Bollywood, in India, is a lot more than just a film industry producing hundreds of movies every year. Just like cricket, films are a religion and the actors are the most loved, emulated and revered people in the country. This is definitely one of the toughest articles I have had to write till now, as making a list of just top male actors out of so many big stars, who have dazzled Bollywood over the years with their hard work, charisma and splendour is no joke!
Since, it’s Bollywood, and here along with acting, stardom and mass appeal is a lot important too, I have had to take into account a lot of factors like the number of films they have done, their greatest performances in those films and also how long and how well they have survived and the legacy they have left. So, keeping all that in mind, here is the list of top Bollywood actors ever.
30. Akshay Kumar
Akshay Kumar is a true example of how hard work and patience can get you to the very top. To be honest, his career in the 90s was not all that smooth sailing. Though he had big hits in the form of his ‘Khiladi’ films and ‘Mohra’, he had a huge number of flops in between as well. He was never really considered a competition for the three Khans back then. He once said in an interview that in spite of giving so many flops in a row, the only reason producers kept signing him was because of his discipline and good conduct. And that eventually paid off and how! With 2 hit films, ‘Hera Pheri’ and ‘Dhadkan’ at the turn of the century, his career suddenly took off like never before. He was particularly praised for his comic timing in ‘Hera Pheri’. He has had huge hits like ‘Namastey London’, ‘Singh is King’, ‘Rowdy Rathore’ since then and has established himself as one of the most bankable stars of Bollywood. Along with commercial success, he has also been critically praised for his performances in movies like ‘Special 26’, ‘Holiday’, ‘Airlift’, ‘Rustom’, which made a lot of money as well. Akshay Kumar is truly at the best phase of his career right now and from here, he can only go up!
29. Amrish Puri
When you think of Amrish Puri, the first thing that comes to your mind is his famous dialogue from Mr. India- ‘Mogambo Khush Hua’, where he played the iconic character of ‘Mogambo’. Amrish Puri is one of those character actors in India, whose popularity as a villain can overshadow many lead actors’ careers. With a towering personality and a voice that can send a chill down anyone’s spine, Amrish Puri was the most feared villain of the 1980s and 1990s. Some of his most famous roles as villains are from the films ‘Mr. India’, ‘Meri Jung’, ‘Nagin’, ‘Ghayal’, ‘Karan Arjun’ and ‘Damini’. However, towards the later years of his career, he was equally appreciated for playing positive characters in films like’ Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’, ‘Pardes’, ‘Ghatak’ and ‘Virasat’. He won three Filmfare awards in his prolific career.
28. Anil Kapoor
By the mid and late 1980s, Anil Kapoor was slowly on his way to becoming the next big superstar and had ‘The Khan Trinity’ not arrived in Bollywood, almost at the same time, Anil Kapoor would have been the biggest star to come after Amitabh Bachchan. He had huge hits in the 1980s with films like ‘Mr. India’, ‘Karma’, ‘Ram Lakhan’ and ‘Tezaab’. Mr. India especially had sort of made him iconic as the ‘Invisible Man’. He was also critically acclaimed for his performances in ‘Mashal’, ‘Parinda’, ‘Saheb’, ‘Meri Jung’ and ‘Eeshwar’ particularly, where he played the role of an autistic person. He continued with his success streak in the 1990s with films like ‘Lamhe’, ‘Laadla’, ‘Judaai’, ‘Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain’, ‘1942: A Love Story’ and ‘Virasaat’. He was greatly praised for his performances in ‘Virasat’ and ‘1942: A Love Story’. While he had entertained the audiences with his trademark ‘Tapori’ style in a lot of his movies, he had also won the respect of the Film Critics by doing a series of versatile roles. 2000s saw him giving spending performances in ‘Pukar’ and ‘Nayak’. Anil Kapoor has definitely come a long way since then and is one of the most sought after character actors today. He has won 6 Filmfare Awards and 2 National Awards in his long and productive career.
27. Anupam Kher
It is impossible to think of a film debut as strong and moving as Anupam Kher’s debut in the film ‘Saraansh’ n 1984. In spite of being just a 28 year old, he played the role of an old man who is trying to come in terms with the death of his son with such integrity that his very first film fetched him a Filmfare Best Actor Award. Since then, Anupam Kher has become one of the most loved character actors of Hindi Cinema. Along with playing comic roles in movies like ‘Lamhe’, ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’, ‘ Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’, ‘Special 26’, he has also done intense roles in films like ‘Daddy’, ‘Maine Gandhi Ko Nahi Mara’ effortlessly. His performances as the hapless middle class man in ‘Khosla Ka Ghosla’ and as the Police Commissioner in ‘A Wednesday’ were much appreciated as well. Anupam Kher has received numerous awards in his career including two National Awards and five Filmfare Awards. He has also been a part of a number of international films like ‘Bend It Like Beckham’, ‘Lust’ and ‘Silver Linings Playbook’.
