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Anya Kong

GhayalEvery single time Sunny Deol got angry in Rajkumar Santoshi’s Ghayal, I thought he would actually tear the screen and erupt from it. His fits of fury felt so overwhelming and tangible.

Twenty-six years later, he’s back playing the same character in a new story with some nostalgia and very little skill. That it’s not directed by Santoshi but Deol himself, also taking top billing in writing credits, has a lot to do with it.

Whereas Santoshi is a master of compelling screenplay and active histrionics across versatile genres, Deol got behind the camera this one time for the Sabrina-inspired Dillagi after its original director Gurinder Chadha backed out. Direction isn’t his natural vocation as evident in the middling Ghayal Once Again, which starts out wobbly but gains substantial momentum till interval point only to go completely haywire in its latter half.

Tad disappointed because all the deft action set pieces, preceding the unforeseen melodrama (on FaceTime, no less) led me to believe I could expect better. Also, this abrupt shift of tone in the third act could not be more contrived.

Already the rationale offered behind continuing Ajay Mehra’s (Deol) story from where Ghayal concluded is preposterous. But because the Bollywood hero of yore IS above the law, you shut up and concede. Like how after publically gunning down the villainous Balwant Rai (Amrish Puri), not to mention the unaccounted causalities before, Ajay gets off leniently with only 14 years in jail.

Interestingly though, scenes that evoke fond memories among fans to Ajay are a painful reminder of the torture and torment he’s endured. They’ve scarred his psyche enough to regularly pop pills (prescribed by his omnipresent neurologist Soha Ali Khan) and sport a funky Polar heartbeat monitoring watch on his wrist.

In the next decade or so, he’s set up a successful vigilante newspaper agency called Satyakam, an obvious hat tip to father Dharmendra’s acclaimed film, wherein he unlawfully abducts and exposes society’s wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Just imagine a more technology-savvy, less skull-smashing version of the brawny actor’s self-styled Deva ki Adalat in Ziddi.

Ghayal Once Again takes off when four college-going teenagers (only the kid lugging around a Miniature Pinscher in her bag stands out) capture incriminating evidence on video and bring them to Ajay’s notice. Because it features former cop Joe D’Souza (Om Puri in a token appearance) with whom Ajay’s become good friends over the years, he takes even more interest.

This controversial footage makes both Ajay and the kids a hot target of the influential business magnate Raj Bansal (Narendra Jha) who resides in a tall, ugly building that appears to be, hold on, Reliance owner Mukesh Ambani’s Antilla? Odder bit is, Reliance Entertainment led by Anil Ambani, is one of the producers of Ghayal Once Again.

Bansal’s indulgent parenting and wife’s (a charismatic Tisca Chopra) neglect has resulted in a spoilt, wayward, druggie son and prayer-obsessed little daughter. It’s the sort of dark, dysfunctional family that needs to be projected with a touch of dry humour but Deol’s sensibilities lack an adventurer.

Still, Jha’s dilemma comes through as a father who’s juggling between panic and pride. It’s not always sufficient to make up for the indifferent acting from the younger members of the cast. Nor is the puny writing where dialogues read out like T-shirt slogans and emotions cook faster than two-minute noodles.

GhayalFortunately, Ghayal Once Again wraps in about two hours and does away with all that was wrong in the first one – songs and comedy to focus on elaborate chase sequences — involving the kids in a mall conspicuous by unconcerned shoppers and invisible security or a reliably invincible Deol and a Frank Martin clone over a LaCie hard drive. (Nice bit of detailing there. Only the rugged, shockproof model could survive the ensuing destruction and daredevilry.)

Loosely reminiscent of True Lies, the climatic action is a dampener. Overdone in tacky CGI, its intended heft is lost in wishy-washy virtue and unconvincing sentimentality.

There’s only one solid reason to watch this reboot– Sunny Deol.

The action hero returns to serve some old fashioned justice in Ghayal Once Again as the still seething, still suffering Ajay Mehra like only he can. If also it could deliver the stamp of sharp, solid filmmaking like only the man who conceived Ajay Mehra can.

This review was first published in rediff.com

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Anya Kong

Ghayal‘Aaj hi maroonga usse. Aaj hi.’

This is no empty threat. Not when coming from Sunny Deol anyway. 

