2018, a game changer year which witnessed a seismic shift in Bollywood in terms of commercial viability and storytelling.

Note: The list includes films released/screened at the theaters, film festivals and on the streaming platforms. Hansal Mehta’s Omerta, Shlok Sharma’s Zoo and Dipesh Jain’s Gali Guleiyan/In The Shadows were considered last year.

Honorable Mentions:
Prosit Roy’s Pari | Deb Medhekar’s Bioscopewala
Akshat Verma’s Kaalakaandi | Akarsh Khurrana’s Karwaan
Lust Stories
by Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar & Zoya Akhtar

Special Mention | NAMDEV BHAU: In Search of Silence by Dar Gai

In Namdev Bhau, Director Dar Gai explores the state of psyche through sound – it’s like a storm slow-burning a silent solace. Namdev Bhau is an unpretentious film whose merit lies in characteristics of Namdev, an observation of a real life character weaved intricately. It’s as humorous as it’s intricate, since it exquisitely plays in a sumptuous manner. It’s a resonating film which talks about urban alienation and globalization in subtle context amidst finding peace.

15. SANJU by Rajkumar Hirani 

Incisively, Rajkumar Hirani’s Sanju is a relationship drama fissured with anecdotal sequences revolving around Sanjay Dutt’s encounter with the outside world. Writers Abhijat Joshi and Hirani impart both sides of the coin, eventually whitewashing. Sanju barely touches the character psyche, rather we get a meta-performance by Ranbir Kapoor playing an actor and a humanising story. It’s about writing trick, how to propel a flawed story into a courageous drama – unapologetically accepting it as Rajkumar Hirani’s weakest film.

14. BHAVESH JOSHI SUPERHERO by Vikramaditya Motwane

Writers Vikramaditya, Anurag Kashyap and Abhay Koranne vent out the frustration against the ugly politics and civic system in an elaborative manner. Priyanshu Painyuli is a gem, who delivers a tonally rich performance and a character that you often come across during protests. It’s highly earnest, sincere, full of angst and matured in its presentation; if one crusades the pacing, a compelling film worth your attention.

13. STREE by Amar Kaushik

Stree is not a perfect film, but bears perfect notion of metaphor stating feminism, chauvinism and misogyny. It is one of the subversive films on the lines of last year’s The House Next Door and Academy Award-winner Get Out, but it’s more interesting in genre: horror comedy. Though it worked strictly in parts – a terrific cast including reliable Rajkummar Rao and triumphant Pankaj Tripathi stole the thunder. I would’ve liked if it remained as folklore and spread its social wings but then, I fairly know the need to spoon-feed or dumb down. And Stree needed to reach an audience whose thoughts are mirrored here and wonders at Box-Office prove it.

12. MARD KO DARD NAHI HOTA by Vasan Bala

An out-and-out whacky entertainer. It’s such a resonating film for someone like me who has grown up watching Jackie Chan and Rocky, that too with grandparents. Presented with a rhythmic pattern and lit in sunny colours of a comic-book by Cinematographer Jay I. Patel. Karan Kulkarni’s zany soundtrack trends a cinematic crescendo, the pop music steadily transports into a pulpy zone. “I felt like Rocky Balboa”, possibly sums up the extravagant feel post a whacky adventure.

11. LOVE PER SQUARE FOOT by Anand Tiwari

Rooted in Bollywood hangover featuring typical songs, one explaining “Ishq”, but it doesn’t mar the narrative. This isn’t a flawless film, it’s a well-made film with the heart in the right place. Even though it is a bit stretched, there are little moments which play a larger role leaving a grin and tinge of satisfaction. Building the foundations on buying a house and later on love might be a complex issue, which depicts the chaos of the city, lack of space, understanding and eventually, strong bonds – it balances between cheesiness and with a touch of heartfelt reality.

10. PATAAKHA by Vishal Bhardwaj

For 2 hours 15 minutes, you witness the tamasha of brawling sisters in somewhat monotonous yet thoroughly entertaining narrative. Pataakha is an exaggeration, in terms of plot and character – it’s too loud but the sound reaches the maximum decibel without driving away the point. And isn’t a firecracker loud? It depicts a fiery sibling rivalry which comes with spiteful hatred – and also stands as an analogy for India-Pakistan. There’s a rustic, raw and untempered flavor, a novelty which spices a dynamic essence; while distinct dialect tickles the funny bone.

09. LAILA MAJNU by Sajid Ali

Laila Majnu is a retelling of timeless classic which offers a true Bollywood romance with its glorious flaws – is achingly heartfelt. Ali Brothers admire and respect Laila-Majnu while revamping into the contemporary Kashmir, bringing alive a true romance on the cinematic canvas. Irshad Kamil’s lyrical ballads come with simplicity which instantly touches upon the soul, he is the real storyteller. The song narrative was stronger, which syncs the romantic narrative and completely soaks the soul only in the second half. Laila Majnu sparkles because true love demands a mystical madness.

