This is a monthly series where we highlight standout performances from the streaming universe. Since Film Companion watches widely, we decided to curate this list, foregrounding exceptional work, even if they did not have the proverbial spotlight on them.
Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime
Avinash Arun's Vishaanu is by far the finest short of the inconsistent 5-film anthology, best reflecting the cruel socioeconomic ironies of India's lockdown. It may seem that Geetika Vidya Ohlyan has been typecast in her short career so far, as a perceptive rural character often at the mercy of an urban environment. But as the wife in a family of Rajasthani migrants secretly occupying a posh sample apartment while stranded in Mumbai, she exudes the unsure body language of a spirit in transition. Torn between the illusion of luxury and the direness of survival, there are stories written on her face – very few actors "react" better on screen than she does, especially apparent in a heartbreaking scene where she is interviewed and "helped" by some BMC workers.
Streaming Platform: SonyLIV
The entire cast of Sandwiched Forever will be deserving of being on this list, but we are highlighting Aahana Kumra's performance specifically for the mix of verve and vanity, thoughtfulness and exhaustion that she inhabits as she begins her journey as a new wife, and thus new daughter-in-law while both her in-laws and parents are only a door away. The superb comic timing helps conceal the genuine affection she holds- that mix of gratitude and guilt we feel towards our parents.
It's not easy to play an actor who is playing an actor who is putting on an act (if you get the gist), but Anil Kapoor channelizes all that late-career energy and spirit to ace a meta-urgent role in a meta film. It's a symbolic performance, even more significant given the twist at the end of the film – an admission as well as a proud signature, and an ode to the dormant actor often subdued by the demands of Bollywood superstardom. Also, no mainstream star cusses on screen with such conviction; the Chembur well and truly shines in this Juhu v/s Versova war.
Streaming Platform: Netflix
This was an odd show, because it did not have the comic chops and edgy humour needed to make a stand-up based show pop amidst the sea of mediocrity. Ravi Patel's performance, however, as another struggling comic in India, who doesn't understand Hindi, is both effective in its subtle humour and biting wit. Patel is a comic himself, and so the goodness of this performance is but a validation of the goodness of his reality.
There's a moment in Vetri Maaran's short in Paava Kadhaigal we will never forget. It's a change of heart. Okay, an almost change of heart. "I shouldn't do this." You hear this line not through Prakash Raj's voice or mouth or lips but through his posture and his eyes. Honour killing is a brutal act, certainly. But this great actor makes us see that it's a very human act, too. You don't just inflict suffering. You suffer, too.