Siao burst into the spotlight as a teen idol, playing vengeful heroines in 1960s ‘wusia’ films. She successfully transitioned to adult roles, then poured her soul into education and charities. Today, Siao is one of the most-loved and prolific members of the Hong Kong film community.

Best Role: In the dramatic comedy “Summer Snow” (1995), Siao is a mother struggling to care for her Alzhiemer’s-ridden father-in-law. The movie took home four Golden Horse Awards and the Silver Berlin Bear.

Tony Leung Chiu-Wai

Hong Kong: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai

Tony Leung is called ‘Asia’s answer to Clark Gable’ and the finest Hong Kong actor of his generation. His collaborations with director Wong Kar-wai include “Chungking Express,” “Happy Together” and “In the Mood for Love.” The quiet, emotional intensity of his craft has earned him three Best Actor statues at the Golden Horse Awards.

Best Role: Leung took home Best Actor at Cannes for 2000’s “In the Mood for Love.” His performance as a betrayed spouse who falls into a complex relationship with his neighbor still haunts viewers.

Toshiro Mifune

Japan: Toshiro Mifune

Toshiro Mifune’s raw charisma elevated Akira Kurosawa’s films from the 1950s and 60s into masterpieces. The director described Mifune’s talent as matchless. “He put forth everything directly and boldly, and his sense of timing was the keenest I had ever seen in a Japanese actor. And yet with all his quickness, he also had surprisingly fine sensibilities.”

Best Role: Mifune is best known for playing a temperamental ronin in “The Seven Samurai.” But I adore his turn as the bandit Tajomaru in “Rashomon,” bound by rope and gleefully stamping his feet as he spins his tale of the murder.

Tomisaburo Wakayama

Japan: Tomisaburo Wakayama

Tomisaburo Wakayama descended from a family of Kabuki performers and is the brother of actor Shintaro Katsu (Zatoichi.) He reached iconic status as Ogami Itto, the scowling, disgraced samurai who pushes his son Daigoro around in a cart as he enacts bloody vengeance. Wakayama’s “Lone Wolf and Cub” series epitomizes the flash and violence of 1970s cult cinema.

Best Role: The second film of the series, “Baby Cart at the River Styx” (1972) is my favorite. Female ninjas! Basket-headed assassins! A showdown in the sand dunes!

Takeshi Kitano

Japan: Takeshi Kitano

A Renaissance man, Takeshi Kitano has written, directed, edited or starred in almost a film per year since the late 1980s. His roles in “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence,” “Fireworks” and “Hana-bi” made his name in the global art cinema circuit. The Guardian put it best: “Prolific and diverse, he is the epitome of the modern Japanese spirit — tough, urban, media-savvy, violent, poker-faced yet oddly sentimental.”

Best Role: Kitano was flawless as the head instructor of the teenage kill program in “Battle Royale” (2000).

Guru Dutt

India: Guru Dutt

He’s frequently compared to Orson Welles for directing and starring in films that ushered in a golden era of Hindi cinema. Because of his soulful acting, Guru Dutt’s “Pyaasa” and “Kaagaz Ke Phool” are now included among the greatest Indian films of all time.

Best Role: Dutt produced, directed and starred in Pyaasa (1957), a story of a struggling poet in post-independence India.

Amitabh Bachchan

India: Amitabh Bachchan

Amitabh Bachchan’s deep voice and broodiness immortalized him as the “angry young man” of 1970s Bollywood. Although films such as “Sholay” made him an action hero, he also successfully played comic and romantic leads.

Best Role: Bachchan’s role as Inspector Khanna in “Zanjeer” (1973) cemented his image as a dark and deep character, triggered to explode.


India: Pran

Pran is the pre-eminent villain of Hindi cinema, appearing in over 350 films (typically listed last in the opening credits as “…and Pran.”) He was equally at ease playing a powerful lord or an impoverished villager. So great is his notoriety as a villain that some Indian parents dare not name their sons Pran.

Best Role: “Upkaar Upkaar” (1967) demonstrated Pran’s versatility and earned him a Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award. He surprised audiences by playing a good Samaritan and singing the chart-topping “Rishte naate pyar wafaa sab.”


India: Nargis

From the 1940s to 1960s, the beautiful Nargis starred in many commercially successful as well as critically acclaimed films. Because of her versatility and natural expression, she is regarded as one of the greatest actresses in the history of Hindi cinema.

Best Role: Nargis stole the show in the Oscar-nominated “Mother India” (1957), known as the Indian “Gone with the Wind.” She plays a strong-willed woman, Radha, who survives tragedy after tragedy.

Meena Kumari

India: Meena Kumari

Meena Kumari is famous for playing grief-stricken parts that mirrored the sufferings in her private life. Dubbed “The Tragedy Queen,” Kumari starred in more than 90 films in a career that spanned from 1939 to her premature death by cirrhosis in 1972. Many of her works, such as “Baiju Bawra” and “Parineeta,” are considered classics today.

Best Role: Kumari’s troubles in “Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam” (1962) were eerily similar to her own: alcoholism, destructive relationships, the yearning to be understood.

Mohammad Ali

Pakistan: Mohammad Ali

Mohammad Ali is immortalized as “The Emperor of Emotions” and Pakistan’s greatest actor, starring in over 300 movies with prominent actors such as Shamim Ara. He played heroes and villains with equal ease, delivering passionate yet naturalistic performances.

Best Role: Ali was confined to villain roles until “Shararat” (1964), in which he played a hero. The movie was a hit and opened him up to playing diverse characters.


Pakistan: Zeba

Zeba was married to Mohammad Ali and is one of the most celebrated Pakistani actresses. Her beauty and passion shone on the screen, and her skills as an actress grew more eloquent over time.

Best Role: Zeba’s performance in “Armaan” (1966) is cited as one of her best. It was the first Urdu film to play for 75 weeks in Pakistan’s cinemas, earning the status of Platinum Jubilee.

Malini Fonseka

Sri Lanka: Malini Fonseka

The Queen of Sinhalese cinema had a diverse career that spanned many decades, beginning with her moving performance in 1968’s “Punchi Baba.” Malini Fonseka was the first Sri Lankan actress to reach international heights, winning awards at the Moscow International Film Festival in 1975 and New Delhi Film Festival in 1977.

Best Role: “Nidhanaya” (1972) is known as one of the best works in Sri Lanka’s cinematic history. Fonseka memorably played a guileless lady who meets a man and stumbles into tragedy.

Ahn Sung-ki

Korea: Ahn Sung-ki

Ever since his blazing debut as a child actor in the early 1960s, Ah Sung-ki’s nuanced, natural style has won respect from audiences and critics alike. Known as the National Best Actor, he starred in some of Korea’s biggest artistic and commercial triumphs of the 1980s.

Best Role: Sung-ki gained significant notice for his role as a working-class young man in Lee Jang-ho’s “Fine Windy Day” (1980). He was rewarded with a Grand New Bell award for Best New Actor.

Shim Eun-ha

Korea: Shim Eun-ha

Shim Eun-ha became the most talked-about actress in Korea after her splash start in a 1994 basketball-themed TV drama. In the late 1990s, she topped every poll for Korea’s most popular actress. Her mystique only grew stronger after she gave up acting in 2002 and took up painting in France.

Best Role: Eun-ha’s subtle acting made a profound impact in the romantic tragedy, “Christmas in August” (1998). The film had over 400,000 screenings in Seoul and is often used as an example in Asian film classes.

Ng Chin Han

Singapore: Ng Chin Han

For over 20 years, Ng Chin Han has delighted audiences with his theatrical, film and TV performances. He is one of Singapore’s first actors to break into Hollywood, with appearances in “ 3 Needles,” “The Dark Knight” and Roland Emmerich’s “2012.”

Best Role: Han was the suave, silver-tonged Hong Kong mogul in the most recent Batman movie, “The Dark Knight,” opposite Christian Bale and Heath Ledger.

Fann Wong

Singapore: Fann Wong

Fann Wong is a triple threat — actress, singer, model — and one of the first Singaporean stars to have a role in a major Hollywood picture. Her career got an international boost when she appeared alongside Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson in “Shanghai Knights.”

Best Role: Wong’s role as a wayward teenager in “The Truth About Jane and Sam” (1999) introduced her to a wide slate of moviegoers and won her a nomination for Best New Performer at the Hong Kong Film Awards.

Petchara Chaowarat

Thailand: Petchara Chaowarat

The first lady of Thai cinema, Petchara Chaowarat is lovingly recognized by audiences by her sparkling “puppy dog eyes” and elaborate up-dos. She starred in around 300 films from 1961 to 1979, and won a Best Actress statue at the 1964 Thailand National Film Awards.

Best Role: One of Chaowarat’s most popular films was “Monrak luk thung” (1970), a musical romance where she played a wealthy woman in love with a rural man.

Mitr Chaibancha

Thailand: Mitr Chaibancha

Mitr Chaibancha’s dazzling smile shines over Thai cinema. He churned out 266 films between 1956 and 1970. Today, fans still visit the shrine erected on the spot where he was killed during the filming of “Insee Thong.

Best Role: One of Chaibancha’s best-known movies, “Pet Tad Pet (Operation Bangkok)” (1967), was a top quality collaboration between Bangkok and Hong Kong studios.

P. Ramlee

Malaysia: P. Ramlee

Malaysia’s most beloved entertainer is hands down P. Ramlee. In the 1950s and 60s, he pushed the local cinema to new heights as an actor and director. His works have not lost their power: Ramlee’s films still play constantly on Malaysian TV and make viewers laugh.

Best Role: Ramlee directed and acted in “Ali Baba Bujang Lapok” (1960), a rip-roaring Malay spin on the tale of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves.

