1. Gajraj Rao in Badhaai Ho
As Ayushmann Khurrana’s shy self-made railway booking-clerk father in Badhaai Ho who willy-nilly impregnates his wife at an unthinkable age, Gajraj Rao brought so much empathy and warmth to his character, we never judge Rao’s character Kaushik. We are just happy he gets a chance to look lovingly at his wife at an age when he should not be thinking of the birds and the bees. In a film teeming with assured performance, Rao stood tall. Later bloomer. But what a bloom!
2. Jim Sarbh in Padmaavat
While the plot’s focus was almost entirely on Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, the unorthodox Jim Sarbh as Alauddin Khilji’s vicious ruthless transgender man Friday – loverboy blew the screen apart with his whiny sadism. It was the first time that mainstream Hindi cinema dared to show the true carnal passion that a man felt for another man. In that sense, this was a pathbreaking performance.
3. Arunodoy Singh in Blackmail
As Divya Dutta’s absurdly henpecked husband Arunodoy displayed a new side to his personality. He was like a petrified oversized tomcat afraid to face his nemesis after repeatedly devouring on forbidden bowls of full cream milk. Here was a performance that wasn’t afraid to let it all hang out even if it made him look extravagantly idiotic.
4. Ashutosh Rana in Mulk
The ensemble cast in this dark tale of Islamic isolation shone brightly. None brighter than the irrepressible Rana who bit and chew into his role of the fundamentalist Hindu lawyer who spat venom at the Muslim community, branding their children terrorists, etc, with such casual straightforwardness. Rana made the absurd sound chillingly authentic. That rhetorical tone of voice and the smirk…I couldn’t sleep for days.
5. Aparshakti Khurrana in Stree
Of course, Rajkummar Rao as the naïve tailor stole the show. But Aparshakti as his incredulous best friend was a howl and a hoot. In fact, Hindi cinema has a history of brilliant actors stealing the show as the hero’s best friend. I only hope Aparshakti doesn’t get typecast as the sidekick. He is much more than Rajendranath to Rajendra Kumar.
6. Girish Kulkarni in Fanney Khan
Some will remember him as the mean wrestling coach in Dangal. More recently he was brilliant in a cameo in Sacred Games. This chameleon-like Marathi actor was superlative as Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s slimy music manager in Fanney Khan. Not missing a single heartbeat in the character’s opportunism, Kulkarni once again showed us that good actors in Bollywood are like potatoes in a fancy vegetable dish. We take them for granted.
7. Arif Zakaria in Raazi
As the Pakistani family ’s loyal Man-Friday who sees through the new Bahu ’s hidden agenda, Arif Zakaria brought a glorious gravitas and snide wisdom to his role. Kudos to the unsung hero of a highly acclaimed film where Alia Bhatt simply took over.
8. Neena Gupta in Badhaai Ho
Wasn’t it just the other day underrated actress talked about being left out in the cold? Now here she is playing a distressed 50-plus housewife who finds herself….errr…pregnant. Neena nailed the woman to a situation that makes her the brunt of memes, in a manner of speaking.
9. Manisha Koirala in Sanju
In a film brimming over with over-the-top performances, this ever-incandescent actress brought a vivid vibrancy to her role as the legendary actress Nargis, laughing and whistling, loving her errant son to death, literally. Someone should make a Nargis bio-pic with Manisha.
The uncouth boorish arrogant North Indian politician…sounds familiar? But see how Shukla pumped up the predictable part with passion and punch. Bhaiyya isko kehte hain scene stealer.