No Deepika Padukone. No Kareena Kapoor Khan. The year’s biggest surprise was Taapsee Pannu who bludgeoned us with three accomplished performances. This was certainly the year of Taapsee Pannu, and then some more. Here are the ones that impressed me.
Taapsee Pannu: She had four releases Badla, Game Over, Saand Ki Aankh and Mission Mangal, all met with varying degrees of success. What sets Taapsee apart from her peers is her fearless eclectic selection of roles and her effortless character portrayals. There is no artifice even when she plays a backstabber faking her way in Badla and she does it without posturing. The naturalism is very refreshing in a country where all good actors ACT all the time. They just can’t stop themselves. Taapsee knows just how much of herself to give to every character. In 2019 her career went to another level. And be prepared. 2020 will be even better.
Yami Gautam in Bala: The real surprise in Bala is Yami Gautam who gives her character of a smalltown hottie the kind of authentic vigour and healthy ayurvedic sex appeal that I haven’t seen in any recent screen queen. Her UP accent and exaggerated selfie-induced emotional responses, and her expressions of sheer self-love are proof that this actress has finally found her bearings. In the sequence where she confesses to her superficiality and love for surface beauty, Yami is award-winning.
Vidya Balan in Mission Mangal: In an otherwise-overrated film Vidya Balan as a wife and mother trying valiantly to balance a career with her domestic duties, got it so right. She had done this role before (in Tumhari Sallu). But she still managed to make the matriarch in Mission Mangal a magnificently memorable mademoiselle. Why doesn’t Vidya do more work?
Alia Bhatt in Kalank, Gully Boy: Everyone kept speaking of her performance in Gully Boy, and of course Alia’s Safeena was a scene-stealer in it. But the quiet grace and unspoken tragedy she brought to the role of Roop in Kalank was equally admirable, if not more so. Roop was the antithesis of Saifina. While one spoke through her silences the other let it all out constantly. Passive and assertive, Alia played both with equal grace.
Bhumi Pednekar in Sonechiriya: While everyone raved over her performance in Saand Ki Aankh it was in Abhishek Kapoor’s Sonechiriya that Pednekar was gut-wrenching in her portrayal of an underprivileged woman trying to protect a minor rape victim’s life from falling apart. It’s a character and performance of tremendous power and resonance. Alas, in this country we don’t pay that much attention to the silent performances. All of the awards go to the loud aggressive performances where the actor ACTS ACTS and ACTS. Ooof!!