Kong Som Eurn

Cambodia: Kong Som Eurn

Kong Som Eurn is the unrivaled icon of Cambodian cinema. The handsome actor’s filmography reads like a list of Khmer greatest hits: “Orn Ery Srey Orn,” “Muy Mern Arlai (Missing You 10,000 Times),” “Pail Dael Trov Yom (The Time to Cry).” He starred in more than half of all the local films made between 1967 and 1975.

Best Role: “Orn Euy Srey Orn” (1972) is a well-loved melodrama. Eurn stands out as a sympathetic farmer who struggles to marry his beloved while a rich man plots to steal her.

139 Responses to “Asia’s 25 Greatest Actors of all time (CNN) — India represented by Bachchan, Guru Dutt, Pran, Nargis, Meena Kumari”

  1. Glad to see Bachchan on the list but it is rather bizarre in its selections otherwise! Even the Japanese list barring Mifune is weird.


    • i disagree with “zanjeer” being amitabh’s best role. it has to be “deewaar”. its vintage bachchan

      where is maggie cheng? she’s a great chinese actress and should’ve made the list


  2. and it was put together very sloppily even otherwise.. I was surprised to see Zeba Bakhtiyar on the list (Henna). Didn’t think she was that important (even if I hardly follow the Pakistani film industry). Reading the writeup I realized they were referring to a different Zeba, I found the right image and replaced it.

    Similarly with Meena Kumari they just had a painting there instead of an actual image. Replaced this as well.

    And Zanjeer Bachchan’s very best role?


    • I cannot speak to most of the East Asian actors listed here, but Gong Li, while jaw-droppingly gorgeous, never struck me as an especially great actress. Based on the couple of films I have seen, it’s a joke to include Pakistan’s Muhammad Ali — can’t strand him.


      • You’re right on Gong-Li and yet she is the most important contemporary star-actress from that part of the world. Zhang Yi-yi probably gets there eventually.


        • wow! I find it fascinating that Qalandar and you don’t find Gong Li a great actress! I, for one, think she is probably one of the best actresses of non-english movies that I have ever seen. Absolutely no comparison with Zhang Ziyi, who is actually “jaw-droppingly gorgeous” but not nearly in the same league as Gong Li. Gong Li’s performance was incredible in Farewell My Concubine, To Live, Raise the Red Lantern etc. Even the small roles she played in 2046 and Memoirs of a Geisha are unforgettable for me.


          • Memoirs of a Geisha is actually an experience I’d like to forget!


          • I come at it from the opposite end. I think Yi-yi might be more the actress. Of course with both ladies I am perfectly willing to forget acting issues! Prefer Yi-yi for her greater spunk. Gong-Li of course had that ‘most beautiful woman in the world’ tag before Ash. Notice the ‘Orientalism’ involved!


          • hmmm.. I can’t seem to be able to reply to GF or Satyam’s replies below. No “Reply” link! So replying to myself.

            @GF – I agree with you entirely about the movie. I just meant that Gong Li was as good as she always is even in this underwhelming movie as the villain(ess?).

            @Satyam – My beauty-filter is completely lopsided I think. 😛 I have never found Gong Li nearly as pretty-looking as Zhang Ziyi.


    • ideaunique Says:

      I am glad they didn’t mention Dilip Kumar here – because that’s a trend with most of the people when it comes to DK – they start mentioning him as a GOD……Pran is not the best choice but IMO – he deserves more to be here than Dilip Kumar…..however, I wish Madhubala, Dev Anand and Aamir (am i opening a Pandora’s box here 😉 ) deserved to be there…BIG B’s best was BOOM 😉 just kidding…..his best is yet to come 🙂


      • mksrooney Says:

        well i too said for aamir and i go forward to say idea for our generation aamir is better and far more influential than u B
        (i guess m running for cover..)


        • ideaunique Says:

          that’s true…..surprisingly, i find Dev Anand far more entertaining than Dilip Kumar, but yes – Sanjeev Kumar was BAAP of all of them…how did they leave him out?


  3. Offside Says:

    Don’t know what the criteria is here. Can’t say I am too pleased about Amitabh included here with his best role of Zanjeer(!) and in the company as above!

    I have often witnessed that CNN and BBC amongst others have such clueless journos providing the ‘Bollywood’ angle that it seems they’ve never watched its cinema; ordinary sourcing of material.

    NYTimes reviewers are the same as well…


  4. oldgold Says:

    No Dilip Kumar!!!!?????


  5. mksrooney Says:

    no raj kapoor, dilip kumar… ??


  6. mksrooney Says:

    also tamil, telugu, malyalam film industry have been ignored i guess!!!!!

    kamal hassan??

    also in bombay film industry..

    aamir khan?
    naseeruddin shah?


  7. thecooldude Says:

    How is Pran in here? He pretty much acted the same way in all his movies!!!! This is why I don’t respect any of these lists.


    • “He pretty much acted the same way in all his movies!!!!”

      He had that in common with many major leads! But not many in the latter group can or could do the one note better than him.


    • this list has all the trademarks of someone relatively uninformed doing the Indian section! However the Japanese section is pretty bad too. Not sure what the deal is!


    • pran is there because he has done both badie and goodie roles,
      just watched ZANZEER and realised what the hec..


  8. thecooldude Says:

    Evan the Pakistani Zeba overacted in all her movies. These people have no freakin’ clue.


  9. thecooldude Says:

    Same with Mohammad Ali…the guy played college student roles in his 60’s for cryin’ out loud 🙂


  10. thecooldude Says:

    To me, there are three legends in HINDI cinema. Dilip Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, and Amitabh Bachchan. A R Rahman is on his way and Aamir may not be that far behind.


  11. A sloppy list but to answer a few questions above, Dilip Kumar and Aamir dont have to be there. May be Naseer. It is Asia’s top 25. The only Indian who has an indisputable claim on ANY list of best actors is Amitabh followed quite closely by Sanjeev.


    • And Rajen is not making the South Indian case here!


    • If I were to make an all male Indian five and correlate it with some notion of stature I would have Bachchan, Kamal, Mammootty, Mohanlal… and…

      so far so good because these four are stars and actors. The fifth is hard. Naseer deserves a spot quite obviously. But I might be tempted to pick Rajni for his extraordinary iconic appeal and impact. So Kamal over Sivaji and Rajni over MGR. In each case I consider the more recent star to be the better actor. Now having said that one runs into some trouble with all of this as clearly a star’s impact is not reducible simply to any idealized notion of ‘acting’.

      I’d be hard pressed to have a Hindi top 5. Bachchan of course, Dilip Kumar as well, I would like to include sanjeev (actually prefer him to Dilip on his best day) but he doesn’t have the same stature. Naseer should be there because of his connection to the entire ‘art film’ movement.

      It’s ultimately hard to even agree on notions of acting. Sivaji seems quite theatrical today but clearly was ‘the actor’ of his industry. I think today we tend to value actors more who even if not all the time can be ‘naturalistic’ on many occasions. We tend not to esteem ‘theatrical’ actors very highly even though this mode was once the preferred one. dilip Kumar presents an interesting trajectory. When most actors were theatrical he went in the naturalist direction though I think his ‘reaction’ was a bit too strong and his ‘naturalism’ often comes off as forced and not very natural (this is not to deny his seminal influence on a whole generation of actors). On the other hand later on his career and beginning in the 60s he became more and more theatrical till you get to the 80s and the circle is complete! Bachchan is the only star I know of who could make whatever he touched look ‘naturalistic’, even the most implausible parts. And this is a rather unique I think metric when it comes to him. To make the most outlandish also seem the most ‘natural’. Most stars, even great stars, either do this by compromising ‘performance’ (they are potent stars when doing so but less than actors) or else they don’t do as much (they only stick to what is plausible in that naturalistic sense). Mohanlal is the exact opposite of this. And herein lies his greatness. He makes the most ordinary, the most naturalistic moments plausible by seeming to play things straight but really introducing ‘perversity’ at every point. Both bachchan and Kamal in their more regular outings where they’re not required to be great stars are completely ‘normal’ actors. Mohanlal though tweaks things a bit. he does not know Bachchan’s mode of making the larger than life seem completely naturalistic while preserving all manner of gesturality (in his later films when he enters such a phase he plays it relatively straight.. there is gesturality but it’s not akin to Bachchan’s or Rajni’s). However when he does the ‘regular’ he is a veritable magician because he introduces a unique star signature into the proceedings. Of all these great figures that I have listed I sometimes find Kamal the least. Because he is never star enough to match Bachchan or Rajni and never pure actor enough in this ‘Mohanlal’ sense of the term. Which is not to deny his stature by any means. But the Bachchan-Mohanlal couple seems to me quite instructive precisely because the mode of each is by and large very foreign to the other and yet each is extraordinary.


      • Not sure I follow your point about Mohanlal’s “perversity”, unless you mean that he never “plays it straigt”, which I actually am not sure I’d agree with…


        • What I meant was that Bachchan does the outlandish in naturalistic fashion while Lal does the natural in a mode that is not outlandish of course but is invested with a certain strangeness. Of course bachchan does a bit of this as well and lal can certainly do ‘straight’. I was just referring to their principal strengths. For Bachchan of course it is the gap between the epic in a Kaala Pathar and the ‘normal’ in a Manzil that seems so stunning. This gap is again most pronounced for him among all stars that I’ve seen.


