Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema

A pick of the most memorable acting performances

Published: Apr 27, 2013 06:22:49 AM IST
Updated: Jul 30, 2021 08:28:10 PM IST
25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema
Image: Indikino Edutainment
Balraj Sahni in Garam Hawa

{ Hindi }

Balraj Sahni
in Garam Hawa (Scorching Winds), 1974
Films about partition are usually angry in their tone. Garam Hawa is downbeat and elegiac. Sahni is the head of a Muslim family that is coming apart after the Partition of India. He fills his character with dignity, grief and is never maudlin. Sahni was a natural actor and that’s what helps his character.

Utpal Dutt
in Bhuvan Shome, 1969
An ageing and strict government employee takes a vacation in the wilderness. He comes back a changed man. He is kinder, gentler and more connected with himself than before. Dutt conducts a masterclass in acting where he goes from being a martinet to being confused and clumsy and finally, a liberated soul.

25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema
Amitabh Bachchan
in Deewar, 1975
Bachchan’s breakthrough was Zanjeer, but the Vijay of that film was angry and sullen; his acting largely focussed around only one emotion: Anger. In Deewar, he assembles the entire orchestra of rage. Deewar’s Vijay was defiant, cool, cocky, unreasonable and full of pathos.

Amjad Khan
in Sholay, 1975
The rasping voice, the arrogant swagger, the evil laugh, that malevolent eye—Amjad Khan’s bravura performance of a dacoit from the badlands of Chambal has few parallels in Indian cinema. Khan put the venom back in villainy in a performance that hasn’t ever been matched.

Sanjeev Kumar
in Angoor, 1982
Normally great acting performances are associated with tragedy, or the character exhibiting a panoply of emotions. It is not often that a comic role gets this status. The one exception is Sanjeev Kumar’s double role in Angoor (based on Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors) where he makes you joyful with effortless acting and amazing comic timing.

25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema
Dilip Kumar
in Devdas, 1955
Drunkard, loser and a coward. Who wants to see a character like that? It was left to Dilip Kumar and his intensity to make you feel for the pathetic fellow. Devdas was an extreme performance; on the deep end of the tragedy ocean. Only an expert of the emotion, which Dilip Kumar is, could have taken the viewer there.

Naseeruddin Shah
in Sparsh (Touch), 1980
The film explores a complex relationship between a visually impaired principal (Naseeruddin Shah) of a school for such children and a teacher (Shabana Azmi). Azmi is terrific but it is Shah whose controlled performance has the right mix of rage, loneliness and, at the same time, extreme vulnerability.

25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema
in Bandini, 1963
Nutan’s masterful performance of a jilted young woman who murders her lover’s wife in Bimal Roy’s classic is arguably the best acting by a lead actress in Indian cinema. Nutan’s genius lay in portraying a whole range of emotions without resorting to over-the-top histrionics. The pièce de résistance is the scene in which her face conveys conflicting sentiments as she is about to commit the murder.

25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema
Smita Patil
in Mirch Masala, 1987
Patil was a great actress. Many of her great performances are laser-like in focus on a few things. So Arth for instance was about vulnerability and desire. Jait Re Jait was about resilience and belief. Mirch Masala covers the entire oeuvre of her acting chops. From the low key of the early frames to the full blast upper registers in the closing stages of the film: The transformation is awesome.

in Umrao Jaan, 1981
This is a journey back in time to the Lucknow of 1840 and your guide to the journey is Rekha’s matchless Umrao Jaan. Played with supreme poise, Rekha constructs a character that is unforgettable and heartbreaking. One wonders if the role can be ever be attempted by anyone again.

25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema
JV SOMAYAJULU in Sankarabharanam

{ Telugu }
JV Somayajulu
in Sankarabharanam (The Ornament of Shankara), 1980
JV Somayajulu, an IAS officer in his 50s, plays a Carnatic musician, misunderstood for supporting the daughter of a prostitute, ignored by a society where classical music is in decline, and is being overtaken by pop music. It was a surprise hit. It opened to empty seats, gathered speed and, today, enjoys a cult status. Somayajulu played his part with such dignity and intensity that you can’t listen to any of its hugely popular songs without imagining him performing them as his sadhana.

{ Kannada }
Dr Rajkumar
in Bangaaradha Manushya (The Golden Man), 1972
A living god for all Kannadigas, Dr Rajkumar (1954-2005) plays the brother of a woman just widowed. Their older brother abandons the family, and Rajkumar is left to help rebuild it from its remains. He sends his sister’s sons to the city for higher studies and takes care of the entire household. When circumstances improve and Rajkumar himself has a family, his wife dies, and one of his sister’s sons questions his loyalty to the family. Rajkumar then leaves, without a trace. “He’s the only actor, who has done all type of roles, comedy, sentimental, historical, mythological. Whatever Rajkumar would say, people did,” says KM Veeresh, founder,, a Kannada film portal. This film is considered a milestone in Rajkumar’s career, and although it did not start well, it ran for an entire year, and got some city youngsters to leave their plush jobs to take up agriculture in their villages.

{ Malayalam }
in Mathilukal (Walls), 1989

In 1989, there were 11 other films with Mammootty in the lead. In 1986, there were 36 films. The sheer volume never came in the way of Mammootty getting into the skin of his characters. In Mathilukal, he plays a prisoner in love with a fellow woman prisoner, who is on the other side of a wall. Directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, the film is based on a 1965 autobiographical novel by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer.

in Bharatham, 1991
In Bharatham, Mohanlal plays a talented singer who adores his increasingly alcoholic elder brother, who also happens to be his guru. As Mohanlal’s fame rises, the elder brother first grows jealous and then becomes respectful of his talent. However, he dies on a pilgrimage, leaving Mohanlal to take care of the family, especially their younger sister who is about to get married. One of the best examples of his talent to simply live the role.

