When films improve in terms of their making especially with their scripting and direction, the performances of the actors (both male and female) also improve. Of course, for a long time Indian actors have performed better even in mediocre films but with the betterment of cinema, which was witnessed vividly in 2018, the performances have become significantly more remarkable. It was quite difficult for me to pick up the best as leaving out any act, no matter how small, seemed like a crime. Yet I’ve listed down the 10 best acting performances by male actors in the year that just went by in a hope that my views will resonate with those of most of my readers.
Honourable Mentions: –
Ranveer Singh – Simmba
Shahrukh Khan – Zero
Tahir Raj Bhasin – Manto
Sunil Grover – Pataakha
Ayushmann Khurrana – Andhadhun
Abhishek Bachchan – Manmarziyaan
Manoj Bajpayee – Love Sonia
10. Gajraj Rao – Badhaai Ho
Gajraj Rao is not new to the screen. He has been in films before and is more popular for appearing on web series and stuff made by organisations like TVF. Rao has always been brilliant especially with comedy and his comic timing has never been out of place. However, it’s his rendition of Jeetender in Badhaai Ho that gave him the recognition he always deserved. The film, and specifically his performance, is a fantastic example as to how you tickle the funny bone of the audience through sheer simplicity and without any sarcasm or slapstick nonsenses. Adding to the flavour is the endearing chemistry that he shares with his co-star Neena Gupta making a point that even the aged actors can imbue a romantic atmosphere, albeit a matured one, in the presence of fiery and energetic youth icons. People like him prove it why experience matters when it comes to any field, acting being one of it, and Rao steals the show right from under the nose of the youngsters and we can only be amazed for it.
9. Amitabh Bachchan – 102 Not Out
Very few actors have done roles as versatile as Amitabh Bachchan has done and even in his late 70s, he showcases more energy than the people of my age group do. As Dattatreya in 102 Not Out, he not only brims with energy and life but also exudes an unrelenting amount of charm which draws the emotions of the audience with ease. Playing an energetic elderly person can be more challenging than it seems and it’s only fair if the actor went overboard with his act but Bachchan resists it and makes his performance more credible. Through his character, he teaches the audience as to how one should live his/her life which is not governed by the mundaneness of daily routine but in finding happiness within smaller elements that we often ignore owing to worldly problems.
8. Akshay Kumar – Pad Man
Though action and comedy are Akshay Kumar’s main strength, yet in recent times he has explored the serious actor in him and the results have always been on the fairer side. His rendition of Lakshmi in Pad Man was sort of contentious owing to the social taboo regarding menstruation that’s widespread in India. However, Regardless of the social stigma, most people understand the implications and the necessity (and in turn unavoidability) of menstruation and Kumar could prick that conscience in his audience which is why he lures his viewers into sympathising for him through his trials and tribulations. Nonetheless, he puts up a radiant persona which exudes a winsome influence notwithstanding his character’s shortcomings. This is specifically visible when he speaks at a UN convention in Linglish which means Lakshmi’s English, a funny meld of English with the typical Indian accent along with loads of grammatical ludicrousness which is obvious in a less literate person like Lakshmi. By the end of the film, Kumar brings out the sentimental figure in his audience as he concludes one of his career-best performances and easily his best in recent years.
7. Saif Ali Khan – Kaalakaandi
Kaalakaandi had an interesting concept with three separate converging stories all narrating some sort of major fuck ups (hence the title) but it never emerged out in a refined form as per its potential. There are several moments that are good or great, and several others that are underwhelming. Interestingly, Saif Ali Khan (whose story formed one part of the film) was present in almost every sequence that was likeable about Kaalakaandi. Portraying a man dying of cancer who decides to get dirty and has ecstasy which in turn lead to a series of hilarious happening and mis-happenings, Khan invigorates the narrative with his quirky rendition presenting several layers of humanely characteristics in a stipulated runtime. He exhibits both maturities as well as uncontrollable craziness and sometimes even manifests them in a single sequence with such ease that even an attentive viewer is left flabbergasted. Khan has rarely received roles that could capitalise the serious actor that lies within him, which is bespoken by his stellar performance in Kaalakaandi, something that even outperforms the film itself.
6. Varun Dhawan – October
It’s been more than half a decade that Varun Dhawan has been working in Bollywood but never has he been taken as seriously as an actor as he was in October (and I’m not forgetting Badlapur). He portrays a character who is pretty careless and even lacks the maturity expected from a person of his age. No, he isn’t crazy or a guy with low IQ, Danish aka Dan is a person who reacts to his emotional impulses more than the science of life. However, even through such an uninspiring character, Dhawan’s portrayal of innocent love and humanely care wins the heart of the audiences who realise that life is more than just about sense and sensibilities. Dan might not be the most pragmatic guy but he is the kind of friend and lover one always wishes for, and he has been brought to life by Dhawan’s exceptional performance. Of course, portraying such a character may not be a very difficult task and any actor could have taken up the mantle but it’s also necessary to understand that playing such a character depends on one’s own interpretation of it and different people would have performed Dan in a different manner. Considering all of that, I believe that Dhawan’s rendition here is the most apposite one as required by a film like October. You may argue that his act looks pleasing because the film is beautiful and hence he shouldn’t have been here on the list in favour of many other acting giants but the case is actually the opposite. October is an exquisite film not simply because it had all its filmmaking elements in perfect condition, but because all of them depended on one person, the protagonist, and he instils the film with a soothing flow of uneasy emotions which in turn bring it to life. He is not here simply because he delivers a great performance but because October is a beautiful film and Varun Dhawan is – October.
