My pick of 2015’s Best Actors & Actresses!

Best Actress 2015Spirit, substance, sass, serenity – the Hindi film heroine painted the screen in a myriad of emotions.

Certainly, 2015 worked out favourably for these fine ladies as they stole the show on the strength of powerfully penned roles and earnest talent.

Give it up for, this year’s 10 Best Actresses in no particular order!

Deepika Padukone (Tamasha)
At the top of her game today, Deepika Padukone is so potent in Tamasha, it’s almost as if you can hear her heartbeat across the screen.

One must possess a heightened degree of sensitivity to understand and express the nuances of her Tara as she graduates from being inspired to becoming the inspiration.

Except the agony she endures before its realisation within Ranbir Kapoor, like the café outburst scene wherein Deepika lays her heart and soul bare, brutally bare, is devastating to say the least.

Watching her so utterly heartbroken felt personal, it left me choked and physically drained.

Kalki Koechlin (Margarita, With a Straw)
Essaying a character defined by physical disabilities is always a tricky deal.

Perceived as designed for attention, it’s hard to shake off even the tiniest hint of manipulation. But Kalki Koechlin overcomes such obstacles with sparkling honesty as the inspiring young woman refusing to let her medical condition limit her potential or supress her desire.

Kalki gets the tone and language of her Laila perfectly. That her performance doesn’t feel like one is her biggest accomplishment.

Anushka Sharma (NH10)

It’s always heartening to see an actress get out of her comfort zone.

Anushka Sharma plays out every urban Indian woman’s worst nightmare with relatable anxiety living out the worst day of her life in home production, NH10.

Truly remarkable to see her grit evolve out of a character constantly changing its emotional pace from dread to desperation. Even though the climax is too contrived for my liking, Anushka’s deadpan revenge hits hard.

Radhika Apte (Badlapur)
Nothing in Badlapur is simple but few can boast of the complexity that is Radhika Apte’s Kanchan.

Even an established actress would have a hard time bringing out the dilemma and distress of a wife finding out the horrid truth about her husband yet agreeing to disturbing degree of torture to protect him as faultlessly Apte does.

Badlapur might not be about Apte but her intensely big eyes and spectacular guts are my second big takeaway from Sriram Raghavan’s vendetta drama.

Priyanka Chopra (Bajirao Mastani)
Brimming with passion and grace, Priyanka embodies the heart in Bajirao Mastani.

Even though she’s neither in the title nor the focus of an epic romance, what she lends to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s visual extravaganza elevates it into something more than a thing of beauty.

There’s a scene where she humiliates Deepika Padukone’s Mastani in the unkindest of words. What is in design a typical Bollywood face-off is transformed into the conflict of woman, unable to hide her hurt yet unwilling to stay mean-spirited, only because Priyanka mocks it, moulds it, owns it.

Hers is the most realised characterisation—one of a wife nursing her wounded pride owing to her husband’s affair, a daughter-in-law sharing a loving bond with her protective mother-in-law, a mother troubled by her son’s growing resentment for his father and a diplomat who’ll fulfil her moral duties at the expense of her heart.

Bhumi Pednekar (Dum Laga Ke Haisha)
Dum Laga Ke Haisha relies heavily on newcomer Bhumi Pednekar to work.

Hers is not some random overweight girl ridiculed in the first half and gets a sizzling makeover in the second. No, she’s real, full of attitude and won’t take things lying down.

That we’ll root for Bhumi’s ballsy, thick-skinned avatar is expected but she’s equally persuasive when her guard goes down.

Hard to believe it’s only her first movie. She is absolutely delightful whether talking back to her acerbic aunt-in-law (a terrific, terrific Sheeba Chhaddha), seducing/slapping her cantankerous, inferior husband or inspiring admiration through her tremendous display of magnanimity.

Kangana Ranaut (Tanu Weds Manu Returns)
Double roles in Hindi movies are not so much about personality as they’re about differences. But Tanu and Datto are no chalk and cheese twins, they’re both feisty yet unique. And Kangana Ranaut is superlative as both.

