And the best performance goes to…

Some of 2020’s best works came from the ones we didn’t expect, and not the big stars of B-town

When the world began fighting a pandemic, the entertainment industry was among the worst-hit sectors. Even then, and more so, the Indian audiences sought solace in films and web shows. Fortunately, there was never a dearth of content, nor of streaming platforms.

Be it Pratik Gandhi in Scam 1992 who humanised the infamous Harshad Mehta, or Jaideep Ahlawat infusing heroic charm to a common cop’s character in Pataal Lok – some performances transported us to a new world altogether. And what’s fascinating is, this year some of the best works came from actors we didn’t expect, and not the so-called superstars. Patriot picks this year’s top 10 breakthrough performances in Hindi cinema. Let’s take a look at them:

Pratik Gandhi: This debutant (in Hindi film industry, but is a well-known theatre actor) stole all the limelight this year with his portrayal of “scamster” Harshad Mehta in critically acclaimed filmmaker Hansal Mehta’s web series (for SonyLIV) Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story. Gandhi humanised Mehta on-screen with conviction, owned the screen in every single frame… and one can definitely say a star is born!


Jaideep Ahlawat: From the way he walked to the way he talked, Ahlawat was pitch perfect and impeccable in his depiction of Hathiram Chaudhary (Amazon Prime’s Pataal Lok) – the honest, driven cop who left no stones unturned to solve a case he’s been allotted to. The authenticity with which he portrayed the role gave the series the much-needed acclaim.


Tapsee Pannu: In Anubhav Sinha’s Thappad, Pannu brings out the nuances of a woman who rebels – with subtlety and dignity – against the deep-rooted misogyny and patriarchy in our society. She speaks more with her eyes and expressions, and yet manages to perfectly bring out a gamut of emotions – from the inner turmoil to the burning angst her character Amrita feels.


Manoj Bajpayee: Bajpayee, as always, slips into the skin of his character in Devashish Makhija’s underrated gem Bhonsle. His brilliant portrayal of Ganpati Bhonsle, a retired Marathi man trying to sail through life, is bound to leave the audience awestruck.


Rasika Dugal: In the second instalment of Amazon Prime’s popular gangster web series Mirzapur, Dugal yet again steals the show as a bold, badass woman who fears none. She depicts the character of Beena Tripathi, a gangster’s wife, with such rawness and ease, giving it the authenticity it deserved.



Konkona Sen Sharma: In Alankrita Srivastava’s Dolly, Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare, Sharma, with her natural screen presence, shines as Radha aka Dolly – a woman torn between desire and duty. She comes across as someone unapologetic and bold who is far from the women we have grown up watching on-screen, and no one else could have played this with such finesse other than Sharma.



Pankaj Tripathi: From a supportive father in Gunjan Saxena to a ruthless gangster in Mirzapur 2 — Tripathi, who’s no stranger to power-packed performances, was astounding in both. And then in Anurag Basu’s Ludo, he depicted a comic role — a quirky badass criminal — with finesse. Truly, Tripathi defined versatility this year like none other!


Tillotama Shome: Shome infuses life into Ratna – a widowed housemaid – in Rohena Gera’s Sir which is a romantic drama involving a maid and her employer. Depicting the complexities that such an unusual relationship brings, Shome captures the screen with her spellbound performance in this tragic tale of love.


Rajkummar Rao: Rao essayed the character of a hopeless romantic guy who dresses up like Mithoon da (and occasionally dances like him too!) in Anurag Basu’s Ludo. And goes without saying, he imbued such innocence to his performance, which made it a delight to watch him on-screen.


Tripti Dimri: Just two films old, Dimri in Netflix’s Bulbbul intricately characterises a woman – who despite a victim of abuse in the face of patriarchy, rises above the ashes – with such volume yet subtlety that it leaves a deep impact on the audience’s mind. Her poised, graceful yet fiery and powerful depiction of Bulbbul in this feminist fairytale is unmissable.

( Other mentionable performances of 2020 – Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Serious Men); Amitabh Bachchan (Gulabo Sitabo); Divyendu Sharma (Mirzapur 2); Jitendra Kumar (Panchayat); Deepika Padukone (Chhapaak); Ishaan Khatter (A Suitable Boy);  Sushmita Sen (Aarya) )

Cover Image: (clockwise from top) Pratik Gandhi, Jaideep Ahlawat, Tripti Dimri and Rasika Dugal /Credit: RN Sinha


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