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Subhash K Jha Picks His 9 Best Performances Of The Year 2020



1.     Tilottama Shome in Sir:  Straightway  the best performance I saw this year  in an Indian film was   by  this neglected underrated actress. Playing a househelp whose employer falls in love with  Shome walked that slender tightrope between sensitivity and incredulity delivering a  masterclass for contemporary  actors, Tillotama Shome shines in every frame.She creates  a connection between Ratna’s  inner darkened world and the  tentative hope and light  that she  seeks outside without falling back on  any  compromise.I have not  seen a  more articulate flawless  performance in a very long time. Vivek Gomber as  her employer and  suitor   steps back and delivers a  muted  interestingly shadowy performance where we sense rather than  see the man’s sorrow.

2.     Pratik Gandhi in Scam 1992:  Who  knew this actor outside Gujarat  before he  played Harshad Mehta  in  Hansal Mehta’s  bio-series? Suddenly  Pratik is the  next big Gandhi after  the Mahatma and Indira.   His staggering sense of  self-negation  while  merging into his  character is  remarkable. Pratik Gandhi  remains rigidly in  character. There is  no attempt to make the scamster heroic. Nor  does  the performance wag its finger at  the  character’s wrongdoings.Pratik will henceforth be the face of Harshad Mehta in all pop-art representation.

3.     Taapsee Pannu in Thappad:  I must confess she is a favourite. Affable, hassle-free, confident  evolved  and  involved with her roles. Taapsee Pannu  who brings to her  hurt wife’s role  a  heroic  dignity and a distant  poignancy that distil themselves in a performance of screaming silences. I  dare any  other contemporary actress to equal the sheer persuasive  power  of Taapsee’s performance. Her lengthy monologue with her screen-Saas(Tanve Azmi) where she  confesses to  why she feels like  a failure as  woman wife and individual,  will be played at awards  functions  in  the nominations show-reel.

4.     Manoj Bajpai in  Bhonsle:  Bajpai’s character  of  the gruff dying  cop who finds a reason to live  in protecting  the  violated siblings, is  a large cliché, deconstructed and rejuvenated  by Bajpai’s deeply nauanced pain-lashed  performance. This is a man who has  nothing to lose, who decides he  might as well go with a bang rather than  wither in his  shanty room with a whimper. Manoj Bajpayee anchors  the proceedings with a  portrayal that is  in many ways  the opposite of a performance. No  dramatic high points are created to  accentuate  the  performance.

5.     Sharib Hashmi in Darbaan:  Sharib Hashmi plays  a simple-hearted  caregiver in a feudal family whose life is a litany of  subservience.Hashmi immerses  himself  in the role with a furious passion that reminded  me of Ashok  Kumar in Hrishikesh  Mukherjee’s Aashirwaad. Sharib Hashmi is   a great  actor destined to  secrete his  greatness in  small  meaningful  films while  actors  with not even a grain of his talent are strutting around as stars in  Bollywood.

6.     Adil  Hussain in  Pareeksha:  After seeing him  in this film I called him the BalrajSahni of this millennium. In Pareeksha  Adil  Hussain as the all-giving father Buchi an honest righteous rickshawpuller  , turns into  a thief to  accrue money for his son’s  education in a posh school. Adil Hussain  lifts the  sagging  portions in  the plot.  The last time I saw a rickshaw  puller  who was so dignified  and upbeat  in his poverty-stricken circumstances was  in Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zameen.

7.     Nawazuddin  Siddiqui  in Serious Men:  As an over-reaching father  Nawazuddin is in top form, filled with an implosive rage that builds up to a devastating climax. In a sequence like the one where he threatens his son’s best friend into silence, shot on a roof terrace with pigeons and angst for company, Nawaz is a bundle of nerves ready to explode.

8.     Harshvardhan Rane  in Taish: Harshavardhan Rane, a  neglected actor if ever there was one, seems to be  swathed in  deep anguish in Taish.The pain-lashed performance feels like  a man  who is whipping himself  , watching in awe and dismay as he  disintegrates  into  nothingness.  Brilliant.

9.     Sayami  Kher in Choked: After a rather strangled  start  in  Mirzya  4 years  ago Sayami  came into her own this year in Anurag Kashyap’s  savagely satirical study of workingclass  greed. Saiyami Kher  is  the  film’s hero. She  is transformed  in body language speech and appearance as  an overworked  underpaid  bank accountant who  one night wakes up to find wads  of  bank currency  bubbling out of her  clogged(ummm…choked) kitchen sink. This Guy Ritchie-Rich  intervention  could   have been savagely funny were  it not so sad.

Saiyami projects working-class greed with conviction.

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