As we close to the tip of 2021, one of the vital tough, laden with death-and-despondence years that we’ve managed in some way to lurch by way of, this could lastly be stated: the wrestle for Bollywood to remain related has by no means been extra actual. It’s not solely the long closure of theatres throughout a number of lockdowns which has been an issue. It’s additionally that there have been barely any movies worthy of our time, pandemic or no pandemic. And that, really, is the nub. For this ritual look-back which entails pinpointing the perfect of Bollywood, I used to be onerous put to decide on: nearly each movie that I’ve actually favored this 12 months has been non-Bollywood, whether or not it’s been in an Indian or overseas language.

The big-ticket Bollywood biggies, helmed by Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and John Abraham (Radhe, Sooryavanshi, Satyameva Jayate 2) have been drained, trashy retreads of the identical previous combat of excellent vs evil, chest-thumping jingoism, enjoying the majoritarian-minority-othering card, and invincible hero-giri. They might have pulled out a pandemic-stricken trade from a darkish gap, however when it comes to cinematic worth, they offered zero accretion.

‘Bell Bottom’ is about the one big-budget starry Bollywood extravaganza I loved this 12 months; ‘Shershaah’ wasn’t all the best way constant, however its honest, close to non-jingoistic re-telling of the life and loss of life of a conflict hero was noteworthy. Still ready for Kabir Khan’s ‘83, Atrangi Re, and Jersey, though: we’ll see what we’ll see.

Meanwhile, listed below are the handful of Hindi movies, listed in no explicit order, which caught my consideration, in a great way. None of those movies are with out flaws, however they’re these which tried freshness, and gave us new voices.

Raat Akeli Hai

Honey Trehan’s ‘Raat Akeli Hai’ is a brilliant refresh of the small-town-murder-mystery-laced-with-sexual-intrigue. An aged groom is discovered murdered on his wedding ceremony night time. There are suspects strewn in all places, crammed with oppressed ladies, jealous males, a rocky inheritance, sins of the previous, and street-smart cops studying on the job. Who dun it? A standout efficiency from Nawazuddin Siddiqui is a bonus.

Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar

Dibakar Banerji’s Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, starring Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor with gender-bending names, revisits among the director’s acquainted issues. The weight of masculinity, the shifting sands of morality, the issue of going straight in a crooked world. The opening sequence pulls you in immediately: have you ever been on a Delhi/NCR highway late at night time, being chased by an SUV stuffed with entitled Jat hooligans? You will always remember it, for those who survive. The movie unravels considerably because it progresses, however like I’ve at all times maintained, a Dibakar Banerji movie, even one which doesn’t hit all its marks, will at all times be on my listing.

Ramprasad Ki Tehravi

Ramprasad Ki Tehravi performs out in a home of mourning, someplace in UP. The patriarch has handed away, leaving a joint household biting on the jib. The politics of loss of life is fascinating, and debutant director Seema Bhargava does an excellent job of making real looking characters: who, if anybody, really grieves? Who has proven up strictly to control how the household fortunes can be divvied up? Who has the suitable to talk in poor health of the useless? It’s morbid however humorous, and Konkona Sen Sharma because the outsider ‘bahu’ who won’t be a part of the opposite daughters-in-law toiling away within the kitchen (the toughest labored spot in this sort of household whether or not it’s a marriage or a funeral), catches your eye.


‘Sherni’ is a double-edged title, referring to the massive cats which can be at risk in our forests, that are themselves being denuded by greed and callousness, and the human guardian who fights like a tigress to avoid wasting every little thing. Just like his earlier ‘Newton’, Amit Masurkar comes up with a movie whose messaging is spot on — that four-legged animals are a lot much less harmful than two legged ones– even when it wobbles in bits. It additionally provides Vidya Balan one other full-bodied position to discover, and despite the fact that she is a bit more outlined than the others for her starry worth, she offers heft to the film.


The time when Bollywood bio-pics unpick the unlovely, unglamorous sides of their topics may be very distant. Till then we’ll need to be content material with a movie with the ability to re-create time and place with a level of authenticity. Thalaivi’s selection of Kangana Ranaut to play the controversial however omnipotent Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jaylalitha could also be questionable on the grounds of the being-Tamilian-speaking-Tamil metrics. But in the best way Ranaut makes the character her personal, all doubts are dispelled. She performs it with authority, sweeping apart all opposition. Just like the girl she performs. Fully meta. Oh, and Arvind Swamy is pleasant as MGR, JJ’s mighty mentor and extra. We really want to see extra of him.

