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2021 Year in Review: 13 Top Performances On The OTT Platform

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2021 OTT

2021 threw forward some  surprises as far as  the actors were  concerned  . As  Sushmita Sen told me, she unlearned  all the overt acting skills  to just “be”  in front of  the camera for  Aarya. Are  our actors  finally learning to  just be themselves? Looks  like it. Here  are the actors who shone on the digital  platform.

  1. Kartik Aaryan in Dhamaka:  Kartik Aaryan’s powerful performance holds the  film together. His  journey   from a selfserving scumbag  to a conscientious  newshound is convincingly  achieved by the young actor. This is his best performance  to date, and one that puts him ahead  of all competition. I see Kartik winning all  the best-actor awards  this year. So far  the digital  platform has  not been  very  kind to  the Bollywood A-listers. Akshay Kumar  floundered with Laxmii, Varun and papa David Dhawan  delivered  the worst  film of their  career  in Coolie  No  1. Salman Khan’s Radhe  was arguably  the worst  film of  the  superstar’s career.As  for Anil Kapoor’s AK Versus AK ,  the less said the better.What is the “IT” factor that goes missing when Bollywood  A-listers translocate  their  films from the  big to the small screen? That lacuna in  the genre  will be filled by Dhamaka. Director Ram Madhavani  already had  us  gripped by our  balls with the series Aarya  and  that  superb hijack drama Neerja. He  knows how to keep us  on  tenterhooks.While  Kartik Aaryan will be the first Bollywood A-lister  to break the  barrier between Bollywood and the  OTT,  there are several  A-listers like Shah  Rukh Khan,Aamir Khan ,  Hrithik Roshan  and Ranbir Kapoor  who have so far  stayed away from the  OTT platform. It is time for  Bollywood’s superstars to  get down from their high horses and adapt to the new home medium  of  entertainment.Don’t give us arrogant  selfcentred I-me-myself films  like  Sadak 2 and Kali Peeli  on the  OTT.
  2. Jayasurya in Sunny: Jayasurya’s  spectacular performance holds  this one-man show together. He is  so  inured in the  character’s  dark desperate  suicidal world(at one  point, Sunny actually puts  a piece  of broken glass to his  wrist, at another  point he  is about to jump off from the balcony  of his  fourth-floor hotel suite) that we become unconditionally   invested in his desolation for a little more than  90 minutes.Not that  Sunny is  likeable or even  remotely  heroic.  But his  anguish is a throbbing  entity , impossible  to ignore.I’ve seen many actors do a one-man show: Sunil Dutt in Yaadein,Rajkummar Rao in  Trapped Tom Hanks in Castaway. None of these  actors has been able to capture the essence of isolation as effectively as Jayasurya. He takes us into Sunny’s  wretched  life—a  broken marriage, a broken extra-marital affair, a lost job , debts owed to nasty  people, a dead  child—not in a ritualistic  relay race of imposed  drama  created to  build a sense of sympathy  around the quarantined hero. As  for  Jayasurya, is he a better actor  than his Malayali peer Fahadh Faasil? When  Sunny finally breaks down at the  end(out of relief not despair) I  was  sobbing with him. This is  not  a performance. This is an embodiment  of   life’s  essential truth where the adage ‘This  Too Shall Pass’ acquires an entirely  novel relevance.
  3. Pawan Malhotra In  Tabbar:  Set in  the  curiously vivacious  bustle of Jalandhar  it has the extraordinary Pawan Malhotra as Omkar  a petty  entrepreneur and  patriarch with a wife and two sons.One  night , their lives go horribly wrong and thus begins a distressing  horrific downward spiral that can only go one way. Malhotra’s character  makes it to the grade  of a gender-reversed Mother India . Pawan Malhotra and Supriya Pathak bring nuances  to their  stereotypical  roles(strong obdurate  father, frail  devoted mother) that are hard  to pinpoint.
