Best Performances Of January 2022, Film Companion

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.

Geetanjali Kulkarni – War Room (Unpaused: Naya Safar)

Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime Video

In War Room, one of the two standout shorts in the Unpaused: Naya Safar anthology, Geetanjali Kulkarni delivers a haunting turn as a school teacher volunteering as a COVID-19 frontline worker. Kulkarni is distressingly good: from the rehearsed twang of her protocol voice to her quivering meltdown on a phone call to the way she keeps adjusting an ill-fitting mask. She thinks nothing of her nose sticking out of the mask. But it’s not a typical Indian habit in her case – Kulkarni makes it look as though her Sangeeta, a grieving mother, is less afraid of contracting the virus compared to regular people. The damage has been done. There is no mask for her mind – the war room of her body, and the only part of her that’s truly suffering.

Revathi – Bhoothakaalam

Streaming Platform: SonyLIV

Revathi returns to Malayalam after a gap but her comeback in Bhoothakaalam completely justified the need for an actor like her. Her Asha, a clinically-depressed single mother, is a mix of a hundred little implosions when outside, along with heartbreaking explosions when it’s just her and her distant son.

When Asha breaks down in the film, it’s not the sight of a woman grieving her mother’s death. There’s a recklessness to it, a flood of emotions she has no control over. You see this in the way she slams the table during dinner or the way she blames Vinu for making her cry. And in that scene where Asha is ill-advised to relax, “go for a walk and eat ice cream,” you get all the sadness of the universe in her body language, even as she sits there helplessly with that pointless cone.

Shane Nigam – Bhoothakaalam

Streaming Platform: SonyLIV

Shane’s performance in Bhoothakaalam reminds you of why he’s such a special actor, especially with the way he bears every naked emotion for the screen. This is obvious in the way he dances without a care in the world, unable to understand what’s going on.

In terms of craft, he’s able to sustain incredible emotional continuity as you see his mental state deteriorate with each passing night of sleeplessness. His performance exudes an inner turmoil of an actor who is not holding back and this is clear in the scene at a party when he needs just one expression to convey a mix of absolute embarrassment, fear, helplessness and exhaustion. This is true even in the way he half-smiles helplessly when the interviewer catches his bullshit.

Tahir Raj Bhasin – Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein

Streaming Platform: Netflix

It’s Tahir Raj Bhasin’s moment. His performance as Vicky – a middle-class man who is struggling to break bad in a toxic love triangle – is deceptively clever, because it emasculates the classic Hindi film hero in a way that relies on the audience getting the joke. He stays at odds with the pulpy overtones of his story, aching to explode but incapable of being slick and smooth. And he lends the dark comedy its subtext by staying consistently dramatic.

Anant Joshi – Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein

Streaming Platform: Netflix

As Golden, Vicky’s best friend in Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein, Anant Joshi humanizes the vulgar-but-endearing sidekick who’s watched too much American Pie in his boyhood. The hero’s best friend often has a chance to make a mark in Bollywood films, but Joshi’s tragicomic performance also suggests that the best friend becomes more significant when the protagonist is struggling to be a hero.

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