26. Nawazuddin Siddiqui
It is hard to imagine that an actor as talented as Nawazuddin Siddiqui had to wait for around ten years for a proper break, after making his debut with a small role in the 1999 film, Sarfarosh. Although he was first noticed in ‘Peepli Live’(2010), it was the year 2012 which changed his fortune in Bollywood. As one of the gangsters in Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ series, and as the Intelligence Officer in Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Kahaani’, Nawazuddin Siddiqui suddenly became the talk of the B-town. He went to win a Special Jury Award in National Film Awards that year for his performances in these films along with ‘Talash’ and ‘Dekh Indian Circus’. In the years that followed, he did more incredible work in films like ‘The Lunch Box’, ‘Badlapur’, ‘Bajrangi Bhaijan’, ‘Manjhi-The Mountain Man’, ‘Te3n’ and ‘Raman Raghav 2.0’. His unconventional looks and honesty, both on-screen and off-screen have made him popular with the audiences in India, who are finally waking up to good films. Today, he is at a position when his career is being closely looked at by every film critic. Actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Sridevi, Ranbir Kapoor consider him to be the very best of Bollywood! Nawazuddin Siddiqui is definitely the man to watch in the years to come!
25. Hrithik Roshan
It was the year 2000 when the romantic blockbuster ‘Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai’ had released and the nation had found its new superstar. There has never been a more phenomenal debut in Bollywood like Hrithik Roshan’s. He changed the way a Bollywood male actor looked on screen during that time. Here, was a ‘hero’ who had the looks of a Greek God, acted well, had an amazing body and danced like a dream. He went on to win the Filmfare Best Debut and Best Actor Awards in the same year. However, with great expectations comes great responsibility. Although his performances in movies like ‘Fiza’ and ‘Mission Kashmir’ were appreciated, the films that followed failed to create magic at the box office except for ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’. Hrithik has confessed of seeing a magazine cover at that time with his picture on it, written ‘Finished’. And then came ‘Koi Mil Gaya’ and changed everything! Over the years, Hrithik Roshan has become one of the biggest stars of Bollywood with films like ‘Krish series’, ‘Dhoom 2’, ‘Jodha Akbar’, ‘Agneepath’ and ‘Zindegi Na Milegi Dobara’. His performances in movies like ‘Koi Mil Gaya’, ‘Lakshya’, ‘Guzaarish’, ‘Jodha Akbar’, ‘Zindegi Na Milegi Dobara’, ‘Agneepath’ have been praised by critics and audiences alike. He tops every sexiest men poll list and is the recipient of 6 Filmfare Awards, with four being for Best Actor. However, we still believe his best is yet to come!
24. Ranbir Kapoor
Ranbir Kapoor is the youngest actor to be a part of this list. He has been in Bollywood for just 10 years, but has already proven himself with some top notch performances. Be it as the love stricken singer in ‘Rockstar’, or as the deaf and mute Barfi in ‘Barfi’, or as the rich spoilt brat who comes of age in ‘Wake Up Sid’, Ranbir has played each character with a lot of depth and sincerity. He has surely been one of the most exciting Bollywood actors of the 21st century and his ‘Kapoor clan’ good looks and appeal have further helped him on his road to stardom. He has already won 5 Filmfare awards, 2 for Best Actor (‘Rockstar’ and ‘Barfi’), 1 for Best Actor (Critics) for 3 films altogether (‘Wake Up Sid’, ‘Ajab Prem ki Gazab Kahani’, ‘Rocket Singh:Salesman of the Year’) and 1 for Best Debut (‘Saawariya’). Looking at the way he is going, there are surely going to be many more in future!
