Real life characters are not easy to pull off, more so in this country where actors get pulled up and hauled over the coals by family friends and supporters of the biographical figure. Given the tricky circumstances here are 5 actors who pulled off real-life characters with arresting élan.
1. Manoj Bajpayee in Aligarh: Playing the doomed wretchedly unhappy gay professor Srinivas Siras in Hansal Mehta’s film, Manoj came up with not only his career’s best performance but also the most poignant portrayal of human desolation since Jennifer Kapoor in 36 Chowringhee Lane. Manoj was determined not to play gay as effeminate. He hit all the right notes with no jarring interludes in this symphony of seclusion. This is the most underrated performance of the year.
2.Randeep Hooda in Sarbjit: Randeep is a method actor of inexhaustible resources. He proved it playing the POW, separated from his family, locked up in Pakistan’s prison hell-hole, starved tortured and reduced to a shadow of his original self Randeep undergoes the physical transformation right in front of our eyes. Kasam se! Randeep Hooda’s physical transformation as a traumatized prisoner is astonishing and convincing. He invests life-enforcing power into his role of a man who is locked away from home until his death. His demeanour as a dying prisoner was so frighteningly authentic that I saw death in his body language and in his eyes. Frightening authenticity and intensity.
3. Aamir Khan in Dangal: At year-end came this buoyant bio-pic about a beefy bulked-up pehelwaan with daughters to groom into glory. To say Aamir’s performance is weighty would be a cheap understatement. He lives every minute of real-life wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat’s obstinate resolution to make his daughter into wrestling champs. He is ungainly in girth but priceless in his performance. This is the second real-life character played by Aamir. Let’s not even think about what he did to and with Mangal Pandey.
4. Akshay Kumar in Airlift: Based on the real-life entrepreneur who rescued hundreds of Indian from war-torn Kuwait in 1990 Akshay delivers a performance that is subtle and skilled. He weaves his way around the crisis, looking for centre to his war-torn conscience-stricken character. When he finds that centre; the actor builds a character who uses his negotiating skills as an entrepreneur to rescue innumerable lives from imminent danger. It’s a role clearly inspired by Liam Neeson in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. And Akshay is every bit as compelling as Neeson, if not more. This performance needs to be honoured. Director Raja Krishna Menon allowed Akshay to be the master of his character Ranjit Katyal’s destiny. The actor took charge and delivered.
5. Sushant Singh Rajput in Dhoni: The Untold Story: Playing the real-life cricketing darling M S Dhoni couldn’t have been easy for Sushant. The actor had to replicate Dhoni’s performances on the field without mimicking him. Sushant succeeded in doing just that. His Dhoni is warm, diligent, determined and driven. A truly bravura portrait of a sporting genius who embraced renown as if born into it. Sushant was on a firm wicket, playing out Dhoni’s aspiration on an even pitch, imbuing warmth credibility and authenticity to Dhoni’s persona. Sushant’s physical transformation displaying different stages of Dhoni’s life was an award-winning achievement.