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Timeline

1. Spencer Tracy
He's got it all: a beautiful/ugly face, capable of rage and tenderness, moves from comedy to heartbreak in a breath, a manly man with a big bear's soul.

2. Amitabh Bachchan
India's number one Bollywood hero, who started off as a white-suited action hero and matured with his audience. suave, long-limbed, always unflappable and still going strong.

3. Laurel and Hardy
I know, there are two of them but they always count as one. The best ever comic team who make me laugh and weep in equal measure.

4. Louis Armstrong
Yes, we know he has got the best voice and makes magic on the trumpet but he has acted too. His version of Dream a Little Dream is what I think heaven sounds like.

5. Woody Allen
No one has made neuroses funnier, and every time I watch one of his films I feel I'm in an Indian family. We have so much in common: mothers, guilt, food, marrying nice doctors. I hope he reads this. I would pay him if he ever wanted to work with me.

6. Nargis
Now some of you may not know her but she is the best actress India has ever produced. Luminously beautiful, achingly truthful, died tragically young and brought dignity and strength to the Indian woman on screen.

7. Sidney Poitier
Being a fabulous actor was one talent, surviving with dignity in Hollywood as a black performer was quite another. Shame on the industry that he was not given the range of roles he should have played.

8. Homer Simpson
Yes, he is a cartoon but the fat yellow guy and his family say more about life than a lot of other programmes do using human beings.

9. Meryl Streep
Not conventionally beautiful, not a stick insect with fluff for brains, is a mother of four as well. How does she do it? Shame Hollywood cannot come up with decent work for women over 40, just when they are at their most vibrant too.

10. Dame Judi Dench
A woman who is all woman, no face lifts or girdles here. She is earthy and truthful and the kind of female who ought to be on screen reminding everyone what real women are really like.


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Meera Syal
Meera Syal is an established comedienne, actress and writer with numerous film, television and theatre credits to her name.

Originally from Lahore, Pakistan, her family fled to Britain during the time of partition with India in 1947.

Ms Syal has written and performed in five series of the BBC's The Real McCoy and among her many television acting roles in Britain, she has featured in Absolutely Fabulous, Drop the Dead Donkey and Soldier, Soldier.

Her most recent success was the hugely popular Goodness Gracious Me, an Asian comedy sketch show, which she both wrote and starred in.

Miss Syal's short comedy film, It's Not Unusual, about a Tom Jones-obsessed Asian cabbie, again played by herself, won a BAFTA for best short film.

In addition to her film roles, Ms Syal's writing credits include the comedy film, Bhaji On the Beach, Tandoori Nights and A Nice Arrangement. Her first novel, Anita and Me, about a nine-year old girl girl learning to come to terms with her British Asian identity, won the Betty Trask award and was shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize.

Ms Syal was awarded an MBE in 1998 for Services To The Arts.