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Thursday, September 28, 2023

50 Best Hindi Film Actors of the Decade: Part 1

Some industries are driven by stars or actors. Bollywood, however, is a fraternity which is driven by both… Though mostly by stars.

Despite the ‘nepotism’ talk being quite outdated and controversial, it is still nonetheless interesting. If one examines the history, Hindi cinema has always been driven familial or friendly connections.

Though many may disagree, such a tight-knit link has managed to generate footfalls within the film sector, resulting in more strength and content.

Even today, there are very few ‘outsiders’ who manage to break through and make a success story out of their careers.

But superstars like Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh have been game-changers.

Such names have really led the path, encouraging and inspiring fresh talents to work in an industry which exudes art, talent and exuberance.

Filme Shilmy explores 50 best actors of the decade (in no particular order), which will be measured by film choices, performances and premise, rather than just judging the glamour quotient.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas

Emerging as Miss World 2000, one of India’s highest-paid and most popular celebrities, Chopra has received numerous awards, including one National Film Award and five Filmfare Awards.

She has also been bestowed with prestigious titles like the Padma Shri and Time named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2017 and 2018, Forbes listed her among the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.

Having impressed us with diverse performances in films like Aitraaz, 7 Khoon Maaf, Barfi, Mary Kom and Bajirao Mastani, she became the first South Asian to headline an American network drama series. PC is proudly representing us on a global stage.

Ranbir Kapoor

Since his debut in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya, the world has become smitten over Ranbir Kapoor and his talent speaks volume of his calibre as an actor. His roles always see an innocent man gets caught up in a whirlwind of emotions and circumstances.

Having featured in Forbes Indias Celebrity 100 list since 2012, Kapoor is also the recipient of several awards, including six Filmfare Awards.

Despite hailing from a prestigious filmy lineage, his charismatic charm and superlative talent have impressed us in movies such as Wake Up Sid, Rocket Singh – Salesman Of The Year, Raajneeti, Rockstar, Tamasha and Sanju, to name a few.

Ranveer Singh

Accolade to accolade, acclaim to acclaim, it is evident that the 34-year-old actor has come a long way since his Band Baaja Baaraat days. Ranveer’s spectacular debut is an inspirational story, proving that you can always be successful… As long as you are passionate and talented.

In his initial days, we saw him experiment with an array of characters… Be it a charming/melancholic thief in Lootera, a Gujarati vagabond in Ram Leela or an outlaw in Gunday. Since his association with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, we’ve also seen him undertake valiant and tyrannical roles in ventures such as Bajirao Mastani and Padmaavat, to name a few.

Playing an anti-heroic commercial cop in Simmba gave him the opportunity to explore the ‘masala’ space. Whereas playing a rapper from slums in Gully Boy, bridges the gap between parallel and mainstream cinema. Furthermore, to see such movies be shortlisted for the Oscars is also a great achievement!

Anushka Sharma

The recipient of several awards, Anushka is an icon and for good reason. Her modelling career smoothly transitioned into acting which saw her launched in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, opposite Shah Rukh Khan.

She rose to prominence with starring roles in Yash Raj Films’ romances Band Baaja Baaraat and Jab Tak Hai Jaan. Plus, her performances in critical and commercial successes like NH10, Dil Dhadakne Do, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, PK and Sanju, amongst others.

Anushka is amongst the few female actors who have not only enacted in quality roles but also produce unconventional and intriguing films. She is among the finest Bollywood discoveries this decade.

Shahid Kapoor

Shahid’s journey to stardom has been an interesting one. Although his father is an experienced actor in the Indian film industry, the actor began his career at the grassroots level, by training as a dancer at Shiamak Davar’s academy from a young age.

He has witnessed triumph and failure from a very close lens. After a positive debut in Ishq Vishk, he faced success in movies like Chup Chup Ke, Vivah, Jab We Met and Kaminey. This decade has positively changed the dynamics of his career and displaying his maturity as an actor.

Post a series of unsuccessful movies,  he starred in the action film R… Rajkumar. Kapoor received critical acclaim for portraying Hamlet in Bhardwaj’s tragedy Haider and a drug-abusing singer in the crime drama Udta Punjab as well as a righteous Rajput King in Padmaavat and an angry, self-destructive surgeon in Kabir Singh.


Acclaimed Tabu is synonymous with gracefully essaying formidable characters that too in movies of various languages such as Bengali, English, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam, as well as Hindi.