She disappears in the skin of a Haryanvi-rattling athlete; the straightforward, socially awkward Datto and demands your attention as Tanu the drama queen, sometimes drunk and almost never sober.

It’s impossible to pick a favourite between these rollicking ladies.

Shweta Tripathi (Masaan)
Shweta Tripathi plays sunshine oblivious to the grim contemplations of Masaan.

Don’t take her for your average chirpy. The tenderness in Tripathi’s unfeigned understanding of youth unfazed by social pressures is extraordinary as is her romanticized view of a life full of poetry, possibilities and dreams.

Shweta’s subtlety and sweetness has such a lasting impact, it’s plain unbearable to discover what it leads up to.

Best Actress 2015Pavleen Gujral (Angry Indian Goddesses)

As the obvious conformist in her girl gang, Pavleen Gujral’s Pammi invites judgement every single time she outrages over her friend’s unorthodox choices. 

It’s a dangerously caricature territory but Pavleen sprinkles her in humour and vulnerability by concentrating on the mischief, masti and nostalgia.

She conceals a storm beneath her resigned approach and incessant smile and is, ultimately, looking for inspiration and emancipation. Pavleen underplays this life-changing realisation and emerges the strongest of them all.

Shivani Raghuvanshi (Titli)
Raw. So raw, this Shivani Raghuvanshi. There’s no artifice to her performance as a woman caught between deceit and crime. Often her hopeless naiveté is far more effective than Shashank Arora’s gloomy-faced Titli.

This is a brave debut, whether she’s peeing in her pants at the sight of cold-blooded murder or volunteering an arm to be struck by a hammer in a desperate bid to get back with her boyfriend.

“Don’t do it,”she still pleads in a broken voice. You feel her pain.

*******

Best Actor 2015
While it does appear like a case of women on top, the men didn’t fare too bad themselves.

And not just the ones we are accustomed to seeing quality work in Hindi movies.

To know what I mean, take a look at my pick of 2015’s Ten Best Actors, again, in no particular order.

Irrfan Khan, (Piku, Talvar)
What can be better than our best talent in roles worthy of their genius? Had the pleasure of watching Irrfan Khan in two such avatars this year.

Like I wrote in my review, Piku would half the movie in the absence of his calm wisdom. He plays Piku’s breakthrough with intelligence and sarcasm.

And there’s Talvar, where his CBI officer is investigating a messy murder– one he took on reluctantly, one he pursues uncompromisingly, one that leaves him beaten and bitter, Khan renders it in heft and cynicism.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Manjhi-The Mountain Main, Badlapur and Bajrangi Bhaijaan)
Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s brilliance shines through the versatile characters he essayed in 2015.

As a man who starts out angry at the mountain that claimed his wife’s life to reaching a mutual understanding, even friendship with it over decades of bittersweet interaction, his personification of the inanimate in a script devoid of detailing is spellbinding to say the least.

Nawaz of Badlapur is sensational, revealing a world of complexities under and between layers and layers of dark deceit and dangerous desperation.

Amitabh Bachchan (Shamitabh, Piku)
Shamitabh loses steam by its third act but nothing to fault in Amitabh Bachchan’s delivery of a surly, sceptical alcoholic, erstwhile failed actor receiving his due for the same quality that got him rejected in the day – his towering voice.

And boy, can he use it to say words that sting and spew venom trickling out of a punctured ego. Bachchan’s calibre shines through and through in a film that liberally indulges him, at times at its own expense.

When an actor has worked as much as AB, fatigue settles in. So it’s nothing short of a marvel to see him retain his sense of wonderment and enthusiasm when playing a constipation-ridden, idiosyncratic septuagenarian in Piku.

Ranveer Singh (Bajirao Mastani, Dil Dhadakne Do)
Ranveer Singh has raised the bar this year. And how!

His unassuming, dry-humoured tone while he comes of age is perfect to portray the reluctant heir to his father’s business. It’s the sort of assured, relaxed performance that takes its pride in creating impact without the usual hullabaloo and histrionics.

