8. Uttam Kumar
The era was that of post independence. The state of the country is best described as that of despair. Poverty, lack of jobs and declining nature of political ideologies were driving the society mad. The contemporary Bengali was looking for an escape. Uttam Kumar became that. Such was the popularity of this man, that he could murder someone and walk away unhurt. He was the ultimate combination of sophistication and sexuality. The men wanted to be him. The women wanted him. Such was his enigma. His popularity with the masses earned him the title – Mahanayak.
Mohanlal is the quintessential Malayali actor that every Malayali movie lover has rooted for the most. While Mammootty retained the larger than life hero persona, Mohanlal was the average joe who charmed into people’s lives through his affability. Be it the character of Sethumadhavan from ‘Kireedam’ or tourist guide Joji from ‘Kilukkam’ or Georgekutty from ‘Drishyam’, each of his performance spoke volumes about his effort to push himself beyond boundaries. One of the most versatile actors of Indian cinema, he has won five national awards for his work.
6. Akkineni Nageswara Rao
No introduction is needed for Akkineni Nageswara Rao as the late thespian towered over the Telugu film industry, over seven decades. He started working at the age of 17 and donned many characters including playing a woman, as in the older days women were not allowed to perform on stages. During those days, he started off with playing lead roles in mythological and fantasy films but soon graduated into doing social drama and romantic roles. His broken hearted alcoholic act as Devdas, in ‘Devadasu’ garnered him many accolades. His film ‘Premabhisekham’ went on to become the only film at that time to have run in the cinemas continuously for more than a year. A veteran of more than 250 films, he was the recipient of Dada Saheb Phalke award for his contribution to Indian cinema. He passed away in 2014, after being diagnosed with colon cancer. At the time of his death, he was working with his son Akkineni Nagarjuna and grandson Naga Chaitanya for a film ‘Manam’ which became a fitting tribute to him.
Regarded as one of the finest actors of the Kannada diaspora and of Indian cinema, Rajkumar became the matinee idol, who swayed many hearts with his mannerisms and acting. To call him as a cultural phenomenon won’t be far fetched as he resonated with the common man, through his portrayals of a man who favoured values and morals over money, compassion for the others and selfless deeds to help the needy. He played many characters in a career that spanned over five decades. He was the first Indian actor who played a James Bond-esque role in his film ‘Jedara Bale’. Apart from acting, he was also a trained classical singer and gathered many accolades for his singing, including the National Award for Playback singer-Male. In 2005, he was kidnapped by the notorious bandit Veerappan, which caused an uproar in the state as people flocked on roads to support their idol. He was released unharmed after 108 days in captivity. A recipient of the Dada Saheb Phalke Award for his outstanding contribution to the Indian cinema, he passed away in 2005.
4. Shivaji Ganesan
Hailed as the ‘Marlon Brando’ of Indian cinema by Los Angeles Times, Shivaji Ganesan is one of the finest actors of Tamil cinema. He was the man with many talents. Other than being a talented actor, he was also a trained dancer, skilled in Bharatnatyam, Kathhak and Manipuri forms of dances. Born as Villupuram Chinnaiah, he earned the name Shivaji for his epic portrayal of the great Maratha warrior on stage. His espionage thriller ‘Andha Naal’ became the first Indian film not to have any songs, which was quite rare on those days. Renowned for his dramatic roles, he played mythological characters, villain, romantic lead and character roles with equal elan. Acknowledged for his contribution to cinema, he was conferred with Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres honour by the French government and was the first Indian actor to receive the honour.
3. Kamal Hassan