Shlok Sharma’s “Haraamkhor” starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Shweta Tripathi featured in my 2015 list since I watched it at MAMI Mumbai Film Festival back then. Also including Indie and Film Festival films which may not be specifically termed as “Bollywood”. Among the major critical acclaimed films, I missed “Babumoshai Bandookbaaz”, “Gurgaon”, “Kadvi Hawa” and “Tu Hai Mera Sunday”. While the year was underwhelming where the Superstar’s films like “Jab Harry Met Sejal” and “Tubelight” failed to impress. Nevertheless, the year was strong on the story-telling and audience welcomed indie films or atleast were aware about existence in a good way.
AN INSIGNIFICANT MAN by Khushboo Ranka & Vinay Shukla
There’s an absolute terrific sequence of the election processions of Arvind Kejriwal and Sheila Dixit. It’s like a war-zone, where the character study of one man becomes a study of the national election. Editors Abhinav Tyagi and Manan Bhatt are the strongest part who have maintained a coherent narrative that makes us feel as if we’re watching a taut thriller. Director-duo Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla have undertaken a mammoth job of covering the journey of about 400 hours from 2013. They have brilliantly managed to weave a proper story – one that holds a grip over itself tracing the birth and journey of a new and dynamic party. And the film doesn’t lead any political propaganda or support a specific party, just takes us through a thrilling journey.
15. LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA by Alankrita Shrivastava
This is not a film about sex, it’s a film about desires and dreams. The film does not loudly cheer feminism as against what the CBFC disregarded. The film shows relatable, authentic and realistic setting as well as characters. This is an engaging story and the director successfully knacks it with the gentleness and humor without being cheap. It’s a film with layers and shot tightly in the developing city of Bhopal. To make such kind of film is bold and brave, breaking free from the shackles of prejudiced society and thoughts. Though the end could have been more decisive but nevertheless the overall film is bang on.
14. DADDY by Ashim Ahluwalia
Director Ashim Ahluwalia’s second directorial film is as dark as his previous National award-winning “Miss Lovely” (2013). The tight and claustrophobic atmosphere (and frames) created for an intense story-telling works well. The captivating Cinematography by Jessica Lee Gange and Pankaj Kumar narrows us towards the personal agendas. For an instance, after his first killing Arun is running and in a tight and low lit frame he is blurred while a distant ladder is in focus- that’s the rise of the storytelling. Arjun Rampal terrifically swipes into the character and shines throughout getting every move right. [READ FULL REVIEW]
13. POORNA: Courage Has No Limit by Rahul Bose
Actor Rahul Bose’s directorial is an inspiring biopic of 13 year-old Poorna Malavath’s triumphant trudge up to Mount Everest in 2014, which made her the youngest girl in the world to do so. This small film climbs greater mountains in terms of its story-telling by recognizing beauty in simplicity and delivers goosebumps. Amidst the Bollywood-ish content, a small earnest but highly inspirational tale was lost.
12. SACHIN: A BILLION DREAMS by James Erskine
There are only two religions in India Films & Cricket, and when these two meet a powerful medium embraces the soul of country’s religion and their God – SACHIN TENDULKAR. The best thing about this film is it’s docu-fiction narrative which is winner all the way. The God himself narrating the story. The audience was cheering as if they are the part of the happenings and after a longtime such enthusiasm. And the man who gave the blast to this Master-Blaster film is A R Rahman and his Qutub-E-Kripa. The goose-flesh ripping background will make you flesh burn, and yes there’s a surprise classic song. Literally for more than 2 hours, there were cheers and tears in the theater.
11. TUMHARI SULU by Suresh Triveni
The light-hearted story which narrates a story of feminism, pragmatism and the bourgeois family, touches upon charmingly. It would have been a great and heart-warming film, but there are always “if”, “but” and “would”s – what Suresh Triveni presents is a zany bubble, an instantly likeable Sulu amidst a conventionality in an endearingly moving piece. [READ FULL REVIEW]
10. MERI PYAARI BINDU by Akshay Roy
This is a sweet romantic film which will take you through different emotions with its effectively structured narrative. Simple story of a writer trying to write his next book but drenched in his love for his neighbor Bindu, engaging screenplay, splendid performances by Ayushmann Khurana Parineeti Chopra and musical-lyrical delicacy by Sachin-Jigar takes the film on a higher note.
Tushar Kanti Ray beautifully captures the essence of Kolkata as well as Mumbai. The best moment of this year is undoubtedly: Mana Ke Hum Yaar Nahi. In the period of typical and loud love stories and dramas, Meri Pyaari Bindu is a sweet delicacy which can break you.
9. MUKTI BHAWAN by Shubhashish Bhutiani
The film makes you think about life, your inevitable death and your family at a certain point. The Screenplay is intriguing and close to routine since nothing is oversimplified or glamorized. The Director’s approach to keep it simple is effective as he adds skepticism and black humor to the depressing story. It was a heart-warming and heart-wrenching experience, where I was celebrating life through cinema. Director Shubhashish Bhutiani delivers a brilliant tale of life and death, a celebration of human life as well as old age. [READ FULL REVIEW]
8. THE HUNGRY by Bornila Chatterjee
With a slow paced drama, Bornila Chatterjee’s Shakespearean tragedy is insanely brilliant. It is lifted completely by the delectable performances of Nasseruddin Shah, Tisca Chopra and Neeraj Kabi. As the events go haywire, the story tightens the grip and inclines towards a grand climax. There’s a sense of inherent power within the characters. It was an awestruck(ing) moment when Bornila seeped in violence into the story of power and love. Background Score by Benedict Taylor is the soul of the dark tragedy. Cinematographer Nick Cooke paints up the elite society with beautiful colors.