  4. Kriti Sanon in  Mimi Kriti Sanon, in a role written to make her shine,  plays  an ambitious Rajasthani  dancer who  wants to be  a Bollywood star,  and  has Ranveer Singh’s poster in her room .She also has Deepika  and Kareena’s pictures on the wall just to remind   herself  that once she gets to Bollywood those divas  are done  with. The  film has  some  interesting ideas  on parenthood and the  woman’s right to her womb. But the  treatment  gets progressively  guillotined by excessive melodrama.However  Kriti’s feisty  performance  holds  interest till the end.
  5. Mita  Vashisht In Your Honor 2:  That’s what two brilliant actors can do to you.Every time  Jimmy Sheirgill  and  Mita Vashisht are on screen together,  you want to  see just where their  conversation is going. The words they speak seductively  encircle their cat-and-mouse game in this  energetic engrossing and altogether  gripping  tale of empowerment privilege and their misuse. Vashisht’s sly cop act  furnishes a vinegary  flavour  to her  conversations with the  Judge  in the dock. Vashisht plays the  cop as a  mixture of  attentive  and disdainful . I just couldn’t take  my eyes of her stolen steely scornful  glances at  the guilty-as-sin  Judge. The brilliant Mita Vashisht enters  the  plot in Episode 3  in Season  2.Once she does , the  plot gathers some momentum.
  6. Vijay Sethupathi  in Nava Rasa(Netflix): They say ‘save the last for the best’. But in this eclectic uneven omnibus of nine stories based on the nine basic human emotions, the best is the first story, Edhir, based on the emotion of pity (Karuna). It features two powerhouse performances by Vijay Sethupathi and Revathy as the murderer and his victim’s wife respectively. Their confrontation is so beautifully mapped that the entire film seems to have been plotted by director Bejoy Nambiar just to bring these two fabulous actors together. But no. There is more here. Edhir addresses itself to the question of the conscience and the power/ambiguity of forgiveness with such stupendous serenity — it is a joy to behold the art of Bejoy.  Sethupathi  is a force of nature. With one twitch of his eyebrow, he can convey an ocean of conflicting emotions.
  7. Fahadh  Fasil in Jijo:  In film after film, Fahadh   proves himself a fearless peerless seamless actor who merges into his characters like water in a  stream. And better still, flows down that stream where the human condition merges with the very bedrock of existence.And look at where  Fahadh has arrived in Joji! Shakespeare’s Macbeth gets the treatment which I am sure would make Shakespeare himself envious Joji is of course played by the great Fahad Faasil who brings to the character a kind of patriarchal bitterness that manifests itself in not-expected burst of devastating violence. This is director Dileesh Pothan’s third directorial with Fahadh(after  Maheshinte Prathikaaram and  Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum) and  by far the most reflective, moody, sinister , subtle  and sublime.Though Macbeth is  an inherently violent tale  of patricide and  Oedipal guilt,  Pothan’s film does away with the  vileness  of  the protagonist’s deeds  by  introducing a  kind  a dithering  juvenilia   into  Jijo’s character. His chosen weapon of  violence is an airgun and his selected hideaway is a half-dug well. Fahadh’s Jijo is an  unlikely  villain and hence all the more devastating. He  is  also  an unlikely Shakespearean hero who has  in all probability never  heard of Shakespeare.
  8.  Huma  Qureshi In Maharani: Huma Qureshi’s transformation from Leila in Deepa Mehta’s  Leila searching for her lost daughter , to Rani the politician’s wife who searches for her own  identity, is  admirable. Here Huma creates a  woman who is  at once street-wise  and parliament-foolish but possesses  the moral wherewithal to tell  right from wrong. The way she stands up against her  husband  in  the dismissal   of  Prem Kumar,  the  Minister in-charge  of  the  fodder resources, would get  taalis  in  the  movie theatre.If only wishes were  horses, then Rabri Devi would  be  Margaret Thatcher.
Also Read:  RRR Themed  Restaurants In Hyderabad Soon?