23. Pankaj Kapoor
Pankaj Kapoor is one actor who has done incredibly good work in films, television as well as theatre. A graduate from National School of Drama, he came into the limelight after portraying the role of Mahatma Gandhi’s secretary in the much acclaimed film Gandhi. There on, he became one of the most respected actors in art cinema with films like ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’, ‘Mandi’, ‘Khamosh Khandhar’, ‘Ek Ruka Hua Faisla’, ‘Raakh’ and ‘Ek Doctor Ki Maut’. His roles in ‘Raakh’ and ‘Ek Doctor Ki Maut’ garnered him two National Awards. Along with films, he became famous for playing the role of Karamchand in Detective TV serial ‘Karamchand’ and ‘Mussadi Lal’ in Office Office. Pankaj Kapoor continued with his good work in films, in the 2000s and was a part of acclaimed films like ‘The Blue Umbrella’ and ‘Maqbool’. His performance in ‘Maqbool’ as ‘Abbaji’ is considered to be one of the best performances of the 21st century. He is the recipient of 3 National Awards, 1 Filmfare Award and 2 Indian Telly Awards.
22. Manoj Bajpayee
Kay Kay Menon has often said in media how Manoj Bajpayee’s portrayal of different roles, especially that of ‘Bhiku Matre’ in ‘Satya’ paved the way for art film actors like him and Irfan Khan. And one cannot agree more with him! ‘Bhiku Matre’ in ‘Satya’ was the breakthrough role for Manoj Bajpayee and he made it into one of the most hard-hitting performances of the 20th century. It was a clear case of the supporting actor overshadowing the lead actor of the film. Subsequently, his performance in ‘Shool’ as the police inspector who loses his entire family while fighting against corruption was lauded by the critics as well. Some of his next best performances were in the films ‘Aks’, ‘Road’ and ‘Pinjar’. In both ‘Aks’ and ‘Road’, he played negative roles. His career went through a low phase after this, and it got somewhat revived after ‘Rajneeti’. However, it was his performance as the gangster ‘Sardar Khan’ in ‘Gangs of Wasseypur I’ which sort of brought him back to the big league. His portrayal of a gay professor fighting for his rights in ‘Aligarh’ is highly considered to be one of the most moving performances of the 21st century. He is the winner of 2 National Awards and 4 Filmfare Awards.
21. Paresh Rawal
The first time mainstream India took really good notice of Paresh Rawal was when ‘Hera Pheri’ released back in 2000. Although he was a well known character actor before that, Akshay Kumar and Sunil Shetty were still the bigger commercial stars. However, after the film was over, surprisingly it was Paresh Rawal about whom the people couldn’t stop talking. His Marathi accent, dialogue delivery, comic timing, everything was pitch perfect in ‘Hera Pheri’ and ‘Babu Rao Ganpat Rao Apte’ became one of the most iconic characters of 21st century. Even before ‘Hera Pheri’, Paresh Rawal had done some amazing work in films like ‘Who Chokri’ and ‘Sir’, where he played negative roles, and also ‘Sardar’, where he played the role of ‘Vallabhbhai Patel’. He is one of those few actors who have done equally good work as villains as well as comedians. Over the years, he has established himself as one of the most respected actors in the industry with his performances in films like ‘Andaz Apna Apna’, ‘Hera Pheri’, ‘Who Chokri’, ‘Sir’, ‘OMG-Oh My God’, ‘Hulchul’, ‘Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge?’, ‘Awaara Paagal Deewana’ and many more!
20. Nana Patekar
Nana Patekar is known for his unique style of acting in Indian Cinema. His way of delivering his dialogues is so distinctive that he is one of the most mimicked stars of Hindi Cinema. Coming from a theatre background, he has been equally active in Bollywood as well Marathi films. Right from the beginning, the roles he chose were not stereotypical, but would always stand out in a film. Whether as the Underworld Don ‘Anna’ in Parinda or as the man fighting against corruption in ‘Krantiveer’ or as the Army Officer in ‘Prahar’ or as the abusive husband in ‘Agnisakshi’, Nana Patekar has given some of the most memorable performances of the 1980s and 1990s. Even in the 2000s, he continued with his good work in movies like ‘Apaharan’, ‘Shakti’ and ‘Ab Tak Chappan’. His straight face, intimidating personality, commanding voice along with his powerful acting have made him one of the most popular actors of Hindi Cinema. He has won three National Awards and four Filmfare Awards in his career.
