[VoxSpace Selects] Year End Round Up 2019 : The Best Performances Of The Year In Indian Cinema

An Exciting Year For Genre Defining Actors…

It’s been a great year for movies. Yes, there were only a few worldwide blockbusters (like Bahubali earlier) but that’s a blessing in disguise. With tighter budgets come innovative story-telling tools, and in such events, the onus on acting talents to shine through becomes absolutely essential. As this phenomenon results in filmmakers pushing the boundaries for brave storytelling, they are bound to think of actors as not just narrative vehicles, but cultural epitomes. From watching a superstar draping a sari to play a nuanced transgender, to screaming along in angst driven rap battles of an underdog rapper, from celebrating an acid-attack victim’s sky-soaring achievements, to pondering along with a woman finding love and life in a faceless stranger, we had performances which filled us with thunderous aspiration, meandering thoughts, spectacular dreams and endearing life goals. Here are a few performances which stayed in our heart this year…

Vijay Sethupathi (Super Deluxe)

Super Deluxe - Official Trailer | Yuvan | Vijay Sethupathi, Samantha, Ramya Krishnan | March 29

With two super-hits this year, Petta and Super Deluxe, Vijay Sethupathi has broken stereotypes repeatedly and this year, he played a queer transgender who returns home to a judgmental, perplexed family and an eager son who questions his absence but not his appearance. Vijay Sethupathi gives it all to transform into Shilpa, a shy, ill-treated transgender woman who is flamboyant in her outlook, unlike her coy mannerisms. A mainstream star playing this unusual and gutsy character is a testimonial to the respect the actor holds for the art of cinema.

Super Deluxe is extraordinary for various reasons and Vijay Sethupathi is the primary factor. The vulnerable yet, tender/delicate persona that he carries throughout the film is truly commendable. Personally, it’s Shilpa I empathized with the most out of the numerous characters in the film and was completely awe-struck by the depth in the writing for Shilpa. Thiagarajan Kumar Raja handles this narrative of Shilpa with a delicate touch and brings a poignant and empathetic aftertaste that leaves you teary-eyed in the end. Vijay Sethupathi is currently at the peak of his career, purely for choosing to play path-breaking characters and nailing them to a tee, effortlessly. His simplicity and modesty are just like the icing on the cake. Unorthodox roles with relatable common man quirks have become his USP, which is refreshing.

Asif Ali (Uyare/Virus)

Virus Official Trailer | Aashiq Abu | OPM Records

Asif Ali is a prolific Malayalam actor who has been essaying vastly different kinds of characters for over a decade. 2019 has been an especially great year for him in terms of his versatility. From playing an abusive boyfriend in Uyare to a grieving husband in Virus to a good cop in Unda, he excels in making these characters feel distinct, real and believable. But my pick for his standout performance has to be as Govind in Uyare.

The film mainly stands on the capable shoulders of Parvathy Thiruvothu, while Asif Ali plays the perfect foil for her courageous and dignified portrayal of an acid attack survivor. As soon as we meet him, we know that he is trouble; he is insecure, short-tempered and extremely narcissistic, but somehow, he imbues the character with enough humanity that you understand why he is, the way he is. This allows the audience to see that monsters like these are not some cartoony villains but they walk amidst us as normal human beings and yet we choose to overlook the signs.

Parvathy Thiruvothu (Uyare)

UYARE Official Trailer | Parvathy Thiruvothu | Tovino | Asif Ali | Manu Ashokan

Since the first time I saw Parvati Thiruvothu in Anjali Menon’s Bangalore Days, she surpasses my expectations with each film and leaves me spellbound. She was seen this year in two consecutive hits Uyare and Virus, and undoubtedly, stood out for her performances. She played the female lead in Uyare, unlike Virus which consisted an ensemble cast and enormous storyline.

Uyare, is Manu Ashokan’s directorial debut that narrates the journey of an aspiring pilot, Pallavi, whose life takes a dark turn after an acid attack. Parvathy Thiruvothu has carved a niche of her own with her empowering and heart-wrenching character portrayals, breaking boundaries set for female actors in Indian mainstream cinema. Her choice of content-driven scripts and well-sketched characters is truly note-worthy. The genuineness and courage with which she plays Pallavi in Uyare is just pitch-perfect. She gives the whole film an aura of upliftment, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, like a survivor finding her way home in the darkness of tragedy; she is the ray of hope you search for, both figuratively and metaphorically. Parvathy Thiruvothu is without doubt, the sensational female actor we don’t deserve, but a blessing in disguise for Indian cinema.

