Best Performances Of April 2021, Film Companion
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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.

KS Ravikumar – Mathil

Streaming Platform: Zee5

KS Ravikumar plays a typical middle-class senior citizen, Lakshmikanthan, in Mathil. He’s pitch-perfect as the harmless rebel and playwright with a strident sense of crime, punishment, and forgiveness. Ravikumar plays Lakshmikanthan with dignity and reserve appropriate for a character with a dark backstory. But in scenes where Mathil takes a distinct turn into Crazy Mohan territory, his lazy spontaneity keeps the film engaging, recreating some of the casual humour of his own films. KS Ravikumar makes the moralistic and one-note Lakshmikanthan a likeable and avuncular figure.

Aditya Modak – The Disciple

Streaming Platform: Netflix

In The Disciple, classical vocalist-turned-actor Aditya Modak accomplishes many things.  He conveys the interior journey of a man who moves from passionate idealism to a more haunted, questioning faith.  And he effects a startling physical transformation as the character goes from 24 years to middle age.  This is a performance constructed with small moments, tiny shifts in gaze that establish the frustration and existential angst building slowly in his eyes.  This is his debut performance but Aditya finds the quiet rhythms of the film and conveys volumes with stillness.  It’s superb.

Konkona Sen Sharma – Geeli Pucchi

Streaming Platform: Netflix

As a queer Dalit factory worker in Neeraj Ghaywan’s short film in the Ajeeb Daastaans anthology, Konkona Sen Sharma gives one of the most accomplished performances of her formidable acting career. She juggles the desolation of being unseen at different intersections of cultural otherness, infusing her body language with a sense of agency that transcends the black-and-whiteness of rage and revenge.

Also Read: Neeraj Ghaywan On Exploring Caste And Sexuality In His Ajeeb Daastaans Short

Shefali Shah- Unkahi

Streaming Platform: Netflix

In Kayoze Irani’s short film of the Ajeeb Daastaans anthology, Shefali Shah plays an upper-class housewife grappling with the apathy of a working husband, a marital conflict derived from the growing hearing impediment of her young daughter. When she grows close to a charming deaf-and-mute man (Manav Kaul), her performance – punctuated by vivid facial expression – oozes the kind of visceral complexity that forces the viewer to dump the word “affair” in favour of something more…necessary.

Dhanush – Karnan

In theaters

Dhanush, who’s currently in his late 30s, can still play a twenty-something man with ease. He doesn’t even have to try too much. There appears to be no particular recipe for his boyish looks, but if he just trims his beard and parts his hair to the side, he can pass off as a twenty-five-year-old. In Karnan, he delivers a solid performance as a rebellious youth who picks up the sword to defend his community. His anger towards the governmental authorities stems from the apathy with which his people are treated. He’s a hero, a beacon of light, a savior, and an anti-caste activist, all rolled into one.

Natarajan Subramaniam (Natty) – Karnan

In theaters

Natty walks into Karnan at a leisurely pace and mentally starts taking notes about the community he detests. He plays a cop who thinks that he can get away with anything because he belongs to a dominant community. His symbol of pride lies in the droopy handlebar moustache that he sports. And he expects the Dalits to fall at his feet so that he – and the people from his caste – can rule over them. He stars as a typical villain who doesn’t deserve an iota of sympathy when he gets killed here. You hate him in the movie because he’s so good at convincing you that he’s bad.

Also Read: How Joji Redefined What COVID-19 In Cinema Can Look Like

Baburaj – Joji

Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime Video

Baburaj has mostly been an actor of extremes. Either we hate him when he plays the buff stereotypical villain or we laugh at him in one of his comic sidekick roles. But in Joji, we saw him subvert both these biases to give us his most complex character yet. As the villain’s (Joji’s father) favourite son and his most loyal henchman, we feel like we’re supposed to dislike him. Yet with each passing scene, we gravitate towards him while also moving away from Joji. He aces the sarcasm in the scene where he talks against the priest and when he bursts crackers during his father’s death, he only comes across as a loving son. Looks like this will be his second reinvention after Salt N Pepper.

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