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Birthday special: The standout roles of John Abraham's career

Though he has his limitations, the actor exceeded expectations in pulling off some defining roles.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Mayur Lookhar

John Abraham, who over the years, went from being a hot model to actor and then producer, turns 44 today. 

While women and men have been drooling over his muscles and abs for years, it's fair to say that actor has always had his limitations, and perhaps, he too acknowledges it. He's definitely not in the mould of Khans or Kumar, but John Abraham is a survivor.

Here’s looking at back some of the stand-out roles in John Abraham’s career.

Kabir in Dhoom (2004)

It’s been repeated time and again, how Dhoom was a career saving film for John Abraham, Uday Chopra and Abhishek Bachchan. Apart from the thrills, what appealed about Abraham’s character Kabir was his calm demeanour, which is typical of the man in real life. As compared to his earlier films, Abraham appeared composed and kept his emotions in control. The credit here should go to director Sanjay Gadhvi for he knew the strengths and weaknesses of his actors. Dhoom would not only save his career but it also helped Abraham bag his first Filmfare award for the best actor in a negative role.

Rohit Chopra in Zinda (2006)

In times when action films were defined by over the top bravado, loud dialogues, Zinda came as a breath of fresh air. It was more a psychological thriller than an out and out action film. The film was inspired by Korean film Oldboy. (2003). Abraham’s character Rohit was more a disturbed soul scarred by his past, and seeking revenge. Unlike, Dhoom there weren’t many high-octane chases, but Abraham seemed to have felt the agony of his character. He was far from perfect, but viewers were pleasantly surprise that Abraham could pull off such an intense character. It helped him bag him second Filmfare Award for best actor in negative role.

Suhel Khan in Kabul Express (2006)

A relatively unheralded film, Kabul Express had an intriguing subject, one, perhaps, a few years ahead of time. Director Kabir Khan put Abraham and Warsi in roles and locations they hadn’t explored before. The film had its critics both in India and Afghanistan. Indian critics found the film far from real war-life situations, while Afghanistan banned the film for its alleged racist portrayal of the ethnic Hazar Shia minority of Afghanistan.  

From a personal point of view, this was a role that both Abraham and Warsi may never have dreamed of. Warsi was then known as as popular actor, but fans were pleasantly surprised to see Abraham in the role of a video journalist covering the Afghan war. While Abraham’s performance was measured, you like Kabul Express for delving into a genre never explored before.

Kunal Chopra in Dostana (2008)

Some critics called it a poor stereotyping of gays, but the fans didn’t complain. May be that’s how society perceived gay men would behave. John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan’s character were not gay but they only pretended in order to get a rented room in Priyanka Chopra’s apartment. As hard as you tried to be critical, it was difficult to not laugh at the shenanigans of Abraham and Bachchan. Here were two macho men who weren’t afraid to pretend to be gay on screen. If they made you laugh, all that bromance was worth it, and so was their lip-lock. 

Major Vikram Singh in Madras Cafe

A film that he himself produced, Madras Cafe was a fictional political spy thriller set in the background of the Sri Lankan Civil War. The film’s box-office collections were not great. But the critics appreciated the film for its plot and intention. Surprisingly, of all the people Nargis Fakhri chipped in with an impressive performance. Abraham had his flaws, but the sheer  intensity of  the plot  made you overlook everything. The film had a larger issue at its heart, which was more important than any individual performances. Besides, how many producers would have backed such a subject? Abraham should be lauded for investing in Madras Cafe.

Narayan in Water (2005)

It’s unfortunate that the masses don’t really warm up to tales that depict the social ills of our society. Deepa Mehta’s Water was one such tale. Set in Varanasi, Water depicted the plight of widows, especially the young ones in a conservative Indian society in the 1930’s. Abraham played Narayan, an upper class follower of Mahatma Gandhi and Gandhism. With a sublime plot, Water earned international acclaim. Abraham’s humility and honesty is reflected in his character Narayan who falls in love with a widow, Kalyani (Lisa Ray), but this affair doesn’t have a happy ending. Many regard this as the most purposeful role played by Abraham.

No Smoking (2007)

One of John Abraham's finest performances came in No Smoking. In the Kafkaesque drama by Anurag Kashyap, Abraham was pitch perfect as the nicotine addict turned under the threat of death. Restrained and unabashed at the right moments, the film was a turning point in Abraham's growth as an actor. John Abraham's performance earned him some praise, but the film's dismal turn at the box office proved fatal to any chance of his critical acclaim.