R. Parthiban (Otha Seruppu Size 7)

Oththa Seruppu - Official Tamil Trailer HD | R.Parthiban | Santhosh Nararyanan | Sathya C

The film is a mono-performance film that circles around a family man’s arrest and unravels the sophisticated layers of human behaviour and social psychology. Parthiban shines like a diamond in this carefully written story and keeps you engaging throughout. Otha Seruppu Size 7 pushes the boundaries in terms of storytelling and performance. It feels like watching the craters of the moon on a telescope and it only gets interesting as the story progresses.

Only Parthiban is capable of landing the right comical timing of his word-play induced dialogues (and Vadivelu obviously!). Parthiban is perhaps the only writer-director-actor who can bring multi-layered depth to a performance with his hard-hitting words and uncanny outlook. Since he wrote and directed the film himself, he gives a unique perspective to a uni-dimensional narrative and keeps it engaging throughout. He also uses his technical finesse to elevate his performance through sound design and camera dynamics. It’s almost like we dwell into the deepest recesses of his mind and explore the tormented soul hidden behind the curtains of naivety.

Geetika Vidya Ohlyan (Soni)

SONI | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

Soni is one of the most underrated films of the year and it really deserves a bigger audience than it got. Soni tells the story of two cops hailing from different classes in society. Soni (played by Geetika Vidya Ohlyan), a young police officer and her Superintendent Kalpana (played by Saloni Batra) are both working on an operation to figure out the cause behind the growing crisis of violence towards women. While the film is essentially a two-hander, the story is mainly told through the perspective of Soni.

So, we see Geetika do most of the heavy lifting regarding the themes of the film internally and externally. Her eyes are filled with simmering rage and a constant feeling of despair, but her zeal towards her work is unwavering. She carries this role with a lot of conviction and makes Soni’s pain feel palpable and immediate in a way that very few actors can pull off.

Bhumi Pednekar (Saand Ki Aankh/Sonchiriya/Bala)

Sonchiriya | Official Trailer | Sushant, Bhumi P, Manoj B, Ranvir S | Abhishek C | 1st March 2019

Bhumi Pednekar is one of the few actors, who can mould herself and pull off a character which has both rural and urban roots. With the films like Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Sonchiriya etc. Bhumi has left both the audience and critics more than impressed, and has shown her excellent command over her ability, time after time. With films like Saand Ki Aankh and Bala, Bhumi once again, show cases the kind of depth she can bring to a performance which is bound to stay in the audience’s mind. With Saand Ki Aankh in particular, Bhumi, who plays the character of Chandro Tomar, a famous sharp shooter, gives a strong and inspiring performance and takes us through an emotional journey of a woman who is powerful and a risk taker. Bhumi makes the character look real and authentic, and never shies away from adding subtle nuances that elevate the character on screen.

in Bala, Bhumi steals the limelight with her portrayal of Latika, a secured, independent, and an ideal lawyer. Her character constantly questions the society and its stereotypes and Bhumi pulls off an honest and a sincere performance which compliments well with Ayushmann’s morally ambiguous Bala. Whenever Bhumi comes on screen, she emits a powerful presence and engrosses the audience into her character’s emotional state. This year Bhumi did four films and despite that, the roles she essayed were different, yet created an endearing impact on the viewers.

Nani (Jersey)

JERSEY Theatrical Trailer | Nani, Shraddha Srinath | Anirudh | Gowtam Tinnanuri

After a series of commercial mainstream entertainers, Nani starred in this year’s emotional sports-drama Jersey, directed by Gowtam Tinnanuri. He received both critical acclaim and viewers’ praise for this nostalgia filled tale of a cricketer, Arjun, who aspired to play for Indian Cricket Team at the age of 35. Nani nails it with his natural charisma and simple persona, which enables the film to maintain the balanced amount of drama and emotion. Nani constantly keeps the film’s dramatic sensibilities in check and hits the right tone and pulls off the subtlety his character demands, with ease.

