Bengali Films in 2018 had some good stories to tell, and saw some good writing at play to create a few memorable characters brought alive by some brilliant performances. At the same time, we saw some miserably poor or highly disappointing performances in multiple films as well. Let us find out more about who shined and who disappointed in their performances for both male and female actors ranked by preference. (Do note that this is based on theatrically released films that were watched. Hence outstanding performances in films that did the festival circuits only might have been missed out, since they are yet to be watched.)
Best Performances by Female Actors:
Honorable Mentions – These are the performances which made a mark either in their short scope, or were impressive in spite of the sketchy characters that they were given. My picks include:
- Paoli Dam (Ahare Mon) – A very charming and classy Ramona enacted with a lot of heart, Paoli played the perfect muse to Purnendu and to the audience. I wish the character was written for a bigger scope, there was so much more to Ramona.
- Sauraseni Maitra (Generation Aami) – As one of the leads of the film, Sauraseni brought her own careless charm to the elder sister Durga. I wished to see a more consistent performance by her though like Apu. She did make it a memorable performance nevertheless in spite of its rough edges.
- Sara Sengupta (Uma) – Sara played the titular character Uma and the daughter to her real life father Jisshu in the film. For a first film, Sara was really good and brought in a lot of earnestness to Uma. She deserved a better written character by Srijit Mukherji though.
And now, let us look at the performances that were more well rounded than these, and hence made it to the Best of the year:
5. Chitrangada Chakraborty (Ahare Mon) – Titli, the character played by Chitrangada in the film is a dreamer and a sweetheart at the same time. Some may call her eccentric too. It could have easily lost its way, had the performance been not as solid as that of Chitrangada’s. She kept it quirky, she kept it innocent, and she kept it honest at the same time – so much so that even her fan-girl craze for Dev didn’t hurt emotions! Now that needs some craft!
4. Jaya Ahsan (Ek Je Chhilo Raja) – Give a well written, deep, poised character arc with Bangal origins to Jaya, and she will flourish like a star. With Mrinmayee, Srijit Mukherji did exactly that. Jaya grounds the character with complete conviction and uses her craft and her mastery over the dialect beautifully to transport us to the era she was representing. Great supporting act to Jisshu, hers was one of the most flawless performances in the film.
3. Mamata Shankar (Ahare Mon) – Mamata Shankar’s Charulata was grace personified on screen. It was a seemingly simple character, but the seasoned actress garnishes it beautifully with age appropriate restrained charm, measured but mischievous humor, and the perfect emotions around awkwardness, and anxiety. Such fresh writing and such an evergreen classy act. Sometimes keeping it simple is the most difficult thing.
2. Churni Ganguly (Drishtikone) – Churni was the lone standing warrior in a film that was otherwise marred with poor writing and over ambitious lure for commerce. She was brilliantly poignant and graceful, and showed what a good actor she is even when the script limited her significantly like everyone else. It is not easy to stand out as one of the most memorable characters in a weak film, but Churni got there. Her Rumki deserved a much better film.
1. Tanuja (Shonar Pahar) – Casting Tanuja as Upama was a masterstroke by Parambrata Chattopadhyay, and what a masterstroke it was. In an absolutely stellar performance in a brilliantly written role, she doesn’t deliver one false note in any scene (and she is there in almost all the scenes)! Her expressions depicted it all – coldness, solitude, naughtiness, warmth, anger, indifference, pain, love and joy, and all of it perfectly! A brilliant canvas of emotions, no one could have done what Tanuja delivers here – absolute masterclass!
Biggest Disappointments: And while we are at it, here is a quick recap of some of the most disappointing performances of the year, marred by poor writing as well as jarring, over the top performances.
- Rituparna Sengupta (Drishtikone) – Yes, Sreemati was written poorly, but Rituparna’s performance was extremely one note, making it one of the most disappointing female characters ever in a Kaushik Ganguly film.
- All the women (Haami) – This was a classic case of performances ranging from poor to very poor in a terribly written film. From Gargi to Koneenica to Aparajita to Tanusree to Churni, they were all bad and headache inducing. Little Tiasha got lost in the cacophony of this noisy bunch of theatrical women.
