Disclaimer: The following post contains spoilers from Paatal Lok.
Abhishek Banerjee, who is a casting director, first shot to fame as an actor for playing Jana in the horror-comedy Stree. He was the friend abducted by the local ghost.
His antics as the hapless friend, ever-ready to believe in love, and ultimately stuck under a witch's spell, were undoubtedly hilarious.
Though Stree, being a horror-comedy, never allowed him to become an outrightly scary, possessed individual, what struck me was how easily his comical looks turned intense.
But, since then, Abhishek Banerjee has more than proved that he can easily scare the living daylights out of you with one look.
As Roop Lal Phillauri's friend, Soja, Abhishek's creepy grin had you convinced from the start that he will turn out to be an asshole.
Which explains why, even in a minor role, he managed to evoke strong emotions in the audience. Simply put, he was so good as the friend-turned-betrayer, that you ended up hating him even when he had not more than a handful of scenes.
But impressing in a handful of scenes appears to be Banerjee's forte. Like he proved in Mirzapur, where he played the 'friendly compounder' aka Subodh.
Even when he was the poster-child of a loyal friend, I was convinced that something far more sinister was at play.
Considering he shared screen-space with Divyendu, who played the designated, entitled, psychotic character on the show, and Pankaj Tripathi, whose eyes speak volumes, Banerjee's maniacal, evil glint deserves its own award for best villain.
However, Mirzapur and Phillauri only grazed the surface of Banerjee's ability to play the conniving, menacing villain.
But Paatal Lok really allows him to play the eerie villain who can silence you with just one glance.
In Paatal Lok, Banerjee plays the role of Vishal Tyagi aka Hathoda Tyagi - a murderer whose choice of weapon is, of course, a hammer.
Though the show does not specify, he is presumably a sociopath, with great affection for dogs and his 'master ji', and very little for anyone else.
It's Banerjee's performance, and of course, the writing, that sets apart Tyagi from the show's other antagonist with a murky past.
The almost soul-less look that he exhibits as a cold-blooded murderer leaves you thoroughly shaken.
As Tyagi, Banerjee becomes that unsuspecting, deadly, silent criminal whose attack you can never prepare for, and whose glare is enough to silence even the most boisterous of victims.
By no means is Banerjee a single-role wonder. If he has perfected the art of scaring the audience with one look, he has also been making us laugh since before Stree. In fact, his acting stint actually started with Rang De Basanti!
But just like Hrithik makes dancing look effortless or Ayushmann Khurana makes the woke guy-next-door look believable, Banerjee flawlessly brings alive evil on screen. And that is a true testament to his acting skills.