19. Ajay Devgan
Ajay Devgan entered into our lives with that famous split on the bikes stunt in ‘Phool Aur Kaante’ in 1991 and went on to win the Filmfare Best Debut of the Year for his performance. After his first film and he being the son of the popular stunt choreographer, Veeru Devgan, people had expected him to become known mostly as an action hero. However, throughout the years, Ajay Devgan has managed to shed that image of his by playing roles from almost every genre. He is one of the few actors in Bollywood who have equal commercially viable as well as critically acclaimed films. His tall dark frame, his expressive eyes make him the best bet for playing roles which require intensity. His performances as the son who discovers truths about his childhood in ‘Zakhm’, as the husband who tries to unite his wife with her lover in ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’, as the gangster leader in Company and as the freedom fighter, ‘Bhagat Singh’ in ‘The Legend of Bhagat Singh’ are considered to be some of his best work. His biggest commercial successes include The Singham series and The ‘Golmaal’ series. He has won 2 National Awards as well as 4 Filmfare awards. Unlike many actors of Bollywood, he has never had a really bad phase and has been consistent right from the 90s and we hope that it stays this way in the future as well!
18. Sunil Dutt
Sunil Dutt came into limelight for portraying the resentful character of ‘Birju’ in the Oscar nominated film, ‘Mother India’ in 1957. Since then, he went on to become one of the most popular stars of the 1960s by starring in films like ‘Mujhe Jeene Do’, ‘Padosan’, ‘Milan’, ‘Gumraah’, ‘Waqt’, ‘Humraaz’, ‘Mera Saaya’ and ‘Khandaan’. He was particularly praised for his performances in the films, ‘Mujhe Jeene Do’ and ‘Khandaan’, for which he went on to win the Filmfare Award for Best Actor. Along with being a good actor, he was also considered to be one of the best looking male stars of that time, which enhanced his mass appeal. He also produced and directed a film called ‘Yaadein’ in 1964, where he was the only starring actor. The film is even now considered to be one of a kind in Hindi Cinema and it also won the National Award for Best Film in Hindi that year.
17. Shammi Kapoor
Shammi Kapoor was one of the most popular actors of Bollywood during the 1950s and 1960s. Being from the first family of Bollywood, he had all of their good looks and charm! He brought dancing into Hindi Cinema in a big way and till today, it is impossible for anyone to think of that era in Bollywood without reminiscing Shammi Kapoor’s free spirited moves and his evergreen songs. After all, songs like, “Aaj kal tere mere pyaar ke charche har zaban par”, “ O aaja.. aa aa aaja”, “Ye chand sa roshan chehra”, “Yahoo.. Chahe Koi mujhe jungle kahein”, and many more continue to be as popular even today and he had a huge contribution in making those songs that famous! Ace actor, Naseeruddin Shah has time and again said in his interviews that he was fascinated by the world of Shammi Kapoor’s cinema, not because he was perfect or his movies were perfect, but because he was such an entertainer and Shah could never see himself doing something like that. Towards the later days of his career, he also garnered critical acclaim for his roles in movies like, ‘Brahmachari’ (He won the Filmfare Award for Best Actor for this movie), Andaz and Vidhata (Filmfare Best Supporting Actor)!
16. Rishi Kapoor
Rishi Kapoor became the heartthrob of the nation after the thundering success of ‘Bobby’ in 1973, a role for which he later admitted to have paid 30,000 rupees to get the Filmfare Best Actor Award, 1974. Before this however, he actually won a much deserving National Award for his first film, ‘Mera Naam Joker’ (1970) where his innocence and honest portrayal won everyone’s hearts! He was the favourite lover boy of Bollywood in the period between- after Rajesh Khanna and before Shahrukh Khan. Just like his uncle Shammi Kapoor, he was also a charmer and an energetic dancer! His on-screen pairing with his wife, Neetu Singh in movies like ‘Khel Khel Mein’, ‘Rafoo Chakkar’, ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ and ‘Kabhie Kabhie’ was a hit and together they are considered to be the one of the most loved on-screen couples of Hindi Cinema. In spite of giving many hits during his prime, he never really got any significant role after ‘Mera Naam Joker’ and ‘Bobby’, where he could prove his acting talent. All that has changed decades later, and Rishi Kapoor is now one of the most in-demand character actors in Bollywood. He has done some of his best work in 2000s and 2010s, in movies like ‘Do Dooni Chaar’, for which he won a Filmfare Critics Best Actor Award, Kapoor and Sons (Filmfare Best Supporting Actor), ‘Agneepath’ and ‘Love Aaj Kal’. The man is surely here to stay for a longer innings!