The biggest strength of Jersey is its performances and balance of elements like cricket, emotion, dreams, middle class, and the 80’s nostalgia. Nani portrays an ambitious and talented cricketer who quits after being dangled around by the politics of the selection committee. 10 years later, on his son’s indirect insistence, he finds himself reliving his long-lost dream on a journey of self-discovery. Nani captures the soul of the character perfectly and gives a captivating performance of the character’s dualities- a father struggling financially to keep his family afloat and an older cricketer chasing his lifelong dream.

Shraddha Srinath (Jersey)

Spirit Of Jersey | Jersey | Nani & Shraddha Srinath | Anirudh Ravichander | Kaala Bhairava

Shraddha Srinath has had a phenomenal year so far with back-to-back hits in Telugu and Tamizh -- Jersey and Nerkonda Paarvai. Having worked with the crème de la crème, she is building an interesting filmography profile by choosing a varied and dynamic range of character roles. This year, she made her Telugu debut with Jersey, starring as Nani’s wife, Sarah and fit in effortlessly. Her portrayal of Sarah, a stubborn, independent working woman, trying to save her earnings and keep the family running despite Arjun’s (Nani) unemployment, is organic and relatable.

It almost feels like you’re watching these beautiful actors have a healthy talent competition between themselves. Shraddha Srinath keeps it as authentic as possible and balances Nani’s charm with her screen presence. Her eyes are like windows to her love-torn soul; they are constantly juggling between reality and practicality. The scene where Sarah keeps it all together and stops her tears from flowing will move you, beyond your imagination. She is like any other middle-class working woman and yet, so different.

Fahadh Faasil (Kumbalangi Nights/Super Deluxe)

ഒന്നൂടെ കാണാം Kumbalangi Nights | Official Trailer 2

Fahadh Faasil is easily one of the most talked-about actors of our generation for his craft and his choice of roles. He is genuine and believable in everything he touches and is extremely versatile in his choices. Taking this year into consideration, he played two characters that really took people by storm. One as the emasculated yet street smart husband trying to deal with his wife’s infidelity in Super Deluxe, and as the extremely insecure yet abusive husband in Kumbalangi Nights.

While I liked him in both the roles, the character that was par excellence was his twisted portrayal of an insecure abusive husband in Kumbalangi Nights. He imbues the character with an equal amount of humor and terror. He calibrates his performance in a way that you never really know how to feel about him, but he seems unsettling to witness until that banger of an ending. Hence, we’re cementing his name as one of the best actors working in Indian cinema.

Ranveer Singh (Gully Boy)

Asli Hip Hop - Trailer Announcement - Gully Boy | Ranveer Singh | Alia Bhatt | 14th February

Ranveer Singh has been in a great phase for the past couple of years, wherein any film he does, it turns out to be a blockbuster hit. For example, Padmaavat, Simmba, Bajirao Mastani and the list goes on. Of course, it’s the sheer passion he has, the amount of hard work he puts into his craft, and the hunger he possesses to learn and grow, defines a league of his own. This year, Ranveer Singh gave us one of the best performances in Bollywood with Gully Boy. Gully Boy, an outstanding film made by Zoya Akhtar, is one of the most fantastic films we have seen in a long time and being India’s official entry for the Oscars, is the testament of how incredibly well this film is made.

Portraying the character of an aspiring rapper Murad, who strongly wishes to express his thoughts but is scared to do so, Ranveer puts in an earnest performance and moulds himself into a territory which is contrary to his flamboyant personality, off-screen. With the malleable quality that Ranveer has, he plays Murad with complete conviction and takes us on a honest journey where an under confident artist is trying to make his mark. At the same time, Ranveer’s stellar and nuanced performance convinces us of the strong ideology and the world perspective that he holds true and the kind of various emotions he goes through. This is really commendable and requires a sense of solid security in one’s head to pull something off of this kind.