And there’s nothing Amrish Puri’s brutish Balwant Rai, at whom it’s directed, can do or say to save himself from Sunny’s wrath. 

It’s a foregone conclusion one eagerly anticipates in Rajkumar Santoshi’s critically and commercially acclaimed directorial debut, Ghayal

Today, yes, we have seen the action hero explode on screen umpteen times to feel moved or surprised by Sunny’s competency to single-handedly take down a wolf in sheep’s clothing, admonish the corrupt law and order system or scream his lungs out at stunned spectators. 

But when Ghayal released in 1990, Sunny’s dynamite delivery made everyone sit up and take notice and spawned numerous recycles along the same theme.

Although Arjun, Dacait and Yateem skilfully recognised his potential at playing wronged characters taking to the path of violence, their tone is decidedly mild compared to the livid, defiant demonstrations of his indignation in Ghayal. 

Filmmaking dynamics have changed dramatically since then but even now the screen (and the trembling prison bars) feels the heat of Sunny’s bellowing frustration in ‘Utaar ke phenk do ye vardi aur pahen lo Balwant Rai ka patta apne gale mein.’ In another powerful display of aggression, he yanks out the witness stand from its foundation unable to hold back his disgust at Shafi Inamdar’s last minute volte-face.

Not all of Ghayal has aged all too memorably though. 

Of its 163-minutes running time, a lot feels like a stretch. Especially portions from the flashback where Sunny’s Ajay Mehra narrates his nightmare and loss of innocence — from an aspiring boxer to a man framed for murdering his own brother by the devious Balwant Rai — to his three inmates (Sudesh Berry, Mitwa and Shabbir Khan) who later break jail and assist our hero in his revenge. 

GhayalThe serious side of the script works fine but the comedy, tons of it and forcefully introduced, is plain dreadful.

Ajay’s bumbling coach Viju Khote, a random appearance of television serial Mahabharata‘s Bheema (Praveen Kumar) or the warped logic of Ajay convincing his brother and bhabhi (Raj Babbar and Moushumi Chatterji) how his girlfriend Varsha (Meenakshi Seshadri) is a better option than the nondescript Kantabai for household chores is all cringe inducing.

Needless, ho-hum Bappi Lahiri songs that pop up every now and then make the ordeal even longer. The Lambada-rip off, Sochna Kya Jo Bhi Hoga screams for fast forward, as does the snooze-inducing Mahiya while Don’t Say No, resembling Khuddar’s Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain in its mood, is just about breezy.

But the timing of these songs, Disco Shanti’s Pyaasi Jawaani particularly, couldn’t be more off. Instead of planning a strategy to beat Balwant Rai and his henchmen, Ajay and fellow fugitives take a break to lust over a buxom dancer in ways that can only make sense to a Bollywood distributor.

What works is Balwant Rai, one hears his name repeatedly but doesn’t actually see him till almost an hour into the film. Santoshi successfully builds him into the sort of ominous figure you don’t want to upset and Amrish Puri plays him to the hilt. There’s nothing costume-y about his cold, cocky, drug lord masquerading as society elite. Puri’s penchant for intimidating glares and monstrous Muhahahas defines his villainy to a T.

GhayalWith all the common man crusading against corruption and injustice, Ghayal doesn’t have time to dwell in grey zones; evil and good are strictly in hues of black and white. Lack of timely response from the system meant to safeguard public will give rise to self-styled justice-seekers. It is both serious and dangerous. While Ghayal conveys it strongly, it also glorifies this approach unabashedly.

So a 30-something Sunny, looking incredibly fit and fabulous, transforms from Rocky to Rambo to extract a Aakhri Raasta-reminiscent revenge on Sharat Saxena, Shafi Inamdar, Deep Dhillon, Brahmachari and, naturally, Amrish Puri.

A first-rate Om Puri, as the well-meaning cop Joe D’Souza, hot on his trail and his regretful senior Kulbushan Kharbanda (held hostage) lend able support.

The violence is, unsurprisingly, tame by today’s standards. Even so, Ghayal‘s gung-ho background score and ideals, even at its most obvious are honest and unaffected.

Every time they gaze into each other’s bloodshot eyes, you feel sorry for Sunny and wish he could reunite with Meenakshi playing the strong, supportive anchor even though she’s peripheral to the narrative. The actress has her moment when she laughs back at the bullying villain confident of a rescue even though she’s only inches away from being tossed in a tank of boiling acid — a welcome change from the ‘Bachao‘ shrieking heroines.