          • I see. I would probably myself have used “ineffability” rather than “strangeness”, but that comment does help. Stated differently, unlike with other examples of “strangeness”, what I find striking is the effect produced by a Mohanlal performance that doesn’t seem like it is trying to produce any effect in particular — as opposed to a performance that tries to create a particular effect. Amitabh is in the latter category in the epic roles, but could do the former as well, especially in the 1970s, although even as late as Main Azaad Hoon (although this film has other issues, principally the implausibility in the audience’s mind, by that late date, of Amitabh being an Everyman, a constitutive tension that the film cannot resolve, and that builds in a kind of schizophrenia into it). Lal is very much at home in the former mode IMO, and at his best his naturalistic performances, by virtue of their seamlessness, (perhaps paradoxically) acquire an almost talismanic (and hence non-naturalistic) quality (as, in essence, the “naturalistic” cannot be the talismanic, it can only be itself)…


          • great comment here..


      • This is an excellent comment, Satyam, and several things that I completely agree on.

        “Bachchan is the only star I know of who could make whatever he touched look ‘naturalistic’, even the most implausible parts. And this is a rather unique I think metric when it comes to him. To make the most outlandish also seem the most ‘natural’. Most stars, even great stars, either do this by compromising ‘performance’ (they are potent stars when doing so but less than actors) or else they don’t do as much (they only stick to what is plausible in that naturalistic sense). Mohanlal is the exact opposite of this. And herein lies his greatness. He makes the most ordinary, the most naturalistic moments plausible by seeming to play things straight but really introducing ‘perversity’ at every point.”

        I think your summation on the greatness of Bachchan and Mohanlal here is especially very precise. I’ve had the exact same feelings about their acting based on their performances in whatever films I’ve seen of them. (On Mohanlal, I’d second Qalandar — I think “ineffability” is a much more appropriate word.)


      • And I also agree with the note on Sivaji. Sivaji is rarely understated, but for all Sivaji’s theatricality, he was vastly superior to anyone else from his era and the one whose performances have least aged. There are some actors from his era who are said to ‘underplay’ (i.e. act without calling too much attention to their performance), but personally I find them either listless or simply non-actors. I mean, think about Muthuraman and MR Radha being natural actors or MGR an actor who underplays! (Not kidding, I’ve heard people say that.)

        Actually I’d go a step further and argue that in the Tamil film world, the big stars who are also strong actors often readily do the theatrical in an overt sense (deliberately eschewing the naturalistic). This point was never more apparent to me than when Surya started playing some roles in this mode.

        To put it differently, I think, in Tamil cinema, the actor known for his or her theatricality (at some point or the other criticised for overacting) is often also the stronger actor than the rest. So the audience generally has a seemingly schizophrenic view about these actors, on the one hand venerates them as the best actors of their generations and on the other hand spoofs them for their overacting! This holds good not only for a Sivaji and a Kamal, but even in case of actresses (Lakshmi is a case in point).


      • Having said that, I’d also take Kamal over Sivaji. And as far as acting goes, Rajini is much superior to MGR any day! The latter is a complete non-actor.


  12. May be Rajni can make the list of most unlikely stars or success stories. I WOULD take Kamal over Amir, Dilip K and Naseer.


  13. Sanjeev Kumar , Naseeruddin Shah, Kamalahaasan (I prefer to use the original spelling)–all three deserve to be on the list. And how could any such list leave out Raj Kapoor? He and Guru Dutt were a big part of the Hindi film landscape during fifties and early sixties.

    Amitabh’s selection fine, Nargis fine–but what about Smita Patil?

    Uttam Kumar, Soumitra Chatterjee?

    P Bhanumati the fabulous singer-actress from Tamil-Telugu cinema? She was at ease with tragedy and comedy–in fact excellent at comedy. Also in same league, the late great Nagesh.

    Meena Kumari was good in Sahib bibi aur Ghulaam, but mostly she was this Sobbing Savitri. Certainly not fit for a Greats list.

    Completely clueless bunch, these people who attempt to analyse Indian Cinema.

    Can’t give this 25 greats list any value.


    • I have never been much of a Meena Kumari fan. Vastly preferred Nargis. On the rest I do agree that the giants of Bengali cinema ought to be introduced into the discussion.

      and of course those more familiar with the history of Telugu cinema might want to introduce stars from that industry here. From the very little exposure that I’ve had to the industry though I don’t sense a Kamal kind of star-actor figure there. More the MGR types.. big stars or great stars who are considered good actors the way John Wayne is considered one by many. But again I can’t speak with any authority on this subject.


  14. Guru Dutt and Rak Kapoor were competent actors at best. The best actor in Kapoor khandan was Rishi followed by Ranbir. And, now I am going to take cover.


    • I’ll agree on the Guru Dutt thing. Raj Kapoor was underrated though your comment is in one sense fair in that he typecast himself very completely very early on and this then bled into his more normal parts as well. But I am not very uncomfortable with your comment. Also agree with Rishi followed by Ranbir.


  15. Sorry, Raj Kapoor not Rak Kapoor.


  16. ‘And now I am going to take cover’.LOL!

    Rishi and Ranbir are good actors–but the best in the Kapoor clan?

    Remember the original Kapoor Prithviraj? Have seen him in a couple of historicals, including Sikandar, long back when it was shown on DD–great precence. Don’t remember much about the film except that Prithviraj looked astonishingly like son Shashi.


    • True, forgot about him. Prithviraj as certainly the most impressive screen presence of all the Kapoors but again belonged to a very theatrical age of acting. On the rest Rajen’s statement isn’t as complimentary as it sounds. Shammi Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor, Rajiv Kapoor (these are not thespians!).. I will say for Shashi though that he was always one of the most lovable stars.

      But yeah Rishi is my very favorite among the Kapoors along with his father. Ranbir hasn’t done as much for me yet but I’m sure Rajen will persuade me one of these days!


  17. Prithviraj forgot that he moved from the stage to movies. All his performances were stagey. Yes, he did look astonishingly handsome in Sikandar and very much like Shashi tho Prithviraj had a much bigger physical presence.


  18. My Indian list would include Mohanlal, Mammootty, Bachchan…there are tons of other actors from across the languages who are terrific character actors (Om Puri, Naseer, Thilakan, Balraj Sahni, Jagathy etc. ) but for my experience of all Indian cinema it really boils down to those three, and if I were to go narrower, only Lal and Bachchan would remain.


  19. sarvanash Says:

    if i were to make a list of hindi actors, keeping in mind that i haven’t seen much of pre-bachchan movies.

    i would say in terms of acting the following actors would have to be considered; bachchan, sanjeev kumar, dilip kumar, naseer, om puri, and maybe raj kapoor, and guru dutt. i always liked sunil dutt and amol palekar as well, but i wouldn’t consider them for this list. i’m not familiar with too many actresses from the past and i would include any current actresses. so for actresses i would say nargis, nutan, smita patil and shabana azmi.


  20. It’s hard for me to be fair to the others whenever I think of Mohanlal and Bachchan. They are singular precisely because they can do what all the other good-to-greats can do, and they often do it immeasurably better than the rest. This is to say that no other actor on the Indian landscape can play across the dramatic spectrum in quite the way they can, often within the span of a single performance and sometimes tapping into a specific emotional reserve to suite the specific tone of a given film, a certain filmic vision. Part of the latter eventually became braided with their respective and unparalleled stardom (within their domains) and probably didn’t help with the performances. The performances became presences. But both never fail to surprise. And what’s more the span of a role itself varied during their careers, and this never really restricted their impact or growth. They were great character actors. They were great leads. They were true greats in a way that no one else was or probably will be.


  21. alex adams Says:

    1 in my humble opinion-just because a non indian source has chosen to list a best of asian list ( from its ignorant perspective) does not impart it the importance and merit of mntion and indepth analysis.
    who knows, on a quick google search, these were the only indian actor names known to the “writers” of this piece.
    lets not take this piece that seriously , irresective of who id in and who is not.
    2″It’s hard for me to be fair to the others whenever I think of Mohanlal and Bachchan.” I must admit I have not watched mohan lal’s regional( or non hindi) movies. BUt jusst watchign him in company and even in rgv ki aag was enuf to gauge his level. OUtstanding performance in company.
    I cannot comment on his wis non-hindi work. But wiht due respect, I don think , there is any complarison with the pan-indian & consistent appeal of bachchan. Even if u hypothetically consider mohan lal as a hindi film hero, he would not have had the reach and adulation of bachchan.
    thats the difference between an excellent (or even better) actor and a superstar ( ala bachchan, srk or rajesh khanna at this peak)


    • The problem though is that Mohanlal as a Malayalam language actor is structurally barred from ever being a pan-Indian star the way Bachchan is. To flip it around if Bachchan were doing Malayalam cinema he would be where Mammootty is. Much as bachchan can never be as globally well known as even a B grade Hollywood actor. So there are certain structural or constitutive limitations. I would inflect your argument a different way. Bachchan as a pan-Indian star has the opportunity to influence far more people than Mohanlal. Hence Bachchan’s greater stature is always guaranteed above and beyond the merits of his talent or accomplishments. Much as in a global sense Bachchan obviously cannot influence a fraction of the people that De Niro can. So it’s a question how much you’re expanding the set. if one sticks to the national framework Bachchan beats everyone. But why should one do this? Or at least why should this be the only ‘operation’ performed in these discussions? We after all watch films from all across the globe. So expanding the debate beyond Indian borders is in one sense rather natural. Leaving these questions aside all actors work within specific contexts and you can’t easily extract them to other paradigms. Mohanlal is indeed fine in Company but the true measure of his caliber can really only be taken in his native language. Again Bachchan happens to be lucky to be working in a language that is pan-Indian in many ways or certainly the industry he works in is hegemonic. So I think both elements of this argument can be held at the same time. To be Shakespeare you need to have his gifts and so forth. At the same time you also need the history of British colonialism without which the Bard couldn’t have reached every corner of the globe (by the way you still have to be Shakespeare to take advantage of history much as Bachchan takes advantage of his system, Rajesh Khanna cannot). Seminal figures in the arts often if not always get these historical breaks. Any argument on most seminal Indian star-actor would have Bachchan at the top — there is no option here. But if one moved away from questions of influence then the list could be expanded depending on one’s preferences. But also there always lies the possibility in the future of the market becoming more conducive to these ‘regional’ industries. Once upon a time no one was really aware of Japanese cinema but in the circles that now follow this industry Toshiro Mifune’s pre-eminence is not denied by anyone. For all the cultural constraints no American who watches a lot of Japanese cinema would easily place De Niro over him. So the principal barrier still remains one of access.

