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03-19-2009, 01:14 PM #1
How actors said their final goodbye
Actors never quite retire, they just fade away.
It's always fascinating to look at an actor's final film. Is it representative of his career? Is it fitting to his stature? Has he been reduced to a heartbreakingly minor role? Or is it a poignant goodbye after a long career servicing the arts?
In this feature, we stand back and examine ten fine performers and their final big-screen performances. And it is while looking at these last hiccups and final hurrahs that we realise just how missed these actors are.
With a salute then, here goes:
Amrish Puri -- Kisna (2005)
Subhash Ghai's Kisna was shot with Puri already in ill-health, and it was only fitting that his swansong was a character named Bhairo Singh, an evil caricature drawing from countless vile zamindars and cruel relatives the iconic actor had played over the years.
The performance isn't at all an impressive one, but it is more than representative of the icon the man was, from Mogambo to Mola Ram.
Sunil Dutt -- Munnabhai MBBS (2003)
The most appropriate of screen goodbyes came with Raju Hirani's magnificent Munnabhai MBBS, which allowed Dutt to tweak his son Sanjay's ear on screen before he left us all.
It also gave Dutt the chance to see Sanjay hit a career peak, and share the screen with him at the same time. It was truly a special role for Dutt, and while he was not around for the film's sequel, his mention therein made sure not a dry eye was left in the theatre.
Ashok Kumar -- Dushman Duniya Ka / Return Of Jewel Thief (1996)
Both films released in 1996 gave Bollywood's beloved Dadamoni a last chance at bat.
In Mehmood's inconsistent but clearly personal Dushman Duniya Ka, Kumar played an unnamed doctor and convincingly imparted a message lesser actors would have struggled with, while in Dev Anand's much-publicised sequel to Jewel Thief, he returned to the role of Prince Arjun.
The film was admittedly a let down, but while Jackie Shroff, Shilpa Shirodkar and Madhu disappointed, Kumar and Devsaab were clearly having a blast on the sets. It's hard not to smile indulgently at that.
Amjad Khan -- Aatank (1996)
Known for playing Indian cinema's single most iconic villain Gabbar Singh in Sholay, Amjad Khan managed to find some finer films even in his twilight years.
Films like Rudaali and In Custody are among his last few, and even if this Prem Lalwani directed shark-thriller isn't the kind of film Khan would have cherished, it at least allowed him to play a gangster over actors like Vinod Mehra and his Sholay co-star Dharmendra.
Rajendra Nath -- Jai Vikraanta (1995)
Shammi Kapoor's frequent partner in mayhem spent the twilight years doing a slew of disappointing bit roles, and his final theatrical release with Sultan Ahmed's Jai Vikraanta saw him ingloriously play a ****fight referee.
The fantastic funnyman still manages to elicit a feeble grin, but one wishes he'd have gone out on a much higher note.
Utpal Dutt -- Mere Damad (1995)
A man who invariably stole the scene no matter who occupied the screen alongside, Dutt was a highly respected theatre and film performer and a complete audience favourite.
His last Hindi feature directed by Partho Ghosh saw him with one of those typically memorable multisyllabic character names -- Sitanath Ardhnarayan Choudhry, this time -- in a fun role with buddy Ashok Kumar for company. Not a great film, but Dutt couldn't disappoint if he tried.
Ajit - Criminal (1995)
Dripping with megalomaniacal coolth, Ajit brought immense sophistication to the Bollywood villain.
He might be mimicked now, but he approached his craft with all the dedication of a Bela Lugosi or a Vincent Price, and the results were laudable.
He retired in the 80s after heart trouble, but came back in 1992 to act in what were unfortunately rather mediocre films.
He ended his career with inappropriate obscurity with a small role in Mahesh Bhatt's disappointing Fugitive remake, Criminal.
Sanjeev Kumar -- Professor Ki Padosan (1993)
Sometimes it's strange how the show must go on. The legendary actor passed away with this film only partially shot, so producer Manmohan Desai decided that this plot -- about a hapless scientist being seduced by a pretty neighbour -- be tweaked to include an invisibility potion.
It is an ingenious solution, and while the overall film isn't an impressive watch, one must applaud the idea -- devised 15 years before Terry Gilliam resorted to similar lines to complete Heath Ledger's last film.
Kishore Kumar -- Chalti Ka Naam Zindagi (1982)
While Kumar did briefly feature in Do Aur Do Paanch director Rakesh Kumar's Kaun Jeeta Kaun Haara -- a film built around Amitabh Bachchan playing himself and trying to moderate an improptu debate -- that 1988 film remains a curio and it is more appropriate to look at Kishoreda's own Chalti Ka Naam Zindagi, a film that reunited him with brothers Anoop and Ashok.
The film is an embarrassment considering the classic cast in what appears to be a Scooby Doo league story, but it is undeniably fitting to consider Kumar crafting an appropriately loony swansong.
Raj Kapoor -- Vakil Babu (1982)
So cringeworthy is Kapoor's penultimate work in movies like Gopichand Jasoos that it seems like divine intervention that he got to bid us farewell with Asit Sen's carefully plotted drama instead.
Shashi Kapoor confesses to what seems like a crime of passion, and it is up to his defense lawyer -- Raj Kapoor's Advocate Mathur -- to figure out what is really happening. It was a role that thankfully offered the icon enough meat to go out gracefully.
03-19-2009, 01:55 PM #2