In a new series, FC Critics Survey, every few weeks we ask a handful of film critics one question. This week we ask – what's the worst performance by a great actor?
I'll always be scarred by Naseeruddin Shah in that awful waste of a film, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He played Captain Nemo in the most cardboard way. It was as if 'Ne-Mo' was short for 'No Inflection' in some undersea language, since his dialogue delivery was flatter than Siri.
Not sure about worst performance, but simply as what the great star-actor Ashok Kumar (for his time, avant-garde even) was reduced to in Manoj Kumar's Clerk is stuff that 'so bad, it's great' moments are made of! In particular, I mean that incredible scene where it seems he's about to have a cardiac arrest and he fixes that marching in his bed/room to the INA anthem 🙂
Naseeruddin Shah is a riveting performer both on screen and stage. Period. However, much as his CV is strewn with films that would be any other actor's envy and his own pride, there are also quite a few turkeys on display. I still remember coming out of one of them – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – wondering what was he doing there, why did he have to be there in the first place. Even Sean Connery couldn't have been a valid enough reason. His Captain Nemo got entirely sidelined in the Hollywood machinery and he was left brandishing swords and pistols than given any rightful opportunity to show his acting chops. All I remember of him is a huge turban and a flowing beard masking most of his face, save the eyes. But even they seemed totally disinterested and inert than eager and alive.
He has made some awful choices over the years, but SRK for me remains one of Hindi cinema's great actors. The 1990s were a testament to his versatility, back when he was young and hungry to impress. Which also kind of explains why his misses were as sensational as his hits. He swung hard with Ram Jaane, but his version of the "tapori gangster" will go down as his most bafflingly poor performance. He played the titular hero with the misguided desperation of an actor who was trying to ape Shah Rukh Khan aping Amitabh Bachchan and Al Pacino. That it came two months after Aamir's career-turning tapori turn in Rangeela only went to show how "healthy competition" has been anything but healthy for this Khan.
Rani Mukerji, often reliable, most times wondrous, has rarely taken a false step but in every great actor's career comes one film where they've either sleepwalked through their parts or strained that extra muscle. In her case, it is Raj Kumar Gupta's No One Killed Jessica. People belonging to the media are woefully represented in mainstream films but Rani Mukerji's Meera Gaiti is dialled all the way up. The film, with good intentions all through, gives Meera spunk and a whole lot of swear words. Rani Mukherji relishes it all, climbing over car bonnets, shushing interns and bosses, and declaring "Justice has been denied, you can live with it, I will not." Her editorials should be banners. Her character is a mix of several real primetime journalists in an era of news channel explosion in India and Mukherji seems confused which traits to pick up to make it organic and ends up mixing it all up for a strange concoction.