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.