Bollywood's Best Actors of 2011
It might have been a so-so year for our movies but, as I've referred to earlier, 2011 was the year Bollywood celebrated male bonding. It is, therefore, unsurprising that several male actors rose to the occasion and dazzled us, and here, in ascending order, are my top ten for the year:
Special Mentions: Randeep Hooda (Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster), Gulshan Devaiah (That Girl In Yellow Boots), Senthil Ramamurthy (Shor In The City), Irrfan Khan (Yeh Saali Zindagi), in that order. All of them would have made the cut had the list been longer than 10.
We look at the Top 10 actors of the year.
10. Naseeruddin ShahEvery now and then, an actor ever-capable of surprise gets to sink his teeth into a role with some flavour, and then come the fireworks. Shah's Southern superstar in Milan Luthria's The Dirty Picture could have been a standard-issue caricature, but Shah has a wicked time hamming it up for the in-film cameras and being even more exaggeratedly sleazy when not fiming. He's a treat.
Image: Naseeruddin Shah and Vidya Balan in The Dirty Picture
9. Prateik Babbar
Kiran Rao's Dhobi Ghat features Prateik Babbar in the lead role: a strapping young dhobi by day, a rat-slayer by night, and a boy who despite gangland violence and much strife, makes time to dream beyond his station.
Oh, and he fetishises Salman Khan.
Babbar, frequently confounded by the kindness of strangers, is a sharp performer, always interesting to watch while in this tough, unwelcoming skin.
Image: Prateik Babbar in Dhobi Ghat
Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK's Shor In The City is peopled by a fine, eclectic ensemble, but it is Pitobash -- playing a trigger happy ragamuffin runt named Mandook -- who steals the show.
The character, one who thinks much later than he acts, is an exasperating one, but Pitobash makes sure we like the bigmouth.
One scene in particular, where he's almost playing Russian roulette by himself, is electric.
Image: Pitobash, Tusshar Kapoor and Nikhil Dwivedi in Shor in the City
7. Jimmy Shergill
In Tigmanshu Dhulia's Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster, Shergill plays a disgraced nobleman, one with empty coffers, a ruinous marriage and an impotent nobility. He wears shame on his brows heavily, his every nuance conveying ignominy and persecution, and the exasperation of powerlessness.
It is a great character and Shergill, burning up the screen with his presence, is a slowly simmering revelation.
Image: Jimmy Shergill in Saheb Biwi aur Gangster
6. Amole Gupte
With the mathematical precision of one who has elevated gluttony to an art form, Gupte breaks off little segments of jalebi uniformly enough to ensure his tiffin-theft isn't spotted, at least at first glance.
In his own Stanley Ka Dabba, Gupte's Babubhai Verma (known to schoolboys simply as 'khadoos') is a Hindi teacher who oscillates between harmless cartoony evil and genuine scariness, all while unreasonably hungry.
Image: Amole Gupte in Stanley Ka Dabba
5. Aamir Khan
Khan demonstrated some problems with his English dialogue delivery in Dhobi Ghat, but whenever his character Arun is shrouded in silence -- and that made for the brunt of his screentime, thankfully -- he was exceptional.
A mostly internalised performance with much expression squeezed into eyes and brows, Khan provides the year's best performed moment in a scene where he gets tremendously freaked out.
Image: Aamir Khan in Dhobi Ghat
4. Divyendu Sharma
The biggest strength of Luv Ranjan's Pyaar Ka Punchnama was in the way its three male leads bonded with remarkable relatibility and complete authenticity, and the lion's share of credit for that goes to a character called Liquid working as the glue.
Playing the foulmouthed geek with a tongue dripped in sarcasm to make up for his own insecurities, Divyendu provided one of the year's freshest performances.
Image: Divyendu Sharma and Ishita in Pyar Ka Punchnama
3. Rajesh Sharma
Sometimes one scene is more than enough. Sharma burns up the screen in a sensational moment in Raj Kumar Gupta's No One Killed Jessica, as a cop interrogating a boy apprehended for murder.
He sits there, smoking a cigarette, volcanically asking the boy questions, forever inviting us to guess just how short his fuse is -- and when he'll explode. It's pure dynamite, and Sharma, an always fine actor, deserves much, much applause.
Image: Rajesh Sharma in No One Killed Jessica
2. Vijay Raaz
Abhinay Deo might have directed the film, but this is the man who made Delhi Belly. Raaz, an extraordinary actor we've often seen in thunder-stealing appearances, here finally got enough wiggle room to free up his arms and go for the big swings.
Not that he'd let you see the heaves, of course. Raaz is all about subtlety, and as a wry, laconic gangster confounded by fools and fecal matter, he's priceless. Especially when he wonders just why one of his henchmen pretended to be from Housekeeping when all they want is to bash someone's head in.
Image: Vijay Raaz in Delhi Belly
1. Ranbir Kapoor
As evidenced by the current phase of Salman Khan's career, it isn't all that hard to play a larger-than-life character backed by a script intent only on actor-glorification. Playing a clueless superstar unable to reconcile reality with self-fuelled delusion, however, takes a degree of unhinged intensity that very few can adequately provide.
Ranbir Kapoor has increasingly proven his mettle with each film and in Imtiaz Ali's Rockstar -- a film that needs him to sing sunny acoustic songs at a bus-stop, fall in love with the unattainable girl from St Stephens, serenade a brothel with a Hare Rama Hare Krisha song, growl uncontrollably at photographers, rip up a recording contract and rattle it as if it were dice -- he makes every single moment work.
It is a highly demanding role in a dizzyingly romantic film, and Kapoor is spectacular from the get-go, making us believe in both the highly credible Janardan Jakhar and the unfeasible Jordan. He's a dreamer forced into becoming a doer, and the gulf is too much for his limited intellect and his overanxious heart. He just wants to live and love under a white blanket, knowing the world outside is too vast and too demanding for him. And we impossibly will him on.
Image: Ranbir Kapoor in Rockstar