5. Ranbir Kapoor – Sanju
Irrespective of how his movies perform at the box office, Ranbir Kapoor has always been the most sort after youth actor in Bollywood since his rise to stardom in the early 2010s. Several youngsters have since emerged and been successful in Bollywood including Rajkummar Rao, Ranveer Singh, and others, but none have enjoyed the star status that Kapoor enjoys. He is indubitably a great actor and has performed well even in bad movies. That’s predominantly because of his keen understanding of his own characters and how he should be playing them. He has played drastically different roles but portraying someone as charismatic as Sanjay Dutt, another Bollywood giant, was probably his toughest challenge. As the appellative character, he had to showcase various sides of human life both on positive and negative sides and he does it perfectly. But what astonished viewers, was how flawlessly he imitated the mannerism of Dutt, which has a separate fanbase for itself. His rendition was so perfect that even Sanjay Dutt himself went all out to appreciate it. Kapoor’s performance in Sanju is more of an explanation as to why he has survived several box office disappointments and why he will still continue to spearhead the army of talented youngsters in an industry that is ameliorating in quality and becoming more competitive for the better.
4. Ranveer Singh – Padmaavat
There are so many things that are good about Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat but it’s chiefly remembered for two things – It’s pre-release controversy and Ranveer Singh’s blinder as the antagonist Alauddin Khilji. Singh’s previous performances are testimonies to his love for over-the-top performances and Khilji was his best bet. However, getting into the skin of such a villainous character wasn’t a cup of tea for him and he had to lock himself up and remain in solitary in order to acquire his (Khilji’s) insanity. He ends up building a persona that is vile and loathsome in the film whose presence can be a signal to an immediate threat that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Interestingly, Singh’s delivery of such a hate-inducing character is so spot-on that the audience, in turn, falls in love with him and appreciates even his most execrable acts. He simply steals the show and makes one wonder if the film could be half as good if he weren’t playing the antagonist, a thought which is justified in its own grounds.
3. Vineet Singh – Mukkabaaz
After like two decennia in the film industry, with a hoard on inconsequential roles and a couple of significant ones that brought him to the radar such as Gangs Of Wasseypur and Ugly, Vineet Singh finally got a chance to play the lead in Mukkabaaz. As per the narrative, his character Shravan starts off as an over-energetic and guileless personality but becomes more matured and responsible, with the passage of time. Singh performs both theses drastically different personalities excellently but even better is how he handles the transition of his character between both of them which edgy but smooth. He fills the screen with a lot of energy through Shravan’s pursuit of dreams while at the same time he permeates the sense of pain and anguish when his character is in turmoil. He is simply perfect and the best thing is that he performs like a star who understands the weight he carries on his shoulders in order to make his film impactful, and the result is a memorable performance that has seemingly cemented his place in the industry for at least the next decade.
2. Nawazuddin Siddiqui – Manto
It’s interesting how Nawazuddin Siddiqui ostensibly takes up roles that look so similar to each other and yet his renditions of each one of them is significantly unique. His onscreen personas are either stylish or grounded or both. His portrayal of the titular character in Manto was more on the sensible side though one can still find a particular style in his rendition as well. However, the most amusing aspect of his act is how easy he makes it seem when he performs and the same view can be extended to this film. Siddiqui dons the fiery nature of Manto Sahib and blends it with an unflagging eloquence of dialogue delivery which works like magic. Throughout the film, he is the strong person that his character was in real but Siddiqui also showcases the gloomy side of Manto Sahib quite sensibly as well. He is neither complacent nor over-the-top in his portrayal which in fact is humane and believable, and arguably one of his best ever.
1. Manoj Bajpayee – Gali Guleiyaan
A virtuoso of thespianism, Manoj Bajpayee has been impressing the audience with his works since he has debuted on the screen. He has played characters of almost all types though he is predominantly known to choose stronger roles and has always managed to impress the viewers irrespective of how the film actually turned out to be. Gali Guleiyan was, however, a very different film and so was his character Khudoos. Bajpayee has played weaker or broken characters before Gali Guleiyan, most recently in Aligarh, and one who hasn’t seen this flick might be tricked into thinking that his performance here is similar to act in the latter (Aligarh). But that’s not the case. Khudoos is not merely a character who is broken rather is more complex than he seems to be. He is a strange mixture of all emotions which exude disconsolation. Bajpayee immaculately handles his character’s intricacies while also depicting his shattered life and torn sense of conscience in a claustrophobic atmosphere with great effect. While the film is not quite a smooth sailing experience rather an unrelenting trudge of a lost sense of identity, it’s Bajpayee’s blinder which imparts a substantial momentum to keep the seemingly meandering plot in motion. It’s an act which can’t be expressed simply through words but can only be understood upon viewing the movie. But one thing is certainly clear that it’s not a performance we see often nor will we see it regularly in future productions. It’s one of a kind; great and sublime in every form of viewing.