If veterans like Amitabh Bachchan returned to form in 2016, newcomers such as Alia Bhatt and Sushant Singh Rajput made their mark this year.
They not only surprised everyone with their choice of films, but also showed the willingness to go out of their way to make their roles authentic.
Then there are usual suspects like Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Randeep Hooda who came up with character-driven films.
Not much changed in the male actors’ category. The Khans and (Akshay) Kumar featured in films which were widely publicised and were slightly better than their previous ones.
Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan came up with Sultan and Fan. But Aamir Khan overshadowed them with year’s last release Dangal. Many called it Aamir’s finest performance in years.
Bajpayee’s Aligarh and Siddiqui’s Raman Raghav 2.0 took us inside the vulnerable human mind. The psychosis of a victim and traitor in Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0 forced us to rethink the way we treat others in our surroundings.
Bajpayee’s portrayal of a fragile, whiskey-loving gay professor in Hansal Mehta’s film was one of the finest in the last couple of years. Bajpayee again won hearts in Traffic and Budhia Singh.
Taking a cue from his Haider act, Shahid Kapoor poured his heart out as a fading, unstable, drug addict rapper in Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab. His megalomaniac yet convincing character of rags to riches singer was a treat to watch. Reviews reflected similar sentiments.
Fawad Khan spearheaded a bunch of talented actors in Shakun Batra’s Kapoor And Sons, but it was a victory of the concept and direction.
Akshay Kumar’s Airlift won big at the box office, but it was mostly a concept-driven film in which Kumar placed himself with perfection.
Randeep Hooda’s Laal Rang had novelty, but the film couldn’t rise above average.
And here’s the actor who I think was the top performer of the year: Sushant Singh Rajput in MS Dhoni – The Untold Story.
He went under a strict training regime for months to prepare for the role, and the result was amazing. Dhoni biopic was criticised for its “stay-safe” approach, but nobody cast a doubt on Sushant’s hard labour. It was a one man show in the film which was based on a man almost every Indian has seen on screen. It must be incredibly tough to replicate that famous gait, but he did it.
Among female actors, Alia Bhatt (Kapoor And Sons, Udta Punjab, Dear Zindagi) is our winner. Though Sonam Kapoor (Neerja) and Kirti Kulhari (Pink) were close enough, Bhatt’s Bihari migrant in Udta Punjab was probably the most nuanced performance this year.
Her mainstream Bollywood heroine charm and persona didn’t stop her from achieving a career milestone. She was every bit an innocent, ambitious and victimised hockey player from a poor state in Udta Punjab. Kapoor And Sons and Dear Zindagi only made her grip stronger on the crown.
Interact with Rohit Vats at Twitter/@nawabjha