In complete contrast is his stunning Maratha Peshwa Bajirao, full of swagger and swords and statements. Everything about Bhansali’s lavish costume drama is designed for attention and Ranveer looks like he wasn’t just destined but born to play the part.

Ranvir Shorey (Titli)
Is that really Ranvir Shorey? Because what I recall is a terrifying monster that I cannot forget but don’t want to remember.

Titli is a disturbing movie to sit through predominantly because of Shorey’s presence, his actions and how seamlessly he gets under the skin of a man whose desperation has turned him into a disgrace. What’s most chilling is how he maintains a aura of normalcy around him.

It’s a demanding performance but Shorey makes it look real, painless.

Ranbir Kapoor (Tamasha)
Deepika Padukone is magnificent as his ladylove in Tamasha. But part of its credit goes to Ranbir Kapoor as well. These two bring out the best in each other; unearth new dimensions in their characters, some that aren’t always mentioned on a piece of paper.

Ranbir’s Ved unravels like a multifaceted personality. There’s this fun side where he gives into role-playing, there’s a mechanical office slave holding back his true potential to fit in, there’s the disturbed form having a breakdown over the same and there’s, finally, Ved – the original, in his true form.

Ved could totally backfire in a lesser actor’s possession but Ranbir embraces the good with the bad and realises his extremes and conflicts without creating disconnected people but the same individual at different stages of life.

Salman Khan (Bajrangi Bhaijaan)
The Salman Khan in Bajrangi Bhaijaan is nothing like the cocky, catchphrase-ready action hero of Wanted and ilk. But this novelty isn’t the only reason to give it value. There’s quality too.

Salman upholds the humility and idealism of Bajrangi Bhaijaan in his enchanting show of grace and virtue. What surprised me is the honesty.

His chemistry around children is regularly precious but the Baloo-reminiscent fondness he feels for Harshaali Malhotra endears us to his cause as he sets about sans any passport to reunite the kid with her family in Pakistan. It’s a character you root for, a performance you regale in.

Best Actor 2015Anil Kapoor (Dil Dhadakne Do)
The minute I typed out his name here, a visual of Anil Kapoor’s priceless expression in Dil Dhadakne Do popped in my head – one where he catches Vikrant Massey and Riddhima Sud red-handed.

Now here’s an actor who’s constantly finding fresh ways to surprise and entertain his audience.

And so I reiterate, “right from the moment Kapoor delivers his first punch line clad in a pair of spiffy golf pants to the final scene seizing his vivacious, winsome grin, he crackles the screen with his portrayal of a deliciously calculating Punjabi patriarch.  Alternately refined, bumbling, rascally and vulnerable, Kapoor is the life of Zoya’s opulent multistarrer.”

Deepak Dobriyal (Tanu Weds Manu Returns)
“Bhai, tailor suit ke saath kafan bhi seete ho kya?”

“Woh ticket saat hazaar ka thi. Theek nahi laga seedhe paagal khana jaana. Socha pehle London ghoom loon.”

“Masoor ki dal mein ajinomoto nahi padta!”

“You are a good question but your question hurt me.”

Does one really need to explain what makes Deepak Dobriyal such a scream in Tanu Weds Manu Returns? The success of the sequel owes as much to Dobriyal’s droll Pappiji as it does to Kangana Ranaut in a delightful double role.

Ayushmann Khurana (Dum Laga Ke Haisha)
Ayushmann Khurana doesn’t start out as the standard likeable guy promising righteous behaviour and rakish charm. Far from it, he’s sullen, cranky, stifled and perennially dissatisfied with his family and life unwilling to take the blame for it.

This snappiness only inflates when he demonstrates embarrassment towards his new bride. Only instead of coming across as misogynist, a discerning Khurana portrays him like a bad loser who gradually realises his mistake and breaks the thorny walls he’s build around him as some sort of a defence mechanism.

Khurana is a revelation as the shuddh-Hindi spewing, Haridwar resident Prem Prakash Tiwari.

The Best Actor and Actress list was first published on rediff.com

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