Sardar Udham

Shoojit Sircar’s bio-pic ‘Sardar Udham’ takes its time, typically feeling like an excessive amount of time, to construct a portrait of its chosen topic. A interval piece takes quite a lot of doing, and we see complete dedication to the re-creation of the slice of colonial India the movie is about in, with lengthy tracts in London and pre-Partition Punjab. To pull off a personality whose the Aristocracy grows as he goes alongside, and who doesn’t flaunt the obligatory musculature demanded by mainstream Bollywood, in addition to the loud flag-waving demanded by New India, is a troublesome ask. Sircar’s Udham Singh is a hero we will imagine in. And the tragedy of Jallianwala Bagh, as seen by way of Vicky Kaushal’s shocked, too-numb-to-grieve eyes is heartbreaking. And unforgettable.

Adarsh Gourav in The White Tiger

Ramin Bahrani’s ‘The White Tiger’, primarily based on Arvind Adiga’s novel of the identical title, is a few younger man who claws his approach out of abject poverty to climb the slippery pole of newly-created wealth born out of a pointy, street-smart thoughts. Rajkummar Rao, Priyanka Chopra (who additionally has an govt producer credit score), Mahesh Manjrekar all have vital elements within the movie, however the one you are taking house is Adarsh Gourav who performs the eponymous Balram Halwai with a mix of seething anger and unctuousness, making it among the finest performances of the 12 months.

Shall I allow you to right into a secret? Plain unhealthy movies are literally simpler to deal with than those that disappoint, and nothing dissatisfied me greater than Yashraj Films’ ‘Bunty Aur Babli 2’, starring Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukerji. The two con-artists from the unique B&B, Saif stepping in for Abhishek Bachchan (whom I sorely missed), at the moment are middle-aged and thick-waisted. A few newbies throw down a glove, and our unique Bunty and Babli decide up the problem and provides chase. This four-hander ought to have been a zinger, however not one factor, and I’ll repeat this, not one factor, or aspect, or character on this misguided mess of a film comes wherever close to the primary, which wasn’t precisely Oscar worthy within the first place however received away with its cockiness and silliness as a result of it had full confidence in itself. And this, from a legacy Bollywood studio. No enjoyable, hun.

It was a lot simpler and rather more rewarding to select the movies from the fiercely unbiased house, or different elements of India, which gave me pleasure. Again, an inventory in no explicit order.

The Disciple

Chaitanya Tamhane’s ‘The Disciple’ takes a deep musical dive right into a world of shastriya sangeet, gurus and shishyas and paramparas. It is a uniquely Indian approach of instructing and imparting studying, and we’re witness to the very explicit lifestyle that makes the bond between scholar and trainer each sacred and sacrosanct, however the energy dynamics that the movie gently however inexorably unfolds are common. Can a trainer fully give all his/her secrets and techniques away? How lengthy can a scholar, particularly one whose entire life is certain by the guru’s whims and fancies, look ahead to his break-out second? Tamhane’s earlier ‘Court’ nonetheless stays my favorite of the 2, however ‘The Disciple’ took me, as I’m certain it did others, on a journey whose narrowing circularity looks like actual life. Not everybody will get to the stage the place they will personal the stage. But music sustains.

Fire In The Mountains

I watched Ajitpal Singh’s movingly rendered ‘Fire In The Mountains’ early this 12 months, and I nonetheless bear in mind every twist and switch of the mountain paths that its lead protagonist Chandra (Vinamrata Rai) takes. She carries her burden, a drunken husband, an deserted sister-in-law, a teenage daughter on the verge of turning into wayward, and a son confined to a wheelchair with admirable stoicism. Her never-give-up spirit turns into a beacon, even when different spirits are whistled up.

The Great Indian Kitchen

‘The Great Indian Kitchen’, directed by Jeo Baby, has irony steeped in its title. Set in Kerala, it’s a few man and a lady, and the way generations of patriarchy have seeped by way of the very partitions of their home and made its approach into the kitchen. Nimisha Sajayan’s exhausted spouse spends all her waking hours attempting to prepare dinner and feed her husband (Suraj Vejaramoodu) and father-in-law; the latter not solely take it with no consideration that they are going to be served hand and foot, they transfer not a single muscle to assist clear up. That’s additionally a lady’s job, isn’t it? As is dutiful intercourse within the bed room. The climactic break-through, despite the fact that overwritten, feels well-earned and cathartic.


‘Joji’, a Macbeth remake, options Fahad Faasil because the titular character, written by Syam Pushkaran and directed by Dileesh Pothan. Meek, weak engineering scholar Joji, performed by Faasil, lives in a big homestead along with his domineering father, nonetheless as sturdy as a bull in his mid-70s. Two different brothers and a sister-in-law are beneath the previous man’s thumb. What if he dies? What if his loss of life is engineered? Innocence, guilt and the determined makes an attempt at redemption are on show on this morality story, helmed by the trio who’ve given us among the most interesting latest movies from Kerala.

Joji is helmed by Dileesh Pothan (Photo: Amazon Prime Video)

The movies under are nonetheless not out, both in theatres or on streaming platforms; be careful after they do.