7. BAREILLY KI BARFI by Ashwiny Iyer-Tiwari
In her second film, Ashwiny Iyer-Tiwari weaves a sweet and slice of (life) comedy. The tickling dialogues filled with local dialect and metaphors of some kind bound you throughout. With well-written characters which are captured beautifully especially the nuances, there is some invisible breeze flowing throughout the film making you fall in love in its world. It was Rajkummar Rao who stole the show, have you seen him dancing on a typical Bollywood song? With his versatility and innocence. And so is Pankaj Tripathi, what a fabulous performance! It’s a sweet film with commendable direction, phenomenal performances, brilliant writing and engaging screenplay. [READ FULL REVIEW]
6. TRAPPED by Vikramaditya Motwane
This survival drama is not an easy film on your appetite. You too get involved in Vikramaditya Motwane’s survival drama, managing to survive the crisis which might be yours, someday.
Shaurya (means courage) played the brilliant Rajkummar Rao is stuck in an empty high-rise apartment in the heart of Mumbai. Without water, electricity, food and with bunch of friends like cockroaches, ants and pigeons, Trapped is not a typical Bollywood film. This is a cinematic journey where the audience are involved. Two words for Rajkummar Rao- sheer excellence. The claustrophobic Cinematography by Siddharth Diwan and intriguing Sound Design by Anish John are the two major plus points of this high drama. Vikramaditya Motwane creates some relatable stunning mis-en-scene. You’ll be amazed by the term “edge-of-the-seat”.
5. JAGGA JASOOS by Anurag Basu
Anurag Basu should be applauded for daring to make such musical drama where every conversation is a song to cater the Indian audience (unlikely to accept such film). The film is executed brilliantly and shot beautifully by Ravi Varman where each shot/frame is a painting or a scene like a comic book. It’s a visual feast with magnificent direction and the mis-e-scenes are created with such excellence. Hats off! Almost a Broadway Musical it is! The multiple narratives and the transitions are interesting but the monotonous nature take them down. The film promotes peace in an unique way, need of the time. Overall, this is a Disney fairy-tale, believe it or not it forgets the story while being a visual feast. Its an unique attempt at a stereotypical plot, the Screenplay is so intriguing and amusing that it should be taught in Film Schools (haha).
4. AJJI by Devashish Makhija
The way Ajji’s character is written, patience-resilience-determination falling into place; similarly, the film falls high up on a cinematic experience level. The horrors of aftermath/rape are transformed gritty-ly without any pretentious written with a daunting Background Score by Mangesh Dhakde with a phenomenal performance by Sushama Deshpande. The brutal and horrifying stories which lie deep down in the society and are unheard of (keeping them unheard), terrifically “Granny” (Ajji) portrays the misogyny of the society. [READ FULL REVIEW]
3. NEWTON by Amit V Masurkar
In world’s biggest democracy, deep down where election booths are even set for one person, but the system is so malfunctioned that such people are devoid of any knowledge (illiteracy rate is high)- misery of the democracy or misery of people? Does it take one Newton or people like us to change the world? This is an ideal story and an unreal character like Newton which looks great on paper or to teach some a verbal lesson, but in this audio-visual medium the character takes over the idealism rationally. Let’s leave Rajkummar Rao aside for this film because every film he does he excels to a different level, take a bow! The scene-stealer is undoubtedly Pankaj Tripathi, his minute nuances of acting and dealing with every scene creatively smart is enthralling. [READ FULL REVIEW]
2. A DEATH IN THE GUNJ by Konkona Sen Sharma
And this film does the marvelous use of film-making, never done so aesthetically in an Indian film in the recent times. It’s a real and relatable family drama, bringing out the dark sides of everyone. The characters have so much depth and you feel for them. There’s a breeze of suspense and melancholy right from the first frame which hooks you. The narrative is at leisure for all the pleasure, it’s seductive and has the essence of Agatha Christie’s storytelling. Konkona Sen Sharma has done a compelling and a marvelous debut (director) as well as a film. What strikes you first is the apt and exotic setting of the periodical film. The intriguing but simple Cinematography, the frames talk and the lighting walks. The winter is captured effectively, which impacts the melancholy well on screen. Fused and classy background is top notch. There’s more, because every department has done such a terrific job which who can’t stop drooling: seldom an Indian film ensembles all film-making elements so efficiently. Vikrant Massey is the heart beat of the film, his pain will deeply haunt you. This is a subtle film, which has no candy floss scenes or over-the-top drama. Not everyone’s cup of tea, will leave you dissatisfied and stunned. If you want to experience a 107 minutes of tripping marvelous drama weaved with reality, then this is one masterpiece to watch.
1. OMERTA by Hansal Mehta
This is an intimate story of a character, a dark and inhumane to the world but has a drop of humanity inside him in a horrifying way. Based on the life of Omar Sheikh who takes up ‘jihad’ to serve justice to his brothers and sisters (in a violent way). His motivation is crystal clear while his doings are appealing but disturbing to a greater extent. In a character story like this, there isn’t any positive happening which one will root for. And Hansal Mehta just puts up a cinematic piece narrating a story without any preaching or message. It is psychological disturbing to witness such a strong negativism. With an engaging Screenplay and brilliant Direction, “Omerta” is a horrifying experience of humanistic approach. Rajkummar Rao is exceptionally riveting and nails every bit of it, watch out for the butchering scene of a prominent person- bizarre. What a performer!! Its like Omar Sheikh resides inside him or what?! Freaked me. An ensemble of the history mounted into the form of Cinema hits hard and please remember, its not for light-heart people, viewers may find it disturbing. [READ FULL REVIEW]
Looking forward to the 2018 releases….
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