15. Shahrukh Khan
On once being asked by Karan Johar in an interview that in spite of not being the conventionally good looking hero, how he became such a success story, Shahrukh Khan had said that there are two kinds of stars, one whom the people aspire to be and the other is with whom they can relate and can identify with and he fell in the latter category. Well, looking at his journey in Bollywood and his subsequent superstardom, what he said actually seems very true. Coming from a middle class family and having lost his parents early in life, Shahrukh went on to become the biggest star of Bollywood in the 1990s and comparisons with yesteryear greats Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan were not too far from pouring in. While ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’, ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ and ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’ were some of his biggest romance hits, he proved he can do more with films like ‘Baazigar’, ‘Darr’, ‘Dil Se’ and ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa’. From an anti-hero in ‘Baazigaar’ and ‘Darr’, to becoming the romance king of the nation, Shahrukh Khan surely was doing something right! Films like ‘Chak De India’ and ‘Swades’, which are considered to be two of his finest performances, further cemented his position as an actor of great caliber in the 2000s. His characteristic wit, infectious charm and the ability to romance like a prince on-screen have made him one of the most loved actors of Hindi Cinema ever. He is the winner of 14 Filmfare Awards, out of which 8 are best for Best Actor (Maximum for an actor, tied with Dilip Kumar).
14. Irfan Khan
Irfan Khan is highly considered to be the best non-commercial actor of the current era. Having worked in a number of television serials and done smaller roles in films, Irfan Khan’s breakthrough role in Bollywood came in the 2003 film, ‘Haasil’. Although the film didn’t do well commercially, Irfan went on to win the Filmfare Best Actor in a Negative Role Award for his outstanding performance as the loud-mouthed and impetuous ‘Ranvijay Singh’. He was next praised for his funny and likable act in the film ‘Life in a.. Metro’, for which he won the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award. His Indo-American film, ‘The Namesake’ also got rave reviews from the critics the same year. However, the two films of Irfan Khan, which brought him another level of respect as an actor altogether, are undoubtedly ‘The Lunch Box’ and ‘Paan Singh Tomar’. While the former won the prestigious Grand Rail d’Or at the International Critics’ Week at the Cannes Film Festival, 2013, along with him winning the Asian Film Award for Best Actor, the latter got Irfan his first National Award as Best Actor (2012) He also won another Best Actor Award in the year 2015, at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne for his role in the film, ‘Piku’. Along with various milestones in his Hindi film career, he has also acted in International films like ‘Jurassic World’, ‘Life of Pi’, ‘New York, I love You’ and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’.
13. Om Puri
An alumnus of National School of Drama and Film and Television Institute of India, Om Puri is one of the most applauded actors of the country. Coming from a very humble background, he had often confessed in his interviews that he didn’t have the money to even pay for the fees in FTII, but as luck would have it, someone or the other would always turn up and help him in his journey, because they saw a lot of talent in him. He starred in some of the most critically acclaimed films of the 1980s, like ‘Aakrosh’, ‘Mirch Masala’, ‘Ardh Satya’, ‘Arohan’ etc. ‘Ardh Satya’ is considered to be one of the best films of the 1980s and Om Puri’s performance as an honest cop got him his second National Award for Best Actor, the first being for ‘Arohan’, where he played a poor farmer. Along with art films, he played important roles in a number of successful mainstream films like ‘Ghayal’, ‘Pyaar Toh Hona Hi Tha’ and ‘Gupt’. He is also one of the few actors from Indian Cinema, who have worked in a number of International films, some of them being ‘My Son The Fanatic’ (He won the Brussels International Film Festival Best Actor for the film), ‘East is East’ (He got nominated for a BAFTA for Best Actor for the film), ‘City of Joy’, ‘The Parole Officer’, ‘Wolf’, ‘The Ghost and Darkness’ and ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’.
Pran or Pran Krishan Sikand is one of the oldest actors of Bollywood, who has had such a productive career right from the 1940s till the 2000s. While most lead actors’ careers last for 20-25 years, he is an exception with being active for around 60 years in the film industry. Although he started as the leading actor in films, his popularity grew after he started playing the villain. He has played the role of a villain in popular films like ‘Ram Aur Shyam’, ‘Devdas’, ‘Madhumati’, ‘Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai’ etc. He was given the award for ‘Villain of the Millennium’ by Stardust in 2000 and rightly so. His performances as the positive characters in films like ‘Zanjeer’ and ‘Upkar’ were also well-appreciated. The song “Yaari Hai Imaan Mera Yaar Meri Zindagi” featuring him in ‘Zanjeer’ was one of the most popular songs of the 1970s. He had been a part of over 350 films in his long and prolific career and was named as one of the ‘Top 25 Asian Actors of All Time’ by CNN in 2010.
