What breathes life into a film? The story? Yes. The director? Absolutely. The writer? Indeed. The actor? A 100%! An actor plays a catalyst to execute the vision of a director and writer. Carrying a film on his shoulder, the actor, along with the actress, is the anchor of a story that reaches out to millions at a time. Without his input and participation, the process of filmmaking remains incomplete.
In 2021, we saw some path-breaking performances delivered by the leading men of Bollywood. Some of them even gave their career-best work in these 12 months. Now, as the year comes to an end, let's look at how Bollywood men impressed the toughest of critics and audience with their work.
Pankaj Tripathi (Kaagaz: January)
One cannot question Pankaj Tripathi when it comes to elevating a script with performance. Similarly, in Kaagaz, the actor brought to life Bharat Lal Mritak, who must run from pillar to post to prove that he was not dead. He owned the film with his honest performance.
Adarsh Gourav (The White Tiger: January)
Adarsh Gourav delivered a breakthrough performer in Netflix's The White Tiger. He stole the thunder from established actors like Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Rajkummar Rao, who allowed him to shine throughout the film. As Balram, Adarsh gave birth to a character the world admires. His honest portrayal of the brutal yet vulnerable Balram fetched him a BAFTA nomination too.
Ali Fazal (Ray: June)
Ali Fazal played the role of Ipsit in Srijit Mukherji's short film Forget Me Not. One of the best stories in Netflix's Ray anthology, Ali lived the life of Ipsit, a cut-throat corporate shark who boasted about his vivid memory. He raised the bar high with his intense performance and near-perfect South Indian dialect.
Apart from Ali, the actor who was noticed by the audience in Ray was Armaan Ralhan. He featured in Ajeeb Daastaans' short film Majnu and masterfully aced the curve of his character from a handsome young man to a man with a game plan.
Vikrant Massey (Haseen Dillruba: July)
Vikrant Massey has chosen perfect roles for his filmography and there is no denial. He picked characters that were likeable and relatable. But what came across as a surprise was his portrayal of Rishabh in Haseen Dillruba. His Rishu was on a completely different tangent and the character arc was nothing that we have seen in the past from Vikrant. While the actor's innocent looks made you want to believe that Rishu is a simple, sweet and harmless guy, there was more to him than. Such edgy and meaty roles work the best for Vikrant.
Sidharth Malhotra (Shershaah: August)
Sidharth Malhotra emerged as Student Of The Year in 2012. Since then, he chose roles that established him as the romantic hero with chocolate boy looks. However, Shershaah came across as a major surprise to all those who once doubted Sidharth's acting prowess. He lived the life of Kargil war hero Captain Vikram Batra in the Vishnu Varadhan directorial and made a special place for himself in every person's heart.
Sunny Kaushal (Shiddat: October)
After watching Shiddat, you'll be left wondering, "Where was Sunny Kaushal all these years?" The actor was a revelation as Jaggi in Kunal Deshmukh's directorial. Sunny added life to a basic plotline and carried Shiddat on his able shoulders. He channelled his never seen before passion with a dash of innocence. He owned the film to the T. In a nutshell, there could have been no better Jaggi than Sunny.
Vicky Kaushal (Sardar Udham: October)
Hands-down, Sardar Udham was Vicky Kaushal's career-best performance to date. He exercised restraint as Udham Singh and got into the skin of his character effortlessly as if it was only made for him. Establishing himself as a versatile actor, Vicky understood the mentality of the revolutionary and brought alive the story of the unsung hero with utmost honesty. A National Award is possibly coming his way for Sardar Udham.
Abhimanyu Dassani (Meenakshi Sundareshwar: November)
Abhimanyu Dassani created a special space for himself in the film industry as well as in the homes of the Indian audience with his earnest performance as Sundareshwar in Netflix's Meenakshi Sundareshwar. It was his second project and he excelled. As a simple Tamilian boy struggling hard to keep his wife happy, Abhimanyu was nothing but brilliant. He is the next chocolate boy of Bollywood.
Kartik Aaryan (Dhamaka: November)
Kartik Aaryan has often done rom-coms and played lighter roles. But Dhamaka offered a different perspective of his acting ability. He pulled off the role of a TRP hungry news anchor Arjun Pathak with much conviction. In the Ram Madhvani directorial, Kartik pushed himself like never before. He proved that he is no longer just the guy next door. It would be fair to say that in his career to date, Dhamaka is his best work.
Abhishek Bachchan (Bob Biswas: December)
Abhishek Bachchan turned into a contract killer in Diya Annapurna Ghosh's directorial debut titled Bob Biswas. The character was first featured in Vidya Balan's Kahaani and was played by Saswata Chatterjee. Abhishek took the charge from Saswata, understood what the role demands and pulled it off with sheer brilliance. With the spin-off film, Abhishek has once again proven that he is an actor with immense potential. His deadpan humour was the highlight of the film.
Dhanush (Atrangi Re: December)
Dhanush was magical as Vishu in Aanand L Rai's Atrangi Re. He played the role of a Tamil medical student from a Delhi college, who was forcibly married to Rinku (Sara Ali Khan). Dhanush has always been a dependable actor and lends a lot to the story with his refined acting and calmness. Similarly, in Atrangi Re, his charm was hard to resist. He managed to keep the audience hooked on the screen throughout the film.