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.
Anirban Bhattacharya, Detective
Streaming Platform: Hoichoi
The titular character in the new Bengali film, Detective, is not an easy one to play: a police detective in pre-independence India who thinks of himself as being at par with Sherlock Holmes. A rising star in contemporary Bengali cinema, Bhattacharya injects a buffoonery into the role that shows that he is a skilful, vanity-free performer with a gift for comedy and ample natural charm. It’s a role that inhabits the thin line between seriousness and tomfoolery—which Bhattacharya is able to bring out with the help of modifications in speech and body language.
Kumud Mishra, Ram Singh Charlie
Streaming Platform: SonyLIV
Kumud Mishra plays the titular role in Ram Singh Charlie. He is a circus performer whose speciality is the Charlie Chaplin act. Ram Singh has a tough life but he keeps his smile intact. This is a film about an artist under siege and Kumud poignantly captures the many moods of Charlie. There is a humanity and generosity about his performance that transcends the uneven writing of the film.
Manav Vij, Gunjan Saxena
Streaming Platform: Netflix
He’s only there for a few scenes in a film otherwise hijacked by Pankaj Tripathi‘s serenity, but Manav Vij’s character – Gunjan’s commanding officer and trainer at the Air Force Base – offsets her gentle upbringing with the tough love that Gunjan probably needs in order to battle her inner demons. Vij has a dead-eyed elegance that at once intimidates and reassures. It may seem he’s the bad father in the good-father-bad-father act, but there’s a masculine empathy to his performance: he feels protective of Gunjan, but is too much of a straight-laced “army man” to express it. So he lets silence and strictness do the talking.
Mehar Bano, Churails
Streaming Platform: Zee5
All the four “Churails” of Asim Abbasi’s deceptively clever show would waltz into any monthly acting list. The older women of the gang – Sara, Batool and Jugnu – rightly earned plaudits for driving the ambitious rhythm of the feminist vigilante tale, but the youngest – Mehar Bano as Zubaida – truly encapsulated the spirit of the jittery premise. She doesn’t overdo the “feisty” template, free-flowing and mischievous with her boyfriend, while being the hot-headed baby of the experienced group. It’s a perceptive performance that could have so easily played into the manic-pixie zone. Zubaida is the character that lends the Churails an air of protective parenthood.
Neena Gupta, Masaba Masaba
Streaming Platform: Netflix
It’s impossible to dislike a Neena Gupta performance, but it’s even more affecting when she riffs on her own life in the Netflix series based on her daughter. Some of the show’s most moving moments feature her reacting to the ups and downs of being a 60-year-old actress in Bollywood: chatting with her friends, watching the premiere of her “cool” music video, meeting with Farah Khan for a role, speaking to her Delhi-based husband on the phone. The passion and insecurities of a 20-something struggler combined with the elegance of a veteran frames her as a dreamy-eyed artist whose backstory is also her subtext.
Shriya Pilgaonkar, The Gone Game
Streaming Platform: Voot Select
As the social media influencer whose husband may or may not have passed away from COVID19, Shriya Pilgaonkar delivered her most grounded performance yet in The Gone Game. Pilgaonkar does well to capture the confusion, paranoia and helplessness of life in lockdown and balance that with the thriller elements of the story without giving into exaggeration or excess.