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Actors Who Took Us By Surprise in 2021



Konkona Sen Sharma

There are the ones whom we expect to shine in everything they do. And  they still managed to stun us  this year. Then there are  those who  struck us  out of the  blue  . A  look at the  Mr & Ms Marvels who went beyond expectations. During the 2021.

  1. Konkona Sen Sharma In  Geeli Puchchi :  This  is  a miniature masterpiece with a central performance that is hard to  put aside. Playing a  Dalit lesbian Konkona’s performance  adroitly  avoids  over-burdening  the character’s personality. Among this  segment  from  Netflix’s Ajeeb Daastans  many prominent virtues try this:  Abha’s  husband is  no cad  providing an alibi for her  meandering heart. He is a caring man who even cooks  for her. As she  confides guiltily in her new friend Bharti Mandal, “Shiv bachche ki soch raha hai aur main ussey pyar bhi nahin karti.” Having someone love you is not reason enough to love  that  person back. Geeli Puchchi is filled  with an aching  passion and  a bridled wisdom. Director Neeraj  Ghaywan has the ever-reliable Konkona Sen Sharma giving a magnificently layered performance as a Dalit, working woman in a factory whose  job and respectability  are threatened when a prettier,upper-caste  fair skinned all-feminine woman Abha(Aditi Rao)  joins in. The  unlikely friendship between the two women never reaches  where we think it would. Ghaywan and his writers are constantly ahead of the audience , creating  a  kind of playful yet sinister and tragic dynamic between the two women from completely  diverse  backgrounds. Just when we think we have their  relationship figured out , the narrative does a  somersault which  refuses to make the Dalit woman Bharati Mandal  a martyr .Why should the underdog always remain buried  under the  heap of  broken dreams? Geeli Puchchi(wet kisses) is  so  heads and shoulders above  the other three segments  that it seems like the centerpiece of the anthology(which it is) with  the rest as serving as space fillers.  Neeraj Ghaywan whose  only feature film Masaan so far is  a class act on socio-economic discrimination, goes deep into the theme in just over 30  minutes  of playing time.
  2. Entire  Unrehearsed  Cast  Of  Amazon Prime’s  Cinema Bandi After I  finished  smiling and sobbing over this amazing  work of  pure  genius, I wanted  to  ask debutante  director  Praveen Kandregula.. Tumne filmmaking kahan se  ‘Sica’? Indeed there is  the artless charm  of Vittorio de Sica’s  Bicycle  Thieves  in the  way the characters seem unaware of  the world outside their  modest means. Look at Cinema Bandi as a long (really loooong)  delayed sequel to Bicycle Thieves, as far away from  it original habitat as humanly possible, from Italy to  idlee, so to speak.This is debutant director Praveen Kandregula’s  ‘Camera Thieves’ , the  quasi-sequel to  Bicycle Thieves.As  far as  simple, lucid, warm,funny,  tender and gentle as  screenplays go, this one is  just what the Covid doctors prescribed. It  will induce all the aforementioned  feelings in you,  and then some more. More than  Vittorio de Sica, this is   the world of R K Narayan’s Malgudi Days where  every  one  of every age is inured am  frozen  in infinite  innocence.  There is  not a mean bone  in  any inhabitant  of the  soporific village of   Gollopalli, not even that tall long-haired  guy who tries initially  to be mean and scheming with our  camera-stealing  heroes who want to make their own film. But meanness is  not  in  the  DNA of this  wonderful ode of  innocence. So  let me introduce you  to Veera and Gana,  honest righteous hardworking  auto-driver and a photographer in a village where  the  most interesting  meeting point is a run-down kerchief-sized  barbar’s shop run by a pasty-faced young man who wants to be Mahesh Babu(played by Rag Mayur)  . He has already christened  himself  Maridesh Babu. And he is Veera and Gana’s  leading man.Heroine is  a bit problematic. Veera and Gana  first settle on  a young school girl