The only thing in common between Ranbir Kapoor and Vinay Pathak is talent. A huge amount of screen presence makes them the most accomplished performers of 2007.
While Ranbir just took over the screen in his debut vehicle 'Saawariya' with his endearing transparency, Vinay Pathak, a rank-outsider from Bihar with no filmy connections, stood at the opposite end of the spectrum with his performance as the very filmy, very annoying and real joker at the dinner in 'Bheja Fry'.
It proved talent is nurtured in the unlikeliest of places. You could be Raj Kapoor's grandson or just his fan from Bihar; you are equally qualified to blow the screen apart. And yes, Ranbir's father Rishi Kapoor was quite a treat in Vipul Shah's 'Namastey London'.
Father and son Pankaj and Shahid Kapur also gave accomplished performances in two different films. Though a little too callow for the role, Shahid carried off the grieving executive's part in 'Jab We Met' with arresting aplomb. Pankaj exploded the screen with his dynamo performances in 'Dharm' and 'The Blue Umbrella'. What an actor!
Then the redoubtable Bachchans - Amitabh and Abhishek. The Big B proved himself to be Amitabh Wry Bachchan as the dry cynical chef in 'Cheeni Kum'. A few months later I saw Catherine Zeta-Jones play the same role in 'No Reservations'. Copycat! However, I felt Tabu stole the show from the awesome Amitabh in 'Cheeni Kum'.
'Nishabd' earlier during the year would rank as one of Amitabh's most underrated performances ever. His 10-minute monologue at the end where he tells us why he didn't end his life after the end of love will rank among the great joys of cinema in 2007.
Junior Bachchan just slipped into Dhirubhai Ambani's role in 'Guru'. The slouch was ouch. But hey, Abhishek conducted himself with much credibility in the biopic. And wife Aishwarya Rai wasn't far behind with a solid supporting role.
My female performers of the year were Kareena Kapoor in 'Jab We Met' and Tabu in 'Cheeni Kum'. They were such studies in contrast! While one was exuberant, vivacious and all there, the other was quiet, introspective and dreamy.
Oh, what talent our industry has! If Tabu requires no words to let you know she's the goddess of all celluloid things, her aunt Shabana Azmi blew the screen apart in two short-films - 'Positive' by Farhan Akhtar and Rohit Roy's 'Rice Plate'.
In Farhan's very accomplished film, Shabana's character simply touched her dying husband's hand to let you know she had forgiven him. And that young actor Arjun Mathur who plays Irrfan's gay lover in Mira Nair's 'Migration' and Shabana's morose son in 'Positive' has an interesting presence.
At the other end of the spectrum little Sweeni Khara was also dying in 'Cheeni Kum'. As the wise-and-wonderful Sexy, Sweeni was sexy. And I say this at the risk of the moralists lynching me.
Clearly the year of child performers, what with little Sweeni matching the Big B and towering Tabu scene by scene and that bundle of talent Dwij Yadan giving Bobby Deol a run for his money in 'Nanhe Jaisalmer'. And at the end of the year, that bundle of bratty brilliancy, Darsheel Safary, bringing madness to Aamir Khan's method... the kids seemed to take over the screen in 'Taare Zameen Par'.
Vidya Balan surprised with her light-and-shade play of hope and dejection in 'Guru' and 'Bhool Bhulaiyaa'. The rage she expressed in her climactic dance in the latter just blew everyone else out of sight.
Raima Sen as the spirited spunky gregarious Bengali housewife in Reema Kagti's 'Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd' proved herself to be Suchitra Sen's bump-and-grind-granddaughter.
Esha Deol played the affable ghost in 'Darling'. Her expressions of anguish were so real I wondered where this star-daughter learnt to be so unhappy!
Tabu must immediately be stopped from languishing in self-imposed exile. She was extraordinary in 'Cheeni Kum' and then again in Mira Nair's 'The Namesake'. Irrfan Khan, who played her husband, whooped it up with glorious unselfconsciousness with Konkona Sen Sharma in 'Life...In A Metro'.
While Irrfan came into his own in 2007, Konkona, I'm afraid, showed signs of over-confidence especially in 'Aaja Nachle'. However, she is a brilliant actress and a pleasure to behold always.
Shefali Shah as Mahatma Gandhi's wife in 'Gandhi My Father' could've easily become Nirupa Roy in 'Deewaar' or 'Raakhee' in 'Shakti'. Just how she managed to imbue such incandescent dignity to a dangerously stereotypical role is anyone's guess.
Two quirky male performers caught my eye in 2007 - Ranveer Shorey as the doped-out street wanderer in 'Traffic Signal' was the summit of poignancy, hard to achieve for an actor who has an essentially comic image.
And in Sohail Khan we've our first cartoon-strip hero. As a horny Rajasthani trying to celebrate his delayed first wedding night in 'Salaam-e-Ishq', Sohail was a laugh riot and arguably the funniest guy on screen in 2007.
Jameel Khan, as the organiser of a music reality show in 'Loins Of Punjab Presents', epitomised the virtues of sinfully over-the-top acting.
And let's end with the inimitable Shah Rukh Khan. He was a scintillating bundle of wound-up angst in 'Chak De! India'. For the first time in his career he didn't seem to be acting at all. For that we shall always remain grateful to director Shimit Amin who managed to even out the excesses of King Khan's other big blockbuster 'Om Shanti Om' in 2007.
(Subhash K. Jha is a well known film critic. He can be contacted at [email protected])
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