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Celebrating Pankaj Kapur: A Retrospective Look at His Iconic Roles

It’s veteran actor Pankaj Kapur’s birthday on May 29, and we take this opportunity to look back at some of his best work over a near four-decade-long career. Pankaj Kapur has been an integral part of both the big and small screens, etching unforgettable characters into the minds of his fans. For many, he remains the detective Karamchand, while others remember him as the retired schoolmaster Mussaddi Lal Tripathi from ‘Office Office’ or the Hindi teacher Mohan Bharti from ‘Zabaan Sambhalke’.

Let’s take a look at some of his most memorable characters:

**Dr. Dipankar Roy in ‘Ek Doctor Ki Maut’**: Tapan Sinha’s classic film features Pankaj Kapur in the role of Dr. Dipankar Roy, a dedicated doctor who discovers a vaccine for leprosy after years of painstaking research. Instead of receiving recognition for his groundbreaking work, Roy faces ostracism and bureaucratic indifference. Kapur’s stirring performance in this role won him a National Award, cementing his status as one of the industry’s finest actors.

**Liaqat in ‘Roja’**: In Mani Ratnam’s acclaimed film ‘Roja,’ Kapur portrays Liaqat, the leader of a terrorist group in Kashmir. Liaqat’s mission is to separate Kashmir from India, and Kapur’s portrayal convincingly captures the complexities of his character. His performance stood out especially in the emotionally charged scenes, where his nuanced acting brought depth to an otherwise antagonistic role.

**Mohan Bharti in ‘Zabaan Sambhal Ke’**: This sitcom demonstrated Kapur’s comic capabilities. As Mohan Bharti, a Hindi teacher struggling to teach the language to grown-up students from various regions and backgrounds, Kapur showcased his impeccable timing and humor. The show remains a beloved classic, and his role in it is unforgettable for many fans.

**Mussaddi Lal in ‘Office Office’**: Following his success in ‘Zabaan Sambhal Ke,’ Kapur delivered yet another stellar performance in ‘Office Office.’ Playing the everyman Mussaddi Lal, who battles against the red tape and corruption in public offices, Kapur’s portrayal highlights the struggles of the common man with a touch of humor and poignancy. His performance in the series was both relatable and impactful, earning him widespread acclaim.

**Budhai Ram in ‘Neem Ka Ped’**: In this popular Doordarshan show from the early ’90s, Kapur played Budhai Ram, a bonded laborer enduring severe hardships in a village setting.

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. This role remains one of Kapur’s standout performances, capturing the heart-wrenching plight of his character. His portrayal of Budhai Ram’s suffering and resilience is still remembered as one of his best.

**Detective Karamchand in ‘Karamchand’**: One of the best detective shows on Indian television featured Kapur as the suave Detective Karamchand. Solving murders in unique ways, often by playing chess with the police, Kapur’s character became iconic. The memorable catchphrase ‘Shut up, Kitty,’ uttered by Kapur, became a rage among audiences, adding another feather to his cap.

**Pandit Chaturvedi in ‘Dharm’**: In Bhavna Talwar’s critically acclaimed movie, Kapur portrayed Pandit Chaturvedi, a revered Brahmin priest. Through a series of transformative events, his character comes to realize that humanity is the true religion. Kapur’s versatile performance once again shone through, earning him praise for his ability to imbue his characters with depth and authenticity.

**Nandakishore ‘Nandu’ Khatri in ‘The Blue Umbrella’**: In Vishal Bhardwaj’s adaptation of Ruskin Bond’s novel, Kapur played Nandakishore Khatri, an old shopkeeper with morally grey shades. Although his character resorts to stealing a little girl’s pretty blue umbrella, he manages to remain likeable. Kapur’s nuanced portrayal made the character relatable and endearing, despite his flaws.

**Jahangir Khan (alias Abba Ji) in ‘Maqbool’**: Vishal Bhardwaj’s film ‘Maqbool,’ an adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth,’ showcased Kapur’s versatility at its peak. Portraying the influential underworld don Jahangir Khan, also known as Abba Ji, Kapur brought to life the cunning and manipulative aspects of his character. His portrayal was lauded for its intensity and depth, making it one of his most memorable roles.

As Pankaj Kapur celebrates another year, his illustrious career continues to inspire and entertain audiences. From television sitcoms to critically acclaimed films, Kapur’s diverse range of roles showcases his extraordinary talent and versatility as an actor. Whether playing a comedic role or a complex, dramatic character, Pankaj Kapur’s contribution to Indian cinema and television remains unparalleled.