Shahid Kapoor (Kabir Singh)

Kabir Singh – Official Trailer | Shahid Kapoor, Kiara Advani | Sandeep Reddy Vanga | 21st June 2019

It is always tricky for an actor to tackle a remake in any form, because they will always be compared to the original and especially when that is as iconic as Arjun Reddy. This is the character which cemented Vijay Devarakonda as a star and now the responsibility was on Shahid Kapoor to do justice to a role that has so much preconceived baggage. Shahid Kapoor has always been one of those brilliant talents who never really got his due and the success of Kabir Singh really proves that.

Kabir is angry, impulsive, privileged but also, extremely genuine and sometimes naïve too. So, it needs to be played with a certain amount of empathy and understanding or else Kabir can come off as a loathsome human being and I have to say he pulled it off with flying colors. He does this by not imitating the original, but understanding the state of mind of the character and re-interpreting it in a fresh manner with a lot of conviction.

Alia Bhatt (Gully Boy)

Gully Boy Dialogue Promo - Apni Albina | Gully Boy | Ranveer Singh | Alia Bhatt | 14th Feb

If we take the current lot of actors, one name which everyone will agree upon is going to be a huge superstar given her impeccable talent, it is Alia Bhatt. Right from the beginning, Alia Bhatt has given some mind-blowing performances in films like Highway, Udta Punjab, Dear Zindagi, Raazi, etc, which is a glorious witnesses of how wide the range of this extremely talented actor is. This year, she gave a gem of a performance with the highly acclaimed film Gully Boy directed by Zoya Akhtar.

The character of Safeena Firdaus is written very well to start with, and Alia’s portrayal of the same on screen is stupendous and so real that you are bound to forget that it’s a fictional character. Alia Bhatt goes into the depths of the character and brings out a performance that is very authentic and at the same time, Alia manages to get those minute nuances needed, very smoothly. Along with that, Alia gets into the shoes of Safeena quite effortlessly and brings out the pathos of a girl who is strong, independent and liberated, with true conviction.

Ayushmann Khurrana (Bala/Article 15)

Bala- Official Trailer | Ayushmann Khurrana, Bhumi, Yami | Dinesh Vijan | Amar Kaushik, 8th Nov

With the amount of class-divide films Ayushmann Khurrana is churning out, it can almost be called his brand of Hindi cinema. Depicting the middle-class family dynamics and quirks has become Ayushmann’s USP, especially with films like Badhaai Ho, Bala, etc. This year we saw him donning two different roles and giving us two of the biggest hits. First one, Article 15, the political-cop drama that focused on the social issue of rape and caste-divide in the northern state of UP, delivered as it promised. Ayushmann’s upright portrayal of an upper-caste police officer was refreshing to watch, and carried a powerful message about the aftermath of discrimination based on caste, gender and race. It was empowering to watch a star of Ayushmann’s caliber don a daring role and talk about the societal issues curbing the development of our country, especially in the current political scenario.

Then, we got to see Ayushmann portraying a completely different role with Bala. In this film, he plays a man who aspires to become a stand-up comedian while going bald everyday which leads him to become insecure and constantly be afraid of societal judgement. Now, this role is pretty challenging as it has many layers to it. But the versatility that Ayushmann possesses, he brings out the emotional pathos of Bala with an ease and makes us believe in the mental turmoil the character is going through. With both the films, the ever reliable Ayushmann delivers a sublime performance which hit the right balance of entertainment and drama and yet again, show cases the immense bundle of talent he has.

Soubin Shahir (Kumbalangi Nights/Ambili/Virus)

AMBILI Official Teaser | Soubin Shahir | E4 Entertainment | Johnpaul George

Soubin Shahir is an actor that I was not very familiar with until this year. The first time that he really caught my attention was when I watched his 2018 film called Sudani from Nigeria, where he plays a football coach trying to help a Nigerian football player achieve his dreams. The thing about him that attracted me was the amount of empathy he could ooze out of his eyes. Every time I saw him caring for someone it melted my heart as it felt truly selfless. He brings the same kind of empathy and charm to his role as Saji in Kumbalangi Nights this year.

As the de-facto patriarch of a family of four brothers, he adds real heart and warmth to the film. The scene that really impressed me was the scene after the cop reprimands him for his grave mistake. He doesn’t react immediately; he has an almost indecipherable expression on his face until he finally breaks down when no one is around and that really hit me in a gut-wrenching manner. Also, he ends the year with yet another brilliant performance in Android Kunjappan Ver 5.25 making one of the most versatile and sought-after actors coming out of Malayalam cinema.