- Koel Mallik (Ghare & Baire) – No surprises there, she will make any character, however written, look worse. Koel was no different here. In the process, she pulled down the entire film too, which could otherwise have been a light, fun film.
Best Performances by Male Actors:
Honorable Mentions – My picks of honorable mentions for male actors are performances that impressed and stayed along even with the limited scope that they had:
- Parambrata Chatterjee (Shonar Pahar) – As the man behind the camera, Parambrata did not invest a lot in developing his character in the film, but he brought in the right nuances of empathy and poise as needed to it. Good casting decision and well played Param!
- Rudranil Ghosh (Uma) – Rudranil’s was amongst the strongest performances in an otherwise average film. He did outshine Anjan Dutta as well in his scenes. But he just did not have enough meat in the character to displace others and make it to the top within those limitations.
So then, who made it to the best of the year? Let us find out:
5. Rwitobroto Mukherjee (Generation Aami) – Playing the central character Apu in a coming of age drama, Rwitobroto brings in the right amount of vulnerability, innocence and irritation to his character. With great expressions and right voice modulation, he becomes the primary force why the film works and connects for the most part.
4. Anjan Dutta (Uma & Ahare Mon) – 2018 has actually been a good year for Anjan Dutta, the actor. And he has always been far more impressive in front of the camera. Anjan’s Brahmananda of Uma brings us back the actor we were missing since films like Juganto or Chalchitra. He is a perfect balance of aggressive frustration and sensitivity in the film. And Anjan is even better in Ahare Mon. His Barun is maturity, mischief, solitude and empathy rolled in one and Anjan aces it to perfection. With this act, he delivers some of the best scenes of the year along with Mamata Shankar. Wish to see him more!
3. Srijato Bandopadhyay (Shonar Pahar) – Should we just call Bitlu a little bundle of joy who made us smile with such an endearing act? The innocence of his eyes, his smile, his pitch perfect dialog delivery, his sense of timing and his expressions are all on point, courtesy the wonderfully heartfelt performance of Srijato. He did not hit one false note even in the overwhelming presence of such veterans. Speaks volumes!
2. Adil Hussain (Ahare Mon) – What is not to love about Purnendu Pahari of Ahare Mon, the eternal charmer in all his smile, grace, poise and endearing mannerisms! It is easily the best written character of the year, and Adil only enhances it manifold. I am totally in love with Mr. Pahari, and was almost biased enough to make it the performance of the year, but that would have been slightly unfair. But Adil – thank you so much for making Purnendu such a charmer – all drools over him!
1. Jisshu Sengupta (Ek Je Chhilo Raja) – Jisshu delivers a true king size performance in Ek Je Chhilo Raja. He gets into the skin of both the King and the Wanderer with equal earnestness and wonderful restraint. It is a performance sans all vanity of the actor, and Jisshu delivers every beat, every glance, and every expression of all the three different stages of his character arc with great ease and conviction. Yes, parts of the character could have been written better, but Jisshu doesn’t falter one biy. It is his career best performance to date, by miles. And yes while we are at it, Jisshu was wonderful as the perplexed but an equally loving son and husband in Shonar Pahar as well, his other lovely act of the year!
Biggest Disappointments: Having said this, we did have a fair share of disappointing performances as well and some of them from the most renowned names (This is in addition to a host of bad/inconsequential performances from bad or average films ). They were:
- Abir Chatterjee (Bidaaye Byomkesh) – This was an absolute joke of a film, and Abir was a disaster playing the senior Byomkesh with a stone face frozen in prosthetics. Such a disaster needed to be called out! A bad memory this!
- Jisshu Sengupta (Uma) – Sad that the best actor of the year had a really weak act in his filmography this year too. His performance in Uma was a washout with him especially struggling in all the emotional scenes and ending up delivering one of weakest performances in the film.
- Prosenjit Chatterjee (Drishtikone) – One expected a lot when you see Kaushik Ganguly making a film with Prosenjit, but it was a rather cold experience overall. Yes, he was better than Rituparna, but he almost had to come down to her level to even out things overall. A clear opportunity lost!
So those were some of the best and worst performances from the world of Bengali Cinema this year, a mixed bag as it always will be, but enough to rejoice. What were your favorites? Do share. But as we move forward, let the memories of good performances and their characters stay, and let us look forward to more of them in the coming year, 2019…
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