2016, a year full of surprises. While few films dazzled at the box office, others tasted dust. NICHOLA PAIS revisits some of the best performances by these five actors who you should watch closely in the coming year.
High Notes… By now audiences are prepared for the phenomenal talent that is contained in the slight form of this actor. There hasn’t been a single instance when Nawaz hasn’t grabbed our complete attention onscreen, no matter who is in the frame. Growing in stature with each passing film, he unleashes raw power leavened by smooth finesse in a flurry of jaw-dropping performances, from the marijuana-smoking gangster Faizal Khan in GANGS OF WASSEYPUR, to the single-minded labourer who used mere hammer and chisel to carve a path through a hill in MANJHI THE MOUNTAIN MAN. His edgy characterisations are riveting, be it his brilliant bank robber in BADLAPUR, the arrogant Deputy Inspector in KAHAANI or then the chilling psychopath in RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0. The embittered Hanif who loses everything in the riots in FIRAAQ, or even his spritely Shaikh in THE LUNCHBOX, all his portrayals come from a deeper internalized universe, which evidently makes all the difference in the final reckoning.
Has been heard to say… “It is my instinct to act that has brought me this far. It would be foolish of me to kill that instinct now by focusing on other activities like image building and starry tantrums.”
Could break new ground… While ACP Patel in RAEES and Manto in Nandita Das’ upcoming biopic are what we have our eyes peeled for, there’s no saying when and how this consummate performer could tug the rug from under our feet… in the best way possible.
High Notes… A top-grossing star, her turning point as a performer came with the Homi Adajania-directed romantic comedy COCKTAIL. Suddenly she was seen as the ‘stunning girl who can also act’. Admitting that she chose to play the impulsive party girl Veronica to expand her horizons as an actress, she challenged herself creatively and physically. It’s something she hasn’t stopped doing since. YEH Jawaani Hai Deewani, Chennai Express, Goliyon Ki Raasleela: Ram-Leela, Finding Fanny, Piku, Bajirao-Mastani, Tamasha…her colossal growth as an artiste of box office consistency and performing ability shows zero signs of slowing down.
Has been heard to say… “It’s good to be slightly ambitious, but I believe one shouldn’t be too calculative. It’s good to be on the edge, but I have never followed my mind. I have always followed my heart. And it has yielded the right results.”
Could break new ground… A full-fledged role in Hollywood action flick xXx: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE, followed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s PADMAVATI on the life of the queen whose beauty launched wars, there will be greater things forthcoming.
High Notes… Floundering under a flurry of flops, it took the Abbas-Mustan thriller AITRAAZ to showcase this actress in a stunningly different light. As the ambitious Soniya Roy, who accuses her employer of sexual harassment, Priyanka ‘chewed up every scene with her magnetic screen presence,’ as a BBC reviewer put it. Her ‘deliciously wicked, gold-digging, scheming seductress’ act heralded the birth of a performer who has today gone on to become the darling of the West. If her performance as supermodel Meghna Mathur in FASHION, a film which she declared kick-started the trend of women-oriented films in Hindi films, grabbed eyeballs, she went on to spring a more delightful surprise as the feisty Marathi lass, Sweety in Vishal Bhardwaj’s KAMINEY. Her complex character of Susanna in 7 KHOON MAAF who does away with seven unsuitable husbands, saw her sparkle, but it didn’t even come close to her autistic Jhilmil Chatterjee who completely stole the show in AnuragBasu’s BARFI! Praised as one of the most flawless interpretations of a physical-psychological disability seen on celluloid, her brave and absolutely endearing performance even puts in the shade solid outings in MARY KOM and BAJIRAO MASTANI.
Has been heard to say… “I think it’s great to be flawed. I am hugely flawed, and I like it this way. That’s the fun of life. You fall, get up, make mistakes, learn from them, be human and be you.”
Could break new ground…. ‘Straddling two continents, far away from each other, with very active careers in both,’ her sense of pride in her achievements is well-deserved. Dubbed the strongest human asset of ‘Quantico’ which is in its second season, her big Hollywood debut BAYWATCH beckons. The action-comedy will see her play the main antagonist in a cast that top-lines Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron. Her production company Puprle Pebble Pictures is also making waves in regional cinema.
High Notes… The trade has criticised his choice of films, claiming that his inclination towards experimental projects has negatively impacted his commercial appeal. We say, the trade’s an ass, considering he has breathed life into some of the finest characters on the Hindi film screen. Box office success did accompany inspired performances in Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, Rajneeti, Barfi!, Wake Up Sid and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and the latest Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. But fact is, even in those films that under-performed, the actor hit new highs. Remember, even in his flop debut film SAAWARIYA he was singled out for “that star quality to him which is so rare to find”. The Shimit Amin-directed ROCKET SINGH: SALESMAN OF THE YEAR, in which he played an ambitious sardar, earned little at the box office, though his ‘astonishingly sincere’ performance is considered one of his best till date. His tormented Jordan in ROCKSTAR was dubbed one of “Hindi cinema’s most accomplished performances by a lead actor,” while his performance in TAMASHA was adjudged a career-defining feat replete with multiple layers. Why even the much panned BOMBAY VELVET won him praise for testing the waters with sincerity. The box office can wait.
Has been heard to say… “The constant desire is there to do different stuff, to not become a prototype of myself so soon in my career. I don’t want to start copying myself, doing the same character and the same genre. I hope I can keep breaking the clutter of a certain prototype that people are thinking of me.”
Could break new ground… The much-delayed Jagga Jasoos, is one Ranbir calls “a very special and different film for me and difficult too.” It will be followed by Raju Hirani’s biopic DUTT and Ayan Mukerji’s DRAGON which will see the actor as a superhero like no other.