With an enriched experience of both parallel and mainstream cinema, she has displayed her prowess in both styles. Some notable performances include MaachisKaalapaani, Chandni Bar, Hu Tu Tu, Saajan Chale Sasural, Hera Pheri and Hum Saath Saath Hai.

In the latter half of this decade, we’ve seen Tabu essay intrepid characters such as a Kashmiri widow in Haider, a cop in Drishyam and a femme fatale in Andhadhun. Furthermore, international projects include a leading role in Mira Nair’s drama The Namesake and a supporting role in Ang Lee’s highly successful adventure film Life of Pi.

Ayushmann Khurrana

When it comes to good content, former MTV Roadies winner Ayushmannn Khurrana’s name comes to the forefront. Since his debut in Vicky Donor, we always had an inkling that the actor/singer will always choose unconventional and socially relevant projects.

Post the triumphs of Andhadhun and Badhaai Ho in 2018, Ayushmann has been on a roll with choosing entertainers with socially relevant themes.

In 2019, he played an array of characters such as a righteous cop fighting against casteism in Article 15, female friendship caller in Dream Girl and a man who has lack of self-confidence premature balding in Bala. It’s been also a major year as he even won the National Film Award for Best Actor.

Alia Bhatt

One cannot deny that Alia is one of the most promising actors in our generation. She has long graduated since the Student Of The Year days and that was evident through a stellar performance in her second film Highway. 

Regardless of hailing from a filmy family, Bhatt proves that talent talks more than tags. We’ve witnessed some brilliant performances in Dharma Productions such as 2 StatesHumpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, Badrinath Ki Dulhania and the coming-of-age drama Dear Zindagi.

But her recent performances in dark comedy Udta Punjab, espionage thriller Raazi and musical drama Gully Boy, have displayed her matured craft as a performer.

Rajkummar Rao

Going from milestone to milestone, Rajkummar is a silent superstar. After his debut in Love Sex Aur Dhokha, his breakthrough performances in Kai Po Che! and the critically acclaimed Shahid propelled him to new heights of success.

He proceeded to feature in the successful romantic comedy Queen and starred in the acclaimed dramas CityLights, Aligarh and Trapped. However, he never was bound by any archetypes.

Through commercial triumphs such as Bareilly Ki Barfi and horror-comedy Stree, Rajkummar proves his ability in acting in various styles and genres. By playing the friend of a closeted lesbian in Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, he redefines ‘heroism’ in Hindi cinema.

Taapsee Pannu

Having formerly worked in South-Indian cinema, Taapsee debuted in Bollywood with a comedy 6-years-ago, but since then she has pushed every boundary as an actor.

The word ‘status quo’ has never really existed in her dictionary and so we’ve always seen her essay formidable roles in movies like Pink, Baby and Naam Shabana. Last year was a testament to her diversity as she played characters of various calibres such as a lawyer in Mulk, a hockey player in Soorma and a love-struck woman of today in Manmarziyaan.

She has set the bar higher with back-to-back successful thrillers: Badla and Game Over in which she takes centre stage as an antagonist and as a layered character, respectively. Plus, she brilliantly essays a sharp-shooter thrice her age in Saand Ki Aankh and a scientist in Mission Mangal.

Irrfan Khan

Irrfan Khan is a versatile naturalistic actor and a courageous person too by overcoming neuroendocrine tumour. Since his debut in Academy Award-nominated film Salaam Bombay! the 53-year-old actor has acted in an array of movies, playing characters of various shades.

Some notable performances include Paan Singh, The Lunchbox, Piku, Talvar and Hindi Medium, as well as others.

Not only is he an award-winning actor, but by doing British and Hollywood films like The Namesake, Slumdog Millionaire, Jurassic Park, Life Of Pi and Inferno (amongst others) Khan has also emerged as an international icon, proudly representing India on a global stage.

Parineeti Chopra

National Film Award winner, Parineeti Chopra has matured since her Ishaqzaade days. We’ve seen her gain strength-to-strength with each film, showing an upward trajectory of her calibre.

The subsequent time post her debut Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl was quite dry, in terms of box-office success. However, the super success Golmaal Again has arguably led her on to gaining some more excellent projects.

Even though she too has witnessed setbacks and failure closely, her performances in dark roles like The Girl On The Train and biographical portrayals in sports biopics such as Saina. Chopra has truly come leaps and bounds as an actor.

