Article Bengali

Rewind 2019: The 10 best performances of the year in Bengali cinema

While Riddhi Sen deservedly won the National award for Best Actor last year, many other artistes also turned in unforgettable performances.

Roushni Sarkar

In 2019, Bengali cinema offered some striking performances worthy of national recognition, and we are not referring only to the young Riddhi Sen's astounding turn in Nagarkirtan (2019). At the same time, seeing the same faces again and again in multiple films exhausted the audience. Though not many new artistes made their mark in the year gone by, some chose their roles wisely and gave the audience experiences to cherish.

So, without further ado, we present our selection of the 10 most powerful performances of the year in Bengali cinema. While some of these were part of the most appealing films of the year, others stood out though the films themselves did not draw much attention.

10. Sayan Ghosh as Indranath in Rajlokhi O Srikanto

Sayan Ghosh was one of those artistes who surprised cinegoers this year with unusual command of their characters. In Pradipta Bhattacharya’s Rajlokhi O Srikanto, Ghosh played Indranath, a villager with courage and compassion and a role model for the protagonist Srikanto.

Not only did Ghosh don the authentic rural persona of Indranath with ease, keeping the raw essence intact, but he also magnified his emotions in outbursts, making the contexts relevant and showing the man's struggle with vulnerability at crucial moments. He also thoughtfully equated his love for his beloved Annada Didi (Aparajita Ghosh Das) with his passion for being a daredevil, keeping a harmony of traits in his character.

9. Sudipta Chakraborty as Illa in Jyeshthoputro

While the film boasted of striking performances by all the actresses, Sudipta Chakraborty’s act as Illa, the mentally unstable sister of Indrajit (Prosenjit) and Partho (Ritwick Chakraborty) stole the show. Chakraborty personified the repressed emotions and anger of a woman who is deeply affectionate towards her brothers but also has an uncontrollable urge to break free of all the restrictions that she is supposed to live with. She seemed natural in the character that was also written well by director Kaushik Ganguly and evoked strong empathy for her narrative as it logically presented her as a victim of circumstances. Chakraborty's Illa also brought out the striking contrasts in the personalities of her brothers as they react to her at crucial moments.

8. Rudranil Ghosh in the title role in Vinci Da

Rudranil Ghosh played Vinci Da, a skilled and egoistic makeup artiste, in Srijit Mukherji’s thriller. Vinci Da has mastered the skill of prosthetic makeup but is not ready to make the compromises that are often called for in the film industry. He gets roped in for an evil ploy by psychopathic murderer Adi Bose (Ritwick Chakraborty) without any hint of the consequences. Ghosh, with his dramatic performance, magnified the conflicts of an ill-fated artiste caught between creating masterful creations and serving humanity. Vinci Da’s helplessness and realizations are extremely real in Ghosh's brilliant expressions that evoked a lot of empathy for the character.

7. Jaya Ahsan as Sayani in Robibaar

In Atanu Ghosh's Robibaar, Jaya Ahsan played law officer Sayani, who leads an independent life and loves to have an analytical perspective. On a Sunday, she bumps into former lover and fraudster Asimabha, played by Prosenjit Chatterjee, and has to stick around even though she is clearly filled with disgust for him.

Jaya Ahsan brought out the intuitive trait of the character in this performance-orientated film as Sayani judges every move of her former lover, whom she is meeting after 15 years, and repeatedly comes back to him despite refusing to express her emotions for him. The actress sank intelligently into her character, which oscillates continuously between escaping and facing the reality. Her facial expressions matched Sayani's sarcastic remarks, then mellowed at the right moments as she becomes compassionate.

