This is a monthly series where we highlight performances from the film and streaming universe that caught our eye. Since Film Companion watches widely, we decided to curate this list to foreground exceptional work, even if these actors did not have the proverbial spotlight on them.
Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime Video
In a memorable scene atop a boat, Firoz asks a violently seasick Sunny to strike the Titanic pose with him so that he could click a picture. He receives a gaali in return. As the humble, anxious and amiable half of Farzi’s counterfeiting team, Firoz is instantly familiar. Through him, mines the daft humor of friendship and everyday life. His performance carries the magic of improvisation, of creating chemistry with the actors around him, making him a thoroughly satisfying watch. Whether it’s scratching his nose with his knee under gunpoint or bargaining for a 9000-ton ship like he’s buying groceries for the coming week, Arora mostly has fun on the job and allows us to have fun with him.
Streaming Platform: Netflix
As Balli, Cwaayal Singh gets to inhabit a brash but boyish, overconfident yet charming character. His abs bare themselves out every few scenes — so baked and embedded, it’s a bit of an aesthetic masterpiece in itself. His poverty, his accent, his reels — there is no sense of shame about who he is and where he comes from. There isn’t pride either. Singh’s performance is one of shoulder-shrugging coolness, of life being life and living it as it is, grabbing every opportunity — career-wise, erotic-wise — by its collar. Its power comes from its indifference. In a cast full of new performers, all earnest and sincere, Singh’s performance has that broken-in ease.
Ganesh K Babu's Dada is many things — a portrait of meaningful male friendships, a layered take on whirlwind romances, and a comedy on parenthood. But the film is first and foremost a coming-of-age drama of a young man who finds himself only after becoming an accidental father. And breathes freshness to Manikandan, a role that requires the balancing act of navigating the recklessness of youth and the all-consuming nature of unconditional love. This is best depicted in the film’s turning point, where Mani is forced to decide between self-interest and the needs of his baby boy, all in an excruciating auto ride. Kavin conveys Mani's anguish with just his eyes in this piercing dialogue-free moment, filling us with so many different emotions over the course of a few seconds.
Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime Video
In a career spanning over two decades, has mostly been known as a hit-and-miss actor. However, the few times that he has really succeeded, especially in his Vishal Bhardwaj collaborations, he has shown glimpses of a deeply committed actor — ready to leave behind his stardom, in pursuit of the actor-ly truth. Despite being the protagonist, Sunny, next to Firoz (Bhuvan Arora), is the less showy part. He’s the silent kind, and like an ‘artist’ worth their salt, there's a precision in his strokes. Kapoor brings his arrogance from Badmaash Company (2010), small-time-crook persona from Kaminey (2009), and seasons his performance with touches of vulnerability, righteous ‘middle-finger’ class anger, and some glorious bits of cold, remorseless opacity. One of the most astonishing bit about Kapoor’s performance here is how he molds his body-language as an ‘equal’ around Firoz, shrinks in size around Amol Palekar’s Nanu, and slowly begins to fill our screens while coming to terms with his unrepentant ways as a criminal. “You think you know me? Even I don’t know me!” Sunny snarls at Masood (Kay Kay Menon) towards the end. Sounds like an actor coming into his own.
Streaming Platform: Disney+ Hotstar
Lipika Saikia Rao, the intelligence agent who is sidelined by her corrupt colleagues but who nevertheless soldiers ahead to lead a covert (and illegal) operation, is not quite what you expect from a spy. She's even less what you expect from , who is one of our most gifted actors and almost always called upon to portray dramatic roles characterized by tragic gravitas. For once, in The Night Manager, Shome gets to be playful. Yes, she is the strong woman who doesn't get cowed by her bovine boss, but she’s also someone who genuinely enjoys her job. Funny, gutsy, and all kinds of adorable, Lipika is the superior who infuriates her juniors, but has their unfailing loyalty. She is the spouse who can’t cook and the wife who appreciates her supportive husband. And she is a woman who loves a job that she’s good at, whether it involves sweating it out in a shack or playacting as a socialite at a luxury resort. In a series that boasts of star power like that of Anil Kapoor and Aditya Roy Kapur, Shome is easily the one who stands out.