GhayalVillains, dens, old-fashioned devices of execution and punch lines reflecting the fervour of a bombastic era contribute to the thrills of Ghayal. His fiery dialoguebaazi paved the way to its repetition in future films rocketing Sunny’s larger-than-life appeal.

Though it found its place in glory, Ghayal didn’t get off to a dream start. Director Santoshi, who had previously assisted Govind Nihalani, penned the story with Kamal Haasan or Sunny in mind but struggled to find a reliable producer.

When he narrated the subject to Sunny, the actor was immediately struck by its potential. Eventually, his father Dharmendra produced Ghayal under his banner Vijayta Films. The film took about two and a half years to get ready and wasn’t considered a safe bet among Deol well wishers. 

Despite all the cynicism, its A-certificate and clash with the Aamir Khan-Madhuri Dixit teenybopper romance, Dil, which also released on the same day, Ghayal hit box office gold.

Interestingly, both Sunny and Madhuri went on to win Filmfare trophies for their performances in these respective movies.

Of course, Ghayal went on to do even better and bagged two National Awards — Special Jury Award for Sunny and Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment.


Funnily, Sunny wasn’t confident about its favourable reception amongst critics. In an interview, the shy superstar recalled his reluctance to attend its pre-release press screening for fear of disapproval. Instead, when everyone stood up to applaud, he was both amazed and humbled.

GhayalWhile it lasted, his partnership with Santoshi produced some of his best works — be it the emotionally charged Ghatak or a crackling, career-best avatar in Damini.

A 58-year-old Sunny Deol returns as Ajay Mehra in Ghayal Once Again, also directed by him, this Friday. Let’s just hope he doesn’t rub salt into it.

This article was first published on rediff.com.

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Anya Kong
29 January 2016 @ 12:34 pm

Saala KhadoosSports dramas offer very little surprises. Stories about athletes, real or fictional, are frequently a predictable package of an underdog’s troubles and triumphs.

Like a minute into its first scene –a young boxer crumbles to her opponent’s severe battering, a dishevelled, tracksuit-clad man storms in last minute hoping to make essential eye contact from the side-lines before the screen blurs to announce ‘nine months ago’ — and Saala Khadoos is already all too familiar.

That’d be still all right if the movie could produce a spirit that stirs and soars in equal measure. But director Sudha Prasad Kongara’s Hindi film debut, full of shabby loopholes and overdone aggression, neglects the finer details of her leading lady’s challenging milieu to focus on one-dimensional rage.

The unceasingly growling tone and inhabitants of Saala Khadoos wear aggression like a badge. If it’s not R Madhavan’s brash coach firing offensives at his lumbering batch of girl boxers or perversely grabbing (a suitably creepy) Zakir Hussain’s crotch, it’s his wild new protégée screaming her guts out till your ears explode.

As it usually happens, foul play put a lid on Madhavan’s flourishing sports career and this embittered coach Adi Tomar is bundled off to revive Chennai’s sleepy women’s boxing scene. Disenchanted by the turn of events at first (and perhaps banners reading ‘harty welcoms’), he finally notices a worthy contender in a hot-tempered fishmonger named Madhi (Ritika Singh)– the kid sister of a mediocre talent (Mumtaz Sorcar) also training under him — and offers to pay her to come on board.

Ideally, Madhi’s fiercely independent disposition and ascent from an impoverished background, depicted quite realistically, would be the point of emphasis but Saala Khadoos insists on making it about flaring tempers and punctured egos of two identical personalities in collaboration when not romanticising Madhi’s rusty rebellion through electric-guitar strumming numbers.

Amusingly though, it only takes one hasty scene depicting Adi’s magnanimity under the tough exterior to turn Madhi into a preening, giddy teenager. There’s an obvious attempt to construct a Professor Higgins-Eliza Doolittle sort of (only ten times more high strung) vibe around the two. At one point she even hurls a boxing-equivalent of “Now you’ve made a lady of me, I’m not fit to sell anything else” line at him.

And while it all haphazardly unfolds, there’s sibling rivalry/ sabotage, sports association politics and a promising career gone in doldrums at work.

