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5 not-to-be-missed Pankaj Kapur masterclasses: Birthday special

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An actor whose mere presence can change the impact a scene creates, Pankaj Kapur, who turned 65 this week (on 29 May), has been part of some iconic movies over the years.

Shriram Iyengar

Making his debut with Gandhi (1982) would have been a high for any actor, but for Pankaj Kapur it was just the beginning. Winner of three National awards, Kapur has etched his name into Hindi cinema with some fantastic performances over the years.

From the corrupt contractor in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983) to the ferocious ganglord in Maqbool (2005), the actor's skill and versatility have brought to life characters that are varied and impressive.

While millennials know him more as Shahid Kapoor's dad, the greying beard hides a filmography that includes many gems. Further proof of the actor's influence lies in the rise of actors like Irrfan Khan, Manoj Bajpayee, Pankaj Tripathi and Piyush Mishra, all influenced by him.

Earlier this week, on Wednesday 29 May, Pankaj Kapur turned 65. We take a look at five masterly performances by the actor.

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983)

This film was a watershed for several famous personalities. From Naseeruddin Shah and Satish Shah to Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Sudhir Mishra, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro's list of cast and crew feels like a who's who list of the industry today.

In the midst of it all was Pankaj Kapur playing the slick, oily businessman Tarneja. The confidence and bluster with which Kapur played the role, one of his early appearances on the big screen, is proof of the talent the actor brought with him into the industry.

Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (1986)

A television adaptation of Sidney Lumet's iconic film 12 Angry Men (1957), Ek Ruka Hua Faisla is another wonderful film that feels like a time capsule, with a young Annu Kapoor playing an old man, KK Raina as an idealist, and Pankaj Kapur playing the juror with a mean streak. The film is the perfect exposition of what can be done with great dialogues, good actors, and a dramatic script.

The entire film takes place within the confines of a single room with the 12 jurors locked in argument. Playing a man blinded by his prejudices, the young Pankaj Kapur delivered more proof of his irrepressible talent.

Raakh (1989)

This film never really hit the big screen. A noirish thriller that had chocolate-boy Aamir Khan playing a bloodthirsty man bent on revenge, it was never likely to be a commercial hit in those days.

But as a cult favourite, the film has a lot going for it. From Pankaj Kapur as the pessimistic, dominating ex-policeman who brainwashes this hapless young man to A Sreekar Prasad's editing and Aamir Khan like he was never seen before or again, the film is a rare find for film buffs.

Kapur's searing performance won him his first National award for Best Supporting Actor. The film ran into trouble with the CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification) and wasn't released commercially. By the time a second attempt was made in late 2015, Aamir Khan was said to be not too keen, given his well-crafted image.

Ek Doctor Ki Maut (1990)

The actor won his second National award for another blistering performance as an idealistic man willing to sacrifice everything for his science.

Ek Doctor Ki Maut was directed by Tapan Sinha, a peer of Satyajit Ray, and built on the stark performances of its artistes. Other than Kapur, there were performers like Shabana Azmi and a very young man named Irrfan Khan who drove the film. But Kapur outshone them all as the man fighting to find a cure for a disease at all costs, including his own life.

Maqbool (2003)

This, perhaps, can be termed the high point in the actor's career. Maqbool (2003) might have been Irrfan Khan's vehicle, but the adaptation of the Scottish play would be nowhere without the mercurial violence of Pankaj Kapur's Abbaji. The actor interrupts his long periods of silence with the momentary eruption that is a reminder that there is a volcano underneath, that the character is still a dangerous man.

The film won Kapur his third National award for Best Supporting Actor. While he has kept on acting, it has been a while since he delivered another performance of this calibre. Rest assured, he can unfurl that flag whenever he wishes to.