This is a monthly series where we highlight standout performances from the 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.
Adarsh Gourav, The White Tiger
You may or may not have enjoyed The White Tiger, but it’s impossible to take your eyes off Adarsh Gourav. The 26-year-old actor plays Balram who moves to a big city from his village in Bihar to work as a driver for a wealthy family. All Balram wants is a better life – something to lift him from his squalor. The problem is he’s willing to go to any lengths – even kill – for it. Adarsh does such a fantastic job of portraying Balram in all his complexity that you never really know what to feel. Watch his eyes in the scene where his employers force him to take the fall for a crime he didn’t commit – your heart goes out to him. And later, when he’s crushing a man to death, you’re frightened of him.
Harshith Malgireddy, Mail
Streaming Platform: Aha
There’s a mercurial innocence Malgireddy inhabits as Ravi, the village vagrant who is obsessed with the computer till it undoes him, on that blurred line between innocence and stupidity, foolhardiness and aspiration, someone who would believe an email forward could bring bad luck if not forwarded to ten other people. But he’s also deeply forward-looking. In a village where everyone just wants to get by, he wants to learn how the computer works. Malgireddy fuels this character with the exact amount of remove so it doesn’t cloy. His heroism, his hedonism, all are dealt with a light touch of frailty.
Sunil Grover, Tandav
Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime
As the Haryanvi equivalent of House of Cards‘ hitman-assistant Doug, Sunil Grover is wonderfully sinister. He speaks without words – and manages to convey just as much with his chain-smoking as he does with his undying loyalty towards his autocratic boss. Grover may have made a career out of comedy, but his dramatic chops are no joke.
Suraj, The Great Indian Kitchen
Vaibhav Raj Gupta, Gullak Season 2
As consistently immersive as veterans Geetanjali Kulkarni and Jameel Khan are as the parents in the small-town household, this season belongs – in both character and performance – to the older son Annu and existentialism. Vaibhav Raj Gupta has long been a TVF regular, so it’s nice to see him make the most out of his meaty arc in Season 2. His hustling, lack of self-worth, frustrations and envy make for a riveting portrait of young adulthood, lending depth to a premise that leans on a sense of nothingness.
Vijay Sethupathi, Master
Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime
Vijay Sethupathi, like Rajinikanth, lets his guard down when he’s playing the bad guy. He makes rowdyism look cool on-screen. Of course, it goes without saying that his actions can’t be taken as an inspiration. But it’s so fun to watch him in Master that other actors, even Thalapathy Vijay, sometimes, pales in comparison. Sethupathi pumps in an enormous amount of energy into the narrative, and, as an actor, he doesn’t seem like the kind of person who stays up all night to get into the skin of the character he portrays. He probably relies on being in the zone and living in the moment.