Taapsee Pannu (Game Over/Saand Ki Aankh)

Game Over (Hindi) | Official Trailer | Netflix

Taapsee Pannu has been a game-changer for her choice of films across the North and South Indian film industries like Game Over, Manmarziyaan, Aadukalam, Saand ki Aankh, Soorma, etc. Breaking from clichéd roles written for female leads, Taapsee has carved a powerful, feminist image of her own in Indian cinema. This year’s Game Over, directed by Ashwin Saravanan, was an adrenaline-pumping thriller with a  strong female lead who faces a life-threatening nightmare. The film was praised for its technical brilliance and air-tight screenplay. Taapsee plays the character of Swapna, a game developer, who is scarred by a tragic incident but discovers certain secrets that can alter her life’s path altogether. While portraying Swapna, Taapsee keeps it real and believable; letting the audience into the vulnerabilities of her troubled mind.

On the other hand, Taapsee shows us the variety of acting range she possesses, with an accurate and honest portrayal of Prakashi Tomar (popularly referred as Shooter Dadi) in a very inspiring film, Saand Ki Aankh. She portrays the various phases of Prakashi’s life in this film. Taapsee does an incredible job in showing us the various challenges a woman goes through, one who is ready to sacrifice everything for her family when needed. Taapsee Pannu has chosen a variety of roles that carry different emotional dynamics of their own and all her choices have been bold and ambitious, nevertheless.

Priyadarshi (Mallesham)

Mallesham Theatrical Trailer I Sri Adhikari I Raj R I Priyadarshi I Ananya I Jhansi

It is one thing to do a biopic about a known and celebrated personality. It is a whole new thing to be able to portray a character based on a real-life personality who is relatively unknown. One might be inclined to say that the latter could be an easier task, given the fact that the actor enjoys a certain amount of comfort in his own individualistic interpretation. However, it remains the fact that in constructing his own interpretation, an actor needs to ensure that the personality of the real-life inspiration is preserved and propagated with utmost care and observation, as he becomes the benchmark reference for the erstwhile unknown achiever. In this year’s Telugu biographical, Mallesham, Priyadarshi was given the task of bringing out the story of a relatively unknown man’s achievement to the limelight for the first time ever.

While fulfilling such responsibility, Priyadarshi needed also to strip himself down of any vanity and presumptions. Here was a young actor, known earlier for his impeccable comic talent and sparkling screen presence, pushed to become a beaten to ground struggling innovator with radical whims and unwavering grit. Fortunately, Priyadarshi brought his vast theatre experience to the fore, in playing Chintakindi Mallesham with utmost earnestness and conviction, that the industry saw his treasured versatility for the first time and welcomed an actor of immense caliber into its cinematic fortress, often colored by nepotistic broad-strokes.

Priyadarshi sinks his teeth into the role of Chintakindi Mallesham, the brilliant innovator of weaving loop machines which changed the textile industry forever, with acute observations about not just the personal pathos of a restless mind at work, but also of a cultural awareness of his belonging. In identifying the need of an industry, Priyadarshi disappears into the skin of a man limited only by his financial cushioning but never by his entrepreneurial acumen. Priyadarshi understands the obsession of his titular character but he understands his eccentricity and flaws in a much better manner. From being driven to being defeated and then to be focused again, Priyadarshi exudes a personality which is palpable throughout the entire journey of the film.

Yami Gautam (Bala)

Tequila – Bala | Ayushmann Khurrana | Yami Gautam | Sachin – Jigar | Divya Kumar

To anyone who has watched the movie Bala this year, the entry of Yami Gautam in the year’s best performances list is a no-brainer. For the people who haven’t, she is one of the foremost reasons to watch this B-town comedy about a man and his vanity insanity. Yami Gautam, who plays ‘Kanpur ki TikTok Superstar’, Pari, brings to her role a sense of eccentricity which is both exciting and thought provoking at the same. Given the context of the film, predominantly deriving its energy source from Ayushmann Khurrana’s endearing lead performance, almost an hour into the story, Pari is then delivered by Yami with the force of a thunderbolt changing everything about the film. Yami’s Pari is a petal-tender girl full of validation seeking vanity and rapturous energy. Yami herself seemingly a drastic anti-thesis to the character, sheds her real-life persona to take a frivolous role devoid of sensibilities and consequences. Her arresting charm showcased by broad toothy smiles and twinklingly curious eyes, Pari is practically a barbie doll coming to life, and Yami uses her inherently sharp features to play it to perfection.

