(This was also published in Times City)
Rajkumar Yadav: 2013 saw a marked shift towards content-driven cinema. And Shahid was one of the stand-outs of the year, backed not only by a good script but some terrific performances.
One of Bollywood's most versatile finds Rajkummar Yadav (Rao) has played extremely varied and small yet memorable roles in most of his previous films (Love, Sex Aur Dhoka, Ragini MMS, Gangs of Wasseypur to name a few). He's even won critical acclaim for each of them. Shahid then should come as no surprise. Except that Yadav had a bigger canvas this time. It was out and out his show. The rawness and naturalness he brings to every scene - from the young, naive Shahid to the all-out and unflinching lawyer Shahid Azmi is admirable. His work is equally applaudable in Kai Po Che, where he shared screen space with two other very talented actors. His range as an actor and command over the skill is something one comes to acquire after years of experience.
Sushant Singh Rajput (Kai Po Che & Shuddh Desi Romance) & Parineeti Chopra: If I have to pick the best onscreen pair of the year, it's this. Their fresh, fiery chemistry, besides gritty performances was the USP of the film. Parineeti is one of the most natural, effortless actors. You think peppy when you think Parineeti. And that's pretty much what we've seen her do until now. Her upcoming Hasee Toh Phasee too looks similar. I'd love to see her get out of her comfort zone, lest she goes the Anushka way.
Bollywood has a clear winner in Sushant Singh Rajput for the best male debut this year. He is possibly the first debutante to have delivered two hits in a row and received critical and audience acclaim for both. An impressive combination of looks and talent, Sushant has a successful career ahead of himself. Let's hope he continues to raise the bar with every act.
Ranveer Singh & Sonakshi Sinha (Lootera): An unlikely pairing, in equally unlikely roles, Ranveer and Sonakshi were the surprise packages of the year. Ranveer, who's best doing breezy, colorful roles (from Band Baaja Baraat to Ram Leela) played the subdued Varun Srivastava with as much ease and brilliance. He may not be the most sightly faces around, but his charm and conviction shows through every character he portrays. 'Pakhi' must have put all those masala film directors to shame, who mostly use Sonakshi only as a filler. The maturity and restraint she exhibits puts her in a different league, much above most of her contemporaries.
Farhan Akhtar (Bhaag Milkha Bhaag): For someone who has mostly played light-hearted, effervescent characters on screen, pulling off an intense role, that too a protagonist for a biopic could have seemed daunting not only for the actor but for the director/producer. I say this because the response to the film can swing either way, making even a great film look bad if the lead is weak. But the earnestness and preparation with which Farhan has played Milkha dispels every doubt. From the moment the film takes off, I'd forgotten Farhan, the director or Farhan, the singer. I'm hoping he'd win most of the best actor awards this year ;-)
Deepika Padukone (Ram Leela): From Om Shanti Om to Ram Leela, Deepika has come a long way. She has matured as an actor. I was never a Deepika fan. And with films like Break ke Baad, I could've never imagined her come this far. It was Cocktail that first made me sit up and take notice of her. And this year Deepika has been at her 'blockbuster' best, with four big releases and all commercial hits - Race 2, YJHD, Chennai Express, Ram Leela. The last one, beyond doubt, is her career's best. She left behind the male lead and had even her critics blown away with her blazing performance.
Nimrat Kaur (Lunchbox): The Cadbury girl created a stir with her performance in the Lunchbox. For someone who'd done theater before entering films, I could see how Nimrat brought alive this confident, fearless Ila on screen. She hit the right note with this near flawless performance, her body language, her mannerisms in step. I thought this was her debut film until I heard of Peddlars (2012) - her first Hindi film, directed by Anurag Kashyap. All agog for that one ;-)
Which were your favorites? Let's talk in the comments below!