{ Tamil }
Sivaji Ganesan
in Parasakthi (Supreme Energy/Goddess), 1952
In his cinematic debut, Sivaji Ganesan (1928-2001) plays a man from Burma who visits his hometown in India to attend his sister’s wedding, only to become a victim of frauds and crooks, losing everything except his sense of justice. This plays out in a court scene towards the climax. The scene is a heady mix of sober photography, hard hitting dialogues (written by M Karunanidhi, Tamil Nadu’s former chief minister), and a passionate performance by Sivaji. His acting evolved over the years, but the core elements that defined him—he could speak a thousand words with a mere gesture, and could mesmerise audiences, like Morgan Freeman, by reading out a telephone directory—were all there.

25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema
Image: Hindu Photo Archives
Thengai Sreenivasan in Kaliyuga Kannan

Thengai Sreenivasan / Rajinikanth
in Thillu Mullu (Hodgepodge), 1981
Rajinikanth, the superstar, is mostly known for his charisma, punch dialogues and mindboggling stunts. It’s a shame, because he is among the best comedians in Tamil cinema. There’s a bit of self-effacing comedy in almost all his roles, but nothing can match his act in Thillu Mullu, a remake of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Gol Maal. Even so, many believe the real hero of the film is Thengai Srinivasan (1937-1998), whose potrayal of a strict boss and a father has influenced generations of comedians.

in Mouna Ragam (Silent Melody), 1986
Mani Ratnam explores arranged marriages, and the process of a girl settling down with a virtual stranger. The girl, a bit of rebel, moves to Delhi, where her husband works, away from Chennai, away from her conservative parents and doting sisters; she takes with her memories of a dead man from her college days. The mood shifts from the tension of an intensity that only married people can identify with, to the light-hearted comfort of the familiar joys of discovery, mostly shaped by the effortless performance of the talented actress.

Kamal Haasan
in Mahanadi (The Great River), 1994
It’s not often that Kamal Haasan lets the story and screenplay overtake his performance. But when he lets it happen, it can haunt the audience for years. In Mahanadi, Haasan plays an innocent widower, a small-time businessman with a loving family whose chance meeting with a devious crook takes him down a tragic road, landing him in jail, his son with gypsies, and his daughter in a brothel in Kolkata. When his jail term is over, he goes in search of his daughter, and their meeting is one of the most poignant moments in Tamil cinema. See it once, and it haunts you forever, in a way that is both uplifting and scary.

{ Bengali }

25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema
Supriya Choudhury
in Meghe Dhaka Tara (Cloud-Capped Stars), 1960
Nita, portrayed by Choudhury, is the sole breadwinner of a refugee family from East Bengal, living in the suburbs of 1950s Calcutta. Her family exploits her, while caring little for her own personal dreams, hardships and losses. Broken by circumstances and tuberculosis, her anguished cry ‘Dada ami banchte chai’ (Brother, I want to live) is one of the most well-recognised moments of Bengali cinema.

Soumitra Chatterjee
in Jhinder Bandi, 1961
Chatterjee is a creation of Satyajit Ray, but ironically his best performance happens to be in a non-Ray film. He’s the charming anti-hero in this adaptation of The Prisoner of Zenda, pitted against his biggest contemporary Uttam Kumar. Swordplay, wordplay and myriad emotions later, he wins this fascinating battle of superlative performances.

25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema
Chhabi Biswas
in Jalsaghar (The Music Room), 1958
Biswas plays a feudal lord unable to come to terms with his lost zamindari. He goes about inflicting self-harm in almost King Lear-esque fashion. In the closing sequence, a flawless Biswas—soaked in vanity and part insanity—is jubilant after cutting his nouveau-riche neighbour (a paradox to his own privileged class) to size during the last of his grand jalsa. That moment seals his fate and the performance.

Uttam Kumar
in Nayak (The Hero), 1966
Arindam is a hugely successful and arrogant film star who reluctantly takes a train to Delhi to receive a prestigious award. During the journey, he inadvertently pours out details of his life—a brittle, insecure existence behind the glamorous public image—to a sensitive and intelligent journalist (Sharmila Tagore). The niggling question is: Did Kumar, the biggest matinee idol of Bengali cinema, simply play himself?

Ananya Chatterjee
in Abohomaan, 2010
She plays three different selves and her effortless transitions from one to the other testify her versatility and acting prowess. In a memorable scene, she lies unceasingly to the most eminent filmmaker in town who’s called her for an audition. She leaves everyone speechless and you know she’s arrived, both on screen and off it.

{ Marathi }

25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema
Upendra Limaye
in Jogwa (The Awakening), 2009
The national award winner features Limaye who is given away by his parents to the service of goddess Yellamma. He plays a Jogta, a person who begs in the name of the goddess, is treated as a sex slave, taken advantage of by the ruling classes. A Jogta has to stop feeling like a man, wear a sari and live a life without desires. Limaye goes through a range of emotions from being subdued to extreme anger. He is able to convey the searing emotional conflict of a man forced to live like a woman by falling in love with a woman.

Nilu Phule
in Samna, 1975
Phule plays Hindurao Dhonde Patil, a zamindar who treats the village like his personal fiefdom. He represents the old, feudal system of the co-operative and sugar lobby. One day, he meets a beggar (Shreeram Lagoo) and is impressed by his straight talking and his ability to stand up to him. He takes care of the drunkard but is not able to answer all the questions raised by him. Phule’s cruelty is subtle: He does not commit acts of gruesome violence or delivers crass dialogues; his presence is enough to fill you with revulsion.

