Happy Birthday Salman! Best Performances!

Again, these are the best performances of those I have seen. Just like the last post was the best hair from the looks I knew.  I haven’t actually seen every Salman film.  But I have seen a lot of them!  And of the ones I have seen, these are my top 5 performances.

I’m going to count down 5 to 1.  They are all good, since they are top 5, but number 1 is my all time favorite.

5. Maine Pyar Kiya: Okay, I could see people disagree with this both ways, that it should be the top pick, and that it shouldn’t be on this list at all.  In a lot of ways it is his most powerful performance.  But then, on the other hand, he is also kind of playing himself (young, enthusiastic, lots of energy).  But I am putting it in the top 5 because every moment is good, but there are a few moments that are just brilliant.  Especially considering it was his first leading role!

Through out the film he has great commitment, every line is delivered with a lot of care.  Every glance to the camera is perfection.  But what I remember in particular is a line he just tosses off.  In the second half, when Alok Nath is yelling at him about something, Salman promises to do better, and tosses off a “Suman ki Kasam” in the middle of the speech.  He says it as naturally as one would say “hello” or “good-bye”, which is what makes it work.  He is already so in love with Suman and so committed to her, that the natural swear for him to make is on her head.  Any other actor might have given into temptation and hit that line just a little too hard, made sure the audience noticed it.  But Salman slipped it in like he wasn’t even thinking, and that’s why it worked.

(I also like the way he makes dancing with a dove look macho)

4. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam: There’s a fair amount of overacting in this movie.  Not just from Salman.  But I’m still giving it to him for two reasons.  Firstly, because his character is supposed to be over the top.  That’s why Aish loves him, because he comes into her world and blows it apart with his openness and enthusiasm and spark.  So I can’t really call it “overacting”, when it is just how that person is.

And secondly, that final Opera House speech!  That is just brilliant, that is.  And it’s a long monologue, which isn’t usually his strong suit.  To rattle off lots and lots of dialogue, with changing intonations and keeping the audience interested, very very impressive.  But mostly, it really made me feel for the character!  And I hadn’t up until then, I was all about Ajay Devgn “winning” the love triangle and Aishwarya moving on with her life (especially after the song that just happened).  But in one speech, Salman made me care, even made me cry a little.

3. Bajrangi Bhaijaan: The brilliance of this performance is how Salman makes it look easy.  He’s just playing a nice simple boy who says things in a simple straight-forward manner.  How hard can that be?

The answer is, really really hard!  If he let the mask slip for one moment, failed to believe with all his heart in one of his lines, made as stop seeing the purity of his innocence, then the whole movie would fail.  And he didn’t!  Even in a love scene, even in a fight scene, he was still that innocent simple boy who’s pure heart made it impossible for him to see evil in the world, and taught the audience not to see it either.

2. Jaan-E-Mann: This is one of my all time favorite movies.  If I were doing a “favorite Salman movies” countdown (which I might, who knows!  I’ve got 7 days to fill), this would be number 1.  But for performances, I think I have to put it a little lower.  Salman is brilliant, yes, and perfect for the part.  But he is ever so slightly more perfect in the next film.

I love everything about Jaan-E-Mann, but what I really love from Salman’s performance are two moments.  SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE FOLLOW DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN”T SEEN  No wait, 3 moments!  No, 4!  Okay, I’m going to hold steady at 4.  First when he sneaks into Preity’s apartment to visit the baby and is just playing and talking baby talk with it, but there is this great delicacy about him, where you can almost feel his whole life shifting as the baby takes priority over everything else.  Second when he learns Akshay is engaged to Preity and there is that amazing effect with the world shattering around him.  The effect is good, but Salman’s face is better, really selling the devastation without overplaying it, so Akshay never notices.  3rd is when he knows he has lost everything and is going through with the diaper ads.  The way he delivers the dialogue about doing the best for your baby gives you the whole mindset of talking about a baby he can never have in order to earn money to help take care of the baby who will never know him.  And 4th is when he is caught while sneaking in to say good-bye to the baby.  The way he doesn’t even bother to argue, just humbly takes his leave, is so un-Salman in most of his roles, even in the rest of this film, and yet so perfect.


