2015 was arguably a good year for Hindi Cinema. Though there might not have been any landmark movies, but there were many brave attempts and I am sure a few of them will live long enough to be discussed on forums like these.One can never possibly compile the year’s best list. A movie, like love, is an extremely subjective experience. So I won’t say this is my list of year’s best films,but rather list of 10 films that engaged me sufficiently and a few of them left an impact deep enough to mull over them for days in a row.
1. TALVAR – It’s difficult not to sensationalize the recreation of events when you are telling a story based on an incident already brutalized by the voyeurism of electronic media. But trust Vishal Bharadwaj to write it like a procedural that presents the events in the most clinical way possible. As the story unfolds, the film gradually stops being just another mystery thriller and makes you raise more pertinent questions about the sanctity of legal processes in this country. Watch it for some of the year’s finest performances led from the front by Irrfan Khan.
Stand out moment – The nearly 20 minutes long climax where two sides try to debate it out as to whose investigative findings were more accurate. As they start taking jibes at each other and slowly turn the discussion into a joke, one can’t help lamenting the state of affairs in the highest corridors of power.
2. TITLI – In 2006, Dibakar Bannerjee’s Khosla Ka Ghosla introduced us to the quirky world of Delhi’s middle class people. Almost a decade later, his protégé Kanu Behl, takes us one stratum down the societal hierarchy, where the conflicts are more brutal and the resolutions mostly fatal. Shot in 16 mm,this crime drama, makes you feel the heat and grime of Delhi Summers as members of a family, all pushed against the wall, keep on spiraling down their moral compasses to give us the year’s most gut-wrenching film. Special mention for the much under-rated Ranveer Shorey.
Stand out moment – Titli convincing his wife and partner-in-crime, Neelu,about the need to fracture her arm in order to fake an accident. With every blow that Titli strikes on her tender arm we know deep down that he had set foot on the same path, he had been trying to escape all this while.
3. TAMASHA – Imtiaz Ali’s imperfect films have the same bittersweet incompletion that is there in an unrequited love. Hence we feel compelled to visit them again and again. The excellent use of non-linear narrative, the tribute to the world of folklores and mythologies, the celebration of heart-break through songs like Heer and Wat Wat Wat and the exhilarating performances of the lead pair – there is so much in the movie one can go on and on about. Having said all that, I believe the people who would most connect to the film are the ones who, as Ali himself puts it, talk to the mirror.
Stand out moment – When Ved’s father embraces his son finally recognizing his talent in captivating people through stories. “Yeh last wala hero mera favourite hai.”
4. DETECTIVE BYOMKESH BAKSHY – Dibakar Bannerjee not only brought the detective movie genre back into our consciousness but also did it with so much panache that one hardly misses the simplicity of the Saradindu Bandhopadhyay’s original series. Nikos Andritsakis’ beautifully under lit frames and a soundtrack tripping high on contemporary indie music ensure that we get a Calcutta that looks straight out of a graphic novel. The film is less of a whodunit and more of a ‘how-done-it’ as it seamlessly integrates the coming-of-age of a young detective into the narrative. A unibrowed Sushant Singh Rajput, playing the iconic title role, seldom disappoints!
Stand out moment – The climactic action sequence, shown largely through shadow play, playing against a fusion mix of soft rock and classical Indian thumri.
5. MASAAN – Another great directorial debut that talks of the conflicts and paradoxes prevalent in the lives we see around ourselves. Four lives get intertwined in the holy city of Benares each challenged by the rigid moral boundaries of the society. With Masaan, Neeraj Ghaywan brought back certain innocence in storytelling that we last witnessed in the films of Nagesh Kukunoor. Sanjay Mishra shows yet again how he is capable of being much more than just a comic relief as Vicky Kaushal makes the acting debut of the year. But the film belongs to Richa Chaddha as she deftly juxtaposes her character’s guilt and defiance and gives us one of the best-portrayed women characters in a long time.
Stand out moment – Deepak, numbed down by the death of his girlfriend,finally begins to open up under the influence of alcohol. What begins as venting out of personal grief slowly sucks you in with its larger existential question.“Yeh dard kahe nahi jaata hai…”
6. HUNTERRR – Most people I know, have consciously avoided watching the film assuming it to be yet another sex comedy relying heavily on innuendos for humour. But, director Harshvardhan Kulkarni gives us a coming-of-age story of an ordinary Punekar with an extraordinary appetite for sex. He is not the cool playboy conveniently played by Saif in umpteen films. He is the boy-next-door who goes for the ‘second best’ and lands up in trouble for the same making for the film’s numerous hilarious moments. Hunterrr is a story of men and women we know of and that is what makes the film stand out despite its many plot holes.
Stand out moment – Jyotsana having realized that Mandar was playing along all this while confronts him for one last time. She knows that her family and friends would judge her for the rest of her life. But there is a sense of forgiveness in her. Somewhere through that steamy affair, she had actually fallen in love.
7. DUM LAGA KE HAISHA – This story is not just about our many prejudices with the ‘beauty’ of plus size women. It is also about the acceptance of a wife more qualified than you are. It is about that newly wed wife speaking up her mind when she feels discriminated by her in-laws. And finally it is about how two wrongly matched people can still fall in love. Setting it in the U.P. of 90s,Sharat Katariya makes the story all the more believable. The leading man is flawed, yet you empathize with him in his vulnerable moments. The leading lady makes you root for her in her lingering pursuit of love from her husband.And then, there is Kumar Sanu.
Stand out moment – The Moh Moh Ke Dhaage song. Anu Malik makes a solid comeback equally aided by the lyrics of Varun Grover. A couple riding on Priya Scooter never looked more adorable before!
8. BADLAPUR – Sriram Raghavan, the best film-noir maker in the country,changes the very constructs of genre itself with this movie. Scene after scene,the writers blur the lines between our assumptions of good and evil in a film.Multiple characters, each capable of a separate spin-off story of their own,keep us engaged to the very end. But the film belongs to Nawaazudin Siddique as his character, that begins as yet another manipulative low-life,transforms into someone who finally conveys the larger theme of forgiveness and redemption underlying in the story.
Stand out moment –The opening scene, a oner, shows how a mundane day in one’s life can suddenly go wrong! As the title reinforces “Don’t miss the beginning.”
9. BABY – Akshay Kumar, easily one of the industry’s most gifted actors, has found a trusted lieutenant in Neeraj Pandey and Baby tells us why. His straight-faced unflappable Ajay carries the film on his broad shoulders,strongly supported by some realistically choreographed action sequences that keep the proceedings tense. With generous doses of humour and sharp one-liners, Pandey manages to weave a taut thriller that makes us overlook the film’s many logical flaws.
Stand out moment – The hand-to-hand combat sequence between undercover agent Priya and the terrorist aide Waseem Khan in a Kathmandu hotel. There is something strangely empowering in watching a female actor kick some ass with such authenticity in a Hindi film.
10. TANU WEDS MANU RETURNS – Rarely has a sequel outshone the first installment as much as this film. Months after having watched Kangana’s performance, one is still left wondering if it was the same actor who played both the roles. Himanshu Sharma, the writer, deserves equal credit for smattering up the narrative with dialogues that made the audience erupt with instant applause. Special mention for music director Krsna for giving us a chartbuster in the rehash of the popular Rajasthani folk song Banno.
Stand out moment – The first encounter between the two Kanganas. As Datto shatters the many definitions we subconsciously associate with modern women, Tanuja is left shaken as much as a few of us sitting in the audience.