(This story appears in the 03 May, 2013 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Sandeep Jayachandran

    Megastar mammootty is the most talented actor in India.....don\'t compare anyone with him because he is a legend

    on Aug 11, 2016
  • Merwin

    ROFL.. this is not indian cinema this is bollywood cinema.

    on Jun 18, 2016
  • Nikhil Suresh

    No offence, but Mohanlal and Kamal Haasan alone trump every other Indian actor.

    on May 28, 2016
  • Vijay Gadkar

    these could have also been considered. Amol Palekar in Aakrit, Kanhaiyalal in Ganga Jamuna.

    on May 28, 2016
  • Anurag Singh

    Where is the performance of Nargis Dutt which gave India only 1 nomination in Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role?

    on May 15, 2016
  • Kausthub

    Well, you really missed out the best actors like Kamal Hassan, Mohanlal, ANR, NTR, Vikram - you just missed the greatest South India actors.

    on Apr 30, 2016
    • Ajith Edassery

      Kamal and Mohanlal are very much there. Vikram? :)

      on May 17, 2016
  • Chinmai`

    What about Chiranjeevi..if you are putting Rajinikanth in the list by forgetting Chiranjeevi.. I can see the partiality in this..very bad list from Forbes once again.. at least where is NTR.. India's number one actor as per CNN IBN survey.

    on Apr 28, 2016
  • Narendra Agali

    What about NTR, ANR (Pillars of the Telugu industry)?. I do not agree with the list. Thank you.

    on Jan 6, 2016
  • Sreenivas

    This list is wrong. Missing many of BEST actors like SVR and Sr. NTR in telugu, Kamal, Mammutty, Dr Raj Kumar, Raj Kapoor many.

    on Jan 3, 2016
  • Almost Incredulous

    Wow what a list. Where do we start? OK Balraj Sahni and Smita Patil in - that\'s good. But if you are going to include Amitabh and Amjad Khan in the list, then why not Guru Dutt or Ashok Kumar? I do applaud you for not including that huckster Raj Kapoor. And if Rekha and Nutan are in the list, why not Nargis, Meena Kumari, Suchitra Sen or Madhu Bala? And what\'s the deal with just one selection from each of the \"regional\" film industries? You mean to say you can compare a JV Somayajulu and Balraj Sahni. And you mean you have seen and comprehend and understand all these languages and sub-cultures so well as to judge performances across 100 years. Such hubris. The whole idea IMHO is preposterous but then I guess that\'s what sells copy.

    on Dec 23, 2015
  • Hash

    Why are you people always neglecting the south Indian film industry. There are loads of movies with great performance had came out from the south and even noted in outside the country yet no reorganization from india. How can you put such a list without considering performance of actors like mammootty, mohanlal, kamal hassan, etc. These actors have bagged 9 national awards for their great performances together.

    on Dec 12, 2015
  • Arun

    Mohan lal one of the best actor ever He is 5 th position

    on Dec 9, 2015
  • Kurella Naresh

    kamal haasan is the best hero in india

    on Dec 2, 2015
  • Naresh .k


    on Dec 2, 2015
  • Nithish

    where is NTR, mammootty, mohanlal, kamal, vikram. this list totally avoided legends from south.

    on Nov 1, 2015
  • Sudhir

    there is no wonder Balraj sahni tops the list. Sanjeev kumar should come next.. both were extraordinRY TALENTS..ANR was far better than Dilip kumar as devdas. So neither dilip/amitabh\'s performances should come in to the list.rather i would go for naseeruddin shah in masoom and one of the Uttamkumar \'s performances. if they count on south indian cinema, there are actors like SVR/NTR/Sivaji/DR rajkumar who would top the list at least with one of their performances if iam not wrong. SV ranga rao once rated as top 5 actors allover the world - all of these south stars were extraordinary, but they were more dramatic in their approach in most of their films as to cater the liking of south audiences... mohanlal/mammootty are exceptional actors in current generation..

    on Oct 31, 2015
  • Taj


    on Oct 20, 2015
  • Mujeeb

    Many Greatest Acting Performances are missing. Mostly Mammoottys 1.Oru vadakanveera Ghadha, 2.Amaram, 3.Dr.Ambedkhar, 4.Thaniyavarthanam, 5.Ponthanmada, 6.Vidheyan,....etc. & some Kamalhasan Performance also missing

    on Aug 18, 2015
  • Sudhakar .k

    how come telugu missed from this??? The great NTR should be the top of this list

    on Aug 3, 2015
  • Sunipchakraborty

    I think srk for chak de and aamir for lagan should be included.with out them I suppose no list can be completed

    on Jul 30, 2015
  • Mantvirat

    Dr: rajkumar

    on Jul 19, 2015
  • Riyasmancharoden

    Mohanlal is best actor in the film industry (iruvar.Tamil)

    on Jul 4, 2015
  • Ak

    Where are these Best Actors in India left out. 1. Ranga Rao 2. Sivaji Ganesan 3. Mohanlal 4. NageswaraRao 5. Om puri 6. Kamal hassan 7. Anupam Kher 8

    on May 9, 2015
    • Ajith Edassery

      Check again. Kamal Hassan, Mohanlal, Sivaji are all there. Om Puri is missing :/ And Anupam Kher? LOL

      on May 17, 2016
  • Rajesh Rajagopal

    Maybe ur knowledge of kannada cinema is limited . Dr rajkumar in bangaaradha manushya is a right choice . He gave a world class performance . But some other mind blowing performances that shud have been a part of this list are b r panthulu in school master , vishnuvardhan in muthina haara , anantnag in beladingala baale , chaaruhaasan in tabarana kathe & shankarnag in ondhaanondhu kaaladhalli . Anantnag is a fine actor , on par with the best in india , but unfortunately , he has not got the recognition he deserved !!

    on Apr 22, 2015
  • Kousik

    First of all you need to watch generations & wide variations of movies both culturally & language wise. Then only it is possible to comment. I have watched some. First comes The greatest of world cinema Uttam Kumar. but why? if you thoroughly watch his movies, u can notice that he played characters of a farmer or poor village boy wearing dhoti, middle class unemployed with pant shirt, rich businessman with blazer & suite. Now actors wear dresses according to their characters. but all the dresses merge with the character all the time? not possible. why not? character & dress is okay, but if the actor can not merge with both of them then there is problem likewise oil & water. here comes the exception...Uttam Kumar...he merged with dress, character, his own body & time...thats where you find no flaws... when character looks perfect characterically it is called natural acting, else acting.. Balraj Sahni, Dr. ANR, Sivaji Ganesan, Dilip kumar are in the same league with Uttam Kumar.

    on Mar 26, 2015
    • Nikhil

      You mentioned natural acting (I too love it); I recommend you check out an actor called Mohanlal.

