Best Actors 2018

It was quite a happening year for men in Hindi cinema. The industry saw the emergence of Vicky Kaushal to the mainstream with multiple memorable performances. Varun Dhawan shed his usual superstar trappings and emerged victorious in two nuanced films. Shah Rukh Khan was the life of Zero whereas Ranbir Kapoor presented to us a facet of his that we never knew existed.

Here’s presenting 2018’s best actors from Hindi films, ranked in reverse order:

10. Vicky Kaushal (Manmarziyaan) & Rajkummar Rao (Stree)

In a phase where Hindi cinema is more welcoming to actors of varied styles and methods, Vicky Kaushal stood out for his spontaneity and originality. Playing an unlikeable part to perfection in Manmarziyaan, Vicky (that’s also the screen name) is irresponsible and non-committal. His love for Rumi tiptoes the fine line between being ruthlessly possessive and selfish. Kaushal’s spirited performance is one of the few elements that gives Manmarziyaan the much-needed lift.

Rajkummar Rao, on the other hand, was wonderful in the endearing horror-comedy Stree. The film put his natural goofiness to full use and the actor takes to it with remarkable ease. Adding a feather to his well-decorated cap, the film also upped Rao’s reach at the box office.

9. Ishaan Khatter (Beyond The Clouds)

The young actor was no great shakes in his second film Dhadak which went on to become a huge hit. Anyhow, his debut film crafted by celebrated maker Majid Majidi had him make a spectacular impression.

Playing a slum-dweller who is involved in petty crimes, Khatter showed zero traces of being a rookie. He develops terrific chemistry with his co-actors and if his outbursts were to be evaluated, then the actor will soon be a force to reckon with in Hindi film industry.

8. Varun Dhawan (Sui Dhaaga – Made in India)

Varun Dhawan is pitch perfect as the hassled, restless Mauji who is struggling to put his skills into good use. Submissive and maybe a little more talkative, Mauji flaunts shades similar to those of the protagonist’s in Dum Laga Ke Haisha even though both have different challenges to address in life.

Dhawan’s matinee idol persona also doesn’t go for a toss as he paints a stark portrait of a regular young man somewhere in the heartlands.

7. Ranbir Kapoor (Sanju)

It is hard to look objectively at Sanju. It is also hard not to credit Ranbir Kapoor for this highly satisfying performance. Kapoor’s interpretation of Sanjay Dutt initially comes off as a case of good mimicry. Then we reach a point where we get to analyze how organic is the man in transforming into a person who we are already familiar of, thanks to the movies.

In the film, Sanju’s journey from early youth to middle-age and the events that he goes through flaunt myriad shades and are, therefore, hard to be encapsulated in a sparing run-time of two-and-half hours. Kapoor’s ability to master the subject’s body language and physicality only adds to his already proven skills as a terrific performer, both of which ensuring him a place in this list.

6. Shah Rukh Khan (Zero)

This might be a slightly unpopular opinion but Shah Rukh Khan as the vertically challenged Bauua Singh in Zero has to be amongst the year’s very best. Despite the heavy incongruences in the screenplay, Khan confidently makes us believe in Bauua’s fantasies. As faulty as any ordinary person, the character demands an immensely charismatic face who could be romantic, mean, naïve and deceptive – all at the same time. And not once do we feel that the actor is capitalizing his own superstar image to create a lovable extension.

All we see in this substantially flawed film is a loud, privileged vertically challenged man who sees himself in all Western glory in his dreams whilst lusting after the sensual actress Babita Kumari when he is awake. As much as I didn’t mind the shooting star reference in the film, I wish the whole concept matched Khan in terms of the honesty that brims out of the screen.

5. Manoj Bajpayee (Gali Guleiyan)

There are times when I wonder if there should be any ‘Best Actor’ lists wherein Manoj Bajpayee doesn’t find a place. He’s an actor who stands as a solid force even in films like Satyameva Jayate and Aiyaari. These films may or may not work for a large spectrum of film lovers but Bajpayee does – to everyone – in all garbs that he chooses to appear in.

Talking strictly about Gali Gulieyan, I do not see another Hindi film actor who could have pulled it off the way he does. It isn’t an easy film to sit through. Bajpayee, who is so very good at sensing the character’s psyche, performs it ably without overwhelming his viewers to extremes when he easily could have.

4. Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Manto)

Hindi cinema is at a juncture where biopics sell easier than Shah Rukh Khan and sex (with reference to Neha Dhupia’s infamous quote). And how many of them are doing justice to their subjects? Instances are rare as a majority of them transform into hollow hagiographies with the family of the subject or sometimes the person himself dictating terms on how the story needs to be told.

In Nandita Das’s biopic on Saadat Hassan Manto, we did not see such creative distortions even though certain less problematic flaws persisted. However, what cannot be denied at any point is Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s dexterity in interpreting the volatile writer known for his sharp pen and grit. Similar looks aside, Siddiqui’s anger and transparent set of expressions made sure that the film was a treat for those who’ve imagined the wordsmith while relishing some of his spicy and controversial works.

3. Ayushmann Khurrana (Andhadhun)

A blind pianist entangled in a mess of a murder mystery! Andhadhun gave Ayushmann Khurrana a cracker of an opportunity to display another facet of his in a multi-shaded part. Let’s not get into the role and its ambiguous sides, whether or not he was actually vision-impaired.

Also for Khurrana, for a change, he was not dealing with an embarrassing situation here. More so, we can conclude how he was ‘the situation’ or the pawn in the enterprise and, fortunately enough, the actor unleashes an all-new persona in a role that seemed tailor-made.

2. Varun Dhawan (October)

To be honest, no one really expects Varun Dhawan to deliver a performance that pushes the boundaries for wide clan of performers. A good actor by now, Dhawan is at a juncture where he is essentially evolving. If we look back at his rise from Student of The Year through Badlapur to Badrinath Ki Dulhania, we see steady growth in his craft but nothing that could be termed extraordinary.

In Shoojit Sircar’s October and later in Sharat Katariya’s Sui Dhaaga – Made in India, the unexpected happened and Dhawan turned in performances that place him ahead of his contemporaries by miles. It is not clear whether Dhawan himself will be capable of delivering something as empathetic as October in his immediate career. Nevertheless, Dan from the film is a screen character who will move anyone to tears. Is it a love story? Maybe not. But love certainly is what Dan had for Shiuli and Varun Dhawan expresses it with incredible beauty.

1. Vineet Kumar Singh (Mukkabaaz)

We have heard enough from Anurag Kashyap about the efforts that have gone into Vineet Kumar Singh’s transformation as his screen character, Shravan Kumar. I was oblivious to all of it when I caught this film at a film festival and Singh, being a not-so-common face in Hindi films, bowled me over. Not once did I believe that he was an actor who took strenuous training to be a boxer, somewhere in North India. While bringing so much power and sensitivity to the table, his part is physically and emotionally taxing as it demands him to look tough, feel in love with his woman and combat the antagonists that are out to destroy him. It might sound oh-so-conventional in regular Hindi film parlance but it isn’t that easy. Singh makes the whole challenge appear smooth and effortless and there lies his victory.

Special mention: Sohum Shah (Tumbaad), Avinash Tiwari (Laila Majnu), Saif Ali Khan (Kaalakaandi), Danny Denzongpa (Bioscopewala), Parambrata Chakraborty (Pari)

Down the years…

Top 10 Male Actors in Lead Roles (2017)
Top 10 Male Actors in Lead Roles (2016)