Forget The Bollywood Hero! These 7 Breakthrough Performances Made 2018 Memorable

Manoj Pahwa in Mulk to Ravi Kishan in Mukkabaaz, 2018 reaffirmed that Bollywood is currently witnessing the era of the supporting actor!

Hindi films generally tend to belong to the hero. Rarely, are they centred around the heroine. But, as we’ve observed in the past few years, actors like Vikrant Massey and Vicky Kaushal stole the film through supporting roles. This is the era of supporting roles and 2018 has only reaffirmed that, giving us one incredible performance after another. They might appear for a significantly shorter time on screen, but they managed to leave a lasting impact long after you’ve exited the cinema.

Here are 2018’s 7 most haunting performances, that made 2018 memorable:

1. Ravi Kishan (Mukkabaaz)
One of the biggest Bhojpuri stars in the country, Kishan has time and again proved his worth as an actor. Whether in Mani Ratnam’s Raavan or his splendid turn on the local goon in Shyam Benegal’s Welcome To Sajjanpur – Kishan’s potential as an actor is well known. But no one has exploited the goldmine called Ravi Kishan as Anurag Kashyap has in Mukkabaaz. Playing the role of a Dalit boxing coach with an unfortunate past, Kishan looks particularly well-aged for this role. Watching him stick it to the upper-caste man (Jimmy Shergill in this case), was like drinking fine wine that had been rested for this one particular occasion. As Kashyap recounts in an interview, Kishan put on weight for the role, stuck to the script without bringing in any of his notorious improvisations and fully submitted to the film. The glorious performance shouldn’t be of any surprise.

2. Gitanjali Rao (October)
Making her debut in one of 2018’s best Hindi films, Rao hit it out of the park. Playing mother to a character in a state of coma, Rao and director Shoojit Sircar rejected any/all potential to milk melodrama out of the character. Instead, we see a calm and composed mother, dealing with choices of pulling the plug on her daughter, embracing a boy who gradually falls in love with his daughter while caring for her and ignoring the annoying relative at the hospital. Gitanjali Rao’s steely stoicism through October makes it hard to believe that she had never acted in a film before.

3. Danny Denzongpa (Bioscopewala)
One of the most overlooked Hindi films of the year, Bioscopewala is a modern-day adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s Kabuliwala. And what a joy it is to see Danny Denzongpa play the titular role, opposite the film’s protagonist, Mili (played by Geetanjali Thapa). Denzongpa has previously played an Afghan in Mukul Anand’s Khuda Gawah, but it’s nothing like this one. He hardly has any dialogues in the film, where Mili pieces together his life story through multiple anecdotes from several characters. And when she arrives at a devastating truth, Denzongpa remains heartbreakingly aloof. What a fine performance by the veteran!

4. Priyanshu Painyuli (Bhavesh Joshi Superhero)
Playing the title role in the film, Painyuli’s simmering anger and ferocious idealism are exactly the opposite of Harshvardhan Kapoor’s pointless presence. And the truth of the matter is, if Painyuli’s character had stuck around for the second half of Vikram Motwane’s Bhavesh Joshi Superhero would have been a significantly improved movie. Painyuli even starred in this year’s Once Again, playing the son of Shefali Shah. Here’s hoping he gets offered more work in Bollywood.

5. Manoj Pahwa (Mulk)
Hands down, the best supporting actor in a Hindi film in 2018. There is something to be said about how Pahwa plays the character of the lovable, less-successful brother in a family. Showcasing the skills of a GREAT actor, Pahwa is at once goofy, filled with shame and vulnerable, all in the space of a few scenes. Just look at him breakdown in front of his elder brother (Rishi Kapoor) and daughter-in-law (Taapsee Pannu) in the interrogation room. The way he spaces out his inability to breathe while saying his lines, could make even the most stoic individuals tear up. Pahwa’s wife Seema Pahwa delivered a similar knockout performance in last year’s Shubh Mangal Savadhan.

6. Tahir Raj Bhasin (Manto)
Playing the role of the much infamous ‘movie star from the 1950s’, Tahir Raj Bhasin already had his work cut out. But the bigger challenge was holding his own in a cast comprising names like Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Rasika Dugal and Rajshri Deshpande. Tahir Raj Bhasin not only manages to give a fabulous performance as the yesteryear superstar, Shyam Chadha, but he also manages to contemporise the character without turning him into a caricature. It is the easiest thing to overdo in a performance that requires you to play a character from the past, and Bhasin’s performance calibrates that balance beautifully.

7. Gajraj Rao (Badhaai Ho)
One half of quite possibly Hindi cinema’s best love story of 2018, Gajraj Rao has finally arrived. Who knew a film like Badhaai Ho would go on to make more money than Race 3 and Thugs of Hindostan? It’s mostly because of the Gajraj Rao-Neena Gupta love story that remains at the heart of Badhaai Ho, and makes the film wonderfully adorable. After playing a string of shady side characters in Aamir, Blackmail and Love Per Square Foot, Rao has finally shown the audience what he’s capable of if there is good writing in the offing. Just watch him break into spoken English, as soon as he sees Sanya Malhotra’s character in his living room. Every adorable father could relate to Rao in Badhaai Ho.

More power to actors in 2019. May they prevail over the stars, and get a fraction of the recognition for it.