As Aamir Khan enters another chapter of his life with him turning 58 years old on March 14, 2023, it’s only fitting to pay tribute to the versatile actor who has left an indelible mark in Hindi and even Indian cinema. Fondly known as Mr. Perfectionist, Aamir Khan has been one of those stars who made some kind of difference to the industry by taking risks in the mainstream sphere and delivering some of the most iconic performances in Indian cinema. Aamir has been around for over three decades and played varied types of roles, from the lovable goofball to portraying complex characters with ease. Aamir has constantly reinvented himself and set new benchmarks in the industry. Here are the top 10 performances of Aamir Khan (ranked):
10. Andaz Apna Apna (1994)
This comedy film contains one of the most memorable performances of Aamir Khan, which, even though it did not get the success it deserved at the time of release, has gained a kind of cult-classic status over time. In “Andaz Apna Apna” (1994), Aamir Khan plays the character of Amar, a bumbling, comical, and scheming young man who wants to become rich by marrying a wealthy woman. Aamir’s portrayal displayed a sense of comedic brilliance and a spontaneous nature, through which he effortlessly brought to life the character’s quirks and mannerisms. Along with that, his chemistry and comic timing with co-star Salman Khan were among the major highlights, which are also a further showcase of the actor’s versatility. Furthermore, Aamir Khan’s dialogue delivery, expressions, and body language perfectly ticked all the boxes, and his ability to switch between different emotions and comic situations with ease made his performance stand out.
9. PK (2014)
In recent times. Aamir Khan’s collaboration with filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani has been quite fruitful, both in terms of entertaining audiences and churning out some interesting films in the milieu of mainstream Hindi cinema. In “PK” (2014), Aamir Khan takes a very unconventional route through his unique portrayal of a character who is an alien who lands on Earth and starts asking questions about various aspects of society, culture, and especially religion. His role as the alien, PK, was another feather in his cap, with his portrayal of the character marked by his unusual body language, quirky mannerisms, and childlike innocence. His performance had a good blend of humor and sentimental value as he explored the complexities of human behavior and beliefs.
8. Raakh (1989)
This Taxi Driver-esque adaptation sees Aamir Khan in one of his most visceral and hard-hitting roles, and that too at a very early stage of his career. This 1989 film sees him enacting the role of a man named Amir Hussein, who goes on a path of vengeance after witnessing his girlfriend being assaulted by a gang of goons. It was quite a departure from the typical Hindi films of the time, and the film, along with Aamir’s handling of the character, brought out perfectly the grit and realism of the character. This is further enhanced to great heights through Aamir Khan’s mesmerizing performance, which encapsulates the angst and agony of the character while also keeping his empathetic side alive. With this almost Travis Bickle-like character, “Raakh” (1989) becomes a testimony to the talent and dedication of Aamir Khan towards his craft, taking on challenging roles and delivering effortless performances.
7. Dil Chahta Hai (2001)
It is quite rare to see back-to-back great films along with great performances, especially within the same year. However, 2001 was that year for Aamir Khan when he acted in both “Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India” and “Dil Chahta Hai,” both being not only great acting showcases but also pathbreaking films, especially for Hindi cinema. Farhan Akhtar’s directorial debut features Aamir Khan in one of his most easy-going roles, with a sense of happy-go-lucky charm in his character of Akash Malhotra. The actor perfectly manages to balance the various facets of the character, from being humorous and joyful to also being cynical and a apathetic person. Along with these, a special mention should also go to Aamir’s goatee, which became iconic in Indian pop culture.
6. Rang De Basanti (2006)
One of the most iconic and influential films of the 2000s is definitely Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s “Rang De Basanti” (2006). Through this film, Aamir Khan as Daljit Singh, also known as DJ, brings to the screen a brilliant, electrifying energy that perfectly captures the idea of youth along with dreams and ambitions. Additionally, the shift to the rebellious nature of the youth as a strong voice of dissent, which is all the more relevant today, is also brilliantly etched out by Aamir Khan. Along with that, he brings a sense of cheerfulness and spontaneity that perfectly shifts tonality after some major upheavals in the film’s core narrative, bringing out a very complex portrayal of two parallel characters, one a fictional college student who gets radicalized (in a good way, not a Savarkarite way) named DJ and another the re-enactment of the real-life freedom fighter Chandra Shekhar Azad.