What’s nearly as exasperating as the hysterical behaviour of its key protagonists is how every single development in the film is a laboured afterthought.

All through Adi is seen rebuking or running down the girls he’s hired to teach and inspire.  His misogyny and crudeness isn’t limited to words. At one point, he even kicks Madhi after she loses a match due to injury. And yet Saala Khadoos insists he be embraced like some figure of sacrifice and goodwill campaigning the cause of women’s boxing in India.

Madhavan, co-producer of Saala Khadoos along with Rajkumar Hirani, has a knack for playing unlikeable characters well. He achieves that here too. But his irritation struggles for better articulation and argument in a script that takes virulence and vigour to be the same.

Saala KhadoosRitika Singh’s experience in kickboxing and karate lends her Madhi a convincing physicality; she’s mighty good inside the ring. While she has an attractive vulnerability, that works best in her quieter, reflective scenes, Singh is painfully exaggerated in her outbursts.

As her ‘junior coach,’ Nasser makes a trivial contribution, especially in that droll scene where he justifies his drinking and love for liver fry.

Other than that, Saala Khadoos doesn’t have too many laugh-out-loud moments if you discount the unintentional ones. Like when a black-eyed Ritika envisions shaggy Madhavan in a burly, bald baddie’s face at a key, dramatic juncture of the final fight or how her Russian opponent specially lost weight to specifically fight her and move from heavyweight to lightweight boxing.

Between its many, many confused, underdeveloped, raucous ideas hides the film, Saala Khadoos set out to be. Too bad it never made it to the screen.

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Anya Kong

AirliftWhat will he do?

It’s seldom a question that worries me any time I witness the Hindi film hero in action. Nothing I don’t know — this archetype has an endless stock of dishoom dishooms, divine interventions or dramatic means to fall on.

But while watching Raja Krishna Menon’s riveting Airlift, I found myself asking, ‘What will he do?’

Akshay Kumar’s Ranjit Katyal, a Kuwait-based businessman of Indian origin, certainly plays a hero except he doesn’t spurt out of some Bollywood potboiler but is modelled after real-life champions characterized by extraordinary guts and tremendous power of persuasion.

Back in 1990, during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, over 170,000 stranded Indian citizens were safely evacuated from Kuwait to India, one of the largest in history.

From a record-breaking figure on paper to its flesh and blood adaptation on celluloid, Airlift is a honest endeavour to recount a horrifying chapter of history whilst paying tribute to its unsung heroes personified in Katyal’s bravura and Sanjeev Kohli (a first-rate Kumud Mishra), an Indian government official working to expedite the said evacuation.

Katyal doesn’t start out as a saviour. Pragmatic to the core, any mention of India invariably turns on his snarky side. Still, he’s protective about his family. No sooner he learns about Saddam Hussein’s invasion, he suggests that his wife (Nimrat Kaur) and daughter should immediately flee to London. This ability to be on the ball and take charge makes him an easy pick to play mass protector, a role he accepts and fulfils slowly but surely.

AirliftDo not picture a swashbuckling Akshay flapping his imaginary super cape and fixing things in a jiffy against blasting rock music. Instead, the plan of action in Airlift is devoid of strategy, schemes or smarts. In the face of absolute chaos, destruction and intimidation, desperation is spontaneous, solidarity makes sense and negotiation is the sole weapon of the civil folk.

While Menon ticks all these boxes rather deftly, he doesn’t dwell too much on the international politics or the feeble workings of diplomacy barring an occasional pot shot or two at the shoddy state of bureaucracy.

There’s an interesting read-between-the-lines moment lamenting unstable governments as opposed to permanency of babus picturised on Surendra Pal and Mishra.

Another one’s where Akshay plays bluff with a quirkily menacing Iraqi army chief (Inaamulhaq, borderline caricature, bizarrely effective) during dinner is laced with sly tension.

Oh, what a beauty Akshay’s performance is! Old-school gallantry, contemporary tone, his measured delivery is the soul of and saviour in Airlift. Larger-than-life might is commonplace but larger-than-life intensity is rare. Here, it is unmistakable, unceasing.

It’s his grasp of Katyal more than the script itself voicing the bitter urgency of Airlift’s on-going crisis. The charismatic actor features in practically every single frame– Priya Seth’s terrific camerawork dedicatedly captures his distress, doggedness, disillusionment and relief in detail as well the numerous (well-acted) pairs of eyes pinned on him for rescue.

