Screen Crushes That Made 2021 Better

Fictional characters who made us smile, swoon and get through a bleak time
Screen Crushes That Made 2021 Better

The alarming frequency with which new films and shows were dropping gave us an endless expanse of desire to stake our claim over. We were bound to fall in love, virtually. Here are our 12 crushes of the year, in no particular order — fictional characters who made us smile, swoon, and summer through a bleak time. 

Jaison is a tailor who gets struck by lightning and becomes a superhero—you can imagine the exciting possibilities of that.  Tovino Thomas plays him with a killer blend of charm, vulnerability, goofiness and steel.  My favourite scene was one in which Jaison leaps off a tree, plummets to the ground and sagely declares that his superpowers don't include flying.  This is the saviour we need! 

— Anupama Chopra

Paloma (Ana De Armas) in No Time To Die 

As the Cuban agent Paloma, Ana De Armas steals the show in whatever little screen time she gets in Daniel Craig's last Bond movie. In her backless gown with plunging neckline, dark lipstick and diamond necklace, she's sipping Coca Cola in a Santiago cafe one moment, kicking and shooting while dodging killer laser beams in a party the next. The giant hologram fantasy girl in Blade Runner 2049 is a female assassin to die for. 

— Sankhayan Ghosh

Nayattu means "the hunt" in Malayalam.  This is a story about cops who become embroiled in a cauldron of violence and politics, and are being hunted by other cops. Praveen is new to the force and more idealistic.  At one point in the film, he and his two colleagues Maniyan and Sunitha are hiding in a remote village. Sunitha gets her periods.  Praveen goes to the market and gets her sanitary pads.  Not a word is exchanged but this small gesture tells us everything we need to know.  Praveen, played by a terrific Kunchacko Boban, is my hero.

— Anupama Chopra

Bharti Mandal (Konkona Sensharma) in Geeli Pucchi

Bharti, played by a superb Konkona Sensharma, is female, Dalit and gay.  Which means the world is a hostile place.  But she negotiates it with the muscle of a boxer and the mind of Machiavelli.  I'm a fan girl.

— Anupama Chopra

Sara (Anna Ben) in Sara'S

There's something so charming, so sunshiney about Anna Ben that the more you watch her, the more that smile reverberates—to a point that you don't even realise that you too are grinning from ear to ear. Her screen presence and choice of roles are so endearing and so hearteningly progressive and positive that adoring her almost feels like the most natural thing on the face of Earth. A lot like Kumbalangi Nights and Helen, Anna Ben seamlessly carries a simple yet complex journey that her character goes through in Sara'S too, making her relatable, real and just the kind of person you'd like to have midnight heart-to-hearts with.

— Debdatta Sengupta

Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) in This Is Us

I don't say Jack is flawless. He isn't. He has a drinking problem—touched upon in Season 5, too—and clearly had a rough patch adjusting to the pressures of being a new parent, as shown in one of the time jumps explored by the show. However, one can't possibly ignore the person he is, especially after going through the traumas that he has gone through, be it in childhood or adulthood. The way he plans to propose to Rebecca in the season by recreating their first date is everything that makes Jack Pearson, the Jack Pearson—sensitive, attentive and the ultimate romantic who knows how to make an event out of the littlest of moments. Milo Ventimiglia being the dreamboat that he is, makes the beautifully-written character not only intensely appealing to the heart but to the eyes, too.

— Debdatta Sengupta

Olivia and Paula (Sidney Sweeney and Brittany O'Grady) in The White Lotus 

Anyone who has seen the show will know why it's not such a far-fetched idea. The meanest girls on TV this year are also inseparable for the most part in The White Lotus, twinning about pretty much everything under the Hawaiian sun, from their ultra-woke jibes at Olivia's parents and brother, to their bitchy commentary on the other characters—all of whom are on vacation in the titular resort in the tropical island. Add to that, their own weird dynamic: Olivia's brother claims he heard them making lesbian noises at night; later, Paula complains that Olivia always steals her boyfriends. Let me propose an arrangement that works for everyone.

— Sankhayan Ghosh

Adam Driver in House of Gucci & Annette 

In the humble space of seven November days this year, I finally got what John Oliver has been on about. There was no escape. The musical coldness of Adam Driver—where you get a sense of a lithe, muscular artist trying to control his divine physicality for the sake of art—in Annette, and his campy awakening of masculinity in House of Gucci are a sight for sore spirits. Even when he's being a dastardly, unattractive artist and husband, all I could think of was Oliver's declaration of sexuality-transcending love: "There's only one infectious disease two-thirds of the world should be getting right now, and that's Adam Driver fever…". Amen. 

Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

I did not particularly care for Bucky in the MCU until he groomed himself into a ruggedly sexual dynamo for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Within the ever-expanding but uninspired taxonomy of hot superhero men, Bucky is an exception — initially, he only managed to complement his deeply uninteresting, cardboard personality with a vanilla face. Unlike other potentially hot heroes, he was a sexual sidepiece. But now, with the slick hair and tight, leather jacket, Bucky finally managed to evolve into an object of pure, carnal desire. And his homoerotic chemistry with Sam, alongside his smouldering eyes, only intensify that desire. 

 — Ruhaan Shah

Roshan Mathew in Aanum Pennum 

Maybe it's our broken sexual economy that makes the man-child character as endearing as he is exhausting. Roshan Matthew plays a horn-dog, who just wants to have sex with his girlfriend, but is so worried about being caught that he goes to hilarious lengths to find a lonely green spot (we are in Kerala, afterall) to do the bedding-without-the-wedding. He is also a bit of a wimp, asking his thuggish friend if there will be snakes in the forest to dampen the mood. His wimpishness is all the more apparent because his girlfriend played by Darshana Rajendran is so steady and indifferent. And yet, looking at Mathew play this character —  a radical interpretation of the Adam and Eve story —  you can't help but be struck by his poetic bravado that falls flat in reality, his exquisite, child-like desperation, and his wide-eyed hope to just get laid. 

— Prathyush Parasuraman 

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) in Spider-Man: No Way Home

When Bong Joon-ho said, "To me, that's cinema," he wasn't describing the experience of watching Andrew Garfield's smile on the big screen, but he might as well have been. The actor, so under-served by his own Spider-Man franchise, casually strolled into the third installment of another and instantly became the most magnetic presence on-screen. His goofy charm and easy likeability reignited a decade-old crush and his vulnerability reminded me why it began in the first place.

— Gayle Sequeira

Vishu (Dhanush) in Atrangi Re

Was it the intoxicating melody of A.R.Rahman? Vijay Ganguly's toddler-lite choreography? Pankaj Kumar's Delhi winter lighting that flirts with Dhanush's frame? Dhanush's feeble-drunk playback voice? Or Dhanush himself? Little Little is a relic of this year, a song of utmost charm. Dhanush's sense of timing is so good, every gesture falling right on beat, every expression paired perfectly, not wasting a lyric. It was as if he was singing from his heart. Even through the film, he infuses intensity and longing in spades to gloss over the ridiculous lengths his character goes to get the love he thinks he deserves. Despite his slight frame he has such a strong screen presence, he can just stand in a corner while Sara Ali Khan Chaka Chaks in abandon, and the eyes still gravitate towards him. Also, phew, what a dancer!

— Mohini Chaudhuri and Prathyush Parasuraman

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