11. Rajesh Khanna
The kind of crazy fan love that Rajesh Khanna (Jatin Khanna) had experienced during his prime, no other actor has had that before or even after that. Actors like Sharmila Tagore, Mumtaz and writer Javed Akhtar have often shared instances of how hundreds and thousands of people would line up to catch a glimpse of him and how women used to marry his photograph and write letters in blood to him. It all started when Rajesh Khanna got his breakthrough role in ‘Aradhana’ (1969) which immediately catapulted him to stardom. His obvious good looks and a charm that cannot be described made him the ‘King of Romance’, much before the epithet was used for Shahrukh Khan. From 1969 to 1971, Rajesh Khanna had a record of 15 solo hits, a feat that remains undefeated even today. His film, ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’, released in 1971 was the biggest hit of Bollywood till Sholay released in 1975. Some of his best performances were in films like ‘Anand, ‘Avishkaar’, ‘Kati Patang’, ‘Amar Prem’, ‘Bawarchi’ and ‘Daag’. The iconic role of ‘Anand’ had especially got him a lot of respect as an actor and it is without a shred of doubt, his most memorable character in films. He was the recipient of 6 Filmfare Awards, three being for Best Actor.
10. Ashok Kumar
Ashok Kumar or Kumudlal Ganguly was probably the first big leading actor of Hindi Cinema who we know of. He started his career in the 1930s and continued working till the 1980s. He was one of those actors who had an amazing transformation from the lead actor to playing an antagonist to doing important character roles in films. When we talk of 100 crore, 200 crore and even 300 crore clubs today, we need to know that the first film to make 1 crore in India was ‘Kismet’ (1943), in which Ashok Kumar played the role of an anti-hero. Along with this, his film ‘Achyut Kanya’ (1936) was one of the biggest hits of his career, making his pairing with Devika Rani very popular. He was the most popular leading man of the 1940s with hits like ‘Mahal’ and ‘Sajan’, and even in the 1950s, with the advent of new stars, he kept on doing lead roles in films, with considerable amount of success. By the 1960s and 1970s, Ashok Kumar started doing important character roles in successful films like ‘Jewel Thief’, ‘Bandini’, ‘Pakeezah’, ‘Mili’, ‘Chhoti Si Baat’, ‘Khoobsurat’ and many more. Ashok Kumar is known for paving the careers of many actors like Dev Anand, Pran, Raj Kapoor, Madhubala and also directors like Shakti Samanta and Hrishikesh Mukherjee. He won 2 National Awards (Including Dadasaheb Phalke award) and 4 Filmfare Awards in his career.
9. Dev Anand
The reason why Dev Anand is called the evergreen star of Bollywood is because even though his career had started in the 1940s, he kept on playing the leading man till the late 1970s and early 1980s, when he had crossed his 60s. While his contemporaries, Raj Kapoor nd Dilip Kumar had begun taking up character roles and looked much older by that time, he was still giving successful films as the lead hero. Although the initial successes of his career in the late 1940s were attributed to the popularity of his co-star, the then superstar singer-actress, Suraiya, with whom he had a passionate love affair, by the 1950s, he had begun doing films like ‘Baazi’, ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Nau Do Gyarah’, ‘C.I.D.’, ‘Paying Guest’, ‘Kala Pani’ which cemented his position as an actor and a star. He was the original style icon of Hindi cinema, and right from his hairstyle to his clothes, people were besotted by him. His unique way of delivering his dialogues fast with the nod of his head have been mimicked time and again by many actors. His stardom continued thriving in the 1960s and 1970s with acclaimed films like ‘Guide’, ‘Jewel Thief’, ‘Johny Mera Naam’ and ‘Hare Raama Hare Krishna’. ‘Guide’, in particularly, is considered to be one of the best Bollywood films of the 20th century. Dev Anand is the winner of 2 National Awards (including the Dadasaheb Phalke Award) and 4 Filmfare Awards (two for acting, one as a producer and one for Lifetime Achievement).
8. Raj Kapoor
The ‘Greatest Showman of Indian Cinema’, Raj Kapoor is the only artist in Bollywood who is equally successful as an actor as well as a director. He gained popularity in the 1950s for portraying the roles of poor, innocent men forced into corruption by the society, in films such as ‘Shree 420’, ‘Awaara’ and ‘Jaagte Raho’. Along with Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand, he was the most successful actor of the 1950s and early 1960s with films like ‘Awaara’, ‘Shree 420’, ‘Jaagte Raho’, ‘Jis Desh Me Ganga Behti Hai’, ‘Aah’, ‘Chori Chori’, ‘Anari’, ‘Boot Polish’, and ‘Sangam’. Although ‘Mera Naam Joker’ which he produced, directed and acted in, was a flop at the time of its release, it won several awards and over the years has got a cult status in Hindi Cinema. Time Magazine ranked his performance in Awaara as one of the ten greatest performances of all time. He got 11 Filmfare Awards and 3 National Film Awards (Including Dadasaheb Phalke Award) in his film career, out of which 2 Filmfare Awards were for his performances as an actor.
