With 2021 coming to an end, I decided to look back at the movies, shows, and performances, that left me impressed, and also, won over critics and fans alike. And realized, that while the following actors were flawless in their roles, they didn’t get the attention and love they deserved. So, here’s a look at some of the underrated actors from 2021:
1. Amruta Subhash
The fact that more people are not talking about, and fawning over, Subhash’s diverse and equally brilliant performances in this year alone, is a real mystery to me, and the reason for her inclusion in the list. From Bombay Begum’s Lily to Dhamaka’s Ankita, Subhash has played varied characters with the ease that comes from her experience as a seasoned actor of regional cinema.
2. Zoya Hussain
Hussain has been wowing the audience since Mukkabaaz, and personally, I loved her memorizing act in Prateek Kuhad’s video of Cold/Mess as well. In 2021 itself, Hussain starred in Grahan with Pavan Malhotra, along with appearing in the Netflix anthology, Ankahi Kahaniyan, and the Tamil-language drama, Kaadan. And her brilliance, in each performance, has us hoping we soon see her in meatier roles and mainstream cinema.
3. Avinash Tiwary
It pains me to still list Tiwary as an underrated actor, simply because he has been brilliant right from the time he appeared as a lead in Laila Majnu. The only saving grace of The Girl on the Train, Tiwary deserves better films, greater screen time, and far more love and appreciation than what is coming his way already.
4. Sai Tamhankar
Kriti Sanon was the lead in Mimi and Pankaj Tripathi is an established scene-stealer. And yet, Sai Tamhankar’s subtle but powerful act as Shama could not be ignored. While Sanon was brilliant as Mimi, Shama also lodged herself in my heart – because of Tamhankar’s earnest, relatable performance as a dependable friend.
5. Aparshakti Khurana
Aparshakti Khurana remains an underrated star not for lack of projects, but for lack of the right kind of roles. While Helmet did give him a leading role, mainstream entertainers like Hum Do Humare Do, continued to cast him in supporting roles.
13. Sharib Hashmi
The Family Man may be regarded as his claim to fame, but Hashmi is more than just a talented actor – he’s also a talented writer and producer. And while he was flawless as JK in The Family Man, he was equally impressive in other ventures, the latest being Pagglait.
7. Satyajeet Dubey
Satyajeet Dubey emerged as an unexpected star with Mumbai Diaries 26/11. After all, stealing the limelight from stars like Konkona Sen Sharma and Mohit Raina is no easy feat, but Dubey delivered, and how. Dubey has actually been a part of the industry for almost a decade now, and deserves the kind of recognition that has finally come his way, thanks to Mumbai Diaries 26/11.
8. Shahana Goswami
In both Bombay Begums and The Last Hour, Shahana Goswami proved, she’s not your usual star. She has a way of commanding attention that is not rooted in dramatic gestures, and that is why her characters stay with you for long. An actor whose filmography is nothing short of brilliant, web series have finally put her on the path to become a household name.
9. Gagan Arora
Though Arora has appeared in multiple web series, I only discovered him in Tabbar. And he has been, by far, one of the finest actors – because sharing screen space with actors like Pavan Malhotra and Supriya Pathak, and still holding your own, is truly commendable. Gagan Arora brought just the right mix of naivety and fear to his role, making Happy a character you could see yourself in – a 20-something young adult, balancing family and personal expectations.
10. Abhilash Thapliyal
Yes, Sunny Bhaiya aka Sunny Hinduja deserved all the love he got but SK Sir aka Abhilash Thapliyal acted as the story’s emotional core, tying the different pieces, and the different people, together. He also represented the other side of the UPSC story, one that is more common but does not get the same attention – the story of the ‘failures’. And Thapliyal toed the line between making his character believable but not pitiable.
11. Sunil Grover
Grover completely shed his image of a comedian in Tandav, and was quite frankly, one of the few saving graces of a show that completely wasted its talented star cast. The ‘mystery’ guy who says profound dialogues – this has actually become a trope of web series now, and Grover could have easily become a caricature in his performance. But Grover, instead, made Gurpal his own by not sticking to an established style. After all, you don’t find man Fridays who organize murders with the same ease with which they stalk possible threats and pet cats.
12. Imaad Shah
Imaad Shah has been slowly, but surely, grabbing our attention with pivotal roles in series like Bombay Begums, The Empire, and The Married Woman, in 2021 alone. Though I’ve been a fan since Dil Dosti Etc, it’s great to see Shah branch out into diverse genres and nail varied characters with the ease of a seasoned performer.
These stars deserve more screen space and in some cases, better projects. Hopefully, Bollywood delivers.