Despite not headlining the films, these actors stood out with their acting skills.
Gajaraj Rao in Badhaai Ho: As Ayushmann Khurrana’s shy self-made railway booking-clerk father in Badhaai Ho who impregnates his wife at an unthinkable age, Gajaraj Rao brought so much empathy and warmth to his character. In a film teeming with assured performances, Rao stood tall.
Arif Zakaria in Raazi: As the Pakistani family’s loyal Man-Friday who sees through the new Bahu’s hidden agenda, Arif Zakaria brought a glorious gravitas and snide wisdom to his role. Kudos to the unsung hero of a highly acclaimed film where Alia Bhatt simply took over.
Saurabh Shukla in Raid: The uncouth boorish arrogant North Indian politician... sounds familiar? But see how Shukla pumped up the predictable part with passion and punch.
Girish Kulkarni in Fanney Khan: Some will remember him as the mean wrestling coach in Dangal. More recently, he brilliant in a cameo in Sacred Games. This chameleon-like Marathi actor was superlative as Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s slimy music manager in Fanney Khan. Not missing a single heartbeat in the character’s opportunism, Kulkarni shone in his portrayal.
Aparshakti Khurrana in Stree: While Rajkummar Rao as the naïve tailor who stole the show; it was Aparshakti as his incredulous best friend was a howl and a hoot. In fact, Hindi cinema has a history of brilliant actors stealing the show as the hero’s best friend.
Neena Gupta in Badhaai Ho: Wasn’t it just the other day when this underrated actress cribbed about being left out in the cold? Now here, she is playing a distressed 50-plus housewife who finds herself pregnant. Neena nailed her character with elan.
Arunodoy Singh in Blackmail: As Divya Dutta’s absurdly henpecked husband, Arunodoy displayed a new side to his personality. Here was a performance that wasn’t afraid to let it loose even if it made him look extravagantly idiotic.
Ashutosh Rana in Mulk: The ensemble cast in this dark tale of Islamic isolation shone brightly. None brighter than the irrepressible Rana who bit and chewed into his role of a fundamentalist Hindu lawyer who spat venom at the Muslim community, branding their children terrorists with such casual straightforwardness. Rana made the absurd sound chillingly authentic.
Jim Sarbh in Padmaavat: While the plot’s focus was almost entirely on Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, the unorthodox Jim Sarbh as Allauddin Khilji’s vicious, ruthless transgender man Friday-loverboy blew the screen apart with his whiny sadism. It was the first time that mainstream Hindi cinema dared to show the true carnal passion that a man felt for another man. In that sense, this was a path-breaking performance.