This energetic and enthusiastic actor rose to stardom during the 1990s and remains one of Bollywood's favorite stars. He is also popular with Hollywood audiences - winning a Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance in Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and having a memorable role as rich businessman Brij Nath in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011). In the 8th season of the U.S. television series 24 he played the role of Kamistan President Omar Hassan. He is currently starring in the Indian television series 24, inspired by the U.S. version.
Globally, Anil Kapoor is one of the most recognized Indian actors. Having performed in over a hundred films in a variety of languages, the following five films highlight some of Anil Kapoor's early and memorable performances in Hindi films.
Description: Seeing how much his young son Raju misses his mother, widowed multi-millionaire (Akash Khurana) marries Laxmi (Aruna Irani), thinking she will provide a mother's love. Laxmi leverages the unconditional love that Raju gives her to turn him into a devotee, willing to do anything for her. When Raju (Anil Kapoor) grows up he falls in love with Saraswati (Madhuri Dixit) and begins to pursue her. At first Saraswati is uninterested, but that changes when circumstances make Raju her protector. They marry and soon Saraswati learns that Laxmi's motherly love is a facade for her ambition to capture Raju's wealth.
Why I Love This Film: Big-hearted Raju knows his limitations but he doesn't let that interfere with his desire to make sure everyone in his family is happy and provided for. Fortunately, Saraswati is clever enough to confront the dysfunctions and injustices in Raju's family head-on. Saraswati's intellectual strength is the perfect complement to Raju's strength of heart. Side note: The song "Dhak Dhak Karne Laga" gave Madhuri Dixit the title of "Dhak Dhak" girl.
Recognition: Won, Filmfare Award for Best Actor.
Description: After completing his studies in London, Shakti Thakur (Anil Kapoor) returns to his home town village along with his girlfriend Anita (Pooja Batra) who he wants to marry. Shakti sees how the animosity between the village leaders - his father Raja Thakur (Amrish Puri) and his uncle Birju Thakur (Govind Namdeo) - is tearing the village apart. After Anita returns to London, Raja suffers a heart attack and dies. Shakti stays on to look after the family estate and business. But Birju continues to provoke Shakti at the expense of the villagers. When village girl Gehna (Tabu) and her father are on the brink of destruction, Shakti steps in and offers to marry Gehna. Several weeks later, Anita returns only to learn of Shakti's marriage. She breaks ties with Shakti, returning to London. Tensions continue in the village and Shakti tries to maintain dignity, honor and restraint in a situation that continues to spiral out of control.
Why I Love This Film: When we first meet Shakti, he is a carefree spirit who wants nothing more than to receive his father's blessing to marry Anita. However, as he is slowly pulled into village life he begins to understand that he is destined to play a role in this community. Issues of human relationships, family duties and social commitments are played out - sometimes with disastrous results. As Shakti faces different challenges, his moral compass wavers but never fully shifts away from true north. His journey leaves an enduring impact on the village. This was an important role for Kapoor. In a rediff.com interview, he explained:
"I lost a lot of weight for the first half [of Virasat], I grew my hair and beard, my entire body language changed. For the second half of the film, when I take over as the head of the family, I put on weight, grew a big moustache. Virasat is one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. The film too, was a major success."
Recognition: Won, Filmfare Critics Award Best Performance (Anil Kapoor and Tabu).
Description: Major "Jai" Jaidev Rajvansh (Anil Kapoor) returns home to glory for capturing terrorist Abhrush (Danny Denzongpa). Childhood friend Anjali (Madhuri Dixit ) loves Jai and plans to marry him. However, Jai falls in love with Miss India, Pooja Mallapa (Namrata Shirodkar). After being spurned, Anjali is convinced by a Abhrush toadie that she can win Jai back if she performs a small task. That action leads to Abhrush escaping and Jai being accused of treason and eventually court-martialed. Seeking to prove his innocence and prevent another terrorist attack, Jai - now stripped of his rank - seeks to stop Abhrush's next plan.
Why I Love This Film: The opening of the film features the following statement:
This film is an attempt to see our soldiers, not as fighting machines, but as human beings, who feel joy when appreciated and pain when misunderstood. Men, who overcome their personal traumas and rise to answer the call of duty to defend the integrity of the nation. This film is our tribute to such soldiers.
This is a film about honor, patriotism, and standing up for the truth against impossible odds. Major Jai is an outstanding solder who isn't perfect. He is human - capable of great love for those in his life and great confusion when he is wrongly accused. At the height of his career, he is cast down - yet his integrity keeps him from perishing under the pressure of a world turned against him. In a rediff.com interview, Kapoor explained:
"...we haven't treated the para-commanders as fighting machines. They are human beings, with their share of ups and downs, excitement, depression, lows and highs. We have tried to project the commitment they have for the country and their families. We had to really get into the psyche and skin of the characters. We worked on the authenticity of the film."
Watching this film you can see how Anil Kapoor earned the role in India's 24 series. Excellent cameos by dancer/choreographer Prabhu Deva and singer Lata Mangeshkar make this a film worth multiple views. One humorous note: When Jai disguises himself as a Sikh, he also adds facial hair. When he removes the disguise, he first removes the fake mustache - just to reveal his real, (and almost the same size) bushy mustache underneath. Classic.
Recognition: Won, National Film Award for Best Actor
Description: After coming forward as a witness to a public and violent assault, Preeti Virat (Aishwarya Rai) is raped by the brother of the perpetuator. Her father kicks her out of the family home and when news spreads of her rape the people in the town turn her into a pariah. Avinash (Anil Kapoor) - an aquaintance of of Preeti - chastises the community for their behavior toward Preeti then takes her to live as a guest in his home. Despite the tongue-wagging, Avinash's friendship slowly brings the devastated and demoralized Preeti back to life and he finds himself falling in love with her. But when he proposes marriage, she refuses.
Why I Love This Film: This is a powerful story that juxtaposes right and wrong in a community where people are more willing to notice the splinter in someone else's eye than the log in their own. When Avinash offers Preeti protection and friendship, his house becomes a haven of comfort, allowing Preeti to heal. Avinash sees through the deceit and machinations of those who seek to use or abuse Preeti and he becomes a powerful protector and a voice for the victimized. When an Filmfare interviewer said the film felt a bit regressive, Kapoor responded:
"Really? I thought it was progressive. We were trying to say that even a rape victim can lead a normal life. Perhaps we ODied on the comedy track. But that was for our target audience -- the common man in Yavatmal. And finally, the film is a huge hit. It's done very well overseas. Except a few centres, where collections steadied after the first few days, the film is a hit everywhere."
Description: Exiled small time crook Mahesh Deshmukh aka "Munna Bhai" (Anil Kapoor) and dancer Mohini (Madhuri Dixit) are in love, but her alcoholic, gambling father (Anupam Kher) - who lives off her earnings - decides he wants her to keep on working to support him. When Munna returns to the city from which he has been exiled, he meets up with a police officer who knew him before he was branded a criminal.
Why I Love This Film: While this film style is somewhat dated, it is an important film that further establishes Kapoor as a romantic leading man and action hero. The story is complex enough to keep your attention with some of the most entertaining portions of the film featuring the interactions of Munna with his friends, including young Chunky Pandey, Annu Kapoor, Vijay Patkar and Johnny Lever. Learning how Munna turns from a carefree young man into a criminal provides the backbone to this film. The film also features the chartbuster song "Ek Do Teen."
Recognition: Won, Filmfare Best Actor Award.
Don't know which film to watch first? The following playlist features trailers for the films or, in the case of Virasat and Pukar, a short portion of the film posted by the distributor.