      on May 28, 2016
  • Souvik Majumdar

    Manoj Bajpayee should in The Gangs of Wasseypur I (2012)

    on Feb 14, 2015
  • Yakshith

    all time best actor Dr rajkumar. just see his movies and identify any fault in his movies if u found one means i ll stop to see any movies in the world. complete performance in acting and as well as singing beauty. every thing

    on Jan 19, 2015
  • Ubs

    TOP INDIAN ACTORS(NOT IN PARTICULAR ORDER)-ANR(Telugu), NTR(Telugu),Sivaji ganeshan,MGR(Tamil),Mamotty, Mohanlal,Dilip kumar,Amitabh Bachan,Shah Rukh Khan, Naseeruddin Shah. Om puri and Kamal Hassan, Vikram from Tamil........If I need to pick the best among them....It would be ANR or Kamal.

    on Dec 22, 2014
  • Zsivaz

    A silly list. The person who made the list seems to have just put the actors who are regarded as great actors - purely for the sake of it. Take Sivaji Ganesan - arguably the greatest actor of them all. They have included Parasakthi - which is an awesome performance. But I could think of several of his performances which I consider far better. Thiruvatchelvar Thiruvillayayadal Deiva Magan Thangapathakam Kappotoliya Thamizan Vasantha Maligai Veerapandiya Kattaboman Gauravam These were all far better performances Kamal Haasan in Mahandi was brilliant but I still think he was better in Guna and Nayagan. Mohanlal\'s best performance is Iruvar- no contest!

    on Dec 13, 2014
    • Nikhil

      I loved him in Iruvar, but he was equally good in movies like Kireedam, Bharatham, Thoovanathumbikal, Spadikam, Devasuram and Vanaprastham.

      on May 28, 2016
  • Praveen

    ntr is legend. where is he? false report. ntr is the no 1 actor in india

    on Nov 24, 2014
  • Ramana

    Where is NTRal and SV Ranga Rao. You must know SV Ranga Rao and Sivaji Ganeshan. Only these two actors got International MoviAwards from India all time.

    on Nov 2, 2014
  • Asim Khan

    Dr rajkumar realy best actor in bollywood

    on Oct 17, 2014
  • Ram

    All best actors first preference bollywood actors & north r close too....I don\'t know pouranika movies in telugu,tamil actors not greater than social commersial movies actors..?????????? It\'s n\'t equal to hollywood 40years before???? wt a great committee to prefre???no graphics, no visual effect but actors how to acting best output that films\'s easy... Once u see pouranika movies in telugu..

    on Oct 13, 2014
  • Niranjan

    Dr Rajkumar is te easily best actor of all time,b\'coz he is the only complete actor to perform all the charecters & categories of movies had in Indian cinema.

    on Oct 6, 2014
  • Deepak

    This list is bull. It doesn't mean anything.

    on Oct 1, 2014
  • Prasanna Kumar

    Dr. Rajkumar (annavru) is the best indian actor for ever.

    on Sep 22, 2014
    • Deepak

      Dr. Raj is the best. This list doesn\'t mean squat if there\'s no Dr. Raj in it.

      on Oct 1, 2014
  • Srinivas

    Performance of NTR in Dana Veera Sura Karna and ANR in Devdas and many amazing performances of S V Ranga Rao - no wonder india is a country of countries and there arent many experts who know it all about all languages and juxtapose /judge accurately

    on Sep 17, 2014
  • Rishi

    You have omitted Anupam Kher in \"Saaransh\"... Om Puri in \"Ardh Satya\"..Thilakan (Malayalam) in \"Kattikuthira\"

    on Sep 3, 2014
  • Eswarakumar

    Sr NTR no 1 actor in the world for ever. he acted over 750 characters in 362 movies. never before

    on Jul 28, 2014
  • Amarnath

    Dr rajkumar no 1 actor indian film history

    on Jun 30, 2014
  • Harshit Babbar

    shahrukh performance in \"dil se\" should have been in this list

    on Jun 14, 2014
  • Harshit Babbar

    shahrukh performance in \"dil se\" should have been in this list

    on Jun 14, 2014
  • Rani

    As always RAJESH KHANNA IS SIDELINED BY THE BIASED MEDIA!! ANAND AND AMAR PREM how can these movies be not in the best acting list !! RAJESH KHANNA did an incredibly impeccable performance that could not have been done by any actor !! The list is simply incomplete without the great KAKAJI !!!

    on Jun 12, 2014
  • Mohankumar.m

    it is not fully right,you guys forgot \"the brandalam of indian cinema chevaliar sivaji ganesan\"no one can able to match his performance,

    on May 3, 2014
  • Synsyd

    Laughable. Ganga Jamuna, Devadas, Madhumati, Sagina, Shikast are some of the greatest acting incidents. Deewar should not be in the list. Meena Kumari has done many wonderful movies.

    on Mar 16, 2014
  • Bobby

    Amazing that you missed the two best female performances ever in Hindi cinema: Meena Kumari in Sahib Bibi Ghulam and MADHUBALA in Mughal-e-Azam

    on Feb 24, 2014
  • Jishnu

    did u forget mohanlal in kireedam??

    on Feb 19, 2014
  • Paramasivan S

    I strongly believe that Anbe Shivam of Kamalahasan is the classical Indian Cinema with outstanding and powerful performance from Kamalahasan. Anbe Shivam, Nayakan, Thevar Magan, Mahanadhi,Pushpak, Hey Ram, Sadma, Guna, Appu Raja are some of the brilliant movies of Kamalahasan which redefined Indian Cinema and are game changer for experiments.

    on Feb 8, 2014
  • Shivaranjan Ks

    Dr.rajkumar kannada actor must be in top 5....list....

    on Feb 6, 2014
  • Abhinand

    where is mohanlal

    on Jan 19, 2014
  • Jamshad

    Amitabh may be no 1 indian super star. agree, but in performance point of view, DEEWAR is shame in this list, but the problem is that Forbes cant complete their list with out Amitabh.

