1. Ayushmann Khurrana:
Cinematic history will remember 2019 as the year of Khurrana. He knocked the ball out of the park, and then knocked the park out of its habitat by lending his unobtrusive sensitive presence to three films, the masterpiece on inequality and injustice Article 15, the brilliant ballsy burlesque on baldness Bala, and the naughty mediation on gender bending Dream Girl. All hits, all proof of a talent that is fearless and without boundaries. Take a bow, Mr. Khurrana. You are the man.
2. Ranveer Singh:
Playing Murad the rapper from Dharavi in Gully Boy, Ranveer is a force of nature. Tightly squeezing into the kerchief-sized rooms of Dharavi, Murad simply wants to fly. His face lights up each time he meets the love of his life Safeena. Ranveer Singh’s rapper’s role with a dream that won’t be cut down to size. The actor disappears into his character in every conceivable sense. When he speaks, he’s a hesitant chawl ka chokra trying to grope his way through the dark alleys of his unfathomable dreams. When he is with his ill-treated mother (Amruta Subhash, with a face that launches a thousand slips), he is that devoted son who just wants to kill his brutally self-serving father (Vijay Raaz an actor who can never get it wrong).
3. Akshay Kumar
Is there any doubt that Akshay is today’s finest star-actor in Hindi cinema? In Kesari, the restrained passion, evident in his transformed body language and his propensity to state the truth without demure that he brings to Ishvar Singh’s part is exemplary. I am sure if Ishvar were alive he would have wanted to convey nationalistic valour with the same muted ruggedness as Akshay Kumar. As for Mission Mangal, kudos to Akshay for sharing the limelight with a slew of lovely ladies who only want to fly. Akshay is game.
4. Saif Ali Khan
I dare any actor to achieve the level of grueling physical and emotional intensity that Saif has successfully negotiated in Laal Kaptaan. Saif’s character is haunted by demons that the naked eye cannot see. As one of his pithy lines goes, “What’s the worth of a wound it is visible to the eye?” At the vortex of the film’s implosive violence, Saif is the mysterious frighteningly forlorn Naga bandit played with virulent intensity by the actor. Khan, in a performance that will define his career, moves like a bloodthirsty spirit in the quest for revenge. The film didn’t work. But, Saif’s performance will one day make Taimur proud.
5. Shahid Kapoor
Shahid Kapoor plays this toxic intoxicated drugged and arrogant creep with a furious flair for seething emotions. His Kabir Singh simmers with discontent the bursts out as various body fluids. But the performance lacks the freshness and feral unpredictability of what Vijay Deverakonda brought to the character in the original Telugu version, Arjun Reddy. Also, I felt the venomous emotions though expressed with a disturbing sincerity, never quite reach Shahid’s eyes. Here is an actor in full control of his character’s uncontrollable emotions, not quite able to process those emotions to their fullest. A flawed but nonetheless remarkable performance.