Vikrant Massey

Vikrant always had an affinity towards the performing arts. After dancing took a backseat as he received acting opportunities on television and was subsequently seen in successful shows like Balika Vadhu, Baba Aiso Varr Dhoondo and Qabool Hai, to name a few.

His stint in cinema is fairly recent and began with supporting roles in movies like Lootera and Dil Dhadakne Do. Gradually, we have seen him in realistic and authentic projects such as A Death in the Gunj, Lipstick Under My Burkha as well as the web-series Mirzapur, Made In Heaven, Criminal Justice and Broken But Beautiful.

Also seen in Meghna Gulzar’s Chhapaak alongside Deepika Padukone, his career heads for a more prominent and promising turn. Hence, Massey deserves to be acknowledged as one of the best actors of this decade

Mrunal Thakur

Post doing a successful TV series after over 2,000 auditions, Mrunal Thakur gets selected for the titular role in Tabrez Noorani’s powerful feature film, Love Sonia, in which she plays an innocent girl who is forced into the vicious global sex trade.

Her success story is no less than a fairy tale. After exploring a plethora of emotions, we saw Mrunal paired with big actors like Hrithik Roshan in Super 30 and John Abraham in Batla House. Subsequently, she’ll be seen in Karan Johar’s Netflix anthology segment Ghost Stories and recently bagged Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Toofan and Shahid Kapoor’s Jersey.

Thakur will also step into the pivotal role of ‘Sivagami’ in Netflix’s Baahubali prequel series Baahubali: Before The Beginning. Therefore, it can be said that her future is looking extremely bright!

Jim Sarbh

There was, isn’t and never will be anyone like Jim Sarbh. He is an actor who has never shied away from doing unconventional work. Prior to his journey in feature films, he received acclaim for his contribution towards the Mumbai theatre industry.

His debut in Neerja as a terrorist gained widespread acclaim, for which he also won various awards and most deservedly so. In movies such as A Death In The Gunj, Raabta and Padmaavat, he impressed us in other dark roles.

Having said that, Sarbh has explored various mediums… Regardless of whether they are short films or digital shows/movies. On each platform, he has always left an impact on his excellent performances.

Shefali Shah

The projects multi-award-winning Shefali Shah looks out for does not come quickly, but when they do, she leaves a solid impact with her performances.

Whether it’s playing a headstrong woman who speaks against abuse in Monsoon Wedding, a fierce brothel owner in Lakshmi or an affluent yet subdued mother in Dil Dhadakne Do, Shah always portrays versatile and formidable roles.

Her role in DCP Vartika Chaturvedi in Netflix’s original series Delhi Crime shatters the stereotypical image of an Indian female cop (and cops as a whole), proving to be a major game-changer. An emotionally challenged role performed superlatively by an accomplished actor.

Manoj Bajpayee

Award-winning method actor Manoj Bajpayee is phenomenal. Whether it’s playing a gangster in Satya, a serial killer in Aks or a homosexual professor in Aligarh, the 50-year-old actor has adapted each role in a seamless and organic manner.

This year, Bajpayee was also awarded the prestigious Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award for his contribution to art. In fact, his game-changing move was making a digital debut with Raj and DK’s The Family Man on Amazon Prime Video.

It is the first-ever Indian show to be showcased at The Television Critics Association in Los Angeles and de-glamourises the lives of Indian espionages.

Neena Gupta

Neena Gupta is one of the most formidable and fearless actresses in Bollywood today. Her no-nonsense and sincere personality is what really makes her stand out from the crowd.

Life has been no less than a roller coaster for her. Starting off as a single mother without any support, she continued to work her way and shine in her career. Unlike other actors, Neena does not follow the culture of silence.

She recently sent out a tweet requesting work and that emphasised how there is no shame in asking such queries. Subsequently, she has received a handful of projects, her most successful and latest one being Badhaai Ho, in which she portrays a middle-aged pregnant housewife.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui

After years of doing background, supporting characters, Nawaz emerged as a bankable lead actor this decade and his success story is truly inspirational.

Films like Black Friday, New York, Peepli Live, established his calibre as an actor. However, in 2012, we saw him in dark/layered but more prominent roles in movies like Kahaani, Gangs Of Wasseypur and Talaash.