AirliftThis vexes his self-seeking wife no end. What’s this “Yeh Indian Indian khelna,” she demands to know. Nimrat Kaur perfectly grabs the tone of an ordinary person, someone who doesn’t want to concern herself with another’s problem and cannot understand her do-gooder husband’s need to otherwise. Although she does seem a little too well turned-out for the occasion.

Airlift isn’t above imperfections. The songs are a hindrance to the pulsating narrative. The writing could be sharper, piercing. The patriotic fervour towards the end is all over the place. But then there it is—the Indian flag—glorious and soaring and a moist-eyed Akshay Kumar looking at it like a man who has done it proud.

What will he do? Nah, he did it!

The review was first published on rediff.com.

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Anya Kong
30 December 2015 @ 12:27 am

Best Actress 2015Spirit, substance, sass, serenity – the Hindi film heroine painted the screen in a myriad of emotions.

Certainly, 2015 worked out favourably for these fine ladies as they stole the show on the strength of powerfully penned roles and earnest talent.

Give it up for, this year’s 10 Best Actresses in no particular order!

Deepika Padukone (Tamasha)

At the top of her game today, Deepika Padukone is so potent in Tamasha, it’s almost as if you can hear her heartbeat across the screen.

One must possess a heightened degree of sensitivity to understand and express the nuances of her Tara as she graduates from being inspired to becoming the inspiration.

Except the agony she endures before its realisation within Ranbir Kapoor, like the café outburst scene wherein Deepika lays her heart and soul bare, brutally bare, is devastating to say the least.

Watching her so utterly heartbroken felt personal, it left me choked and physically drained.

Kalki Koechlin (Margarita, With a Straw)

Essaying a character defined by physical disabilities is always a tricky deal.

Perceived as designed for attention, it’s hard to shake off even the tiniest hint of manipulation. But Kalki Koechlin overcomes such obstacles with sparkling honesty as the inspiring young woman refusing to let her medical condition limit her potential or supress her desire.

Kalki gets the tone and language of her Laila perfectly. That her performance doesn’t feel like one is her biggest accomplishment.

Anushka Sharma (NH10)

It’s always heartening to see an actress get out of her comfort zone.

Anushka Sharma plays out every urban Indian woman’s worst nightmare with relatable anxiety living out the worst day of her life in home production, NH10.

Truly remarkable to see her grit evolve out of a character constantly changing its emotional pace from dread to desperation. Even though the climax is too contrived for my liking, Anushka’s deadpan revenge hits hard.

Radhika Apte (Badlapur)

Nothing in Badlapur is simple but few can boast of the complexity that is Radhika Apte’s Kanchan.

Even an established actress would have a hard time bringing out the dilemma and distress of a wife finding out the horrid truth about her husband yet agreeing to disturbing degree of torture to protect him as faultlessly Apte does.

Badlapur might not be about Apte but her intensely big eyes and spectacular guts are my second big takeaway from Sriram Raghavan’s vendetta drama.

Priyanka Chopra (Bajirao Mastani)

Brimming with passion and grace, Priyanka embodies the heart in Bajirao Mastani.

Even though she’s neither in the title nor the focus of an epic romance, what she lends to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s visual extravaganza elevates it into something more than a thing of beauty.

There’s a scene where she humiliates Deepika Padukone’s Mastani in the unkindest of words. What is in design a typical Bollywood face-off is transformed into the conflict of woman, unable to hide her hurt yet unwilling to stay mean-spirited, only because Priyanka mocks it, moulds it, owns it.

Hers is the most realised characterisation—one of a wife nursing her wounded pride owing to her husband’s affair, a daughter-in-law sharing a loving bond with her protective mother-in-law, a mother troubled by her son’s growing resentment for his father and a diplomat who’ll fulfil her moral duties at the expense of her heart.

Bhumi Pednekar (Dum Laga Ke Haisha)

Dum Laga Ke Haisha relies heavily on newcomer Bhumi Pednekar to work.

Hers is not some random overweight girl ridiculed in the first half and gets a sizzling makeover in the second. No, she’s real, full of attitude and won’t take things lying down.

That we’ll root for Bhumi’s ballsy, thick-skinned avatar is expected but she’s equally persuasive when her guard goes down.

