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Naseeruddin Shah’s 5 Greatest  Performances

It is  as hard to pick the best performances  of  Naseeruddin Shah as it is to pick  a cluster  of  stars  from the sky as  the “best”. What I can tell you is  that if you’ve missed the  5 performances  below then  your existence as  as  movie lover is  incomplete.

  1. Sparsh(1979):  Many  have  played blind. But none as  the one  who can see right through human hypocrisy. Naseeruddin Shah  as  the the self-respecting , self-sufficient  visually impaired Annirudh Parmar  is the best portrayal  I’ve seen  of  a  blind  man in cinema  from any  part  of  the world in any language. This incredible performance  has  become  a reference point for  all  actors playing blind. Stumbling over furniture  to look blind went out of fashion after Naseer’s Sparsh.
  2. Albert Pinto Ko Gussa  Kyon Aata Hai(1979):  I  love watching  Naseer do accents. Because he doesn’t “do” them . He  embraces accents  like long-lost brothers. As the angry Albert Pinto, Naseer was spot-on with the Catholic colloquialism.  Like   Meryl Streep, Naseeruddin Shah   never  loses  hold  of an accent.  The  language doesn’t  betray the character  for even a second. But  why is  Pinto so  angry? Look around you.The  issues that angered him  are more relevant today than ever.
  3. Masoom(1982):  It isn’t easy  making  the father  of  an illegitimate child look  sympathetic. But  DK’s anguished outburst when he tells his rightly  unforgiving wife, “Kya karun? Should I  kill myself?” reverberates across the  frames of  this sublime lyrical  take on infidelity and  forgiveness.  Not often  does Naseer get a chance  to play an urban upperclass gentleman with problems that Pinto  or Parmar wouldn’t entertain  if they can help it. Naseeruddin Shah ’s scenes with his  screen-son  Jugal Hansraj reminded many years later  found an echo in  Liam Neeson and his little son in  Curtis Hanson’s  Love Actually.
  4. Paar(1983): It’s  a pig’s life for  the  economically backward Naurangia  in this powerful   parable  on poverty .Naseer and Shabana  both won richly deserved National awards  for portaying a desperately poor couple herding pigs through a dangerous  river. For Naseer this  was  the first part in his career that required  him to make physical preparation. Bare-chested and defiant he rages against the  river currents like a penniless King Lear raging against the winds.
  5. Pestonjee(1988): The  best Parsi accent  I’ve heard, better than even Boman Irani’s  genealogically bequeathed Parsi accent. Naseer was  Piroj Shah,  the fumbling loser who watches the love of his life marry his best friend. It’s a  sad droopy listless character, surrounded by an aura  of doom. Naseer plays Piroj with an air of tragic inevitability, as if he knows this man won’t be happy in  life. But Piroj  is capable of  unexpected courage under  pressure. Naseeruddin Shah  could, and did,  bring layers  of  character to his  personality.

As  I read the above list I suddenly realize that  Naseeruddin Shah ’s co-star in  all  of them was  Shabana Azmi. They are indeed the First  Couple  of  neo-realism in India,  though in real life they  are not friends.

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