Divya(Trishara)   . But she lets them  down our burgeoning filmmakers in ways that I don’t want to reveal. She is replaced midway by a feisty vegetable-seller Manga played by  Uma Yaluvalli Gopalappa in  a role that any right-thinking actress(that eliminates nearly everyone in Bollywood) would give  her left arm to  play.Manga is  so entertaining  there could be a  film just about her.Or about the auto-driver Veera’s quietly supportive  wife(played  by Sirivennela Yanamandhala), At first she baulks at her husband’s wild  scheme to use  a sophisticated camera  left behind in his auto , to make  a film. Gradually she supports him, unconditionally, wordlessly.Nearly every  character, big or small, changes by the end  of the film. So do we  the audience. When was the time we saw a film so stripped  of artifice and  posturing, so  simple heartfelt and  disarming?  The writing is sharp and  clear,  the  direction by  the debut Praveen Kandregula makes no  detours into  humbug .The narrative  cares deeply for these  unassuming diligent characters.Stripped  of  fakery Cinema Bandi is a back-to-basics  film that will steal your heart and then melt it. It is  a unique experience  so charming and  personable, you want these people to come back in your lives again. A word about the performances—every newcomer from the two leads(Vikas Vasishta  and  Sandeep Varanasi) to the  little   curly haired  boy Basha(Ram Charan)  who teaches our amateur  filmmaker  a thing or two about continuity, is  a superstar. Take a bow, team Cinema Bandi. Hope to see  you very soon again.
  3. Guru  Somasunderam  in  Minnal  Murali : A  star is  virtually born in  front of our eyes. Rightaway let’s salute  the super-acting powers  of  the two humble super-heroes who helm this engaging fable  of  the  caped scaled-down crusaders. Tovino Thomas is  the  rising star  of Malayalam cinema. See him as  the confused reluctant endearing  super-hero, and you’ll  know  why. However  it is Guru Somasundaram whose  emotional responses  to his character’s newly-acquired powers that anchor  the plot, and  irrigate  its irrational hurl into an odd and uncharted  orbit. Somasundaram’s look of  gratitude and vindication when the woman he has loved all his life accepts his love, is a textbook illustration  of emotive empowerment. It’s a joyride  from the first to the last, powered  by a sense  of   logistic fantasy—if that makes any sense—whereby the  obvious absurdities  of  a flying crusader are  melted down to a ground-level   intrepidity born more of necessity than  vanity.
  4. Sundeep Kishan  in Kasada Thapara  : You  have seen him play the archetypal hero in  Telugu potboilers. Now see  him act. Sundeep Kishan,the only star in the  actors’ ensemble giving a measured powerful performance as a low-caste(probably Dalit) man who has risen to the ranks of  a police officer  and must now pay  a heavy price to his benefactor. Kishan’s is by far  the most complex character of the anthology. Some  stories in  Kasada Thapara,like the  one  featuring Sundeep Kishan, seem to deserve  a full-length feature treatment.
  5. Vaisshnav Tej in Konda Polam This is  one of the most accomplished Man versus  Nature  films I’ve seen in recent times with  a stand-out performance  by Vaisshnav Tej.After seeing him in Uppena  I suspected  that this is an actor whose eyes speak louder than words. Now I am sure. Vaisshnav Tej occupies centrestage in this Telugu film  as  a young man torn between his traditional  heritage  and  worldly  ambitions. Vaisshnav Tej belongs to an illustrious family of  actors. Pawan Kalyan and Chiranjeevi  are his Mama(maternal uncle).And  his elder brother  Sai Dharam  Tej is  also a popular actor in Telugu cinema.But that  doesn’t mean  he  automatically wanted  to be an actor. Far from   it. During his  younger days he  toyed  with many career options , but never acting. After  the success  of Uppena he  had to make  sure people  didn’t  think of him as a fluke . They don’t. Not after Konda Polam.
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