    on Dec 22, 2013
  • Jamshad

    not only in mathilugal but also in lot of films mammotty play great perfomance.mammotty must be among first 5 in this list,you people still show your northen partiality, I 100 % AGREE WITH YOUR LIST ,but some of the good perfomances are at bottom

    on Dec 22, 2013
    • Varshini

      Mathilugal is nothing when compared to Mamooty\'s performance in Amaram as the affectionate and illiterate father. He was the right choice for playing Baba Ambedkar too.

      on Jul 18, 2015
      • Nikhil

        Mammootty in Amaram was wonderful.

        on May 28, 2016
  • Naren

    Surprisingly..GURU DUTT\'s performance in PYAASA and KAAGAJ KE PHOOL is ignored.

    on Dec 9, 2013
  • Somasundaram

    Left out persons -Nagesh - Tamil Comedian for his beautiful timings- Servar Sundaram , Enga Veettu pillai where he always delivers the dialogue mis spelling the words; T.S.Balaiah for his different roles- villain, character roles and Comedian (Kathalikka Neramillai

    on Dec 5, 2013
  • Abin

    When this article is intended to be as the 25 Greatest acting Performances in India !! it should be Generic. Rather Categorizing in names and regions is not the right way !!

    on Sep 25, 2013
  • Arun Smith

    sorry this about hindi film not indian cinema,come to south which achieved more than bollyhood film,in terms of acting .we legends kamal Hassan with 3 national awards,mohanlal with 4 national awards,mammooty with 3 national ,they achieved all this through there performance and this's just one sentence about this legends and about south films

    on Sep 21, 2013
    • Bhaskar

      I would like to make a small correction here. All 4 of Mohanlal\'s National awards are not for performances. One he won as the producer of the best movie in the same year that he got the best actor (for the same movie) award. Then he won a special jury mention for his acting in the same year that Mammootty won the best actor award. Only two times he one the best actor award. And then there is an award for the best movie which he received as the producer and not for any talent. The fourth one special jury mention is for his talent, but again it is not an award. Only three actors have one 3 best actor awards. In chronological order, Kamal Hasan mammootty and Amitabh Bachan. None has got 4 or more.

      on Dec 16, 2013
      • Debasis

        Dude...u forgot Mithun Chakraborthy.....

        on Sep 25, 2014
  • Narayan

    i saw someone saying hindi cinema = indian cinema.... for your information 4 states that is in the south contribute to 70% income from films.... Lol.... so who was saying indian cinema is bollywood...its pure misconception... secondly this list is hopeless....

    on Sep 19, 2013
  • Prodosh Manikya Sen

    \"Motilal\" might have been overlooked !

    on Sep 12, 2013
  • Arindam Ghatak

    Madhabi Mukherjee in Charulata, Robi Ghosh in Aranyer Din Ratri, Sharada in Swayamvaram, Kali Banerjee in Ritwik Ghatak\'s Ajantrik, Tulsi Chakraborti in Ray\'s Parash Pathar, Soumitra Chatterjee in Ray\'s Sonar kella, Utpal Dutt in Golmaal, Meena Kumari in Pakeezah and Saheb, Bibi aur Ghulam, Jennifer Kendall in 36 Chowringhee Lane, Shabana in Arth, Naseeruddin Shah in Paar, Anita Kanwar in Om Dar Ba Dar, Om Puri in Sadgati... etc etc etc...

    on Sep 4, 2013
  • Bijoy Roy

    As per my opinion shabana azmi , raj kapoor , Rajesh Khanna should be enlisted...

    on Sep 4, 2013
  • Livin

    LOL....This article seem to be about Hindi Cinema, not Indian cinema. worst list... the best acting performances are, 1, p j antony (nirmalyam) 2, mammootty (mathilukal) 3, mohanlal ( vanaprastham) 4, kamal Hassan ( moonam pirai) 5, rajkapoor ( mera naam jocker)

    on Aug 25, 2013
  • Neeladri Dhar

    Not agreed with Ananya Chatterjee in Bengali domain. Should be listed Sabitri Chattopadhyaye, and Uttamkumar should be listed top in Bengali domain.

    on Aug 8, 2013
  • Anil

    good combination n mixing actors from all regions n picking the best. I wish om puri, shabana azzmi n raj kapoor in the list too but overall good list

    on Aug 8, 2013
  • Vinod

    Where is dharmendra in satyakaam. Yahaa filmfare se 25 saal k 25 actor liye or ho forbes list tayaar. Dharam ki filmo ki agar adjust gross nikali jaye to no. 1 h. Or koi b indian actor unke aas pass b nahi tikta. Aaj b primtime me filmi channels per sabse jayaada unki filme dikhayi jati h. O nasir bhai in a wefnesday

    on Jul 30, 2013
  • Prasanna

    LoL. A few mentions are worthy, but on the whole this is clearly a hindi cinema list, not an Indian cinema list. Obviously the writer watches and understands only hindi, and for sure is film buff. Mohanlal, Sivaji Ganesan, Kamalhassan, a list without them is no list. Only happy to see Sahni saab in the list.

    on Jul 18, 2013
  • Sikander

    The Best acting performances are always from south indian cinemas in front of acting capability of mammooty mohan lal and kamal hassan amithab bachan is nothing with out considering south indian movies indian cinema is nothing. 95 % of bollywood movies r utter waste and the rest r remaking from south.

    on Jul 16, 2013
    • Swatz

      u said it pal...u r absolutely right..bollywood is getting undeserved attention.....

      on Aug 17, 2013
  • Sanjay S Nair

    kamal hassan\'s moonam pirai and nayagan..P J Antony\'s nirmalyam.. shabna azmi , sharada , and many others yet to come to the rows

    on Jun 29, 2013
  • Shaik Abdul Jaleel

    The Indian Show Man Raj Kapoor has to be added to the list. His excellent performance in \"Mera Naam Joker\" is a master piece.