Pebbles ( Koozhangal)

‘Pebbles (Koozhangal)’, nominated as the great Indian hope for the Oscars, is a debut function which feels as if it has been organically sprung from the very earth it’s set upon. The cracked, blistered heels of its protagonists, father and son, match the cracks and blisters of the bone-dry floor they stroll on. This is an image of a bunch of dirt-poor individuals in rural Tamil Nadu and their excessive lives (rats are caught and devoured) executed with absolute empathy. Stands to cause, as a result of the director P S Vinothraj, (as does Ajitpal Singh for Fire In The Mountains) picks up the strands of his story from his life. We really feel the warmth, and the beat, each step of the best way.


‘Pedro’, from self-taught filmmaker Natesh Hegde, is one other debut function which looks like life itself. The unintended killing of a cow in a tiny Karnataka village results in many fronts opening up directly: how does a person who has labored with dwell electrical wires all his life and borne its scars, save himself from the costs that inimical people lump upon him? Hegde’s digicam stays nonetheless, and the movie is a brilliantly noticed drama about how every little thing occurs when nothing appears to occur. It can also be an image of India right now, the place bigotry and blame-games have taken over our landscapes. How can anybody escape?

Shankar’s Fairies

Irfana Majumdar’s ‘Shankar’s Fairies’ is a beautiful nostalgia-doused image of childhood laced with reminiscences of an India of the 60s, when the nation was nonetheless attempting to determine which authority figures to comply with: the British might have left in 1947, however within the early 60s, there have been massive bastions which proudly flaunted the ‘burra sahib’ spirit. As just a little woman and her grownup companion, the household retainer, spend time collectively, she learns many issues, particularly that whereas not everyone seems to be created equal, fairies are ceaselessly.

Barah By Barah

‘Barah By Barah’, by Gaurav Madan, is a few metropolis and its individuals in a state of nice flux, attempting to take care of relentless change. Whether you name it Benaras or Varanasi, it doesn’t matter. It is a metropolis of nice antiquity, and a magnet for seekers world wide: it’s as simple to identify a world famend bansuri participant on the ghats in addition to the person who will aid you take the physique of the one you love to the pyre. How does a ‘death photographer’, a person who makes his residing photographing the useless, fare in a world that has switched to mobile phone cameras? The movie makes you assume.

Once Upon A Time In Calcutta

‘Once Upon A Time In Calcutta’, directed by Aditya Vikram Sengupta, has the same concern in the best way it captures the previous spirit of this historic metropolis, nonetheless languishing in pockets. Like the crumbling theatre whose proprietor refuses to promote. Like the individuals who work within the gig financial system, ladies who supply magnificence providers at properties, males who seduce individuals to half with their hard-earned financial savings within the hope of a fats jackpot, people who get in transactional relationships to get what they need. We know that point doesn’t stand nonetheless, whether or not you insist on calling Calcutta, or Cal, or have adopted its new moniker, Kolkata.

Once Upon A Time in Calcutta Once Upon A Time in Calcutta is impressed by true occasions, individuals and pictures of Kolkata.

The subsequent two movies are mainstream-with-a-difference, simply among the many better of 2021. They show that the mainstream might be {powerful}, too, given the suitable intention and execution.

Jai Bhim

One of probably the most, if not probably the most, harrowing and impactful movies this 12 months was ‘Jai Bhim’. The atrocities heaped upon the decrease castes is a type of mainstream cinema staples that’s thrown in for color, most frequently as a ‘problem’ for the ‘hero’ to unravel and really feel huge. In this movie, starring Suriya, the atrocities aren’t a side-bar; they’re the primary act. The Irula tribe, historically snake and rat catchers, have been on the unsuitable finish of the stick for many years: considered one of them is wrongfully accused of theft and flung into jail. While his spouse, performed with nice grit by Lijomol Jose, fights for his release with the assistance of human rights lawyer Chandru (Suriya), the police unleash brutal torture within the lock-up. It is difficult to have a look at the barrage of beatings and the intimidation; it’s equally necessary that we don’t look away. This, now we have been advised, isn’t as unhealthy as it could get in actual life. What might be worse than this? ‘Jai Bhim’ confronts us with tough questions, doesn’t paper them over for mainstream functions, and doesn’t allow us to shut our eyes.

Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana

‘Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana’, directed by the prolific Raj B Shetty, is a mouthful of a film. It can also be among the finest iterations of a gangsta flick I’ve seen shortly. Set in Mangaluru, it’s about two boys who develop into shut mates and allies: there’s nothing in frequent between the horribly overwhelmed and left-for-dead Shiva and Hari, the obedient son of a powerful single mom, however their ties are stronger than blood. The legendary overtones are sturdy. Hari is the begetter, Shiva is the destroyer, and the third angle to their triangle, Brahmayya is the one who creates/ protects, and between the three, they’re an invincible pressure. But gangs are supposed to be damaged, and slowly however certainly, the dissipation begins. The writing and course, and the creation of characters, is spot on; it’s onerous to discover a second that feels extraneous.

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