08. MULK by Anubhav Sinha 

Anubhav Sinha’s Mulk is a reflection of the present India, highly sensitive in its approach is a hard-hitting verbose venture. Released in August, when patriotic films are at galore – Mulk’s effective voice in socio-political-religious chaos is powerful. Anubhav Sinha vehemently argues against common prejudices, encounters propaganda of hate efficiently with facts and emotion. Although, too manipulative and convenient in its storytelling – it successfully achieves the purpose and intent in the dark cynical times. Rishi Kapoor and Tapsee Pannu hold the perceptive drama with impressive performances. Sinha’s conviction in narrating a powerful tale is visible throughout, he dares to tell a story which not many filmmakers would want to associate themselves with.

07. MANMARZIYAN by Anurag Kashyap

Anurag Kashyap’s Manmarziyaan is a hedonistic flamboyant romance, where he seeks exuberance through the character-driven plot. Manmarziyaan flows gradually, often predictable as it patiently unfolds while ending on a vulnerable note – it doesn’t disappoint. It’s an understanding between the characters which Anurag Kashyap remarkably comprehends with his versatility. It is an oscillation between the duality, maturity and complexity of the relationships. Kanika Dhillon’s script is largely derived from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008), but its the layers and the simmering which makes Manmarziyaan stand tall.

06. MANTO by Nandita Das

Manto is all about the underlying subtext, director Nandita Das thoughtfully articulates the anguish and anger of writer Saadat Hasan Manto. She brings the unspoken thoughts and motives of Manto on-screen by blending fact and fiction. With fiction, she impressively choses to submerge Manto’s five hard-hitting short stories sprouting a seamless narrative for an internal as well as external divide/conflict to unfurl. At trial for obscenity, Saadat Hasan Manto exclaims, “My stories are mirrors for the society to see itself” – Manto was a subtext writer.

05.  OCTOBER by Shoojit Sircar 

October isn’t an escapist cinema, it’s a heart-wrenching as well as heart-warming poetic piece of work, unrequited. There’s a poetic rhythm in Juhi Chaturvedi’s writing – the stillness and silence sync with the flow of the narrative. And it’s well-woven by Shoojit Sircar’s nuanced direction skills. Cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay lends an ethereal and perfect atmosphere to engulf. To churn out such a poignant film needs guts; there’s a conflict between inter-personal and intra-personal beliefs, it comes with a resilient tone. Varun Dhawan has reinvented himself with a restrained performance with complexities and innate child-like behavior, his finest performance till date (debatable with Badlapur).

04. TUMBBAD by Rahi Anil Barve

Rahi Anil Barve’s haunting demon unleashing narrative spikes interest with its simple substance, an amalgamation of folktale mounted with an extraordinary production scale where horror lies in details. Tumbbad is work of style over substance, yet the substance never dilutes – intact, the simplistic nature delivers spikes. It’s substance is morality which has an intelligent Screenplay, entices about how greed can be malicious and how a surreal illusion can be poured out on celluloid. Tumbbad slowly reveals its frames where grey couldn’t be distinguished between the atmosphere and the characters; a definitive insane piece of work which dwells in psyche as well as visual. 

03. MUKKABAAZ by Anurag Kashyap

“The Brawler” leaps forward than refraining itself into the fortress of subtlety. It works in layers – there’s a visual story, there’s a written story, there’s a boxing metaphor, and then there’s the propulsive soundtrack which uplifts the film. Anurag Kashyap explicitly presents the symbolism having his signature in the commercial and formulaic film over-and-over again. The female protagonist is mute, termed to have “no box” in her throat by the rising boxer. There’s a critical angle to the muteness, it’s the society, the females trapped in the patriarchal society and also it’s the caste system which are terrified and oppressed by power. There’s even the romantic track which takes place when the protagonist is punching few guys as he falls in love.

02. JAOON KAHAN BATA AE DIL by Aadish Keluskar

Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil is an intimate story of a couple who drift through clichéd spaces in space-less Mumbai exploring love and lust. Aadish Keluskar’s stifling intervention into dark spaces is choking, in a hard-hitting way. With limited locations like Marine Drive, Irani Cafe, shoddy lodge and even a theater – it portrays numerous stories of underdog couples in similar situations. There’s a dangerous conflict where it engulfs the inner devil, while Keluskar smartly tries to unmask the devil within the audience. Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil is equivalent to a mephistophelian, which ends on a fiendish note digs into harsh reality in a developing country – where reality and thoughts travel backwards.

01. ANDHADHUN by Sriram Raghavan

Andhadhun is the cinematic symphony of writing and witnessing a thriller, where grey rises in the realms of black-and-white. It steps beyond being a whodunit or whydunit thriller by constantly twisting and engaging, a rare feat in an understated genre in Bollywood. Writers put predictability and trust at stake, with director Sriram Raghavan’s audacity of intricately presenting a taut thriller. It’s witty as well as intelligent while providing wholesome entertainment. It’s like a symphony, the more patient and attentive you’re, the more it submerges within. Doesn’t have a racy pace and a deliberate chaos might act as a speed-breaker for a seamless viewing. But then, like symphony isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – Andhadhun adheres to the attentive viewer. It’s the pulp which thoroughly keeps you at edge-of-the-seat.

That’s a wrap for 2018.

Copyright ©2018 Ninad Kulkarni. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.


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