‘Fodder’  record, the real Lalu Yadav  was convicted  in  the  950 crore scam. In this  a thrill-stamped cleaned-out sweeping  drama, all the guilt is shifted to the Minister while Rani Bharati  runs  an expose that transforms her into  a neo-Joan Of Arc, a woman who  cares deeply for the truth. Alas we can’t say the same  for the makers  of this series who have  spun a  fabulously fake  drama ,transforming a rubberstamp  wife  to  a self-willed righteous  crusader-political. The  dishonesty doesn’t make Maharani  any less interesting. Ms Qureshi makes sure she  elevates her  character into some  kind of  a feminist  firebrand  without  rendering Rani  unbelievably noble. The woman in Rani  Bharati  surfaces   in her scenes with her convalescing husband.

  1. Siddharth  Malhotra In  Shershaah:  Sidharth  Malhotra plays real-life soldier Vikram Batra with  a sincerity and honesty that shine through in  every frame. In every frame he  is Rajesh Khanna  in  Anand and Aradhana.  You know he is going to be missed sorely   once he’s gone.Malhotra plays Batra as  unforgettable. Boyish, helpful, sincere and  endearing.There is not  a duplicitous bone in this soldier and lover-boy.The  film  allows the protagonist to fly freely.
  2. Ahana Kumra  in  Call My Agent:  Aahana Kumra,  the fearless feisty firefighter  of an actress  doesn’t mind looking  ridiculous if the need arises. Aahana plays  Amaal, a kamaal  ki lesbian with temper tantrums  problems  who more than  meets her match  in Jasleen(Anuschka Sawhney) , a tax  assessor with  has the hots  for  Amaal. Their romance plays  out like  a rippling riff in a buxom musical refrain that is warm intimate relatable and  sometimes sad.
  3. Taapsee Pannu in Haseen Dillruba:  Taapsee delivers  yet another  titillating tongue—and-taang-in-cheek performance ,rendering Rani a slut hard to slot. It’s interesting to see how an avant-garde  writer like Kanika Dhillon is  pushing the  Hindi Film  Heroine over the edge. She can  now  crave for things  like non-vegetarian  food and  satisfactory  sex without being slut-shamed  . It’s okay to be  a  slut now. Rani Tripathi, nee Kashyap, is  the  kind of hormonal heroine who gives the smalltown  slut  a bad name.
  4. Vicky Kaushal  in  Sardar Udham:  Kaushal can tell his children he got married to their mother  during the same year   that he  gave his career’s  best performance. icky Kaushal’s  Udham Singh it is  a performance laced with grace,tinged with  bitterness and  defined by a dormant rage.When Kaushal says  something as  innocently  pacifying  as “Mere bahot saare  British friends hain” he  sounds as fringe-friendly as  those fake  liberals who say, “I’ve nothing against the gay  community. In fact some of my  best friends are  gay.
  5. Aryan  in Sarpatta Parambarai:   In  the  author-backed role of KabilanArya is a  revelation. I’ve seen his earlier  works. Nothing  he has done  in  the past  can ever equal the power  and  glory  the  self-destructive  streak and  the  redemptive strength  that pull  his character  out  of his  self-made abyss into a tentative light  at the end when in the final fight in the ring, he defeats his main adversary.Wife  and  mother who hate  his boxing ambitions are there to cheer him on.The power  of cinema is  to  sway and  derail  negative emotions.One  of  the  many unadulterated  pleasures  of watching Sarpatta Parambarai is to see  Kabilan’s  absolutely endearing relationship  with his  wife. If  the  husband-wife relationship rings true, the guru-shishya  tradition is here  taken into a zone  of  insulated  adoration where  the  protégé  hero-worships his  guru  blindly. Arya  manifests all the roles and emotions  of his character with  majestic  authenticity and an empowering rawness. He is  childlike in his  stubbornness and  a  true hero in his  selfless  quest for  victory  in  the  boxing ring.