      Mohanlal though is a titan. He can only be compared with other giants like Bachchan or Kamal or Sivaji and so forth. Not really with Rajesh Khanna or Shahrukh.

      On not taking the piece seriously I do agree..


    • I think Satyam addresses your point excellently Alex.

      I’m not really one for “what if” scenarios but in any sense I’m confident that no actor, not even Lal who I personally like more for a few reasons, would be able to quite touch Bachchan’s level as the pan-Indian and, really, global force that he is. I would only add that Lal’s hardly just “an excellent (or even better) actor” when it comes to the tiny corner of India where he reigns.


  22. alex adams Says:

    A TOTALLY random and unrelated post. If satyam finds it worthy, maybe posted in a relevant thread…..
    have been itching to comment on the likes of nandita das types.
    Have not seen firaaq but from what i have heard of it- appears a VERY unidimensional viewpoint painting the whole majority community as “colluding with the misdeeds”. Absoultely pathetic.
    and instead of getting picked up for the (intentional) spin by the media, she is getting rewarded left right and centre.
    even by award juries who has not seen the movie actually.
    Incidentally, a ew min ago, i watched the indian news piece on the alleged aim of maoists to take over indian army by 2050. we had another self -appointed moral inspector and know-all arindhati das supporting the maoist viewpoint.
    is it something about bong girls?
    pardon me, if i am ruffling some feathers here! but kya karein-control nahin hota……


  23. alex adams Says:

    there should be a distinction between actor adn star at the very outset. These two are very distinct entities (although apparently v similar).
    The lists would be different. in india however, bachchan will score top the list of stars and be v close to the top of the actors list.
    Ditto for kamal hassan and srk. Note that I grudgingly add srk to the actors’ list.
    Another intersting thought provoking link


    • that distinction is easy enough at the extremes, harder otherwise..


    • older comments:

      “I am not pretending to be a complete relativist about this. But it is a bit harsh to consider anyone ‘low’ because they think someone’s an ‘actor’. Also ‘acting’ cannot only be reduced to the traditional definition of such a word. Put another way the effects that a star produces on screen cannot be reduced only to a term like ‘acting’. So for example John Wayne is a phenomenal presence on screen. He was never an ‘actor’ in that same traditional sense but no ‘actor’ could really ‘defeat’ him on screen. Perhaps something similar could be said for Eastwood. This doesn’t mean that one stops defining the ‘actor’. One should however realize that when people refer to ‘acting’ they are responding to that larger set of effects that a star produces. I don’t find it hard to understand why someone would watch say DDLJ and become attracted to SRK’s persona. I don’t have a problem understanding why Rajesh Khanna became the first superstar with Aradhana. I don’t consider either star an ‘actor’ in any genuine sense but they don’t have to be such to be very potent on screen. ”

      “people are unable to separate ‘acting’ from effectiveness on screen. While I don’t think it’s easy to separate in an actor’s persona something called ‘pure acting’ from another thing called ‘gestural’ there is nonetheless an overall effect created that might depend more on one side of the equation or the other. So for example Eastwood is mightily effective on screen but he’s not De Niro. To put it another way Eastwood has great screen presence, De Niro has this (not as much as Eastwood though) but he’s also an infinitely superior actor. The combo still would not allow him to dominate Eastwood if the two appeared together. Much as no one could really dominate John Wayne on screen. With Bachchan we see the completely explosive combo of the screen presence par extraordinaire twinned with the actor par excellence. I have never seen a star-actor in any other industry to possess both attributes in equal measure.”


  24. What strikes me about the comments here is that even the members here are limited by their age and linguistic limitations. Now some have acknowledged their lack of familiarity with other cinema industries within India, but none seems to be aware of the generational gap. For example, yes Mohanlal is a giant, but were there no great Malayali actors before him? The names I recall are the likes of Prem Nazir and his contemporaries. I haven’t myself been able to see much Malayali cinema, but I am aware of some names. Similarly, no mention has been made of Kannada stars.

    On Telugu actors, there are many, many who are great actors, especially in the original era when Telugu cinema started. To give just two names, C. Nagaiah (from the early era) and N.T.Rama Rao (from the second era). Nobody today can hold a candle to them. Of women, how can one not count Savitri? Again in the earlier era, there is also Kannamba who had a majestic screen presence. NTR can be compared with Kamal in terms of influence on the field. He was not as great a dancer as Kamal, nor was he himself a writer, as Kamal is. But, as a producer and director, as well as an actor, he had a profound impact on the field.

    In fact, I will risk offending Satyam and say I think NTR is a better actor than Amitabh. I say this for the simple reason that NTR was a master of all genres and styles of films. He excelled not only in the contemporary “socia”l genre of films, but also in what in Telugu is called the “jaanapada” (folklore) genre and, most importantly, the puranic genre. Nobody could match him in playing the iconic roles from the scriptures. He once said that his ambition was to play all the major characters from the Mahabharata, and he succeeded pretty well, too. In one film (Sri Krishna Pandaveeyam), he played the triple roles of Krishna, Duryodhana, and either Bheema or Arjuna. He played Bheema, Bhishma, Karna and Keechaka as well in other films. He became iconic as Rama, yes, but also as Ravana! Now I don’t think that Amitabh can pull off any such roles. I say this on the basis of seeing him as Indra in Agni Varsha (a very uneven film). He just could not rid himself of modern day body language. So it is perhaps his good fortune that he was in an industry that did not do many puranic films.


    • On Prem Nazir the little bits that I’ve seen didn’t impress me much but I would also defer here to GF and CG..

      On NTR I’ve seen more than little bits, I personally wouldn’t place him in an Indian top 10 but that’s just me! I see him as an MGR type, not really an actor.

      On Bachchan here’s the irony.. he himself represents a new myth!


      • Satyam: “On NTR I’ve seen more than little bits, I personally wouldn’t place him in an Indian top 10 but that’s just me! I see him as an MGR type, not really an actor. ”

        Satyam, I have kidded about your definition of who or what “an actor” is, but if you seriously assert that NTR is “not really an actor”, you have lost any credibility to pass judgment on anyone’s acting ability, I am sorry to say.

        I can only think that you are too overwhelmed by the later political careers of these two icons (NTR and MGR) to be able to evaluate their acting careers, and perhaps that’s what is leading you to assume a similarity in other aspects of their lives besides the coincidence of their both becoming CM’s.


        • Aren’t you assuming something strange? Why would I confuse a political career with an acting one?! On MGR I am very comfortable in saying I have never seen him act. In a Hindi context I would say the same for Dev Anand.


          • I’m not assuming it, I was hypothesizing that you were focusing on their political careers since I could see no other similarity between them.

            I haven’t seen any MGR films (to my knowledge, anyway), but saying that NTR didn’t “act” is a statement that cannot be taken at all seriously. You say you have seen “a little” of his work — that is dangerous to judge by, when you are talking of someone who had such a vast and long repertoire. Anyone can find examples of bad performances among so many. But it is the bulk, and more importantly, the work that established the person, that is important to be taken into account in passing judgment.


          • Fair enough but I have seen a lot of MGR’s work and I still have the very same judgment. In fact even in an earlier age Sivaji was always considered the vastly superior actor.


        • Could it be SM that when one is totally within the orbit of a star in terms of one’s formative experiences that one often finds it hard to be critical about that star?


          • Well, this is a question that you should ask yourself, isn’t it? 🙂

            All my experience with Telugu films or NTR’s films in particular was as an adult, after these films became available in the U.S. I had precious little memory of any Telugu films in my “formative years”, since I left India at quite a young age.


    • By the way not that this should be the ultimate way of judging these things but I very much doubt that a poll taken among Telugu speakers who are familiar with both stars would place NTR over Bachchan.

      On AgniVarsha by the way I’ll again disagree, loved the film and also loved Bachchan’s uncanniness here.


      • Satyam: “By the way not that this should be the ultimate way of judging these things but I very much doubt that a poll taken among Telugu speakers who are familiar with both stars would place NTR over Bachchan.”

        Then you have absolutely no idea of the stature and hold of NTR among Telugu speaking people. And you also overestimate the popularity of Amitabh in non-Hindi speaking areas.


        • I meant among people who’ve seen both.. I am certain you are for example in a minority among Telugu speakers who frequent this blog,


          • Yes, I meant people who have seen both, as well.

            What am I a minority in — being a Telugu speaker at this blog, or being one who doesn’t think Amitabh overshadows NTR?


        • I do concede that since you also consider Salman an actor we might just have very different notions of ‘acting’.


          • Please don’t trivialize the issue by bringing Salman in. I do consider him a good actor, but nowhere near the likes of NTR or Kamal.


          • Didn’t mean to trivialize things SM.. it’s a question of perspective.. Salman is the farthest ‘entity’ from being an actor to my mind.


          • OK, sorry then. I thought you were trying to make a joke.

            While I still disagree with your opinion on Salman, I’ll let that pass for now. Instead, I’ll ask you to define what you mean by “acting” or being an “actor”, and please define it in conceptual terms, not by citing scenes from various films. And also, please desist from referring to Amitabh or Abhishek Bachchan in your definition. The reason I say that is, I already know you think they are both great actors. But what I don’t know is the criteria you use to judge them (or others) and how you came to that conclusion. (For instance, I thought Abhishek in Umrao Jaan was the personification of the non-actor; you on the other hand found his performance excellent).