    on Jun 11, 2013
  • Shahina

    thankz 4 adding mammotty and mohanlal,but there were good actors like naseer,jayan, madhu and sharadha

    on Jun 2, 2013
  • Mikawin

    A great list and one of the rare ones that covers a \"broadish\" spectrum of the Indian film industry. ~Mika

    on Jun 1, 2013
  • Bujahari

    A good compilation of great performances each one mentioned has definitely touched our hearts

    on May 24, 2013
  • Sudhir

    whats wrong with Nargis Dutt's performance in Mother india? SV Rangarao's performance in Nartanasala was unmatched by any indian actor till date.Waheeda Rehman's sensible performance in Guide , Meena kumari's performances in Saheb bibi aur ghulam and Pakeejha should also be considered . Savitri's great performance in "Chivaraku migildei" was only a glimpse of her abundant acting skills - I think no actress can match her skills in acting in india - if you don't agree with it, Ask legendry kamal hassan.NTR's Dana Veer Sura Karn is also worth mentioned.

    on May 19, 2013
  • Sudhir

    I congratulate the author for this meaningful list. good thing about the author was he tried to cover more languages. Only Rajinikanth is seems to be misfit in this list. I watched tamil version of Golmal, but I liked Amolpalekar\'s acting in original film when compared to that of Rajni\'s. few mistakes i want to rectify from the synopsys. kannada thespian Rajkumar is not the only actor to excel in all types of roles : comedy,sentimental,historical and mythological. Infact NTR (Nandamuri taraka Ramarao ) who enjoyed highest success rate in his times, beleived to born for doing mythological films - he was a versatile actor who have done an incredible range of characters- Mthological, Historical, folklore, Social, Socio-fantasy, Action, Romantic, Sentiment,comedy.. His dialogue delivery can be matched with only with either sivaji Ganesan or SV Ranarao. I have a great respect in rajkumar - as he is the only superstar in india to have won national award for his SINGING talent.. Sivaji Ganesan was the first actor in india to have won an international award. SV rangarao ( for his role kichaka in Nartansala) is second indian to win international award. If you want to see the \"fluency\" in acting, watch any movie of SV Rangarao.. He was at ease, in any kinda of roles he played- Most People Say

    on May 19, 2013
  • Mrigank

    Why not somitra chatterjee in apoorsansar

    on May 17, 2013
  • Manish Kumar

    Interesting list and a lot of effort seems to have gone behind this. Mostly, all lists are debatable and contentious, but this list seemed to have been gleaned out carefully and with a lot of thought. Some unforgettable performances pop up to our delectable surprise -- though I\'m baffled that you left out Meena Kumari\'s Pakeezah and included Naseeruddin Shah\'s Sparsh!

    on May 17, 2013
  • Murthy

    This article seem to be about Hindi Cinema, not Indian cinema.

    on May 16, 2013
  • Ishwar Wadhwa

    without rajesh khanna in anand the list iis incomplete

    on May 15, 2013
    • Varshini

      Ishwar, Kaka looked handsome in Anand but he got the character wrong. A cancer patient won't walk so briskly that too when his months are numbered. When Lalita Powar comes to offer her final prayers he is supposed to be bedridden. But he jumps up and walks briskly to pick up the ring and show it to Suman. His looks were charming but acting was faulty.

      on Jul 18, 2015
  • Shaik Abdul Jaleel

    Raj Kapoor is one of the Greatest Actor of Indian Cinema. His Role in \'Mera Naam Jocker\' is excellent and memorable. His contribution to Bollywood is remarkable.

    on May 15, 2013
  • Hemalata.

    Somayajulu is one pictere wonder. A.Nageswaqrarao for Devdas or Batasari would have been very apt.I think the researcher does not know about a film called Tappu Talanga by Balachnder in which Rajani is great

    on May 14, 2013
  • Somasekhar M

    Please refer alltime telugu classic movie of NTR,ANR

    on May 11, 2013
  • Somasekhar M

    Indian cinema is not complete with out N T RAMARAO

    on May 11, 2013
  • Ikrishs

    Small correction .Thengai srinivasan died on 1988.

    on May 9, 2013
  • Fidel

    you cant just mock at the man with the greatest dynamism...our superstar rajinikanth... he s the greatest actor of all..

    on May 7, 2013
  • Arindam

    I don\'t want to debate this list. But you should have paid more attention to Bengali films. Because before Pather Panchali, the world didn\'t know about Indiima. You have included only 5 aBengali actors and youmany from Bollywood. The list is not complete.

    on May 6, 2013
  • Hari

    To Shishir Prasad, N.S. Ramnath, Sohini Mitter - Indian cinemas all time great actors are 4 they are Amithab Bachan,Kamal Hassan , Mammooty and mohanlal reason is very simple they all are super stars and super actors no actors in india can claim this ironic combination and these 4 actors carring 12 national award for best acting . nasurudin sha ompuri are super actors but not super stars Chiranjeevi rajanikanth or sharukh are super stars but nor super actors . I hope i am making sense

    on May 6, 2013
    • Keerthivasan

      Hari who told that rajini is only super star, you have not watched his serious or comedy movies, he can carry any role with ease unlike kamalhasan who always is cinematic and camera-conscious. Dont be a kamalhasan mania, be sensible always while writing. Kamalhasan always confused common public by his over reaction, but rajini when given good roles, can involve with ease.

      on Nov 10, 2013
      • Priya

        Oh wow, Rajini carry any role with ease because he has never tried different roles except for {mulum malarum, 6il irundhu aruvathu varai and few films) You comparing kamal with rajni (Kamal is a hardworker lives only for cinema) If you are confused by watching his films which means you aren\'t up to a level to understand. Rajni is a mass hero not an actor. He knows to put dramatic fights which is unrealistic in normal life.

        on Dec 31, 2015
      • Priya

        Oh wow, Rajini carry any role with ease because he has never tried different roles except for {mulum malarum, 6il irundhu aruvathu varai and few films) You comparing kamal with rajni (Kamal is a hardworker lives only for cinema) If you are confused by watching his films which means you aren\'t up to a level to understand. Rajni is a mass hero not an actor. He knows to put dramatic fights which is unrealistic in normal life.

        on Dec 31, 2015
  • N.