Over the course of the story, we understand Pari as well-meaning reasonable girl stuck in a social media cocoon from where she seems to have found overwhelming success, one which she treasures come what may. What may have become an easily melodramatic reveal, becomes a quirkily funny interaction, as Yami never breaks her character in playing it out. It is reasonable to say that Yami has showcased and validly superseded the typical attributions set towards her by the industry, by playing a role which requires the right amalgam of measured craziness and shallow naivety. Yami Gautam thus, has truly arrived as an actor and one needs to keenly lookout for what she takes up next. She is in such great form here that she practically can play anything at this point.

Shweta Basu Prasad (The Tashkent Files)

The Tashkent Files | Official Trailer | Vivek Agnihotri | Releasing 12th April

In a film which has been universally panned for its lack of structure and skewed political standpoints, it is purely ironical to find a performance which absolutely honest and uplifting as Shweta Basu Prasad’s truth-seeking journalist Ragini. The naturally gifted national award-winning actress Shweta, brings her own mark of ingenuity in playing a seeker of justice in a story which pits her against agenda driven politicians and cockily hostile colleagues. A narrative viewpoint for the story, Ragini seeks redemption in finding a far-fetched truth against all odds, and yet somehow be contently accommodating of the lies & fiction which construct the world around her. Shweta brings a simmering anger towards her task at hand, snappily moving from overtly confident to eerily subjugated as she moves mountains in finding the truth.

Over the story, Shweta’s Ragini becomes an essential cog in the machinery established to uncover the truth behind Lal Bahadur Shastri’s suspicious death. As Ragini comes into the target zone for the government, and as she uncovers secrets with storm-bearing sternness, Shweta infuses a certain sense of cynicism into her role and purpose, which makes the character curiously and academically interesting. Shweta Basu shines through in a muddled premise and propaganda of the story, owing to her impeccable acting flair and decades-marked experience. One of the most talented actors of this generation, we need to see more of Shweta Basu Prasad’s talent and often.

Gulshan Devaiah (Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota)

Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota | Official Trailer | Abhimanyu D, Radhika M | Vasan Bala | 21st March 2019

Gulshan Devaiah is easily one of the most underrated actors working in Indian Cinema. Owing to his unique look and screen presence, a lot of filmmakers are not able to use his full potential. So, his long-time friend and filmmaker Vasan Bala comes to the rescue with his quirky superhero origin story, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota. Here Gulshan plays twins, Karate Mani and Jimmy, who are diametrically opposed to each other. Mani is the mentor of our superhero who feels no pain and Jimmy plays his nemesis.

Gulshan goes all out for these roles as they feel extremely different in the way they talk, stand, sit and react to in any situation. Even when they are seen in the same frame, he distinguishes them with unique quirks that make them seem like two different people. Hence his spot on this list.

Tahir Raj Bhasin (Chhichhore)

Chhichhore | Introducing Derek | Tahir Raj Bhasin | Sushant | Nitesh Tiwari | Releasing on Sept 6

Chhichhore which came this year was a film that had mixed reviews. While one section of people were reminiscing over a nostalgia served with a relatable humour, others were put off by a jarring and transition less shift of narrative which became self indulgent. Nevertheless, one factor which everyone will agree upon with is the power packed performance of Tahir Raj Bhasin as the uber cool and ultra stylish Derek who has an intense persona to him. Tahir who has impressed us with some of his outstanding performances in films like Mardaani and Force 2, puts an earnest performance and makes the character of Derek lively.

Tahir single-handedly drives the major portions of the films and compliments very well with other talented actors like Sushant Singh Rajput, Naveen Polishetty and Varun Sharma. Tahir puts in a lot of hard work in portraying the character of a fit and flexible athlete and his efforts transforms extremely well on screen. The performance given by Tahir easily matches up to some of the great performers of this year and makes him a part of our collection.

