As 2019 is all set to draw its curtains, it is that time of the year again — to honour some of the best in the business. This year’s listicle of best actors includes some new players and a few oldies. The list is made in mind keeping not only the performance of the artiste but also how it helped draw in a large audience to theaters without compromising (too much) on other departments of cinema.
Ayushmann Khurrana is the new poster boy for well-made commercial cinema. In fact, he has been living up to the tag for quite a while now. In 2019, he overworked himself by starring in back-to-back films — Article 15, Dream Girl and Bala. But hey, all that hard work paid off as the actor delivered box office hits one after the other. His films belong to that rare breed of cinema which ticks both boxes — commercial viability and critical appreciation.
While Article 15 featured Khurrana as an IPS officer investigating the rape and murder of two Dalit girls, Dream Girl was about a man who was forced to switch his identity for monetary purposes. On the other hand, the Amar Kaushik directorial Bala dealt with the issue of premature balding. And as usual, the actor was convincing in all the characters. However, I felt he outshone his co-stars in Article 15 as a police officer who has to come to terms with his identity and biases in order to follow the ‘correct path’.
After delivering hits in 2018 (Padmaavat and Simmba), Ranveer transformed himself once again for the silver screen – this time as the aspiring and less-privileged rapper Murad Ahmed. And boy did Ranveer nail the multi-layered Murad. And this statement becomes even more astounding when one recalls that only two months prior to the release of Gully Boy, we had seen the actor donning the khaki as the brawny Simmba.
While I had some problems with a few of the dialogues and the overzealous tone of Aditya Dhar directorial Uri, it would be wrong not to admit that it was a well-packaged movie, with excellent cinematography, a great background score and some moving performances. And when we talk about acting chops, how can the new emerging star of the industry, Vicky Kaushal’s name be left behind? Kaushal was convincing as the army man who was willing to go to any length to safeguard his country. He not only looked the part but conveyed the difficulties and complications of his job quite well.
Over multiple decades, Amitabh Bachchan has proved to the audience that he not only can act but can command the screen and your attention at will, almost like a magician. It goes without saying that he is a fine actor and an even bigger star, and what happens often with big stars is that they end up swallowing the whole space. But Big B managed to contain himself in the Sujoy Ghosh directorial Badla — a revenge thriller based on the Spanish original, The Invisible Guest. And I mean that in the best possible way. He gave space to his co-star Taapsee Pannu in a predictable plot. In the end, it is not the twists and turns of the feature, but it is Senior Bachchan’s generosity that you take away from the film. In Badla, we see Bachchan not as the superstar, but as an actor who is willing to engage with his co-star without any baggage or hangups of being Amitabh Bachchan.
Manoj is one of those rare, special actors who can show a lot of his character without actually physically doing much. And in Abhishek Chaubey’s dacoit drama Sonchiriya, he does the same. Manoj as the ‘daaku’ Maan Singh is quietly powerful, as well as graceful and humane — the two adjectives we don’t often associate with dacoits. As usual, a job well done.
Farhan Akhtar in The Sky Is Pink
Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Photograph
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