    This is a list to appease regional prejudices, and not acting. Of course without Dilip Kumar, a second rate actor, this list will be trashed. Not having Ashok kumar in Ashirwad, Madhubala in Mughl-e- azam, Gurudutt in Kagaz ke phool, Meena kumari in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, waheeda rehman in Pyassa, sunil Dutt in \"Mujhe jine do, and actors like Nargis, Sohrab Modi, Motilal, and a host of others will make the list more than 25. So enjoy your delusions. It is a story, that renders opportunity for memorable acting.

    on May 3, 2013
    • Hari

      The Best acting performances are always from south indian cinemas in front of acting capability of mammooty mohan lal and kamal hassan amithab bachan is nothing with out considering south indian movies indian cinema is nothing. 95 % of bollywood movies r utter waste and the rest r remaking from south.

      on May 6, 2013
  • Anita

    I would like to add a few. Ashok kumar in Ashirwad, Madhubala in Mughl-e- azam, Gurudutt in Kagaz ke phool, Meena kumari in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, waheeda rehman in Pyassa, sunil Dutt in \"Mujhe jine do.....Om Puri in Akrosh........ And I would rate Balraj Sahni and Nutan as the most brilliant performers. Sanjeev kumar aws another brilliant actor who did not get the acknowledgement due to him.

    on May 3, 2013
  • Anita

    I would like to add a few. Ashok kumar in Ashirwad, Madhubala in Mughl-e- azam, Gurudutt in Kagaz ke phool, Meena kumari in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, waheeda rehman in Pyassa, sunil Dutt in "Mujhe jine do.....Om Puri in Akrosh........ And I would rate Balraj Sahni and Nutan as the most brilliant performers. Sanjeev kumar was another brilliant actor who did not get the acknowledgement due to him.

    on May 3, 2013
  • Satish

    One of the worst article in forbes india. This shows author knows nothing about Indian Cinema.

    on May 3, 2013
  • Lim S

    Mathilukal (malayalam film) Mathilukal (English: Walls; Malayalam: മതിലുകള്‍) is a 1989 Indian feature film written, directed and produced by Adoor Gopalakrishnan based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. The film focusses on the prison life of Vaikom Muhammad Basheer and the love between him and Narayani, a female inmate of the prison, who remains unseen throughout the film. Mammootty plays the role of Vaikom Muhammad Basheer while K. P. A. C. Lalitha gives voice to Narayani. The film was well received upon screening at the Venice Film Festival, and won four awards at the National Film Awards in 1990. About casting Mammootty, Adoor says: \"To play someone when he is living is no mean challenge, and the Malayalam star rose up to it\".[1] Plot Confined to the narrow space of a prison cell, Bashir falls in love with a woman in the neighbouring prison compound. They are separated by a high wall so that they never see each other and have to devise ingenious ways for communicating. Narayani, Bashir\'s love is presented as a female voice and never appears in person in the film.

    on May 3, 2013
  • Rajkumar Chopra

    The choices given by you is not so appealing. Nobody can even think that the role of Meena Kumari in Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam, Nargis in MotherIndia, Rajesh Khanna in Annand, Sushil Kumar in Dosti(1964), Waheeda Rehman in Khamoshi,Sanjeev Kumar in Naya Din Nayi Rat(nine roles played by him) and Jayant in Sunghursh is not in your list. You can delete Amitabh from Deewar and Sanjeev Kumar from Angoor and you can also add Sanjeev kumar in Koshish and V Shantaram In Do Ankhen Barah Hath and Rajkapoor in Jagte Raho

    on Apr 30, 2013
    • N

      Raj Kapoor in Gopinath.

      on May 6, 2013
      • Rajkumar Chopra

        Dear N, Thanks for confirming my list. I had seen response by you to other guys and u had correctly mentioned the greats like gurudutt, ashok kumar and others. Actually., we cant judge these rankings only merely by the success of films. Even the role of om puri in ardhasatya was very good bye

        on May 7, 2013
  • Lalit G

    Khamoshi would have been better than Angoor for Sanjeev Kumar. Rajesh Khanna in Anand is missed, and Dilip Kumar in Dosti (or even Naya Daur) would be better than Devdas - better to give it to Guru Dutt for Pyaasa on a similar theme of inebriation and pathos. Anupam Kher\'s tour de force in Saaransh and Om Puri in Ardh Satya (or Aakrosh or Paar - anything with Om Puri, really) also deserve mentioning. Also, the great Shabana Azmi in Arth. Kamal Haasan in Salangai Oli (Saagara Sangamam in Telugu) is certainly better than Mahanadi, and is probably the best male performance by an actor in any Indian movie according to me. All the others actors and movies cited are excellent and deserving of recognition. Expand it to 50 and you can fit in quite a few more gems like Meena Kumari in Pakeeza, Raj Kapoor in Teesri Kasam, Dev Anand (yes! sue me for mentioning Dev in the same breath) in Guide, Jaya Bhaduri in Guddi, Nargs in Mother India, and Shah Rukh in Darr/Baazigar. Please remove Rajinikant if you wish to be taken seriously, and Laxmi in Sirai is better than Revathi in Mouna Raagam, but only by a whisker. Thanks for the list!

    on Apr 29, 2013
  • Ravi

    I had a great regard for forbes list as I thought they do thorough homework before coming up with any top list, but only before reading this article. Sorry to say this but true. Firstly, when we say Indian cinema, irrespective of population, all languages should be given equal importance. That is missing in this article. If the author does not agree with this, then the title should be changed to hindi cinema with some added things from other languages. Secondly, the selected performances list itself draws many arguments from all corners of the country. Telugu devdas by ANR is the pinnacle and well recognized by international critics also. Even dilip kumar himself mentioned that he could not replicate the performance of ANR. Savitri is no less. One of the best natural actress in Indian cinema. Thillu mullu itself is a remake. And till now, nowhere it is mentioned about great acting in this movie in history apart from the commercial name it got. Nobody would have felt so till now. I am not sure of other languages so dont want to comment. I urge the authors should take serious consideration of the comments and work towards that in future

    on Apr 28, 2013
  • Vskumar

    I am familiar with Telugu film industry. There are great number of actors like NTR, ANR, SVR, Nagaiah, Savithri, Vanisri who acted as they lived in the films. None of these actor/actresses films were mentioned. The author selection of 25 films may be good but tagging with greatest action performances of Indian cinema is injustice/shallow understanding.

    on Apr 28, 2013
  • Ravindranathan.p.v.