His craft as an actor is beyond paradigms. We’ve recently seen him essay a predatory teacher in Haraamkhor, Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray in Thackeray and the gangster Ganesh Gaitoned in Netflix’s popular series Sacred Games, which has become a key pop-culture persona!

Sobhita Dhulipala

Sobhita is a supremely talented actor who commands a solid screen presence. Being a trained classical dancer in Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, she is educated in Commerce and Economics.

After representing India at Miss Earth 2013, Sobhita has smoothly transitioned into film. She kickstarted acting with Anurag Kashyap’s thriller Raman Raghav 2.0, Telugu spy film Goodachari, Saif Ali Khan starrers Chef and Kaalakandi.

However, the Amazon Prime series Made In Heaven was a major game-changer, in which she plays a formidable wedding planner, set amidst today’s India as a potent blend of old and new where tradition jostles with modern aspirations against the backdrop of Big Fat Indian Weddings.

Adil Hussain

The multi-lingual, award-winning actor who has experience firm in arthouse, commercial and international cinema… I.e. The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Life Of Pi.

Educated in the arts and experience in theatre, Adil’s cinematic journey began with regional cinema, before entering the Hindi space.

This decade has been the most fruitful as we’ve seen him emerge in more impactful roles in movies like English Vinglish, Hotel Salvation and Lootera, to name a few. He is amongst Indian cinema’s most cherished artists.

Ratna Pathak Shah

With roots in theatre, the supremely talented Ratna Pathak Shah rose to prominence when she appeared in the hit TV serial Idhar Udhar in the 1980s and is perhaps best known for her iconic performance in the sitcom Sarabhai vs Sarabhai.

Her initial filmography consists of arthouse movies like Mandi and Mirch Masala. Though we prominently see her in supporting roles, these characters have been empowering albeit as a supporting role in movies like Khoobsurat, Kapoor and Sons and Nil Battey Sannata.

Mrs Shah’s portrayal of an aged widower wanting to unleash her repressed desires in Lipstick Under My Burkha is courageous and applaudable. Such movies provide strength to the ‘female-centric’ revolution in Hindi cinema, as well as celebrate liberation.

Deepak Dobriyal

Born and brought up in Uttarakhand and Delhi, Deepak Dobriyal is one of the most underrated actors in Hindi cinema. Unlike others, he learnt acting from grassroots in theatre during the 90s and he was involved with several popular plays.

He has received recognition for his role in Omkara and as a side-kick to the protagonist “Pappi” in Tanu Weds Manu, a role he reprised in 2015 sequel Tanu Weds Manu: Returns and again received critical acclaims.

Plus, his dark/layered performances in movies such as Not A Love Story and Kuldip Patwal are also applaud-worthy.

Sayani Gupta

Kolkata’s Sayani Gupta is a supremely talented actor whose unconventional filmography and role choices make her stand out from the rest. Her calibre is not just limited to cinema, but also acclaimed digital shows like Four More Shots Please! and Inside Edge.

Even in supporting roles in mainstream movies like Fan and Jolly LLB 2, she ensures that her presence is felt. Most of her film choices are backed by strong social relevance and references.

Whether it’s playing a visually impaired LGBTQ+ activist in Margarita With A Straw or a courageous village girl in Article 15, she continuously displays her prowess. Recently, she even shone in Axone, as a North-eastern who suffers racism in Delhi.

Gajraj Rao

Gajraj Rao is amongst those experienced actors who have worked years in this industry and it is only recently the industry has started to appreciate him for his craft and dedication.

He debuted in 1994 with a minor role in Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen and has since worked in many films and web-series. Rao is known for his supporting roles in movies like Talvar, Blackmail and web-series like TVF’s F.A.T.H.E.R.S, Tech Conversations with Dad and YRF’s Bang Baaja Baaraat.

Recently, he won several accolades of playing a middle-aged father whose wife gets pregnant in Badhaai Ho. The movie also won the National Film Awards in various categories.

Final Word

Overall, Hindi cinema has provided the platform to some fantastic actors and to pick a handful of 50 names to bookmark the decade is a tough job.

Therefore, we certainly hope our choices in this article and forthcoming write-ups will be emblematic of Bollywood’s finest works yet.

Given the recent emergence of digital platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, there is an impetus of talent and strong content.

Thus, one looks forward to seeing what the future holds not only for cinema but also the works that some of these actors deliver.

Stay tuned to Filme Shilmy for more updates on this!

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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