Rajkummar Rao is the man of the moment. Even as the horror-comedy Stree releases to good reviews, one can’t but wonder at the man who has simply charmed his way into our hearts. From the sleeper hit Bareilly Ki Barfi to playing the legend Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in the web series Bose Dead/ Alive; Newton’s selection as India's official entry for the Oscars Best Foreign Language Film category; playing the dreaded terrorist Omar Saeed Sheikh in Omerta - Rajkummar Rao has us hooked and how.
The actor, since his debut in the groovy Love, Sex Aur Dhokha in 2010, has risen and risen to become the third pillar of the triumvirate of actors who wow us in any film they work in - the other two being Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Irrfan Khan.
But while Nawaz has been lending his support to out-and-out commercial dramas from time to time, and Irrfan takes a medical break, Rajkummar Rao as of now has done neither. He keeps choosing roles that stand out even if they mean less screen time. And he shines.
Here’s looking at the top six performances of the National Award-winning actor on his birthday (31 August).
Newton’s self-named Newton Kumar was reminiscent of Satyapriya Acharya from Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Satyakam in his idealism and bull-headed determination to walk the honest road. But where Mukherjee’s film barely had a light moment, Amit Masurkar turned Newton into a black comedy with stupendous performances by the leading man, Rajkummar Rao (not to mention the others of course). Rajkummar imbibed his character with honesty and intelligence even as he allowed him to be the butt of many jokes.
Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017)
There is absolutely nothing new about Bareilly Ki Barfi, a rom com set in small town India. Till Rajkummar Rao walks in. Playing the terribly timid Pritam Vidrohi who is bullied out of his hometown and then bullied into turning all swag - Rao is a delight every minute he is on screen.
A regular next-door guy who gets literally trapped in his empty high-rise Mumbai apartment with no food, phone, water or electricity, and with only a rat, a cockroach, ants and pigeons for company. It’s not something our regular Bollywood heroes attempt. Rao does, and does a terrific job of it. In one of his most physical performances till date, he hooks the audience from the word go in this rare Hindi survival drama.
City Lights (2014)
Playing a poverty-stricken ex-Army driver who comes to Mumbai from Rajasthan with his family to eke out a livelihood and is duped to despair and beyond, Rajkummar Rao’s harrowing performance won over critics and the audience alike. It turned out to be a turning point in Rao’s career as well.
Rajkummar Rao imbibed an explosive combination of strength, emotions, anger and charm as lawyer and activist Shahid Azmi, who was assassinated in 2010 in Mumbai. His first biographical film, Shahid won Rao his first National Award for Best Actor.
Kai Po Che! (2012)
Kai Po Che! was a full-blown entertainer and Sushant Singh Rajput’s launchpad into Bollywood. But down the years, it is Rajkummar Rao’s portrayal of the honest, sensitive and endearing Govind Patel who’s caught between his warring friends that remains memorable.
Special mention: Gangs of Wasseypur, Queen and Aligarh. Or you could say, any damn role he picks.