He may not be the biggest or the hottest, but he is definitely the oldest. We are not talking about Amitabh Bachcan- he is a legend and a class apart. Think of the one guy who has stuck around doing lead roles, support roles, cameos and what not since as long as your memory can take you back. He has been around as the leading man in Bollywood

Anil Kapoor

films since the mid eighties, having made his debut in 1979 with Hamare Tumhare. His resume is very impressive, one must say. He has been there, done that. Comedy, action family, sentiment and anything that you can name, even pure style films like Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja or sci-fi, remember Mr. India (maybe his most loved film ever). He has acted with almost all leading directors of Bollywood including Subhash Gahi and Yash Chopra and yet he is here in 2008, hungry for more.

In the first decade of his career he was competing with the likes of Rishi Kapoor, Jackie Shroff and Mithun Chakravorthy for the top spot and still standing at present when most of his former contemporaries have taken to character roles, production or have passed on the baton to the next generation. Anil Kapoor remains a force to contend with, maybe not the strongest in the industry, but a force all the same. He must be the Bollywood star who has had maximum obituaries written over his leading actor career but he has defied predictions and long spells of box office winters to emerge stronger (and it seems younger!)

For an actor of his caliber, Anil Kapoor is seldom taken seriously outside the industry. That maybe is partially due to the romeo ‘Kishan’ kind of fun image that he acquired during his heydays in Bollywood doing movies like Ram Lakhan, Mr. India and Mr. Bechara where he played the gullible guy who always seemed to get into trouble and those roles did fit him like a glove. However, the more serious side of this actor has been recognized, even though sparingly, especially for his performance in serious movies like Virasat (remake of Thevar Magan), 1942 A Love Story (set in the pre-independence era) and more recently My Wife’s Murder. The high point in Anil Kapoor’s acting journey must definitely be the National Award that he got for his performance in Pukar (2000), where he played a military officer.

But Anil Kapoor has always been loved by the people when he plays the fun loving guy, who drops funny lines every other second, likes to look extremely stylish and sports the widest grin in all of Bollywood -and he knows it. That’s precisely why he has hung on for 29 years as the man who can bring in the crowds. Every time he has faced a career crisis (which has been far too often for comfort in recent years) he has gone back to playing the ‘fun’ roles and success has come knocking back at his door as it used to do when he was the ‘Laadla’ of Bollywood.

Just a few years back he had a slew of flops that included movies carrying high expectations like Armaan and Calcutta Mail but Anil Kapoor went back to comedy in No Entry and there he was, effecting laughs like he had never done before and walking away with the best comic actor award. Then there was again this period of lull for a couple of years littered with a couple of flops which ended when he played a part in another comic caper, Welcome. Tired of making comebacks, Mr. Anil Kapoor decided to stay in the success zone- and that’s how Race happened. One can’t help pointing out that Mr. Senior has more than matched the young guns in style, without losing his affable grin and whacky dialogue delivery. And looks like he has decided that he wants to stay in the audience’s hearts for as long as possible. His list of films this year includes Yashraj films’ Tashan slated to release next month where he will be seen along with Saif once again and Akshay Kumar and Subhash Ghai’s Yuvaraj where he will be with Salman Khan. After 29 years in the industry, success, failure and 3 Filmfare Awards no one needs to teach him the art of sticking around, in style. Not many people keep getting lead roles when their daughter is acting as heroine to other leading lights in the industry (Sonam Kapoor-Saawariya). And, surprisingly if you thought that Anil Kapoor was a senior, think again: you may be slightly off your mark- he was born in 1959.