Hard to believe it’s only her first movie. She is absolutely delightful whether talking back to her acerbic aunt-in-law (a terrific, terrific Sheeba Chhaddha), seducing/slapping her cantankerous, inferior husband or inspiring admiration through her tremendous display of magnanimity.

Kangana Ranaut (Tanu Weds Manu Returns)

Double roles in Hindi movies are not so much about personality as they’re about differences. But Tanu and Datto are no chalk and cheese twins, they’re both feisty yet unique. And Kangana Ranaut is superlative as both.

She disappears in the skin of a Haryanvi-rattling athlete; the straightforward, socially awkward Datto and demands your attention as Tanu the drama queen, sometimes drunk and almost never sober.

It’s impossible to pick a favourite between these rollicking ladies.

Shweta Tripathi (Masaan)

Shweta Tripathi plays sunshine oblivious to the grim contemplations of Masaan.

Don’t take her for your average chirpy. The tenderness in Tripathi’s unfeigned understanding of youth unfazed by social pressures is extraordinary as is her romanticized view of a life full of poetry, possibilities and dreams.

Shweta’s subtlety and sweetness has such a lasting impact, it’s plain unbearable to discover what it leads up to.

Best Actress 2015Pavleen Gujral (Angry Indian Goddesses)

As the obvious conformist in her girl gang, Pavleen Gujral’s Pammi invites judgement every single time she outrages over her friend’s unorthodox choices. 

It’s a dangerously caricature territory but Pavleen sprinkles her in humour and vulnerability by concentrating on the mischief, masti and nostalgia.

She conceals a storm beneath her resigned approach and incessant smile and is, ultimately, looking for inspiration and emancipation. Pavleen underplays this life-changing realisation and emerges the strongest of them all.

Shivani Raghuvanshi (Titli)

Raw. So raw, this Shivani Raghuvanshi. There’s no artifice to her performance as a woman caught between deceit and crime. Often her hopeless naiveté is far more effective than Shashank Arora’s gloomy-faced Titli.

This is a brave debut, whether she’s peeing in her pants at the sight of cold-blooded murder or volunteering an arm to be struck by a hammer in a desperate bid to get back with her boyfriend.

“Don’t do it,”she still pleads in a broken voice. You feel her pain.


Best Actor 2015

While it does appear like a case of women on top, the men didn’t fare too bad themselves.

And not just the ones we are accustomed to seeing quality work in Hindi movies.

To know what I mean, take a look at my pick of 2015’s Ten Best Actors, again, in no particular order.

Irrfan Khan, (Piku, Talvar)

What can be better than our best talent in roles worthy of their genius? Had the pleasure of watching Irrfan Khan in two such avatars this year.

Like I wrote in my review, Piku would half the movie in the absence of his calm wisdom. He plays Piku’s breakthrough with intelligence and sarcasm.

And there’s Talvar, where his CBI officer is investigating a messy murder– one he took on reluctantly, one he pursues uncompromisingly, one that leaves him beaten and bitter, Khan renders it in heft and cynicism.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Manjhi-The Mountain Main, Badlapur and Bajrangi Bhaijaan)

Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s brilliance shines through the versatile characters he essayed in 2015.

As a man who starts out angry at the mountain that claimed his wife’s life to reaching a mutual understanding, even friendship with it over decades of bittersweet interaction, his personification of the inanimate in a script devoid of detailing is spellbinding to say the least.

Nawaz of Badlapur is sensational, revealing a world of complexities under and between layers and layers of dark deceit and dangerous desperation.

Amitabh Bachchan (Shamitabh, Piku)

Shamitabh loses steam by its third act but nothing to fault in Amitabh Bachchan’s delivery of a surly, sceptical alcoholic, erstwhile failed actor receiving his due for the same quality that got him rejected in the day – his towering voice.

And boy, can he use it to say words that sting and spew venom trickling out of a punctured ego. Bachchan’s calibre shines through and through in a film that liberally indulges him, at times at its own expense.

When an actor has worked as much as AB, fatigue settles in. So it’s nothing short of a marvel to see him retain his sense of wonderment and enthusiasm when playing a constipation-ridden, idiosyncratic septuagenarian in Piku.

Ranveer Singh (Bajirao Mastani, Dil Dhadakne Do)

Ranveer Singh has raised the bar this year. And how!