    While picking the best in Malayalam films , the omission of Jagathi Sreekumar is Surprising . Here is an actor who has done almost a thousand roles with such amazing talent. Each role he did was distinctly different from each other . His timings and conversation is outstanding. Malayalam film would have been very poor without Jagathi Sreekumar !

    on Apr 28, 2013
  • Arjun

    I havnt seen too many masterclass/classic films in various languages to comment on what should or should not make it, but i feel Swathi Mutyum by Kamal Hassan surely deserves to be here. The logic is simple, Anger, laughter, love, happiness etc. - these are emotions we understand and feel regularly, thus we can emote them on screen; but innocence or the lack of knowing the ways of the world, is something we cant understand and thus cant emote naturally on screen. The performance by Kamal Hassan as an autistic person who transforms to marry a widower is simply spell bounding and the best acting i have seen. Another performance would be again Kamal Hassan in Sagar Sangamam (same actor -director duo of Kamal

    on Apr 28, 2013
  • S. Srinivasan

    Any selection of great performances is a very subjective list and I don\'t want to find fault with it. But I would certainly like to add my own choices to this great list of yours (forgive the southern bias): 1) Sheela and Madhu in Chemmeen (Malayalam) 2) Thilakan in Sandesam (Malayalam) 3) Mohanlal in Varavelpu 4) Kamal Hassan in Nayakan (Tamil) 5) Bhamidipati Sabitha in Sapthapathi (Telugu) 6) Charu Hassan in Tabarane Kathe (Kannada) Sarita in Achamillai, Achamillai. An honorary mention could be made of Shamli in Anjali. And I would add Sivaji Ganesan in Mudhal Mariyadhai too because he deviated from his established \"Madrasi acting\" and portrayed a powerfully subtle performance, showing that he could choose to act in any which way he wanted. All said, you should be lauded for coming up with a fairly comprehensive list.

    on Apr 27, 2013
  • Shivaji Singh

    Disappointed with the list . How could you miss Shah Rukh Khan performance in Swades , Chak De India and My Name Is Khan

    on Apr 27, 2013
  • Intacto

    Ill informed piece..not researched at all for other languages apart from Hindi. for eg. in telugu ANR in devdas > dilip kumar in devdas. and also no SV Ranga rao in the list makes the list of the greatest actor from india for sure.

    on Apr 27, 2013
  • Khalid Mohamed

    Well, of course, every selection is bound to be extremely subjective and arguable...but this one appalled me...Balraj Sahni, of course, spot-on...but any Hindi film language performance cannot be be approached without Madhubala in Mughal-e-Azam, Meena Kumari in Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam...and...never mind!

    on Apr 27, 2013
    • Sohini

      Point taken, Khalid. And thank you for the comment.

      on Apr 27, 2013
      • Khalid Mohamed

        Thanks Sohini...a debate...even a diemetric difference of always healthy...

        on Apr 27, 2013
  • Harsh

    Well, well, well. It is such a debatable list. I am sure if all film critics were to assemble a list, their lists would vary remarkably. For me, some roles in Indian cinema are truly immortal: - Amitabh Bachchan in Eklavya - Amitabh in Black - Amitabh in Agneepath - Saif in Omkara - Jackie Shroff in Parinda - Dev Anand in Guide - Om Puri in Aakrosh and many more...

    on Apr 27, 2013
    • Sohini

      You say \"Indian cinema\", yet mention only Bollywood, Sir? :-) Must say, Amitabh Bachchan in Ekalavya is a very interesting choice. Wonder what the Big B himself would have to say about that.

      on Apr 27, 2013
      • Harsh

        Sohini, do you disagree with me on amitabh in eklavya? I think amitabh\'s performance is world class in eklavya. And yes, for me indian cinema is primairily bollywood :)

        on Apr 27, 2013
  • Shashimysooru

    Please do not generalize things by using the word \"Indian\". \"Indian Cinema\" has to include all languages in which movies are produced and one should take all the best performances in those language movies before generalizing and saying \"25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema\". Just because you have said, \"A pick of the most memorable acting performances\", you can\'t put rubbish performances as \"the best\". Frankly speaking, most of the 25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema\" are average performances. Among the 25 you have chosen, the first 10 are from the so-called \"Bollywood\", and interestingly. the greatest actors Hindi cinema has even seen. like Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and many others are not are not listed here. This article shows that it is not free from the popular conception of \"Best Performance\" and \"Indian\". A reader like me really don\'t expect such article from a renowned media house like Forbes!

    on Apr 27, 2013
    • Ramnath

      Thanks a lot for the comment Shashi. You will find Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu films in pages 2

      on Apr 27, 2013
      • Shashimysooru

        Yes, Ramanath. I have read them. But, why top 10 performances are only from Hindi? Why not from other languages? This kind of \"generalization\" is affecting the growth of our India. Why INDIA=HINDI? Is it because, it is the most widely spoken language in India? Or is it because, the govt. of India is imposing Hindi on all language-speakers? I am sorry that by an oversight I have mentioned Naseeruddin\'s name thinking that you have dropped out his name. Thankfully, you have mentioned about his performance. As a whole, it is a \"debatable\" list, indeed!

        on Apr 27, 2013
  • fajar

    Bad list.Mammootty,Mohanlal,Kamal Hassan,Amitab Bachan should be on top. Mammootty has acted over 400 movies in 6 different languages.Mohanlal acted over 300 movies.Kamal and Bachan acted over 150 movies. And these four stars got many national awards.All others are actors but you can\'t compare them with these superstars

    on Apr 26, 2019