The Best Bollywood Actors Of 2016
2016's cinematic dreams come to an end; and there are some dreams that will live on. This year was no different. There were a slew of performances that caught us off guard and it was tough to pick out the ones that were stellar, and the ones that fail to hit the mark. Of the bunch of films that released, though, these were the leading men (listed alphabetically), in particular, who knocked the ball out of the stadium.
Aamir Khan (Dangal)
Only Aamir Khan can come up with a cracker of an act every other year. He creeps up on us silently and slaps us across the face with performances that will be remembered not for years, but decades to come. In Dangal, it’s the girls that, both as kids and young adults, tug at your heartstrings. They are fantastically devoted to their acts: But to me, it is Aamir all the way who wins the show. Why? Just look at the pitch of his performance. He is fantastic whether he is the disciplined and dictatorial father or whether he is someone begging a sports official to provide some funds. Or particularly in the scene when Geeta loses international matches and the actor so hesitatingly – just as he frustratingly takes time in his real life to approve scripts – just waits, and waits, and waits, and finally answers the phone with a ‘Haan’ to his daughter. I, of course, am biased here since I am an emotional-introvert and it moved me to tears but it’s not impossible to lose the hidden love and the sense of belonging in that scene. In Dangal, it is Aamir as an artiste and an actor that succeeds – that this man just doesn’t care about super-stardom is evident; and that’s what folks like us love about him.
Amitabh Bachchan (Pink/Teen)
Amitabh continues to be the only actor ever in the history of Indian cinema, and perhaps, even during the much-vaulted Hollywood fad, that continues to be relevant in an age that is considered a benchmark for retirement: While his contemporaries like De Niro or even Pacino continue to act in despicable movies that rely on them popping Viagra in Las Vegas to remain relevant, this actor continues to be a symbol of high cultural currency built up over decades of histrionics. Amitabh is not at a point or an age where he can attract audiences on a pure monetary, box-office level, but he is truly at that point where his mere presence can enhance the prestige of the project that he's involved in. Pink is a symbolic and culturally-relevant movie: That Amitabh finds himself at age 74 as a septuagenarian in a movie that talks of slut-shaming or takes a harsh look at societal judgement of single, working women in a post-millennial age itself is a testimony to the fact that talent never dies; it just needs some watering to aid in an already present wonderful DNA of a talent. As a mentally-disturbed lawyer in Pink, he just scorches the screen with his empty gazes: Those gazes have wells of pain and philosophy buried in them: If he was the face of pathos in Mili in 1971 staring into nothingness with a decorative glass of whiskey, here, he just sits on a park bench pulling off an ominous mask and stares at Tapsee: That the audience sees something weird but nothing sexually creepy is itself testimony to the fact that he has the capability to translate the director's vision into actual reality.
In Teen, he is superb as a world weary grandfather who is so hellbent on keeping his scooter that, inspite of 'starting problems', believes that it flies like a rocket once the gears are shifted! This is a finely held back performance. He brings out the contrast between his old age, weariness with a stubborn attitude that goes against the physical dexterity demanded of a fine act.