Soni Razdan (Yours Truly)

Yours Truly | Trailer | Soni Razdan, Pankaj Tripathi, Aahana Kumra | Streaming Now On ZEE5

Yours Truly, a film based on a short story by Annie Zaidi finds its protagonist, Mithi Kumar (played by Soni Razdan) to be a silent observer of an isolated lifestyle in the bustling city of Kolkata. Every day she arrives at Howrah Station only to be greeted by an announcer’s voice which has developed overtime into an unexplainable bond with her; his voice blaring out compliments from the overhead speakers and his intentions blanketed in a harmless camaraderie. Mithi is fascinated by this voice, and in invoking and encompassing her fragile need for companionship, Soni Razdan brings a sense of swiveling elation in the way she moves her eyes along the whizzing ghosts of passerby co-passengers. A quite observer tells more stories about the city than herself, perhaps.

Soni Razdan’s Mithi Kumar is not someone to be trapped by her whims, rather someone who allows them at her own will. Her brightly lit eyes speak volumes when there is nothing to be said or heard on-screen. She is in love with an unknown voice, preferably so, as a means to comfort her momentarily and nothing more. She drops letters to this strange announcer, not as a means to seek answers but as a measure to articulate her pathos. In a movie about isolation, Soni Razdan brings an absurd sense of relatability and humanness, which is both reflective and unnerving to think about as an eventuality of age. Her Mithi has a demure stance towards life and all things alive, and a detached occurrence to everything aging and lifeless. Soni Razdan uses her personality and body language to switch between long stretched silences and cheery upheavals making Mithi one of the best written roles this year.

Samantha Akkineni (Super Deluxe/Oh! Baby)

Oh Baby Theatrical Trailer | Samantha Akkineni, Naga Shaurya | Nandini Reddy | Suresh Productions

Samantha is one of those actresses that always felt like she was holding herself back. While she is great in a lot of the potboilers she is constantly in opposite big stars. I always felt she had a lot more potential. And this year felt like she was truly stretching her wings with films like Oh! Baby which she carries on her own shoulders and with Super Deluxe where she plays a very conflicted character in a huge ensemble. With Oh! Baby where she plays an old woman who gets back her youth, she proves that she is talented enough to play this character and at the same time carry the whole film with just her charm. This proved to be right as it became of the biggest Telugu hits of the year.

With Super Deluxe, she proves that she chooses good roles with a lack of vanity that is refreshing. In the film, she plays a cheating wife who gets caught by her husband but doesn’t feel like she did anything wrong and she pulls of this complicated character with a lot of grace and dignity.

Sanya Malhotra (Photograph)

Photograph - Official Trailer (U.S.) | Amazon Studios

Timid, docile and soft-spoken Miloni played by Sanya Malhotra is a radical deviance from her motor-mouthed performances in films like Dangal and Pathaka. In Photograph, a fleetingly restrained love story of two wandering souls, Sanya Malhotra plays a young CA aspirant confined within her academic achievements, yearning for some sort of getaway; if only a small breathing crack on her cocoon. Sanya Malhotra brings a certain amount of claustrophobic angst, against the family setup which wants to take decisions for her and an ignorance to the descriptions of life outside her comfort. When Miloni meets Rafi, albeit at a random happenstance, she finds a viewpoint to life which in itself is a reward for her meandering internalization.

Sanya Malhotra gazes into scenic emptiness as a tourist boat floats across Bombay shores, allowing her Miloni to grasp in moments of palpable happiness often ripe with eventual constrictions. Sanya uses her demure and fragile make to great effect -- to concoct a mix of ignorance and wonderment, as she goes along with Rafi’s absurd plan of implying a relationship for his grandmother’s sake. Sanya’s Miloni is momentarily cheerful in this escapist role-play, until the day ends and she needs to return back to her dreary expectant life, without uttering a word of displeasure or not even a murmur of discontentment. These moments of liveliness from Sanya before she goes back into the shell makes the viewer crave for them. There is something poetically beautiful and rare about Sanya’s shy smile and unsure blinking eyes, that it reminds one of a distant childhood crush, an age laced photograph reminiscent of good old times.

To more great performances and wonderful cinema!!