          • SM, it’s a bit hard to suddenly come up with a whole theory of acting! I have done this before in the past on a couple of occasions, not here perhaps, I’ll try to retrieve those comments. The obvious difference though is between a star who can represent ‘character’ and another who is more or less just playing the same part in every character he or she attempts. That’s what MGR is, that’s what Dev Anand is. They can play only one thing and the keep repeating this. Even in roles that seem radically different they are still the same. John Wayne is the same in every single film of his. Eastwood is more or less the same everywhere. I am perhaps naive but I consider the difference between Kamal and MGR to be self-evident.

            But let me flip this on its head — what definition or notion of acting could include both Kamal and Salman in the same set? Which is basically what you’re saying. The difference is one of degree if both are actors.


          • I agree with the first paragraph. And by that definition, NTR is definitely an actor, since he isn’t the same in every role. That’s why I gave you all those examples of his roles. (I think for Indian actors/stars we must also give some extra room, because the industry — in whatever language — is so star driven that the economics dictates that the star “do the same thing” in many roles. What we have to see here is if they have also done a substantial number of roles where they aren’t “doing the same thing.”)

            My understanding of successful acting is quite simple, and is based to an extent on the ancient definition of acting — that the performance convince the viewer of its authenticity by evoking a real emotional response from the viewer. It is by this definition by which I say that Salman is a very good actor. I have been moved by his performances many times, and in fact it is his acting that first drew my notice (before I knew who he was). Now that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t fallen a victim to the “star syndrome” that I mentioned above — especially by others who were content to exploit his stardom and not worry about giving him any acting opportunity. There are two directors who I mainly fault for this and spoiling his acting talent to an extent — David Dhawan and Sohail Khan. Sohail is worse than Dhawan, because he doesn’t even seem to understand what the star appeal of Salman is, plus he is just not as accomplished a director as Dhawan. Even when given a very ill defined character, however, Salman manages to make him believable at least for the span of that scene.

            I thought I explicitly said that I don’t put Salman and Kamal in the same category. Sometimes the difference of degree is so great as to constitute a difference of kind. While I think Salman is more versatile than he is ever given credit for, he does not approach Kamal’s level in terms of craft. And yet, in a way, that can be a problem. There are times when I am in sheer amazement at Kamal’s craft, and am admiring it, and thus am drawn out of the film story’s universe.

            Anyway the point about Salman is that he is not in the same industry as Kamal. He is in a place and time where his peers are not significantly better than him. I wouldn’t put any of today’s Hindi heroes at the same level as those of the past.


          • Leaving aside the question of the ancient understanding of the actor (which I would dispute) I must say I am wary of the definition you’ve provided. Because it isn’t clear to me that a star needs to be a good actor to evoke a powerful emotional response in an audience. There are countless stars who do so without in fact being good actors. How can you be sure Salman provokes that response in you on the merits of his acting? In other words if one is relying only on the ‘affective’ and one has no ‘canon’ of judgment to rely upon how does one know? How do you separate Salman from Kamal?


          • I know Salman evokes that response in me by his acting skill, because when I experienced it several times at the beginning, my reaction was, “Oh, that’s a good actor. I wonder who he is?” 🙂

            I keep saying I don’t bracket Salman and Kamal together, and you keep dragging him in. But the reason I don’t bracket them together is that I think Kamal can do a wider variety of roles that Salman can’t. Incidentally, this is the same criterion by which I say that NTR is a better actor than ANR, because, while ANR actually started his career doing those folk tale kind of movies, and was quite successful in them, too, he was overtaken in them with the arrival of NTR, and, he could never do the puranic roles that NTR did dozens of. He was pretty much limited to being effective in the “social” films. Even when he did historical films, his persona was pretty much the same as in the contemporary films, while NTR’s wasn’t.


          • SM, I’m a bit confused.. you started out by saying that actors are effective when they evoke powerful emotional responses in you. You stated this in the context of suggesting a less theoretical response to ‘acting’. I asked you how you could determine whether those responses were being created by the actor’s ‘performance’ and not by his/her persona/physicality and so forth, in other words how could one know whether it was simply the acting quotient evoking this response. In response you’ve just said that there is a ‘pre-getting-emotionally-affected’ stage where you are drawn to an actor because of the acting! So you were drawn to Salman on ‘cold’ acting grounds but once you were and you realized he was an actor you then started getting emotionally affected by him in potent ways.


          • No, you misunderstand, Satyam. I said I was drawn into his acting because it evoked an emotional response in me — as does any good work of art — and only later found out he was a star of note. So it was not his stardom that evoked a response.

            In any case, this discussion of Salman is a red herring here. I asked on what grounds you consider NTR not to be “an actor” and asked you to define your terms in that context. You then dragged in Salman as evidence that my understanding of “acting” is flawed. This is a straw man argument in my view. So I would appreciate it if you could define what your “theoretical response” is that determines that neither NTR nor Sivaji Ganesan are actors.


          • I actually did not say Sivaji wasn’t an actor. I said this for MGR. I answered your question partially yesterday. It’s not that I cannot answer in greater detail but I find your question odd. It’s as if I said that a contemporary singer wasn’t much of one and you asked me to define singing! My sense is this: whatever one’s notions of ‘acting’ might be Sivaji and MGR do not belong in the same group. On NTR as I said my exposure is very limited so I stand to correction here. But I must admit I would be surprised if I revised my opinion on greater exposure.


          • part of an older exchange…

            “In the
            context of this discussion I would say that the ‘interesting’ actor surprises
            in ways that go far beyond the debates over effectiveness or
            naturalism and so forth. The ‘interesting’ actor is almost a bit of an
            improviser but one who is somehow ahead of audience expectation and improvising
            accordingly. There are actors who are extraordinary at what they do but
            never quite surprise one. I shall dare to say here that I find Daniel
            Day Lewis in TWBB extraordinary at one level and not at all surprising
            on another. This is getting a bit muddled but I am usually looking for
            a level of expressiveness that cannot be entirely prepared for in
            advance by the audience..”


          • ROTFLOL – that was a good response.


    • On the other hand I’ve been impressed with the little I’ve seen of Uttam Kumar. It’s Ray of course but nonetheless he was fine.


    • will pick this up later..

      I personally have very little patience for mythological films to be honest, the way they’re done in India. These are almost always bourgeois reductions. Again can’t claim great familiarity with the Telugu tradition but I would like to think I am not completely uninformed about it either.


      • Satyam: “I personally have very little patience for mythological films to be honest, the way they’re done in India. These are almost always bourgeois reductions.”

        Then in this case it seems that your political or ideological prejudices are getting in the way of an objective evaluation.


        • not at all.. I just don’t like dumbed down mythologicals! It’s like I wouldn’t go to Troy for authentic Homer! The film is passable otherwise.


          • Then you haven’t seen any of the great puranic (I much prefer this term to “mythological”) films in Telugu (from the 1950’s and 1960’s). There isn’t any “dumbing down” of them till the 1980’s, unless you think the mere setting of them into a commercial film format constitutes “dumbing down.”


          • I concede the point.. as I started off by saying I am not well-versed in the Telugu tradition by a long shot. I’ve just seen snippets of stars. But it wasn’t meant to be an unfair point inasmuch as I’ve been impressed by other stars and actors (not only from India) having seen the very same snippets or sometimes even less. For example I thought Sudeep had presence looking at just the Rann stills (hadn’t seen any of his Kannada films) and after seeing the film I found him to be the most charismatic star in it. So it’s admittedly an imperfect sense when one relies on bits and pieces but at the same time, and at the risk of sounding pompous without meaning to at all, when one has sinned as much with cinema as I have one sometimes develops a smell for these things. For example it didn’t take me more than snippets to esteem Mohanlal or Mammootty as I do. Nor am I unfamiliar with older acting styles whether in North or South India. Being familiar with the Tamil tradition for example I can assimilate stars from Malayalam or kannada or Telugu cinema into certain constructs even with just snippets. It’s not meant to be comprehensive judgment by any means but it is more than an educated guess.

            But there are two other issues to be aware of:

            1)One can sometimes get a bit possessive or proprietorial if not jingoistic about one’s tradition. There are good cultural reasons to be attached to one’s tradition. But there might not be good objective ones. what do I mean by this? Well as I’ve said perhaps provocatively before if one has equal access to both the Hindi and Tamil traditions there is actually no reason to watch the latter through the very early 80s. because Hindi is better in every department of moviemaking. But if one wishes to do so for culturally specific reasons as I often do that is perfectly comprehensible. However this would not be an objective truth. So for example if you wanted to know what the best European movies were between 1945 and 1990 you would be given all sorts of lists. But no one would include a film from Portugal if they otherwise did not thing one worthy just to represent everyone. Because of our different cultural roots we are always willing to tolerate mediocrity from one industry or another. That’s fine and that’s a good enough reason too. But stepping back a bit and looking at things more critically something more objective is required. By the same token I’ve always said that if one had equal access one should only watch Tamil cinema from about 1980 onwards almost till the present date and ignore Hindi altogether barring a few examples here and there. Or that one could just watch Malayalam cinema in the 80s and ignore a lot of Tamil cinema as well.

            2)To not esteem someone highly as an actor does not at all mean that one should have less esteem for the star overall. I love watching John Wayne, I adore Clint Eastwood. I do not consider either one to be an ‘actor’ in the true sense. Similarly I really like watching Dev Anand in the 50s but this enjoyment is not dependent on my considering him a good actor also. And this is a decoupling one should be willing to perform. There shouldn’t be the insistence that every star one enjoys watching is an ‘actor’ because the impact of a star is not reducible to what we would define as acting using one register or the other.


