This is a monthly series where we highlight performances from the film and streaming universe that caught our eye. Since Film Companion watches widely, we compile this list to foreground exceptional work, even if these actors did not have the proverbial spotlight on them.
In the achingly beautiful Month Of Madhu, Harsha Chemudu superbly humanises a stock character that has been rendered caricature-ish by countless instances of lifeless and stereotypical writing over the years: 'the hero's friend'. In Srikanth Nagothi's film, Harsha's character doesn't exist merely to provide comic relief. His utility is much more than that. He represents an average 40-something-year-old man leading an unremarkable life but his normalcy is never ridiculed. Harsha wonderfully makes this unspeacial character special on so many levels, from his dialect to minute gestures. He comes across as a real person you might have seen in your neighbourhood. And never has a Telugu movie captured two drunk men having a conversation as realistically as Month of Madhu; Harsha kills it with his act in these long takes.
Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime Video
Can any best-of list be complete without a Konkona Sen Sharma performance? Her character, Chitra Das, is a complex portrait of trauma and courage, of escaping and confronting, of perceiving and trusting. The empathetic social services director of the semi-fictional Bombay Hospital is a survivor of marital abuse, and her past returns to haunt her in this season. She delivers a wonderfully informed and honest turn as a woman who is confused by the alleged reformation of her toxic husband. She is willing to believe that the monster is now a man, that maybe he's changed for the better. Chitra's personal arc influences her professional battle during the 26/7 floods, and the actress nails the turmoil of a survivor who struggles to be more than the marriage that nearly broke her.
Streaming Platform: Netflix
Queer, mature, a driven career woman, and equipped with a gorgeous winter wardrobe, Krishna Mehra (or KM, as she's known to her colleagues) checks every box you can imagine. Tabu's performance as an intelligence officer who sets out to avenge the death of her lover, anchors Khufiya and whenever she's not on screen, the film feels lost and unmoored. Whether she's watching from the surveillance room or sinking into the shadows with a dangerous stranger, you can't help but fall a little bit deeper in love with this woman who is an intoxicating mix of sensuality, grit and ruthlessness.
Vijay is both Parthiban and Leo in Lokesh Kanagaraj's Leo. While the latter is the Thalapathy we're used to (he spins the revolver on his arm before a shot, dances like a dream and well, kicks ass), Parthi gives us a Vijay that we've hardly seen before. He is an ordinary person running a diner, who loves doing a handful of unremarkable things, which includes fixing coffees, embarrassing his daughter with his love for pulpy dance numbers from the 90s and, of course, saving an odd hyena or two. How often have we seen a star as big as Vijay revel in the mundane? He cries on more than one occasion, showcasing a rare sort of helplessness that we aren't used to. We see glimpses of Leo when he hits the men who harm his daughter, but the Vijay we're more excited by is the one that arrives minutes after his rage settles: Parthi lets out a whimper as he gazes at the gun in his hand. While Parthi doesn't last for a long time, Vijay does a terrific job in keeping up the trick.