Akshay Kumar (Airlift)
Akshay's growth in the last few years is remarkable especially considering the fact that he remained a wooden actor for more than a decade since he started out in the '90s. His transformation began with Priyadarshan's Hera Pheri in 2000 but it was only after Khakee in 2004 that he started shining brighter and cemented a place as an actor with great comic timing. With Neeraj Pandey, he found a director who could fully exploit his strengths as an actor, and that's a combination that's worked wonders both at the box-office as well as in the growth of Akshay as a reliable actor. In Airlift his portrayal of Ranjit Katyal and his transformation from a cocky, callous businessman who is quite happy living in his cocoon built with his proximity with influential Iraqi and Kuwaiti businessmen and government officials to that of a saviour of 170000 Indians is quite remarkable: And its remarkable not because it’s a brilliant performance but because it’s a truly believable performance. When he starts driving and sees mayhem on the streets and starts weeping inconsolably at what was once a haven of blissful life just a few days ago, one believes his pain in trying to make a sense of the situation that his days, as a have-all who considered himself more Kuwaiti than an Indian is crashing down right in front of his eyes: Or when he wistfully realiees the futility of his own cockiness and laments to Purab about the first word that a man, however accomplished, utters in pain is his mother's. Akshay has firmly cut his groove in this domain, and has made it improbable for us as an audience to think of any other Hindi film actor that could play a middle-aged, salt and pepper-bearded, world-weary person trying to fight it out with, well, life.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Raman Raghav 2.0)
Nawaz is often stereotyped, thanks but no-thanks to his looks, as someone who is capable of playing only those out-lier roles of a societal outcast; a serial-murderer or a slum-dweller or a low-life criminal. It is indeed sad, since he has a damn good rapport with comic roles; as displayed in Bajrangi Bhaijaan as well as in Freaky Ali. (His performance in here is a hoot; sadly, the film is a letdown). In Raman Raghav, Anurag Kashyap’s take on the concept of‘ध्वन्द्वा’, inter-twined personalities of good and evil: Nawaz sinks into the role and portrays a chilling persona. It’s mostly a mundane film that lights up the screen only in the climactic portions and mainly during the scenes in which Vicky Kaushal’s cop and Nawaz’s Ramanna come together. It’s a delight to watch the conversations between these two, and it is pretty clear which one of the two leave a stronger mark here.
Salman Khan (Sultan)
In Salman's case, curiously, it is as though the more controversies he gets embroiled in, the better his performances get (bad off-screen; better on-screen?) In Sultan, Salman pretty much continues playing the same tripe he doles out film after film. He remains the only star who has benefitted from the south masala model of business, specifically, the Telugu masala model, which has absolutely nothing in common with the rich masala traditions of the Javed-Salim-Amitabh combo of the '70s and can hardly hold a candle to that era of masala-tropes. Out of the three Khans, Salman is the only 'actor' who has just been carrying on with stock expressions showing very, very limited growth in terms of accumulations and growth in the expression basket. But in Sultan, only in the parts where he plays the Rocky Balboa rip-off coming to terms with age and declining fame, he connects with a heart felt performance. The tears that flow are real and it's hard to miss the 'son-of-the-soil' persona he projects. When he is stunned and conveys his shock at what Amit Sadh's Aakash Oberoi expects of him by asking him to fight in a MMA and replies that the only move he knows is that of 'dhobi pachad' but hey, this one, bloody hell, has chamaat, thappad, and even gaalis, it is impossible to stay unconnected with Salman's Sultan Ali Khan and his internal fight between goals and obstacles.
Shahid Kapoor (Udta Punjab)
As a Punjabi rockstar in Chaubey's Udta Punjab, Shahid tore to shreds the image of a the rockstar who as brilliantly put and paraphrased here— in Bharadwaj's 7 Khoon Maaf, "सालापतानहींक्योंलेकिनएकगिटारलेकेखड़ाहोजॅयेयो, तोकोईभीहिन्दुस्तानकीलड़कीफिदाहोसकतीहै’'-- is cool and can bed any woman he wants: With his stoned, wide-eyed and confused existential crises, he pulls you right in. He is marvelously vulnerable when he tells Alia 'अबतूभीमारले Behe!@#$' as they start conversing on whose plight gets credit as the greater of the two.
Shah Rukh Khan (Fan)
Clearly lagging in terms of super-stardom currently when compared to the other two Khans, SRK went all out with Fan in bringing to life the dichotomy of a fan and a superstar. He was in his element here as the younger fan and in fine form as a controlled, somewhat arrogant, somewhat grounded superstar. His response to a business tycoon demanding that he dance at a wedding since he is contracted at a ‘bomb’ is a hoot! SRK tried his best, but alas, the film went into a different terrain post intermission with a point of no-return. There was too much of SRK the star's meta-references without actually amounting to much, in totality.