In 1983, with the release of Woh 7 Din, a promising 27-year-old Anil Kapoor made his lead debut alongside Padmini Kolhapure and Naseeruddin Shah. Essaying the role of a struggling street musician who is silly and bumbling yet proud and passionate, Anil proved one thing, he as an actor is here to stay. As smoothly as he transforms from the outspoken Punjabi boy to the thoughtful ex-lover in Woh 7 Din, Anil makes his mark in the industry and fans could easily foresee that they now had a new hero to look forward to.
It’s been 34 years since but Anil’s aura has nowhere near dulled. In fact, he has become the paragon of aging with grace and has been giving noteworthy performances in roles that could easily go unnoticed.
After Woh 7 Din, Anil did roles like Raja in Yash Chopra’s Mashal (1984), Avinash in Yudh (1985) and Anand Verma in Meri Jung (1985) and established himself as one of the A-listers to watch out for. It would be an understatement to say that the 80s belonged to Anil Kapoor. He delivered hits after hits like Mr. India, Tezaab, and Ram Lakhan to name a few, but even in flops such as Ram Avatar and Vijay, Anil was the saving grace. A decade into his career and Anil had already given Hindi film industry some of its finest works. From “Ek Dum Jhakkas” and “Mera naam hai Lakhan” to Mr India’s invisible watch, Bollywood even had keepsakes to make Anil unforgettable in the eyes of any movie junkie.
But the coming decades saw Anil’s trajectory expand like nobody else. In 1991, came Yash Chopra’s Lamhe and it is often touted as one of his finest works till date. Much like most of Anil’s films in the 90s, Lamhe was a box-office disaster but it was a surprising success overseas. It was for the first time that Anil donned a no-mustache look but that was many of the firsts that happened with the film. Chopra’s Lamhe saw Anil romance Sridevi, first as a one-sided lover, head over heels for an older woman (Pallavi), secondly, a middle-aged man still not over his first love and fighting his feelings for her daughter (Pooja). While critics have long been mystified by Chopra’s genius in this romantic classic, they would all agree on the fact that Lamhe was one film far ahead of its times. And Anil’s performance here is as unexpected yet natural as it could get. Save the last ten minutes of the film, Viren (Anil’s character) is never given an emotional vent, be it for Pallavi, Anita or Pooja. But Viren still communicates to the audience, that in itself, speaks for Anil’s brilliance as an actor.
Anil tasted success yet again with 2000’s Pukar and Humara Dil Aapke Paas Hai. While Pukar saw Anil play the role of a dedicated army officer trying to redeem his image from that of a traitor’s, Humara Dil Aapke Paas Hai again saw him deal with a subject that was less talked about. Anil dexterly plays the role of Avinash, a restrained and moralistic man who accepts the rape survivor Preeti (Aishwarya Rai) with open arms. Later with films like Nayak, Rishtey and Chocolate to his credit, Anil proved that he still had what it takes. He also had his fair share of comedies with Anees Bazmee like Welcome and No Entry and his performances in these are just as good.
Even in supporting roles like the one in Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadkne Do or multi-starrer ones in Shootout At Wadala, Anil has delivered some stupendous performances.
A 61-year-old Anil was last seen in Mubarakan alongside his 32-year-old nephew Arjun Kapoor and his flair for comedy is still crackling. Today, wishing him a 61st birthday, we couldn’t be more thankful for this gem of an actor to hapen to Bollywood.