Best Comedians of 2009

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“I am thankful for laughter,” said veteran director, writer and comedian Woody Allen, “except when milk comes out of my nose.” And if he compared drama to a meal, Allen also said that comedy was the dessert — a meringue, all frothy and light as air. 2009 was a difficult year for those of us who like our Hindi comedies to serve up a side of laughter. Those we could usually rely on to make us giggle no matter how bad the film — veterans such as Govinda and Arshad Warsi — failed to rise above mediocre scripts for the first time in a very long while. That said, there were still some inspired comic performances in 2009, and some surprising as well as some new faces in comedy, and it’s a pleasure to bring their performances to everyone’s attention.

Akshay Kumar

Three films. Three imperfect films: Chandni Chowk to China, Kambakkht Ishq, De Dana Dan.

Three performances. Three imperfect performances: Sidhu, the hapless vegetable cutter who finds himself training to defeat the villain Hojo; Viraj Shergill, the misogynistic Hollywood stuntman; Nitin, the poor and desperate servant who kidnaps his boss’s dog. In all of them, Akshay Kumar was often over-the-top and sometimes went just a little too far in his performances.

And yet – despite all the imperfections, he still managed to entertain audiences and make them laugh, often uproariously. Just imagine what he’ll do if he manages to match a perfectly tuned script to a finely tuned performance. We can hardly wait to laugh with him again.

Kareena Kapoor

As the bitter, man-hating, part-time model, part-time med student Simrita in Kambakkht Ishq, Kareena Kapoor matched co-star Akshay Kumar comic step for comic step. However, her performance in the year-end release 3 Idiots showed just what a fine performer she really is. As the medical student Pia, she was often given the funniest dialogues and delivered them with sparkle and charm, and gave the film some of its best moments. The only problem? There wasn’t nearly enough of her in the film – next time, we want a full-on Kareena starring role!

Rani Mukherjee

Dil Bole Hadippa was supposed to be Rani Mukherjee’s comeback vehicle – instead, it ended up stalled at the box office. The film – the script – may have left audiences and critics cold, but Rani did not. She was beautiful, radiant, joyous – and in her double role as Veer/Veera, she made us laugh at her antics. What do her fans wish for Rani in 2010? A fabulous script to showcase her many talents: as an actress, a dancer, a comedienne. We – her audience – simply love her and want to see more of her!

Rajpal Yadav

He was in no fewer than 8 films this year – many of them won’t be remembered, but Rajpal Yadav’s performances always are a bright spot in any film, even when he’s given practically nothing to do, as was the case in Do Knot Disturb. That said, he managed to stand out in two films in particular in 2009. In Billu, he was terrific as the earnest, single-minded writer. And if critics panned De Dana Dan, audiences rolled with laughter at his performance as the drunken waiter. Yadav always brings an eccentric touch, a note of madness to his roles, and we can’t wait to see what he’ll do in 2010.

Ajay Devgan

He may cultivate his brooding persona, and may be better remembered for his serious films, but his true fans know that Ajay Devgan has a knack for comedy, whether in the crazy Golmaal films, or in this year’s Diwali release All the Best. The comedy may have lacked sophistication, but Devgn set any pretensions of seriousness and sophistication aside and offered audiences a performance that was just an awful lot of fun.

Kunal Khemu

He was good as the geeky accountant who matched veteran actor and accomplished comedian Paresh Rawal in Dhoonte Reh Jaoge. And it has to be said, that there were so many solid comic performances in 99 that you wouldn’t think any one of them would stand out. But in 99 Kunal Khemu did – as the fast-talking small-time con artist Saachin, he was very sharp indeed. And one thing is certain – someone needs to put Kunal Khemu in more films, so we can continue to enjoy his comic talent!

Amit Mistry

The films in Amit Mistry’s filmography can be counted on one hand: he was in Bad Luck Govind, he has another film in post-production, and he was part of the stellar cast of 99. But he was another actor in the film who stood out – as the Delhi fixer Kuber, with his sidekick Dimple, and his constant cellphone problems, he managed to make us laugh even harder while we watched the film. This is another actor who needs to be seen in more films!

Rishi Kapoor

Ah, Rishi – his filmography is large and impressive. He’s worked with the best, and in recent years he’s brought a presence and warm persona to a number of roles. 2009’s Chintu Ji was a very small film that that should really have made more than an impact than it did, and it had Rishi playing an entirely different role altogether: himself. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he was playing a fictional version of himself, perhaps not unlike action star Jean-Claude Van Damme in JCVD. And Rishi was perfect, and perfectly funny, as the insufferable, overblown, selfish, inconsiderate Chintu Ji.

Amitabh Bachchan

Big B was slammed by many critics for his over-the-top portrayal of the genie, Genius, in Aladin. And it was an extravagant performance – but one that provided Aladin with many of its funniest moments. The film may have had its flaws, but Amitabh Bachchan proved that (to paraphrase the Genie Rap) he still has it going on.

Ranvir Shorey

Forget what David Dhawan did to him in Do Knot Disturb, as the hapless detective who spends much of the movie dead in a motorized wheelchair. Instead, go back to January of 2009 and Chandni Chowk to China, and remember one of his funnier roles, as the conman Chopstick. Shorey is another actor, like others in this list, who is a solid performer, able to deliver the laughs, who deserves more and better roles in the year ahead.

Honourable Mentions:

Sometimes a film comes along and it’s difficult to single any one actor out. This past year, 99 had a stellar cast that worked like clockwork to deliver the laughs – though we’ve already singled out Amit Mistry and Kunal Khemu, much credit must be given to others in the cast: Cyrus Broacha as Khemu’s sidekick, Mahesh Manjrekar as AGM (on our list of villains, too), Soha Ali Khan as Pooja, and Boman Irani in what was probably his best role all year, the compulsive gambler Rahul.

And we can’t leave this year’s list without giving another honourable mention to the male leads in 3 Idiots: Aamir Khan, R. Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, and the unofficial fourth idiot, Omi Vaidya. As an ensemble, they managed to give Rajkumar Hirani’s uneven third film some charm and chuckles.

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