2016 Rewind: Bollywood's finest performances of the year

Updated: Dec 27, 2016, 11:31 IST | Mayank Shekhar

From Aamir Khan and team of 'Dangal', Sushant Singh Rajput in 'MS Dhoni: The Untold Story', Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma in 'Ae Dil Hai Mushkil' to Akshay Kumar in 'Airlift', here's the list of 2016's finest performances

To be honest, if this wasn't a list dedicated to mainstream Bollywood, without a doubt in my head, topping the roster not just for best film, but consequently the finest performances, would be two totally untrained actors, Rinku Rajguru and Akash Thosar, who stole Maharashtra's heart as young Archi and Parshya in Nagraj Manjule's 'Sairat'.

Be that as it may, clearly the year, so far as critical acclaim is concerned, belonged to the Christmas release, Nitesh Tiwari's 'Dangal'. Sure the actors shine through that film. But is that always the case? Not necessarily. Sometimes certain performances are even better than the picture - the reverse being equally true, of course.

Here's what we thought were the finest performances in 2016 then. Of course we must've missed out on quite a few notable turns, and you must feel free to disagree. It's unfair to rank creativity this way to begin with. But hey, it's fun making these lists!

1. The 'Dangal' team: Is there a reason no particular actor stands out in this movie with a brilliantly chosen ensemble cast? Quite simply, because absolutely everyone is outstanding! Serriously - starting from the ageing, bloating Aamir Khan, of course, to his two daughters, when they're little kids (Zaira Wasim, Suhani Bhatnagar), and when they grow up (Fatima Sheikh, Sanya Malhotra). If anything, given that this was a debut, and far too stunning for that, Fatima deserves the best actor of the lot, since the film is centered on her character (wrestler Geeta Phogat). But hey, her younger version Zaira, I'm told, is going places too. She stars next as the lead in Aamir Khan's Superstar. Clearly, the talent to watch out for.

2. Sushant Singh Rajput ('MS Dhoni: The Untold Story'): Matching body and facial movements with VFX, performing before a green screen, mastering the cricketing strokes, and convincing India that he is in fact Dhoni, though we watch Dhoni every day on screen anyway... This was Sushant fully hitting it out of the park.

3. Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma ('Ae Dil Hai Mushkil'): Now romantic films, or even rom-coms, predominantly work because of the lead couple's chemistry. Here were two actors attempting to prove to the audience that they actually had no romantic alchemy at all - that being the whole point of the film. Spontaneous, spunky, full of life and drama, these two had us glued to the screen, because we just wanted to watch more and more of them.

4. Ranveer Singh ('Befikre'): Over the past couple of years ('Kill Dil', Dil Dhadakne Do', in particular), we've seen Ranveer Singh pull off a complete film mainly on the back of his infectious on-screen energy, and a steroid laden persona, grabbing the eye balls with his sharp repartees, and devil-may-care swag. Befikre was not an exc eption.

5. Nawazuddin Siddiqui ('Raman Raghav 2.0'): If you haven't seen this dark, gritty Bombay thriller, I suggest you skip a late-night show, else Nawaz as the crazed serial killer will not just send chills down your spine, he will come to haunt you in your sleep all night. Well, he continues to haunt the hell out of me still.

6. Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi ('Neerja'): Sure, fashionista Sonam looked a lot like Pan Am flight attendant Neerja, which is great for a biopic. But that's not all she brought to the table. She was remarkably restrained in the acting department too, fully surprising us with her finest performance yet. And then there's Shabana. It's been over four decades. She continues to surprise us still.

7. Manoj Bajpayee ('Aligarh'): Now this piece by Manoj is undoubtedly a master-class on internalising a character on screen - quiet, sombre, deeply disturbed, but hardly making a show of it, the lead actor subtly and surely brings to life the internal and external dilemmas of being Ramchandra Siras, with the sort of precision that will astound any film buff. Or someone interested in the life of homosexual Aligarh Muslim Univeristy Marathi prof, surviving in a world struck by bigotry and homophobia.

8. Ratna Pathak Shah, Rishi Kapoor ('Kapoor & Sons'): In what was at its heart a young film, packed with enough eye candies (Alia, Fawad, Siddharth Malhotra), tackling their parts brilliantly, the actors you couldn't take your eyes off were the finest veterans in town, Ratna Pathak Shah as the most believable mother, and Rishi Kapoor, the most fun granpa you'll ever encounter on screen. Yup, you so wanna hug, and take them home.

9. Shah Rukh Khan ('Fan'): For a super-star who's been playing his public persona to the gallery for two and half decades, Shah Rukh Khan, essaying SRK, would've been easy. Where he completely cracks it is as his demented fan, Gaurav Chanda, the Dilliwalla, who you want to meet, land him a tight slap, and shake him out of his psychotic delusions. This was SRK finally stepping out of his comfort zone by the way. And boy - was he good, or was he good!

10. 'Pink' team: Those North Indian boys seemed like they'd been picked up straight from an entitled Delhi family. The vulnerable single girls were as good as your neighbours in Safdarjung or Defence Colony. And then there's Amitabh Bachchan holding the fort in the film's second half, making it his new Black! Glorious, all.

11. Pankaj Tripathy, Swara Bhaskar ('Nil Battey Sannata'): Such a fine, simple film, lifted to altogether another level by Swara as the mother of a young kid, of course; but more so, by Pankaj Tripathy, as the sweet, gentle, goofy teacher who you wish was also the principal of your school.

12. Vidya Balan, Arjun Rampal ('Kahaani 2'): Vidya being Vidya, we knew, would wholly own Kahaani 2. As she did the film’s fantastic first part. As expected, she had us by the balls, in this competent sequel. What we didn’t expect was Arjun to be so bang-on as the stud-muffin cop.

13. Naseeruddin Shah ('Waiting'): Well, what’s there to say about Naseer, except every now and then, he proves why the audience will have to keep waiting for several years to find a towering talent to match this grand old man of theatre and films. Jamming with Kalki, he moved us yet again, with such a fine mediation on life, and death.

14. Akshay Kumar ('Airlift'): A dildaar, boisterous, practical Punjabi businessman in Kuwait, doing the right thing when Iraq war breaks out… If Akshay Kumar wasn’t in Airlift, we would just have to imagine him in it!

15. Sikander Kher ('Tere Bin Laden 2'): A complete laugh riot as a half-mad CIA agent, who, with a button attached to his neck, can instantly switch into a pot-bellied Punjabi producer; this was, I think, the most hilarious comical turn this year!

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