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.
Streaming Platform: Netflix
When was the last time you saw menopause portrayed onscreen? As the CEO of a bank, Rani (Pooja Bhatt) must deal with betrayal, not only from a board of advisors who don't believe in her, but from her own body, which sends her reeling with its sudden hot flashes. Bhatt brings a nuanced, lived-in reality to the role, always maintaining a dignified illusion of control even though circumstances threaten to spiral wildly beyond hers.
In an inspiring role (that is let down by the writing), Rana Daggubati gives a spirited performance as an eco-activist in Kaadan. He models his body language on the elephants Kaadan lives with, and he makes it look unaffected. It's an intensely physical performance: he punches walls, gets really angry and screams, runs towards elephants, runs away from elephants, scales trees, and crosses wonky wooden bridges over running streams. In a film set in a forest, sometimes, he seems to be the only thing alive.
Our feelings towards Sumesh Moor's character in Kala shifts between fear, hatred, disgust, respect, love and finally admiration. He gets three words to speak in the film but he conveys a range of emotions with nothing but physicality. When he fights, we feel the punches in our gut. When he smiles, the relief we feel is a sign of how consistent his performance is. Part man, part monster, this man-vs-nature battle was so much more enjoyable because of his presence.
A far cry from their over-the-top tomfoolery in A Suitable Boy, the Shahana Goswami-Vivek Gomber marriage in Bombay Begums is one of the few aspects of the series that is given the time to marinate and earn an explosive showdown scene. Goswami excels in the moment, but a testament to her performance as Fatima – an ambitious urban Muslim woman – lies in how the scene feels like an accumulation of her character's long-brewing and unfilmable insecurities.
Streaming Platform: MovieSaints
As a middle-aged closeted gay man who visits a saloon to be "worked on" by a barber-boy he fancies, the veteran Marathi actor's performance in Arun Fulara's 10-minute short film streaming on MovieSaints is filled with nuance and uncharacteristic tenderness. His urge does feel not sleazy or impure; on the contrary, his little glances and sighs of solace during this Sunday routine make for an unrequited and tragic love story in plain sight.
When we first meet Sukant Goel's character in Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar— a bank employee in a small town—he appears timid, even a little scared, intimidated (and manipulated) by Parineeti Chopra's Sandeep. There is repressed sexuality at play here and the way Goel unleashes that side of him in the final stretches of the film is fascinating and scary.