2017 has been termed a disaster year for Hindi cinema. And it was – especially for the star-laden, big-budget movies. But a slew of small films – small in budget but big on ideas and craft – conquered. Here’s my list of the top 5:
5: Shubh Mangal Saavdhan by R. S. Prasanna
A delightful film about erectile dysfunction – did you ever think you would hear those words in the same sentence? Shubh Mangal Saavdhan had wonderful performances by Ayushmann Khurrana, Bhumi Pednekar, Seema Pahwa and Brijendra Kala. I will never forget the use of a limp biscuit to demonstrate a ‘gents problem’.
4: Anaarkali of Aarah by Avinash Das
How much control does a woman who provocatively sings raunchy songs in front of leering men have over her own body? Director Avinash Das says 100 percent. So Anaarkali might titillate with her words and actions but when she says no, it’s no. The film’s plot was a little contrived but Pankaj Tripathi’s unassuming presence, Swara Bhaskar’s brilliant performance as Anaarkali and the thundering climax made it one of my favourites. Not many people saw it in the theatre but I urge you to find it on Netflix.
3: Lipstick Under My Burkha by Alankrita Shrivastava
Firstly, I want to thank Alankrita Shrivastava for reminding us that middle-aged women are also sexual beings with desires and fantasies. This story of four ordinary women who seek small joys was buoyed by wonderful performances – especially by Ratna Pathak Shah as Buaji who finds pleasure in naughty novels and a swimming instructor. This was one of the finest performances of the year.
2: A Death In The Gunj by Konkona Sensharma
A masterful portrait of small slights and casual cruelties that leads to tragedy. Debutant director Konkona Sensharma tells the story of a lost, vulnerable 23-year-old boy. The film has a great ensemble cast including Kalki Koechlin, the late Om Puri and Ranvir Shorey. But the heartbeat is Vikrant Massey as Shutu. This was a film to be savoured.
1: Newton by Amit V Masurkar
A film that is at once, a dark, biting comedy but also, the heart-breaking portrait of a man who wants to do an honest day’s work and a scathing critique of the state of Indian democracy. This story of an election in the jungles of Chhattisgarh had terrific performances by Rajkummar Rao, the ever reliable Pankaj Tripathi, Raghubir Yadav and Anjali Patil. Newton’s fight against the system was searing and memorable.
And a special mention of some of the other films I enjoyed –
Shubhashish Bhutiani’s Mukti Bhawan, Vikramaditya Motwane’s Trapped, the documentary An Insignificant Man by Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s Bareilly Ki Barfi and a film only I seem to have loved – Meri Pyaari Bindu!