7. Guru Dutt
The maker of masterpieces like ‘Pyaasa’ and ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’, Guru Dutt is considered to be a director of exceptional talent in the Indian Film Industry. While his direction was of the highest caliber, he as an actor was also known for his deeply moving performances. One could feel the pain in his eyes and the emotions seemed extremely palpable while he was acting on screen. According to sources, his depressing roles in movies sort of held a mirror to his own depressed life. He suffered from depression in his real life, and had tried to commit suicide a lot of times, before he finally died with an overdose of sleeping pills when he was just 39, and there was no proof as to if it was accidental or intentional. His strained relationship with his singer wife, Geeta Dutt and the woman he apparently loved, that is his co-star, Waheeda Rehman sort of came to life on celluloid, in the iconic tragic song, ‘Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam’, which was picturized on Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman, and was sung by his wife, Geeta Dutt. Apart from his intense roles in films like ‘Pyaasa’, ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’, ‘Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam’, he acted convincingly in lighter films like ‘Mr. and Mrs.55’ and ‘Aar Paar’ as well. However, if we compare his direction and acting, he was still a better director for sure. Also, since he passed away early, we didn’t get to see him in many versatile roles.
6. Naseeruddin Shah
Together with actors like Om Puri, Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah was a part of the elite group which didn’t confirm to the rules of the commercial Hindi Cinema and did movies which they as actors could be proud of! Just like Om Puri, he was an alumnus of National School of Drama and Film and Television Institute of India, and with his understated, realistic acting brought in a new wave of parallel cinema in the Hindi Film Industry in the late 1970s and the 1980s. Whether as the self-respecting blind school principal of ‘Sparsh’, or as the rebellious labourer in ‘Paar’ or as the man with a past in ‘Masoom’, Naseeruddin Shah has been incredible in each of his performances and in a way, has been the trailblazer in showing the way to actors who want to do so much more than just the usual Bollywood stuff. It’s hard to think of a male actor in the parallel cinema, who has been so loved and has acquired so much fame by doing mostly art films. Along with his much acclaimed art films, he has also been a part of many successful commercial films like ‘Tridev’ (which he didn’t particularly like, and confesses to have never seen it), ‘Mohra’, ‘Sarfarosh’, ‘The Dirty Picture’ etc as well. He is the winner of three National Awards as well as three Filmfare Awards. His charismatic voice, magnetic personality and his astounding performances have been and will continue to be a source of joy and inspiration for cinema lovers all over the world!
5. Sanjeev Kumar
Sanjeev Kumar or Harihar Jethalal Jariwala was known as one of the most versatile actors from the 1960s and 1970s era. Although, people remember him mostly as the ‘Thakur’ of ‘Sholay’, he had actually done a lot of unconventional roles, for an actor of his times. For instance, his role as the deaf and mute middle class man in the film, ‘Koshish’ garnered him a lot of critical acclaim and he went on to win a National Award for Best Actor, for the film. He had a long association with Koshish’s director, Gulzar, who cast him in many of his well appreciated films like ‘Aandhi’, ‘Angoor’ and ‘Namkeen’. In most of Gulzar’s films, he played the role of much older men and proved his flexibility as an actor. He was one of the few actors of his times who in spite of acting in very successful commercial movies, was known as a realistic actor as well. He died when he was only 47, but did several meaningful roles in his 20 years in Bollywood. He was the winner of 2 National Awards and 3 Filmfare Awards.
4. Aamir Khan
Aamir Khan is the modern day actor who has been credited with merging the commercial and parallel cinema in Bollywood. If you look at his career right from the start, apart from the initial few flops after the hugely successful ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’, he has always done movies which were different from what his contemporaries were doing and those films have actually worked with the audiences as well. He was the original chocolate boy of Bollywood with an amazingly cute face, but that never really became an obstruction with him doing any kind of role. Be it the carefree ‘Sanjay Lal’ of ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar’ or the pedestrian ‘Munna’ of ‘Rangeela’ or the gutsy Police Officer in ‘Sarfarosh’, Aamir was way ahead of all the other stars of that time in choosing his projects. He was also the only star actor in that era who was doing fewer films at a time, giving his all to every performance. With the advent of the new millennium, Aamir has become the biggest name in Bollywood with films like ‘Lagaan’, ‘Dil Chahta Hai’, ‘Rang De Basanti’, ‘3 Idiots’, ‘PK’ and ‘Dangal’ and no one comes even close to his dominance! Aamir is a great actor, but I would say, he is an even bigger cinematic genius for the kind of films he has chosen, believed in and more importantly, for making the audiences and critics believe in them too! He is the winner of 4 National Awards (3 as producer and one special mention) and 8 Filmfare Awards (5 for acting, although he doesn’t believe in them anymore and has stopped accepting them).