          • I don’t have time right now to respond in detail to this, but just let me say that I know and agree with the concept that not all stars are actors. But being a star does not preclude one being an actor also.

            The second point I want to make to you is that you are fastening too much on an accident of birth to try to explain or dismiss my statements. You may disagree with them, but please do so on the merits of the statement, not on any imagined cultural bias. I have already explained why your assumptions about my exposure to various Indian cinemas are incorrect.

            See, in your example of Portugal above, or my example about Jane Austen, what is perceived to be “good” is very much a cultural construct when it comes to the arts. On top of that (as in my Austen example, or in this very article we are all commenting about) the knowledge base of the person making the judgment plays a huge part in how that person comes to that judgment.


          • I actually wasn’t trying to put you on the spot but as a general matter I think all of us are guilty of such cultural ‘centrism’ at different points because we are too invested in the same. There is nothing wrong with this. Sometimes we just don’t see those blind spots, that’s all. I don’t believe I said anything about the rest of your Indian viewing incidentally.

            I disagree with your second paragraph though. There are cultural constructs always in play, quite true… but unless we can come up with alternate constructs it’s not enough to say that it’s all relative. Because if we’re questioning one figure but still relying on the same framework we run into a contradiction. But leaving this aside a cultural construct tells us about some basic assumptions in the sense of the overall paradigm. It does not really render an outstanding talent mediocre! Take the current example again. Perhaps it’s a cultural construct that makes most people believe Aamir to be a better actor than Salman but within that very same construct you have people like Mohanlal or Bachchan or Kamal also being judged ‘great’. Therefore to overturn Aamir/Salman you have to call the whole framework into question. Within the existing framework though I don’t see how Salman can be preferred to Aamir ‘as’ actor.

            What stars do you really like who to your mind are also non-actors?


          • “But being a star does not preclude one being an actor also.”

            Absolutely not! But nor does the latter automatically follow the former even with some very great stars.


          • In your Austen example incidentally the people who don’t appreciate her writing are simply not schooled enough in these matters. One shouldn’t be afraid to say it. No arrogance is implied. One has to be schooled in something before one can make judgments. Now Jane Austen doesn’t have to be anyone’s favorite author or even make it to the top 10. But a person schooled in these matters should be able to objectively understand what Austen’s strengths are all about.

            I have never subscribed to this sort of relativistic argument. People might consider Pritam more gifted than Rahman. I’d call them illiterate.


    • “What strikes me about the comments here is that even the members here are limited by their age and linguistic limitations.”

      I don’t agree with that. There have actually been a few enlightening comments here.

      But just to cover that extra base, I can add that Prem Nazir and Madhu and Sathyan and Gopi for that matter were all important star-actors in the pre-Lal/Mammootty age but none of them are anywhere near the level of the latter pair. Of course, these guys come from a more theatrical style of acting (which is not to say they’re all a bunch of Sivajis running around there) and one that to my mind hasn’t always aged well. There’s of course been a profound change in the film culture between the Malayalam cinema of then and now. Some films have survived better in this sense.


      • I am puzzled why SM made that comment to begin with..


        • Which comment? About age? Because it struck me that most people seemed to be familiar only with fairly recent (i.e., within the last 30 years) cinema.


      • I find it puzzling that you say the Malayali actors from the past had a more theatrical acting style, when, during the 1960’s and 1970’s, for example, Malayali films were celebrated for their naturalistic acting style, in contrast to the other south Indian industries.

        As for “aging well”, don’t you think this is a very subjective experience? Your comment about “Sivaji’s running around”, for instance, reflects a particular set of cinematic values and judgments as to what constitutes “good acting”, or perhaps, even “acting” per se. Some films from the past have flaws that become apparent to a more informed audience of the present — by which I mean more informed about the world, so that naive assumptions about other countries or cultures will grate more. Similarly, technical flaws that were acceptable in the past are not tolerated now. But also there is the evolution of even Indian or Malayalee culture with time, so that what connected with the audience of the past may not connect with the audience of today. Pacing is one such example. Language is another. To give a slightly off topic example, there are some discussion forums about Jane Austen which I used to frequent, where new members, who had been drawn to Austen primarily through contemporary film adaptations, would constantly complain that her writing style was very difficult, and even unreadable!


        • SM, that probably indexes just how theatrical the other Southern industries were! Ha! I doubt though that such a statement makes too much sense before the advent of Mohanlal and Mammootty.


          • Exactly.


          • Frankly I’m quite stunned to even hear someone say that Gopi (of whose films I’ve seen only two, that too in snatches, but have heard quite a bit about his acting prowess) comes from a theatrical style of acting!


          • Zero, I could have phrased that better I suppose. Gopi certainly isn’t to be clubbed along with Prem Nazir in that sense. I was simply rattling off important star-actors in the pre- Lal/Mammootty age.


          • Although it’s important to add that Gopi isn’t really even in the Nazir/Sathyan period…


          • Oh, I got what you meant, GF. I was just nodding approvingly at Satyam’s response to SM (who was similarly surprised) that your note on these actors indexes just how theatrical the Tamil/Telugu films of that age were!


        • SM this is all very articulate but I fail to see how anything I’ve said stands in opposition to any of it!


  25. An offtopic note to Rooney: Thanks for all your enquiries. I did not reply to your earlier posts because you said you were going to be away. Now I’m in a bit of a rush, so I will get to the legal questions, and the Veer review after about a week, so I beg your indulgence.


    • mksrooney Says:

      cool.. sm .. u are really having a brilliant exchange about madam… oops sorry for madam 🙂

      take ur time… even i m spending less time.. whenever u do just bring to my notice if i fail to see them…

      and looking forward to sm’s view on veer…

      (btw i wanted to know more about physicist etc kinda stuff so if i can get mail, or if u r on skype..?? )

      tc.. loving ur exchange above..

      (as i toh strongly feel aamir is better than amitabh.. to quote rajen m running for cover..)


  26. alex adams Says:

    “Mohanlal is indeed fine in Company but the true measure of his caliber can really only be taken in his native language. Again Bachchan happens to be lucky to be working in a language that is pan-Indian in many ways or certainly the industry he works in is hegemonic.” Agreed completely here, satyam.
    PLus, without having seeing even a dubbed work of mohanlal, and trying to do an “expert commentary” on his career work, is NOT exactly what someone like me should be attempting.
    However, the actual point is this—-
    A “superstar” does need to have a certain amount of charisma, flamboyance, good looks & physicality as opposed to an excellent “actor”.
    A similar example is rajesh khanna at his peak and sanjeev kr at his peak.
    both of them at their respective peaks, could not cross over to the other slot ie superstar and great actor.
    Mohan lal has something in common with sanjeev kr (in addition to the pot-belly).
    Bachchan is that VERY rare example straddling BOTH these slots with remarkable success.
    PUt in a different way, even if mohanlal were to be a hindi movie star, not sure, he would have been a pan indian superstar that bachchan is.
    BY th way, i met two polish girls in the UK who showed their cd of SRKs flicks whom they really love. They also told that he has hordes of fans back home. I was really surprised that a guy who could not win an indian fan ( me) after all thee years ,is already increasing his fandom abroad. in Middle east after MNIK, he does appear to be attaining a demigod status ( NOT due to his acting capability but the carefully chosen theme).
    It seems the srk and kjo spin of popularity in germany and poland is not just a pure myth. Being an SRK sceptic, I got an actual first hand proof of this…..


  27. alex adams Says:

    “not even Lal who I personally like more for a few reasons, would be able to quite touch Bachchan’s level as the pan-Indian and, really, global force that he is.”
    INspite of what i think of bachchan ( evident in the posts above), i DONT agree to ” the global force that he is.”Other than some afghani, middle east countries, the following is restricted in indian/pak diaspora.
    This brings to another topic.
    all this talk of bollywood going global unfortunately STILL predominantly a myth.(INSPITE of slumdog!)
    Being at madame tussauds-precisely to attract asians to the highly inflated ticket windows. I have had first-hand experience on a daily basis getting out on the london tubes-seeing the massive increase in indian visitors to the tussaud after each addition to his “glorious” gallery.
    Why did many ms indias got “selected” suddenly focussing the sshole media and national gaze onto a small private establishment called ms india run by a few individuals ie morleys.
    after having “done the job”, suddenly the indian girls have NOT been good enuf for the last few years. Other unsuspecting countries are being “selected”. note how girls from these know-all countries like usa and uk never get selected. This mix of commerce and spin can really get really interesting………


    • I didn’t mean “global force” in any popular sense. But anyone who approaches the film culture from even the broadest, most uninformed perspective (as evidenced by this list) would have some sense of the cultural currency Bachchan (or Raj Kapoor for that matter) carries.


