Acting gives believability to the story and emotional depth to the movie. Great acting doesn’t mean just a get-up change or rolling on mud and crying loud. Acting is being active as the character. Performance of an actor in a character doesn’t rely completely on the actor but on the script and director too. When the characterization of the role is badly developed then there is nothing much the actor can do but simply be a part of the location between action and cut as per the paper. But at the end of the day, good or bad, it will be in his name. Best actors simply dissolve with the character and make us forget about the actor.
The list is without Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth. They are on the top with absolute zero doubt and there are more than couple of dozen examples for proving that. Within first 20 years, they have done variety of roles which no present lead actor can do in life time.
- Prakashraj – Versatility, believability and intensity. One of the most respected actors in India. Prakashraj is known for throwing himself into his roles. His incredible natural abilities, combined with his career graph of evergreen performances like Iruvar, OK Kanmani, Kanchivaram, make him one of the modern days’ best actors. His performance in Iruvar? A truly magnificent acting range from a great actor. Of late, he has been also repetitive.
- Kishore – Despite being known primarily for playing villains in Tamil, Kishore has played a variety of roles. Kishore can turn his acting hand to absolutely anything. It wouldn’t be surprising if you see him grabbing few awards in near future. He gives such a realistic performance that we simply see only the character. Eg.: Pollathavan, Ulidavaru Kandante, Aadukalam, Haridas
- Pasupathi – Possibly the most intense actor on the list, when you look in to Pasupathi’s eyes in his role in Virumaandi, it wasn’t like when you watch him in Idharkuthane Aasaipattai Balakumara. He is very diverse and agile. He can be so funny, subtle, mysterious, psycho, happy, sad and severe. A brilliant, brilliant actor. Check his performances in Ee, Vairam, Veyil, Itharkuthaan Asaipattai Balakumara, Big B, Aravan.
- Nasser – Kuruthipunal, Minsara Kanavu, Kaaviya Thalaivan. This man makes every performance look easy. That is the exact reason why he is under-rated among audience. Let it be the villain of Mugham (Malayalam) or the tough guy in Kuruthipunal or the politician in Iruvar or the comic character in Minsara Kanavu, nothing looks big. Makers easily get what they need from him. Even with the handful of great performances, I still feel, he is still underused.
- Vikram – Sethu, Pithamagan, Saamy, Dill. Endowed with a natural charisma. Vikram is one of the most recognizable movie stars in India as well as one of the most talented, but sadly underused. You only have to look at a scene from the first half and then a scene from the second half of the film I to appreciate the depth that Vikram will go to for an acting role. Despite an inconsistent filmography, there are only very few actors in India who can turn in a classic performance than Vikram when given a good script.
- Jayaprakash –Equally comfortable playing villain, heavy businessman, and a man next door, Jayaprakash is one of the most versatile character actors working today. His best role so far came in Pannaiyarum Padminiyum. A good actor makes you forget that he is doing something in the name of acting. Majority of us, who used to praise over-the-top performance of actors always miss to identify real performances. Watch it carefully next time, you can feel how he is making us forget that somebody is ‘acting’ there.
- Dhanush – Dhanush showcased his versatility as an actor in films such as Raanjhana, Pollathavan, Aadukalam etc. Only few actors have achieved a more impressive career than Dhanush in such a short span. He can be the best when in a down to earth characters (Eg.: Pollathavan hospital scene, Raanjhana) but sometimes makers are using him to overact (3 climax, Mariyaan). Best known for playing rowdies and eccentrics. He should be more careful about it else he will get labeled.
- Karthi – Madras, Paruththiveeran, Naan Mahan Alla. A great starting was spoiled by the path he took to move on. I guess, Ranjith’s Madras showed him the right path again. There is a flow which gives life to the character in Madras. His performance in this film showed us what we get if a star is ready to be an actor. Eg.: The court scene with Kalaiarasan and the pre-climax scene when he opens up in-front of the wall. Karthi can be easily the best if he choose the best scripts.
- Vijay Sethupathi – Pannaiyarum Padminiyum, Soodhu Kavvum. One of the rising heroes, Vijay Sethupathi, has shown himself to be very good at picking interesting scripts. He is a very natural actor. Naturality is something which we don’t find in top actors. He is yet to get heavy meat role but his performance in Pannaiyarum Padminiyum is enough for adding his name in this list. I wonder how the maker extracted that from him. Excellent. His eye shows what his character thinks.
- Raj Kiran – Raj Kiran’s natural likability makes him an asset to any film. He has put together a string of great performances over the last 25 years. Later part of career he started doing second lead / character roles which resulted in excellent performances like in Nandha, Pandavar Bhoomi, Komban and Kireedam. He resembles the late Malayalam legendry actor Thilakan.
Many good actors continue to be typecast in similar roles, despite their fantastic ability. There are few actors like Madhavan, Suriya, Sarathkumar, Sampath, Arjun who are capable of top class performances but stucked in a chain called repeatism. After few classic movies and performances like Nandha, Kakka Kakka and Vaaranam Aayiram, Suriya became a character called ‘Suriya’, and is still living as the same character. Hope he will get out of this and start doing something like which he was famous for. Actor Nandha is talented but still waiting for a clear break. It is great to see some filmmakers making use of the experienced Sathyaraj, MS Bhaskar and Prabhu. Sathyaraj is very good in Baahubali, Isai and Raja Rani. I guess, the Baahubali will give him a number of performance oriented offers. Ajith Kumar is best and looks good in certain characters. Eg.: Vaali, Mankatha and Yennai Arindhaal. Vishal, and Jeeva have their own strengths, so is Arun Vijay. Vishal is like Tom Cruise but he is trying to be Jim Carry. One should know his weakness to know his strengths. Vishnu is another actor like Vijay Sethupathi who knows his strength and is very promising too. Arul Nidhi is a director’s actor, a good director can make him shine. An actor of class when in right hand, that is what can be said about Vijay. Few directors like Siddhiq, Murugadoss successfully used the actor in this star. Eg.: Priyamanavale, Thuppaakki, Friends, Ghilli, Kushi, Kaththi, Kavalan. Hope he realizes his strength soon. Hope more filmmakers use actors knowing their strengths and weaknesses. How many times we saw these actors in those roles which matched their talent!