3. Balraj Sahni
Although most of this generation knows Balraj Sahni (Yudhisthir Sahni) as the actor in the song, ‘Aye Meri Zohrajabi, Tujhe malum nahi’, he is so much more than that! He had been a part of some of the most critically acclaimed, politically and socially relevant films of Indian Cinema during the 1950s and 1960s. His landmark film, ‘Do Bigha Zamin’ directed by the great filmmaker, Bimal Roy, was the first film to win a Filmfare Award for Best Film as well as the first Indian film to win an International Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Although he was highly praised for his performances in films like ‘Do Bigha Zamin’, ‘Kabuliwala’, ‘Dharti Ke Lal’, ‘Hindustan Ki Kasam’, ‘Garam Hawa’, he never won any award for his acting. However, over the years, he has become a legend of Indian Cinema and if someone wants to know more about the history of Bollywood films, Balraj Sahni’s performances are must watch!
2. Dilip Kumar
Dilip Kumar (Muhammad Yusuf Khan)is considered to be the greatest actor of Hindi Cinema by many credible names in the industry like Amitabh Bachchan, Salim-Javed and Shahrukh Khan. It is said that he was the pioneer of ‘method acting’ in Bollywood and at a time, when many actors came across as too animated and over the top, he was known for his subtle and realistic acting. In fact, it is said that there was a point of time, when he had to consult a psychiatrist because of portraying too many emotionally harrowing roles, which was having a negative impact on his health. His handsome looks, smooth voice, impeccable ‘Urdu’ diction, and his believable acting made him the biggest star of the 1950’s and early 1960s, ahead of Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand. The kind of legacy that Dilip Kumar has left cannot be matched by any other actor. His performances in movies like ‘Andaz’, ‘Devdas’, ‘Madhumati’, ‘Naya Daur’, ‘Daag’, ‘Ganga Jamuna’ and many more have been seen as lessons in acting by most actors who have come after him. He was the first actor to win the Filmfare Best Actor Award and since then, has also won the maximum Filmfare Best Actor Awards (8, tied with Shahrukh Khan) and has his name in the Guinness Book of World Records for winning the highest number of awards by an Indian actor.
1. Amitabh Bachchan
I actually thought of several special ways to begin his introduction, but then I kind of realized that the man in question here needs no extra embellishment of words at all. Amitabh Bachchan is synonymous with acting in India. He was the first superstar action hero of India and brought in this whole image of ‘Angry Young Man’ in the 1970s with films like ‘Zanjeer’, ‘Deewar’ and many more. But in spite of the fact that he was so loved as an action hero, he excelled in romance movies like ‘Kabhie Kabhie’, ‘Silsila’ and also in comedy roles in films like ‘Amar Akhbar Anthony’, ‘Namak Halal’, ‘Chupke Chupke’ etc. On one hand, he had the biggest blockbusters in the form of Sholay, Don, Coolie etc and on the other, he gave close to life performances in movies like ‘Anand’, ‘Namak Haram’, ‘Abhimaan’ and ‘Mili’. His tall persona, deep voice and dark intense eyes, combined with fine acting skills made him the favourite with the masses as well as the classes. The kind of versatility that Amitabh Bachchan has shown in his career is unthinkable for any other actor in Bollywood. The fact that the whole nation went into a state of mourning when he got almost fatally injured on the sets of Coolie and prayed day and night for his recovery speaks volumes about his popularity. There was not even one actor who could come even close to his rule over Bollywood in the 1970s. And even today, he is one of the most in-demand actors of Hindi cinema. He has done some of the most critically acclaimed films of his career in his 2nd innings like ‘Aks’, ‘Black’, ‘Paa’ and ‘Piku’. He has won 15 Filmare Awards and 4 National Awards in his career till now. And we are sure that there are many more such performances to come from this man who defines greatness in Indian cinema!
Read More: Best Amitabh Bachchan Movies