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20:20 TOP ACT

Uttam Kumar in Nayak: The most authentic blend of a star and an actor played by a star and an actor. Ray wrote the character of Arindam with Uttam Kumar in mind and the Mahanayak owned Nayak.

Chhabi Biswas in Jalsaghar: Ray was very clear that only Biswas could have been Biswambhar Roy, the zamindar unable to come to terms with reality. From the poise to the gaze to the fall, it was an epic act.

Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood: That the man goes underground for a couple of years for one film is evident in this tremendous turn as a ruthless gold miner-turned-oilman. A line that lives? “I drink your milkshake!”

Robert De Niro in Raging Bull: The physical transformation was just a fraction of the kind of discipline and dazzle the man went through to play Jake LaMotta. De Niroís best and thatís a big, big deal.

Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon: His career is peppered with historic performances but this one, as a hyper bank robber, is truly special. Physical, passionate, perfect.

Kevin Spacey in American Beauty: From Se7en to The Usual Suspects, he’s in a league of his own. But as Lester Burnham, the middle-aged loser trying to get a life, he is the very embodiment of a man breaking free.

Marlon Brando in The Godfather: One of the most iconic performances in the history of cinema, from the cotton balls in the mouth to the underlight eyes to that husky voice, everything was just right for Vito Corleone.

Jack Nicholson in The Shining: He makes you land up inside the head of this hotel manager and it’s not a pretty place to be. When Jack Torrance lets loose, there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of The Lambs: That look, that rattle of the teeth, that uneasy calm, it’s good that Hannibal Lecter had such a limited screen time. Anything more and there would be no livers left in the hall.

Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight: To better a character played by Nicholson and to make it his own is just an incredible feat. Ledger’s manic Joker is not only one of the greatest villains ever but also a pop icon.

Peter Sellers in Dr Strangelove: One film and three performances, each so different from the other you wonder if it’s the same guy. Kubrick and Sellers’s befitting coming together.

Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump: He brought heart and soul to an almost mechanical character. He goes through the motions and we go through all the emotions.

Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote: He had been in the wings playing terrific cameos but with this one performance as author Truman Capote, Hoffman cut loose. That last scene in the prison is a marvel.

Morgan Freeman in shawshank redemption: It’s the story of Tim Robbins’s Andy Dufresne but we see it through Freeman’s Red and he makes it that much more life-changing. For Andy and for us.

Bill Murray in Lost In Translation: It’s said that he is Bill Murray in every film but it’s so much fun watching Bill Murray and here as the Hollywood superstar lost in Tokyo, he is just smooth!

Irrfan Khan in The Namesake: His Ashoke Ganguli was the heart of the film and for many Bengalis and for many sons, he was a man we have all seen and felt around us.

Amitabh Bachchan in Agneepath: Nobody could use the Big Bís star persona better than Mukul Anand and here he brought back the best of his angry-young-man moments to create the edgy and awesome Vijay Dinanath Chauhan.

Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart: As the boozy has-been country singer Bad Blake, he brought his huge repertoire and his singing to create a character you want to love but you can’t. Rare.

Naseeruddin Shah in Sparsh: As the country celebrates the performance by Ranbir in Barfi!, let’s not forget Naseer’s brilliantly natural act of a visually challenged man. Touching, literally.

Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men: How do you create a man who is meant to be evil but his next move cannot be predicted? This man did the impossible and how. Oh, those eyes of Anton Chigurh! Run.

Tabu in Chandni Bar: With this one act, she just jumped into a different class of actors. From a full-on beer bar girl to a troubled mother, Tabu hit it out of the park. Scene after scene.

Shabana Azmi in Ankur: She’s been brilliant in so, so many films but in this debut turn in Shyam Benegal’s first film, Shabana brought a raw edge rarely seen on screen before.

Smita Patil in Bhumika: There have been many heroines who’ve played heroines in films about films, but this one, based on screen actress of the 1940s, Hansa Wadkar, is just... Smita ‘wow’ Patil.

Supriya choudhury in Meghe Dhaka Tara: As Nita the free-spirited girl trying to break free from the clutches of womanhood, she was just perfect. “Dada aami baanchte chai” still echoes.

Madhabi Mukherjee in Charulata: From the body language to the gaze to the trauma, she got it spot on. You just can’t imagine anybody else as the lonely wife on the swing.

Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada: She can fill up this page on her own. How do you pick the best Streep act? Go with one that she had a blast playing and we watching, Miranda Priestly.

Frances McDormand in Fargo: As the sharp, pregnant cop trying to solve a murder case in ice cold Fargo, she was a riot. Underrated, overlooked and almost forgotten, there’s nobody quite like her.

Audrey Tautou in Amelie: With a face which could make you smile and a smile which could brighten up your day, this French actress made the film her own and brought a heartwarming Chaplinesque melancholia.

Charlize Theron in Monster: The physical transformation may have done a lot of the job, but her attitude and body language was truly monstrous as well. Beautiful women are seldom this brave.

Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream: As the mother obsessed with television and losing weight, Ellen had no actor to react to in most of the scenes and yet put out an unforgettable act on screen.

Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose: When an actress starts looking more like the real-life person she is portraying rather than herself, you know it’s special. Edith Piaf couldn’t have got a better tribute on screen.

Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music: She brought music and love into the von Trapp family and into so many lives in the last half century. Some performances grind it out, others just light up your world. Like Julie as Maria.

Seema Biswas in The Bandit Queen: So brave a performance that you start worrying for the actual woman behind it. Shekhar Kapur’s jump to world cinema rode on this one knockout act.

Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind: At last count, 32 women were considered for the role of Scarlett O’Hara and even after 73 years you feel happy that this Darjeeling-born was The Chosen One.

Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby: You feel so scared in this Roman Polanski film because she looks and sounds so appropriately spooked. Mia makes you feel for her like no other lead in a horror film.

Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday: Her Princess Ann was such a treat that she never made you miss Liz Taylor, for whom the role was written. Stop staring now.

Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise: She was the passive partner but to her Thelma Dickinson, Susan brought so much dare and dignity that she embodied the very spirit of freedom.

Vidya Balan in Kahaani: Not an obvious choice but this was such a difficult role. She knew who Bidya Bagchi was. You didn’t. And that’s as tricky as it gets. And she rocked it!

Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: There’s something about stunning women trading their beauty for brilliance and here Liz does exactly that as Martha.

Jodie Foster in The Silence of The Lambs: Only film repeated in the two lists but that’s because of the inimitable dignity and vulnerability that Foster brought to Clarice Starling.