  28. alex adams Says:

    An excellent “exchange” between satyam and sm.
    kudos to both. I have not read the whole discussion but seems-sm has surprisingly performed better than expected against the stalwart and sustained remarkably-lol
    “(For instance, I thought Abhishek in Umrao Jaan was the personification of the non-actor; you on the other hand found his performance excellent).”but dont agree with that.
    I felt umraao jaan was an excellent film and abhisheks perfomance in it was one of his best.
    excellent dialogues, screenplay, performances overall.
    this movie suffered from the typical jp dutta malaides liek being slow, lack of glitzy shiny glamour etc-which we have/will discuss elsewhere.
    the pick of the movie-the exchange between shabana azmi (undoubtedly acclaimed as an acting gr8 although i have reservations to some extent) and abhishek bachchan -where he says that the truth remains that he is a navaab while she is a brothel owner.
    abhishek excels in the understated,subtle here. Infact one can be misled by the sheer LAZY AND PASSIVE nature of his role.
    But if u look carefully, it was a difficult role and he did not get one note wrong. The film including duttas direction, op duttas dialogue & use of real avadhi dialect, anu maliks music, alka yagniks singing, and above all aishwarya rais sheer beauty and acting was outstanding.
    The problem here is that there are different “schools and styles” of good acting, depending upon he viewers taastes, moods , sensibilities and background. none of them is the “wrong” one.
    for eg SRK specialises in a certina type of playing to the galleries, charming, loud , bordering on hamming style.
    example case study- Inspite of NOT having ejoyed a SINGLE performance of his on the big screen (barring few on tv), I have begun to reluctantly acknowledge that this is a skill as well that he is excellent at. So many people around the world cannot be wrong, basically. By ridiculing him, i am negating too many peoples opinions and oversubscribing my own.


    • Farooque Shaikh had great praise for Abhishek in the film.. he of course played the same part in the original and he didn’t say this for all of the parts but did suggest precisely what you’re saying, that Abhishek got the tone right where he did not.


  29. Well done Malini Fonseka. You deserved that !!! My idea is her true talent was not recognized by the world . She was brilliant in the film “NIdhanaya” . She was one of four pile made”NIdhanaya” a masterpiece in the history of Film industry together with Dr.Gamini ,Dr.Lester and Dr.Kemadasa.


  30. Great discussion here!


  31. alex adams Says:

    Good discussion here. Good comeback by satyam!-lol
    “I know Salman evokes that response in me”–sm- if u tell us, you are a gal( like say- gf), i wont be surprised at your comment here about the response he “evokes” in you. But if u r not, then this comment is worthy of dostana2!
    Im not a salman fan but have come across people (mostly girls) who love his looks, style, attitude, physique etc.
    But have not met/heard anyone liking/ dissecting his ACTING skills in this detail. Im sure he will be surprised himself if he reads your analysis.
    Anyhow, this is NOT to belittle or question your (obvious) liking for his “acting”.
    To add- very nice, informative analysis on non-hindi cinema by you….


    • I really didn’t want to get into discussing Salman’s acting here — that deserves a separate thread — but was sidetracked into it by Satyam. I will go into it one day, since there are so many disbelievers here.

      But, to answer your question, I am certainly a female, though the days of being “a gal” are a distant memory. 🙂 In any case, I am puzzled by this persistent belief here and elsewhere that Salman’s fanbase consists primarily of “girls.” Every time I see photos or videos of massive fan turnouts for him, as in public appearances or when he was campaigning, the overwhelming majority of the people were young men. I don’t think they were all there for the kind of “dostana” you allude to. They seem to idolize him for the same reasons you mentioned above, i.e., “his looks, style, attitude, physique etc.”


      • alex adams Says:

        sm-yes, im glad- i got it right here about you being a female fan of salman. I initially thought you were a guy all along this long discussion. Incidentally I read only small parts of it, but even those were enuf to suggest liking for more than just his “acting”.An example-“I know Salman evokes that response in me”–
        And i suspect your liking for salman is more than a mild affinity. No worries- one should be rpoud of likes and dislikes and proclaim it loudly.
        but being a “neutral” one on this discussion, must add that (as u pointed out), even his biggesst non-dostana, str8 male fans like salman for varied things as mentioned above- but NOT acting skills-lol.
        The reality is that when you are a real fan, even deficiencies start getting hidden /converted to strengths.
        An example from my side- The few songs that ar rahman sing himself- i invariably find them the best in that album. ad find that he wa the best possible singer for that song ( his obvious occasional meandering of voice, faulty diction and pronounciation notwithstanding….)
        ANyhow, i did NOT watch veer, but mustconfess- salman was looking very good & looked focussed, committed ( for a change). The songs esp surily ankhiyon waali was very good. how did u find veer ( if u have seen it)


  32. Nice ,enlighting discussion gere from all…


  33. its surprising that RAJINIKANTH Is not in the list.


  34. Vishwanath Singh Says:

    Among all the actors, that India has ever produced,I think the trio-Megastars of Bangla Film Industry-Uttam Kumar,Suchitra Sen & Soumitra Chatterjee, must be mentioned in the foremost.Brought up in Rajasthan’s Bikaner,I hardly got the oppurtunity to know anything about Bengalis or Bangla.It is the films of these megastars,which have really attracted me towards Bengali culture and Language.Uttam Kumar is undoubtedly the most handsome and charismatic Hero of the Indian Film Industry.So when he is not featuring in the CNN list,it means the people who made it are ignorant about Indian cinemas.Any take for that?


  35. P. Savita Says:

    Mr Singh, I fully endorse your views.I stay in Madurai and hardly ever knew anything about Bengali movies.About fifteen years back,I had been to my maternal grandpa’s house in Chennai, where in a nearby movie hall, a retrospective of some classical Indian movies were going on. One of them was Uttam Kumar’s ‘Nayok’, directed by the legendary Satyajit Roy.Frankly speaking, I was so much impressed with the persona of Uttam Kumar, that at that tender age of 20, I had literally fallen in love with him.After that I had watched atleast 50(fifty) movies of this charismatic actor, and no doubt, forget Asia, I consider him, one of the finest actors of the whole world.CCN is really ignorant about the Indian movie industry.


  36. Vishwanath Singh Says:

    Yes, Uttam Kumar is undoubtedly the megastar,but one should not forget the contribution of Soumitra and Suchitra too.

    Soumitra became a star thanks to Apur Sansar but not in the conventional way that Uttam Kumar was. His intelligent looks and multilayered acting style made him out to be a ‘thinking man’s actor’. While Uttam Kumar was a star who acted, Soumitra was an actor-star, making himself a favourite – both of Bengal’s art-house directors and the mainstream filmmakers. The 1960s saw Soumitra reach his peak. He did some of his best work with Ray in the 1960s – Devi (1960), reuniting him with Sharmila Tagore and also starring ther great Chhabi Biswas, Abhijan (1962), the unforgettable Charulata (1964), Kapurush (1965) and Aranyer Din Ratri (1969). Charulata is without doubt one of the greatest films of Indian Cinema and Satyajit Ray’s most flawless film. The film is crafted beautifully and thought to be his best work, the Apu trilogy notwithstanding.

    On the other hand,Suchitra Sen and Uttam Kumar went on to become icons of Bengali(or may be Asian)romantic melodramas for more than twenty years. Their films were famous for the soft-focus close ups of the stars particularly Sen and lavishly mounted scenes of romance against windswept expanses and richly decorated interiors with fluttering curtains and such mnemonic objects as bunches of tube roses etc. Some popular films of the pair include Shap Mochan (1955), Sagarika (1956), Harano Sur (1957), Indrani (1958), Chaowa-Paowa (1959), Saptapadi (1961), Bipasha (1962) and Grihadaha (1967). Of these, special mention must be made in particular of Harano Sur and Saptapadi, both directed by Ajoy Kar. Harano Sur, inspired by Random Harvest (1942) showcases Uttam – Suchitra at their peak of their delirious romanticism. In Saptapadi, a romance set against the backdrop of World War II, even today, every actress in comtemporary Bengali cinema considers the role of the Anglo-Indian Rina Brown essayed by Suchitra Sen as her dream role.


    • I’m very impressed by what I have seen of Soumitra Chatterjee and Uttam Kumar, but the problem is that I have only seen them in Ray films (Uttam Kumar was fantastic in Nayak, and Chatterjee did of course so many films with Ray as you have mentioned).

      Aside: I have a great weakness for Aranyer Din Ratri and Pratidwandi among Ray’s works; the latter feels a bit dated now but it is visually tremendous; one of my favorite urban representations on film.


  37. Dr Nayantara Sathpathy Says:

    An ardent movie buff,I think,I have entered the right forum to air my views on the ongoing discussion and debate regarding CNN’s decision to felicitate only five of the actors and actresses from India.Yes, definitely CNN team which has taken this decision are not only ignorant about the talent present in the Indian film industry, but are also oblivious of the high standard of acting, set forth by some of the legends.In my view, as I have gone through all your opinions in this ‘satyamshot’, CNN must have chosen the following five actors and actresses for the coveted recognition:
    Amitabh Bachchan;Uttam Kumar;Shivaji Ganeshan; Nargis and……Yes, to name the fifth actor or actress would be very difficult for any film lover in India.I have seen through my experience that most of us are biased(as someone in this forum has rightly commented) and limited to our own linguistic and geographical boundaries.And so it has become a trend that a person belonging to a particular georaphical boundary, would consider the best actor/actresses of his/her fiefdom to be the best in the country. For example majority of the Hindibhasis consider Amitabh Bachchan to be the best actor in India;the South Indians have their inclination for Shivaji Ganeshan/Mohanlal/Chiranjeevi/Shantipriya etc.; the Bengalis and the North-Eastern people are always in the dilemma for Uttam Kumar or Soumitra Chatterjee. However,I am really impressed to find that this forum is so different from the others. People here are real intellectuals, who are not limited by the knowledge of their own linguistic/geographical boundaries, but chose an actor/ actresses purely on the basis of merit and talent.

