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.
Sakshi Tanwar, Mai
Streaming Platform: Netflix
Playing the protagonist of a revenge drama is a different beast in the long format. The talented but underused-in-Bollywood Sakshi Tanwar sinks her teeth into the role, subverting our notion of the disgruntled mother with a slow-burning performance for the ages. She’s so compelling – as a seemingly harmless woman wading through the misogyny of modern Uttar Pradesh – that she rescues the sluggish Netflix series from its own pace.
Jameel Khan, Gullak 3
Streaming Platform: SonyLIV
The veteran “side actor” has excelled in all three seasons of the charming TVF family dramedy. But he dials it up (and down) a notch in the latest season, as a patriarch who’s at the crossroads in terms of being the sole breadwinner of his family. The passing-of-baton performance is full of nuance and subtext, with Khan accomplishing the rare feat of making a small-town right-wing character lovable and dignified in his own way.
Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime Video
As an idealistic and self-made Muslim lawyer with an unwavering focus on human rights and underdog clients, Shriya Pilgaonkar delivers her career best in a series that finds the sweet spot between authenticity and accessibility. Her Kashaf Quaze is a deceptively complex woman, saddled with unresolved trauma and a complicated family legacy, but at no point does Pilgaonkar’s performance overwhelm a narrative that reveals an India of contradictions and ideological wars.
Streaming Platform: Disney+ Hotstar
It’s only fitting that Shreyas Talpade’s Hindi film acting career comes full circle with a wonderfully understated and “Mumbai” performance in the scrappy and smart cricket biopic. He started off in and as Iqbal, a fictional cricket biopic, and now plays a real-life bowler whose story was so miraculous on its own that a film felt imminent. I’m glad it’s this film, and this performance, by an actor whose career arc has more or less resembled the gritty and sincere striving of the film’s protagonist.
Geetanjali Kulkarni, Gullak 3
Streaming Platform: SonyLIV
She was already extremely loved as Shanti Mishra in the two earlier seasons of Gullak, but when it settles into more serious dramatic territory, you feel the series taking Geetanjali Kulkarni along with it to hold it all together. She’s as funny as she was earlier, but she gets more to do this season as the Mishras deal with bigger problems. The episode where she gets to play off another woman brings out shades to Shanti we’ve seldom seen before. And when she takes a break from everyday domesticity to enjoy a stick of ice gola, with a daughter-equivalent, we’re able to feel so much more for Shanti, even without a flashback or a long sentimental monologue.
Soumitra Chatterjee, Abhijaan
There is no dearth of great performances in Soumitra Chatterjee’s career, but his act in the Parambrata Chatterjee directed ‘biopic’ of the actor hits different. It’s one of his posthumous turns and the film’s meta narrative sees the late acting legend, in and as himself, giving in to a filmmaker’s (played by Parambrata) request to open up about his life in front of the camera, after his grandson meets with a bike accident – a real life tragedy that had actually prompted him in agreeing to do the film. Chatterjee exposes parts of himself few actors would, reliving his painful last moments with his grandson, looking back at his heydays with candour, and acknowledging the artifice of the cinematic medium with an intellectual awareness that is in tandem with his reputation. The film is rooted in this vulnerability, which makes it compelling and affecting.