5. Sarfarosh (1999)
“Sarfarosh” (1999) is a high-intensity film where Aamir Khan plays the role of ACP Ajay Singh Rathod, who is on a mission to capture a notorious terrorist. This also features one of the stalwarts of acting, Naseeruddin Shah, as the main antagonist, who is totally at the peak of his craft, and Aamir perfectly manages to complement such a legend with an equally brilliant performance. Aamir’s portrayal manages to convey the character’s determination, urgency, and strength as a police officer while also balancing the emotional complexity and vulnerability. Furthermore, in “Sarfarosh” (1999), the raw portrayal of emotions in the climactic scene by Aamir Khan is one of the most memorable scenes from his career.
4. Mangal Pandey: The Rising (2005)
In “Mangal Pandey: The Rising” (2005), Aamir Khan took up the challenge of portraying the real-life freedom fighter Mangal Pandey, who became a major figure in India’s struggle for independence. It is quite a rare sight in the Hindi film industry for one of the most popular actors to dedicate four years of their life to prepare for a role, that too after having two back-to-back pathbreaking hits in 2001, both in terms of critical and commercial success. It is a testament to his dedication, respect for the craft, and willingness to take risks at a time when these types of films were not the go-to business model for commercial success. Although “Mangal Pandey: The Rising” falls short of being a great film, the major highlight remains the brilliantly intense performance of Aamir Khan. He brings a sense of authenticity and passion to the character, and his body language conveys various emotions, making one feel the rush of rebellion against intolerance, making for a film which is patriotic without being jingoistic, quite uncommon in today’s time, where love for the nation has been perverted into a sense of toxic hyper-nationalism.
3. Lagaan: Once Upon A Time In India (2001)
“Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India” (2001) not only has one of the finest performances from Aamir Khan, but it is probably his best film and even managed to get an Oscar nod. Here, Aamir Khan plays the role of a villager named Bhuvan, who leads his amateur cricket squad, comprising villagers, against the British in order to avoid paying a backbreaking tax. Here the actor’s portrayal perfectly captures the essence of urgency and dedication and further elevates the emotions of this high-stakes drama set against the backdrop of a colonized India. Along with the emotional aspects, Aamir Khan perfectly adopts the body language and physicality of the character with the perfect essence of determination and leadership, all this without compromising on what can only be described as the character’s innocence, further making the character one that stands out even after two decades.
2. Rangeela (1995)
In this 1995 film, Aamir Khan collaborated with the then master and one of the most pathbreaking filmmakers of India, Ram Gopal Verma, on a romantic film that, although it follows major conventions from a thematic and story perspective, is totally unique in its use of the cinematic form, acting like a breath of fresh air. Here, Aamir Khan plays the role of a good at heart street goon, or the typical ‘Tapori’ type, named Munna, who also has a strong love interest in Mili, played by Urmila Matondkar. His portrayal of Munna perfectly blends a kind, energetic, and charismatic personality with a sense of humor and vulnerability. Other than that, Aamir Khan also manages to rise up in the brilliant and tough dance numbers in the film, evoking a sense of joy and exuberance on the screen, along with matching up to brilliant chemistry with his love interest.
1. Earth (1998)
This film marked another exciting collaboration of Aamir Khan, this time with director Deepa Mehta at the helm, and that too a film taking place in Lahore before and during the serious backdrop of the 1947 Partition. Here, “Earth” (1998) explored the human cost of political upheaval. In the movie, Aamir Khan plays the character of Dil Navaz, who starts out as a carefree and liberal-minded Muslim man who is in love with a Hindu woman. Aamir portrayed the character with a lot of depth and sensitivity, effectively conveying the character’s emotions and inner conflicts. His performance had authenticity through a very natural and nuanced portrayal of one of his most complex characters, which encapsulated both the inner and outer turmoil perfectly. Aamir’s performance in “Earth” (1998) can be considered to be his finest, showcasing his range and maturity as an actor.
Aamir Khan’s career has showcased his range, and dedication to the craft. From playing the lovable goofball in “Andaz Apna Apna” (1994) to portraying the complex character in “Mangal Pandey: The Rising” (2005), Aamir has time and again proved his mettle as an actor, making it quite difficult to choose among such a vast filmography (that’s why one can have their personal favorites). Even in his special appearances in movies like “Delhi Belly” (2011) and “Dil Dhadakne Do” (2015), he managed to leave a lasting impression on the audience. It is a shame that in recent times, his patriotism has been questioned, despite the fact that he had made films in India and for India, even when the trend was to shoot movies in foreign locales. Aamir Khan has not only set new benchmarks in the Indian film industry but has also inspired a generation of actors to strive for excellence in their craft. Other than the abovementioned films, here are the special mentions: “Taare Zameen Par” (2007), “Dangal” (2016), “Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar” (1992), “3 Idiots” (2009), “Ghajini” (2008), “Dhobi Ghat” (2010), and “Talaash: The Answer Lies Within” (2012).