This is a monthly series where we highlight standout performances from the film and 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.
It's been a while since we have seen the kind of scorching chemistry between two actors on screen. Amruta Khanvilkar plays titular character, the luminous Tamasha dancer Chandramukhi, who falls in love with the married politician Daulat, played by Adinath Kothare. The reason to place these two actors together as a single entry in this list is their performance feels inextricable from one another. It is impossible to remember this film as a product of their individual performances. Together, they produce the sincerity and eros of early love, and the complexity, hypocrisy, and hurt of aged, tested love. Even when the film tries and fails to reach beyond its grasp — the grand musical format is not easy to crack — their combined energy, the sweet asides on hickeys and hormones, keeps the film's energy on its toes.
Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime Video
One of the best things about Panchayat is the way "supporting characters" are never really supporting characters but instead just an inextricable part of the ambience and environment of Phulera village. The up-pradhaan, Prahlad Pandey, is a fine example — he transcends his presence as one of Pradhaan-pati Dubey's two lovable henchmen in this season, and becomes the catalyst for the show's sociopolitical zoom-out, resulting in some of the most shattering television in the climax. Faisal Malik is terrific, his body language and hunched frame radiating goodness and grief in equal measure, virtually unrecognizable in the final few minutes.
Few actors look at their on-screen lovers the way Ranveer Singh does. There is an honesty, yearning, and desperation in the way he looks at his wife (Shalini Pandey) in this film, pregnant with their second daughter. The way despite ceding space to the women in the story, despite being the clown of most proceedings — including threatening to impale his own balls — our expectations are pinned on him, and our sympathies are reserved entirely for him. It is the kind of playful performance that is easy to mistake as frivolous. To see Ranveer's face emerge from one expression to the next — doubt at his father to a fake validation, fear to resolve, horny to diligent — without the strain of transition is to see an actor at his finest.
The Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann plays Sui Mei, a Chinese immigrant in Mumbai whose battle to preserve the roots of her fading community is reflected in her stifling love for a second-gen son (Meiyang Chang, as Ming), and her jealousy at the arrival of her son's new Jain girlfriend (Wamiqa Gabbi). Yeo's performance registers both the anguish and the humour of the situation — a Vishal Bhardwaj stamp. There is such a childishness in her insistence, which paired with the unique kind of adult loneliness gives rise to a portrait that is both snarky and sentimental. We almost feel fortunate to be given the POV of her standing at the gas, facing towards the camera, her back to everyone else, being able to register every exasperated sigh, every roll of the eye, every silent sadness.
Streaming Platform: SonyLIV
In Ratheena's Puzhu, Mammootty humanises a monster. Years of prejudice and corruption in the professional space (he's an ex-IPS officer) has created many enemies for him. Yet it's his own guilt-ridden mind that becomes his arch nemesis. He's in the process of passing his biases onto his son when we meet him. Like a prophecy, he's anticipating a visit from death, yet he does not know who will kill him. Through the actor, we see the rotting of a soul succumbing to his own prejudices. At once, you see both a victim and the perpetrator of the same crimes. In a sense, you feel terrible that such roles have become a once in a decade phenomenon for the actor. And when you see the diabetic Kuttan tearing up after having tasted a spoon of the payasam his sister made for him, you also see traces of a good man who let bitterness poison him to death.