1.1. Tere Naam: I am already on record as calling this his best performance, and nothing I have seen since then has convinced me otherwise.  It’s not just that he goes through college tough to lover to madman.  It’s that even his “college tough” and “lover” performances aren’t the standard ones.  He’s not just a random college gang leader.  The way he fiddles with his hair, shifts in his seat, hesitates when he talks, it draws a picture of a boy who hasn’t quite grown up yet, who is trying to do the best he can but doesn’t always feel comfortable in his own skin, in his own power.

And when he switches to lover, the way his behavior is ever so slightly out of synch with that of his loved one is perfect.  She is still while he is moving, she is silent while he is talking, and vice versa.  And monologues!  Oh my gosh does he ever has monologues in this movie!  Repetitive ones too, where he has to say the same thing over and over but manage to convey something slightly different each time just through intonation.

But it’s the final scene that made me practically stand up from my living room couch to give him a standing ovation.  When he walks out of the house and gets into the van to be taken back to the asylum.  The only thing I can compare it with is Waheedaji in Rang De Basanti.  That moment in “Luka Chuppi” when she walks to the door like she is carrying the weight of the world on her back and can hardly remember how to put one foot in front of the other.  It’s not quite the same, but it’s similar, where you are so brought down by grief that your body has lost it’s muscle memory, and you now longer move the same as you used to.

2 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Salman! Best Performances!

  1. Good choices. I’ll accept them because you say these are the best of the ones you’ve seen. But, excuse me, you’ve seen Love. Don’t you think that performance deserves to be included. I also dispute that he was “playing himself” in MPK. I really hate this term, because people use it for any and every character he’s ever played. I think it’s because, as you’ve said, he brings so much conviction to every role (this is the exact term I used when I first started to watch his films) that it feels like every character is “himself.” There are a few along the way where he didn’t bother, and the difference clearly shows.

    But all that pales besides the fact that you appreciate his final speech in HDDCS! Most others online make fun of it, I’m sorry to say. But that speech had the exact same effect on me that it did on you. When I watched HDDCS, I didn’t even know who Salman was. I was still in the tail end of my Aamir phase, and hadn’t quite started on my SRK phase yet. But because I had got interested in Hindi films, I started to read the film news, and discovered that a film of Devdas was going to be made. At a now defunct forum, people were discussing Bhansali, and talking about his previous two films. I couldn’t find Khamoshi, but I did find HDDCS. I have to tell you I pretty much hate this film. For most of it, I couldn’t make head or tails of it at all. I couldn’t, for instance, figure out what time period it was supposed to be set in at all. The physical environment had the modern trappings such as phones, cars, planes, etc. OTOH, the people’s attitudes and dialogs sounded like they were from a couple of centuries ago! But Ash’s character speaks English and supposedly went to college? So there I was floundering along, and the only performance that made sense was Ajay’s. At least I could understand *his* character, which, by the way, was a cliche that I had seen in many films (hence why there was never any “suspense” for me about Ash’s final choice). But we come to that final scene and yes, I suddenly understood Salman’s character! All his pain, love, and sacrifice in that one speech. He totally sold me on that, to the point where i sat up saying, “Who is this actor? He’s brilliant!” But I still didn’t know his name till several films later.

    Tere Naam is, not quite “overhyped”, but I feel that Salman has other better performances that people are either not aware of, or dismiss because the film itself either didn’t succeed at the box office (like Love) or didn’t work — like Kyun Ki. I believe I recommended KK to you earlier. Be aware that the film is kind of a mess, but Salman’s performance is brilliant. Another excellent performance is in London Dreams. And finally, do watch Veergati some time, though not over the holidays, as it’s a very grim and depressing film.


    • What’s really confusing to me with HDCS is the Budapest-Italy thing! I’d just visited Budapest (my sister was doing a study abroad there), so I was particularly aware of how Budapestian the whole thing was. I mean, all the signs were in Hungarian, and the dialogue, they didn’t bother changing anything!


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