How Rajkummar Rao and Irrfan Khan proved that 2017 was about actors and not superstars

How Rajkummar Rao and Irrfan Khan proved that 2017 was about actors and not superstars

Bollywood 2017 saw the rise of two actors - Rajkummar Rao and Irrfan Khan. Their films like Trapped, Newton and Hindi Medium won hearts, as against the movies of Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan.

Rajkummar Rao and Irrfan Khan.
2017 saw content driven films doing well, and a major share for it goes to Rajkummar Rao and Irrfan Khan.

Ever wondered what it takes to outdo the mighty Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan? And I am not talking about the box office figures, but in terms of winning hearts. Salman and SRK maniacs would still want to differ, but the truth is 2017 did not belong to them. It belonged to two names who had the power and talent to outshine the rest of Khans. They were Rajkummar Rao and Irrfan Khan.

While on one hand there is Irrfan, who has preferred to keep his first name so that he isn’t a part of ‘Khan-gang’, on the other hand there is Rajkummar, who has slowly yet steadily climbed the ladder of success with his sheer dedication. Their films might not be made on exorbitant budgets and not rake in huge moolah too, but they manage to prove with every new movie that they are here to stay and do good work.

Rajkummar Rao in Bose: Dead/Alive.
Rajkummar Rao played Subhash Chandra Bose in Bose: Dead/Alive.

2017 is comfortably being called the year of Rajkummar Rao. The actor had five films, one cameo and a highly successful web-series in his kitty, with each one having him play roles which were poles apart. Rajkummar pushed his own boundaries. He ensured that content became the hero of his films and he, as a performer, gave the best possible backing to it, in some cases even carried the the movies entirely on his shoulders.

Rajkummar has been around for several years. He proved his mettle in films like LSD, Shahid, Kai Po Che, Aligarh and Gangs of Wasseypur. He played varied roles from a lecherous guy to one caught in a flawed system. He could be the actor’s best support to his biggest enemy. Before 2017, we did not doubt for an ounce that this actor deserved all kinds of praise under the sun for his immense dedication towards his craft and his extraordinary talent. However, the year gone-by only added to his finesse.

Rajkummar Rao films in 2017.
Rajkummar Rao had six films and one web-series in 2017.

It looks like 2017 was a moment in Rajkummar’s life where he delivered his best so far. His films – Trapped, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Behen Hogi Teri, Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana, Newton, Raabta and web-series Bose: Dead/Alive left the viewers satiated towards their need for talent and good cinema. He can be solely held responsible for bringing that shift in spectrum where now, the audience wants to see a performer than a star and appreciate story-driven films than a money-minting machine.

Just like his Pritam switched into Vidrohi in Bareilly Ki Barfi, he has switched cinema in 2017 too. Just like he physically transformed for Trapped and Bose, he has transformed the way we see decently budgeted films too. His Newton was not chosen as India’s official entry at upcoming Oscars for no reason. It surely ranks as one of the best films of 2017. Ask Rajkummar about his rise and rise in 2017, and he prefers to stay grounded. “I’m filled with gratitude and grateful for all the love and support. It’s just a humble beginning,” he tells us. It is indeed the beginning to much more success coming his way in the times ahead.

Irrfan Khan and Saba Qamar in Hindi Medium.
Irrfan Khan and Saba Qamar in Hindi Medium.

2017 also saw Irrfan Khan’s signature histrionics on the big screen. At 50, Irrfan has changed the kind of roles he does. Playing a common man with common needs and common mistakes, Irrfan was the reflection of anyone sitting in the audience in his two hits in 2017 – Hindi Medium and Qarib Qarib Singlle. While both dealt with a story picked from regular life, it was Irrfan’s charm and natural ease which made him our favourite.

Irrfan has already established himself as a versatile actor in the past two decades with films like Maqbool, Life In A Metro, Paan Singh Tomar, The Lunchbox, Talvar and Piku. But 2017 was a clear drift in the kind of cinema he plans to do to ensure a long term inning. His films have become a slice-of-life and his impromptu lines and gestures onscreen tells us why he is here to win over the younger generation too. From playing a villain in Haasil to a hero in Hindi Medium, Irrfan’s journey has been remarkable, so much so that he even mentioned this after winning a Best Actor award recently.

Irrfan Khan and Parvathy in a still from Qarib Qarib Singlle.
Irrfan Khan and Parvathy in a still from Qarib Qarib Singlle.

Point to note is, both Rajkummar and Irrfan are outsiders in this otherwise ‘nepotism’ laden industry who have proved that survival does not require a producer dad but winning the adulation of the viewers. And they got a lot of it in 2017, and will also receive in 2018, and even after that!

Thank you, Rajkummar Rao and Irrfan Khan, for wiping the glass which now ensures that we, as audience see humble talent and sheer brilliance on the camera, and not believe in some superficial star power, which was hiding the real picture across this glass.