His unassuming, dry-humoured tone while he comes of age is perfect to portray the reluctant heir to his father’s business. It’s the sort of assured, relaxed performance that takes its pride in creating impact without the usual hullabaloo and histrionics.

In complete contrast is his stunning Maratha Peshwa Bajirao, full of swagger and swords and statements. Everything about Bhansali’s lavish costume drama is designed for attention and Ranveer looks like he wasn’t just destined but born to play the part.

Ranvir Shorey (Titli)

Is that really Ranvir Shorey? Because what I recall is a terrifying monster that I cannot forget but don’t want to remember.

Titli is a disturbing movie to sit through predominantly because of Shorey’s presence, his actions and how seamlessly he gets under the skin of a man whose desperation has turned him into a disgrace. What’s most chilling is how he maintains a aura of normalcy around him.

It’s a demanding performance but Shorey makes it look real, painless.

Ranbir Kapoor (Tamasha)

Deepika Padukone is magnificent as his ladylove in Tamasha. But part of its credit goes to Ranbir Kapoor as well. These two bring out the best in each other; unearth new dimensions in their characters, some that aren’t always mentioned on a piece of paper.

Ranbir’s Ved unravels like a multifaceted personality. There’s this fun side where he gives into role-playing, there’s a mechanical office slave holding back his true potential to fit in, there’s the disturbed form having a breakdown over the same and there’s, finally, Ved – the original, in his true form.

Ved could totally backfire in a lesser actor’s possession but Ranbir embraces the good with the bad and realises his extremes and conflicts without creating disconnected people but the same individual at different stages of life.

Salman Khan (Bajrangi Bhaijaan)

The Salman Khan in Bajrangi Bhaijaan is nothing like the cocky, catchphrase-ready action hero of Wanted and ilk. But this novelty isn’t the only reason to give it value. There’s quality too.

Salman upholds the humility and idealism of Bajrangi Bhaijaan in his enchanting show of grace and virtue. What surprised me is the honesty.

His chemistry around children is regularly precious but the Baloo-reminiscent fondness he feels for Harshaali Malhotra endears us to his cause as he sets about sans any passport to reunite the kid with her family in Pakistan. It’s a character you root for, a performance you regale in.

Best Actor 2015Anil Kapoor (Dil Dhadakne Do)

The minute I typed out his name here, a visual of Anil Kapoor’s priceless expression in Dil Dhadakne Do popped in my head – one where he catches Vikrant Massey and Riddhima Sud red-handed.

Now here’s an actor who’s constantly finding fresh ways to surprise and entertain his audience.

And so I reiterate, “right from the moment Kapoor delivers his first punch line clad in a pair of spiffy golf pants to the final scene seizing his vivacious, winsome grin, he crackles the screen with his portrayal of a deliciously calculating Punjabi patriarch.  Alternately refined, bumbling, rascally and vulnerable, Kapoor is the life of Zoya’s opulent multistarrer.”

Deepak Dobriyal (Tanu Weds Manu Returns)

“Bhai, tailor suit ke saath kafan bhi seete ho kya?”

“Woh ticket saat hazaar ka thi. Theek nahi laga seedhe paagal khana jaana. Socha pehle London ghoom loon.”

“Masoor ki dal mein ajinomoto nahi padta!”

“You are a good question but your question hurt me.”

Does one really need to explain what makes Deepak Dobriyal such a scream in Tanu Weds Manu Returns? The success of the sequel owes as much to Dobriyal’s droll Pappiji as it does to Kangana Ranaut in a delightful double role.

Ayushmann Khurana (Dum Laga Ke Haisha)

Ayushmann Khurana doesn’t start out as the standard likeable guy promising righteous behaviour and rakish charm. Far from it, he’s sullen, cranky, stifled and perennially dissatisfied with his family and life unwilling to take the blame for it.

This snappiness only inflates when he demonstrates embarrassment towards his new bride. Only instead of coming across as misogynist, a discerning Khurana portrays him like a bad loser who gradually realises his mistake and breaks the thorny walls he’s build around him as some sort of a defence mechanism.

Khurana is a revelation as the shuddh-Hindi spewing, Haridwar resident Prem Prakash Tiwari.

The Best Actor and Actress list was first published on rediff.com

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