With over 130 Hindi films releasing in 2015, it’s the time of the year where we pick out the best of the best – a job that has been difficult to do over the last few years, considering the fact that there have been few genuine top-class films. But 2015 had an absolutely savage first quarter, rolling out remarkable mainstream movies like Badlapur, Piku, Baby, Dum Laga Ke Haisha and others amidst regional gems like Qissa and Court. Things tapered down a bit after that, but we’ve got more good films this year than the last two combined.
Here’s our list of the outstanding supporting acts – male or female – who will run riot come awards season:
Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Badlapur, Bajrangi Bhaijaan)
After gleefully hamming it up and stealing the show from Salman in ‘Kick’ last year, this late bloomer – and perhaps the most fascinating face of Indian mainstream cinema recently – once again stole the show as the Chand-Nawab-styled Pakistani reporter in Bajrangi Bhaijaan. His reaction to a hijab-wearing, hidden Salman, “Tu phir boli, Begum?” will go down as the funniest moment of the year.
Alternately, his role as the time-battered, hustling criminal in Badlapur, opposite Varun Dhawan’s psychotic, vengeful wronged husband act, will be spoken for years to come. In the film, he is a common, flawed man who once made a mistake, and his departing threat to his ex-lover’s (Huma Qureshi) sugar daddy is both chilling and endearing, “Don’t ever touch her again. I’m a murderer; I’d gone to jail for that,” he says, proudly, wearing his ‘status’ like a badge on his chest.
Irrfan Khan (Piku)
As the sly, perplexed owner of a cab company, Irrfan’s role in Piku also serves a window to the audience to peak into the lives of the irritable, dysfunctional father-daughter relationship. While his interactions with Bhaskor (Bachchan) are amusing and sarcastic, it’s the easy charm he brings to the reluctant chemistry he shares with an exasperated Piku (Padukone; favorite for best actress) that forms the mainstream, quiet backbone of the film.
Vicky Kaushal (Masaan)
To be honest, every actor in this devastating film is a supporting one, and most of them deserve to be mentioned. But it’s newcomer Vicky Kaushal (son of veteran action director Sham Kaushal) as the Domar funeral-pyre-burner on the Ganga banks, who initially captivates with his adolescent falling-in-love phase, followed by a shattering, intoxicated meltdown, making for the most poignant cinematic moment of 2015.
Richa Chadda (Masaan)
As the feisty young woman caught in a stifling, conservative and hypocritical small-town environment, Chadda excels. She is somewhat restrained, valiant, stoic and is torn between grief (of her lover killing himself after they are caught having sex by cops) and humiliation (thanks to her pious father’s ‘social status’) – a far cry from the sexually-charged mainstream caricatures she has otherwise been doing (Tamanchey, Main Aur Charles, Fukrey).
Deepti Naval (NH10)
A casting decision par excellence, considering the inherent warmth and genteelness that Miss Naval radiates otherwise. As the murderous Chief Amma of an honor-killing village in Haryana, she is spellbinding, and shocks with her sudden rush of evil.
Radhika Apte (Badlapur)
This was her breakout Hindi film role, after which she went on to appear in Hunterrr, Manjhi, the short film Ahalya, Kaun Kitne Paani Mein and X. As the young trophy wife of Vinay Pathak’s ex-criminal character, she is genuine, desperate, fearful and stunning in her brief role, especially after Varun Dhawan begins to threaten them with consequences.
Priyanka Chopra (Bajirao Mastani)
As Bajirao’s first wife Kashibai, torn between loyalty, tradition and betrayal about his illegitimate union with Mastani, Chopra shines in a very elegant performance. Through the film, she goes from the submissive, all-loving companion to a disapproving, still-loving extra wheel – in stark contrast to Deepika’s starry-eyed, stubborn turn as Mastani. Chopra dominates their scene together, when she finally, if only grudgingly, accepts Mastani’s rightful place in her husband’s life.
Sai Tamhankar (Hunterrr)
The Marathi actress sizzles as the ‘Savita Bhabhi’ modeled Pune housewife in Harshavardhan Kulkarni’s textured ode to 80s promiscuity. Gulshan Devaiah’s college-going Mandar Ponkshe finds himself seduced by her suppressed sexuality, and together, they provide perhaps the sexiest scene of the year – in a kitchen, against a window.
Outstanding regional turns like Parth Bhalero in Killa, Rasika Duggal in Qissa, all the kids in Kaaka Muttai and Geetanjali Kulkarni in Court aren’t part of this largely mainstream Hindi list.