    Now adding to the ongoing debate, let me reveal that though I am a Physician by profession and an Oriya by birth,I can speak and understand about seven languages in India, which include Oriya(obviously), Bangla, Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu and Gujrati with some broken Punjabi at times. And as I am a movie buff,I have seen thousands of movies in all these languages. Though the cultures are different but they are all knit together by the same Indianness, ie. truth’s triumph over tyranny; love’s triumph over injustice; honesty’s triumph over corruption. But what really make these movies different is the distinct style of the directors and the unique acting of the actors and actresses. Over the years,if we analyze (I think Satyam and his company would be in a far better position to do that) the Indian film’s talented actors and actresses, we would find that it would be a very-very challenging task for anyone to name the person for the fifth position in my list. It may be and not limited to: Rajesh Khanna; Devanand; Smita Patil;Nasiruddin Shah; Sanjeev Kumar; Rekha from the Hindi Film Industry; Soumitra Chatterjee; Suchitra Sen; Chabbi Biswas(one of the best character role artists I have ever seen); Victor Banerjee and Mamata Shankar from the Bangla film industry; and Kamal Hassan; Mohanlal from the south.



    N. T. Rama Rao appeared in over 320 films, although only around 255 films are often accounted for, and he became one of the most prominent figures in Telugu cinema.[2] He often portrayed a Hindu mythological god or hero but also made an ideal villain.[2], He portrayed Lord Krishna in Maya Bazaar, Sri Krishnarjuna Yudham, Daana Veera Soora Karna, Lord Rama (Lava Kusa), Bheeshma (Bheeshma), Ravana (Bhookailasa), and Arjuna (Nartanasala). N. T. Rama Rao won the Filmfare Best Telugu Actor Award 10 times for his performances in Raju-Peda (1954), Missamma (1955), Chiranjeevulu (1956), Panduranga Mahatyam (1957), Bhookailas (1958), Jagadeka Veeruni Katha (1961), Gundamma Katha (1962), Katha Nayakudu (1969) and Badi Panthulu (1972),Daana Veera Soora Karna (1977).Later he became a screenwriter. Rao received no formal academic training in movie script writing yet he authored several screen plays for his own movies as well as for other producer’s movies.
    Rama Rao in “Bobbili Puli” (1982)

    He started his career playing a police inspector in the movie Mana Desam (1949). The role was offered by the director L V Prasad. Next he appeared in the film Palletoori Pilla, directed by B. A. Subba Rao. It marked the first occasion that Rama Rao and Akkineni Nageswara Rao acted together for the first time.[3] The title role was played by Anjali Devi and the story was loosely based on the English play, Pizaro by Richard Sherton. The film was a commercial hit and ran for more than 100 days in 6 centres.

    He actively campaigned for the construction of a large number of movie theaters in rural locations and was influential in designing and implementing a financial system that funded the production and distribution of movies.[4]
    [edit] Political career
    [edit] First term

    Rao was the founder of Telugu Desam Party in 1982 and served as Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. His reason for founding the Telugu Desam Party was based on a historic need to rid the state of the corrupt and inept Congress rule.[5] When he started his political career he was already a very popular actor in the Telugu film industry.[6] Rama Rao was unanimously elected leader of Telugu Dasam Legislature Party on January 8, 1983 with 10 cabinet ministers and five ministers of State.[7] He became the 10th Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and was reelected three times between 1983 and 1994.[2]
    File:Chaitanya ratham.jpg
    Rama Rao campaigning in the 1982 elections in the Chaitanya Ratham vehicle

    To promote the Telugu Desam Party, Rama Rao travelled across the state of Andhra Pradesh, crisscrossing all the districts, in his van dubbed “Chaitanya Ratham” (Chaitanyam literally means bringing to life or movement). With his son Hari Krishna as a driver, Rama Rao notched up over 75,000 kilometres during his 1982 campaign, a distinctive sight with the van’s yellow party flags and banners and Rao sitting on top of the vehicle hailing the crowds.[8] Rama Rao campaigned for restoring the dignity of the Telugu people and advocated the forming a closer bond between the government and the common people, going into the elections with the slogan, Telugu vari Atma Gauravam, meaning “Telugu people’s self-respect.[9] He reflected socialist views in several of his policies in that he believed that state must take care of the people that are below poverty line and everyone must have their basic necessities fulfilled. He campaigned to secure basic necessities such as home, clothes and food for the people and to provide subsidies on clothes and houses to the needy. He was also an advocate of women’s rights and worked on a bill to amend inheritance law to provide equal rights for women to inherit ancestral property, enacted later, in 1986.

    Rama Rao’s extensive tour in the Chaitanya Ratham vehicle helped to successfully mobilize people and recruit potential leaders and members for his newly founded party. The Congress Party, then in power, panicked at the response and replaced the Chief Minister Bhavanam Venkataram with a more experienced and seasoned leader, Kotla Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy. Reddy, who was Chief Minister for just over 3 months, could not secure victory for the Congress Party in the ensuing elections in January 1983.[10] The newly formed Telugu Desam Party won with significant margins in all three regions of the State (Coastal Andhra, Rayala Seema, and Telengana), winning over 200 seats in the 294 seat State Assembly against 56 seats by the Congress Party. Rama Rao himself contested elections from two constituencies, Tirupathi in Chittor District[11] and Gudivada in Krishna district, and won both the seats.[12]

    On Independence Day, 15 August 1984, NTR was removed from office by the then governor Ramlal.[10] His finance minister, Nadendla Bhaskara Rao, a former Congress man, was made the Chief Minister by the Ramlal. Bhaskar Rao purportedly had the support of majority MLAs (Members of Legislative Assembly of Andhra Pradesh) which was never the case. Rama Rao disputed the claims by Bhaskara Rao and demonstrated his strength by bringing all the MLAs supporting him, which was a majority in the 294 member assembly, to the Raj Bhavan (Governor’s Office).[10] Governor Ramlal did not relent and Rama Rao campaigned for restoration of democracy by mobilizing the support of people and various political parties in the country including Janata Party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), and National Conference. During the one month crisis, the MLAs supporting Rama Rao were secured in a secret place to avoid horse-trading. Due to mobilization of several political parties and the people and due to bad press, Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister and head of Congress Party, unwillingly removed Governor Ramlal and appointed a congress party veteran, Shankar Dayal Sharma, as governor of Andhra Pradesh to pave the way for restoring Rama Rao.[13] Shankar Dayal Sharma removed Bhaskara Rao from power and restored Rama Rao as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh in September 1984. He recommended dissolution of the Assembly and called for new elections in the state to ensure the people had a fresh choice to elect their representatives.

    In the following month, on 31 October 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated. Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister in her place. In the ensuing national elections to the Lok Sabha, the Congress party won convincingly all over the country except in Andhra Pradesh where Rama Rao’s Telugu Desam party secured a landslide victory. Senior Leaders of Congress party including Brahmananda Reddy, a former Chief Minister, and Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy, a former Chief Minister, lost in their constituencies of Narasarao Pet and Kurnool respectively to the Telugu Desam Party. Telugu Desam became the main opposition party in the Lok Sabha.[citation needed]
    [edit] Second Term

    The Telugu Desam Party operations were significantly computerized and a systematic local party structure was built and this resulted in the establishment of a stable second political party that survived his death. Rao introduced the concept of strong states with a strong center in his discussions about state power with Gandhi and ushered in a new era of empowered local governments, within the framework of India.

    He suffered a mild stroke and was unable to campaign in the 1989 election, which he lost.
    [edit] Third Term

    N.T. Rama Rao returned to power in 1994 winning 250 seats (Telugu Desam won 216; CPI: 19; CPM: 15) for his party and his allies in a 294 seat Assembly. Congress party won only 26 seats. The BJP which contested 280 seats on its own won just three seats.
    [edit] Personal life

    NTR married Basavatarakam in 1942. She died of cancer in 1985. There is a cancer Hospital established in her memory in Hyderabad. NTR remarried in 1993 at the age of 70. NTR had seven sons and four daughters from his first marriage. Prominent among his children are Bhuvaneswari, wife of Nara Chandrababu Naidu and the chairperson of Heritage Foods; and Daggubati Purandeswari, MP and a Minister of State for Human Resources in Manmohan Singh’s cabinet; Nandamuri Balakrishna a leading actor in the Telugu film industry; and Nandamuri Harikrishna, an actor turned politician and a member of Rajya Sabha (upper house of India’s Parliament). Prominent among NTR’s grandchildren are N. Kalyan Ram, N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Taraka Ratna; all three are actors in Telugu cinema.

    N T Rama Rao became very well known for his charitable work during his film career.He died on 18 January 1996 of a heart attack.[14] Often playing a Hindu god in his films, since his death he has been worshipped in some parts of Andhra Pradesh himself as a deity; numerous death shrines have been created in his name.[2] Rama Rao exerted a major, long-lasting, influence over the people of Andhra Pradesh and is celebrated by the people.[11] The NTR University of Health Sciences is named after him.


  39. Vishwanath Singh Says:

    In response to Dr. Sathpathy’s categorization,I can say with elan, that the fifth place should go to Soumitro Chatterjee…


  40. But what about Kamal Hassan?/////


  41. Sandeep Says:

    Where is Kamal Hasan?… He is the best actor in India more than anybody else… Amitab bachan is nothing infront of him…




  43. where’s mohanlal and kamal hassan.only actors of bollywood has been given a place in the list from india.


  44. Is any actor who step behind the legend tiger body can reach him.


  45. There are a lot of great actors missing from all countries. Being half Japanese and Half Pakistani I know there are actors missing from both countries especially Pakistan. They are missing the legendary Waheed Murad also known as the chocolate Hero (known so for his dark skin and good looks), Shabnam(Originally from Bangladesh but was a Lollywood actress in Pakistan) Nadeem Baig (one of the most celebrated Pakistani actors, many of his films including Super Duper hit Aaina were stolen by neighboring film industries) and Babra Sharif (Known as the Barbie Doll of Asia) who completely changed the film industry in the 70’s. As for the ones mentioned… Muhammad Ali was truly a Legend then no one can match up to and Zeba Muhammad Ali was once named the most beautiful woman in the world.


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