6. Prosenjit Chatterjee as Asimabha in Robibaar

Prosenjit played Asimabha, a complex character, in Robibaar. Though the character is not defined by his actions as a fraudster, this aspect is gradually revealed through Asimabha's interaction with former beloved Sayani, played by Jaya Ahsan, when they meet on a Sunday 15 years after they went their separate ways. Prosenjit was convincing as a man who is clearly losing the stakes he has made in his career and personal life; however, he remains unapologetic. His body language expressed both Asimabha's frailty and his emotional surrender to his one-time beloved who clearly hasn't forgotten the hurt and humiliation of the past. In the present, Asimabha continues to makes sure he gets away with fulfilling his wishes until he makes his noble intent clear. Prosenjit breathed life into the hidden compartments of the character and was at his most impactful in the moments when Asimabha fails to deal with the overflow of emotions.

5. Ritwika Pal as Kia in Kia And Cosmos

First-time actress Ritwika Pal was extremely convincing in her portrayal of the challenging character of Kia, who suffers from autism spectrum disorder, in Sudipto Roy’s debut film Kia And Cosmos. It would have been easy to go overboard in playing such a character; however, Pal walked a fine line, exhibiting deep sensibility regarding Kia's kin and surroundings as well as magnifying the curiosity that builds up a world of her own. Kia is also a mathematical genius and Pal donned all these attributes naturally as a specially abled child often does. She also brought alive the struggles that a teenage girl, that too one brought up in a dysfunctional family, goes through, taking the audience on a exceptional cinematic journey.

4. Ritwick Chakraborty as Parimal in Nagarkirtan

Though Ritwick Chakraborty appeared in a large number of films this year, becoming the most repeated face by the end, he delivered one of his most challenging acts in Kaushik Ganguly’s acclaimed Nagarkirtan, as the love interest of Punti (Riddhi Sen), a transgender man. Chakraborty’s character continues to be shaped throughout its journey in the film, as Parimal gradually realizes the different layers and dynamics of his love for Punti. Chakraborty continued to make space with deep sensitivity for the striking presence of Sen, complementing the conflicts and struggles Punti goes through in search of love and recognition.

3. Meghnad Bhattacharya as TC Pal in Surjo Prithibir Charidike Ghore

Theatre actor Meghnad Bhattacharya appeared in a leading role in cinema for the first time in Arijit Biswas’s Surjo Prithibir Charidike Ghore and stunned viewers with an exceptionally authentic portrayal of TC Pal, the fictionalized version of the real-life character KC Pal, who insists the sun goes round the earth. Bhattacharya’s act was so much in synch with the overwhelming passion and determination of the character that it was hard to take the array of emotions and struggles he goes through whenever somebody refutes Pal's theories and tries to brand him insane. He was genuine, simple and honest. On the one hand, TC Pal does not mind losing his family and living on the streets; on the other, he clearly abstains from trading science for religion. In the film, his passion is used as a metaphor for his firm belief in an ideal, a rarity in an age when personal gain takes precedence over all else.

2. Kaushik Ganguly as Narasingha in Kedara

Kaushik Ganguly singularly carried the dreamy film on his shoulders. The role of Narasingha in Indraadip Dasgupta’s Kedara was, perhaps, written for Ganguly as it is impossible to imagine any other actor as the loner ventriloquist who is so absorbed in his own world that even his wife cannot adapt to his lifestyle. Narasingha lives with many imaginary voices that make up his world and all these voices have been caricatured by him. Ganguly beautifully projected the transformation of the character when he begins to conquer his own world with a magical chair (Kedara). Not only does he start giving good lessons to those who mocked him for his 'failed' life, but he also starts believing in his own dreams and gains confidence in his emotions. Ganguly was one with the creative mind for which dreams mean the most.

1. Riddhi Sen as Punti in Nagarkirtan

Riddhi Sen received the National award for Best Actor for his performance as Punti, a transgender male, in Kaushik Ganguly’s Nagarkirtan. The young actor's performance as a man who is desperately trying to feel his feminine energies through validation with the love of Parimal-da (Ritwick Chakraborty) was heart-wrenching and hard-hitting. It seemed as if Sen could feel Punti's longing for love in every movement of his character and it is impossible to take your eyes off him and look at other artistes whenever he is on screen. His eyes expressed the entire range of emotions that transgender persons go through in our repressed society.

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