2018 will go down as a year where variety was the name of the game. The year will be particularly remembered for a few standout trends in particular: One – it was a reboot for the horror genre towards the better, Two – A-list directors pushed the bar on not catering to the typical comfort zone of the Indian cine-goer irrespective of the genre, Three – the budgets of the mega star movies did not decide their box-office success, Four – Real life incidents & people dictated stories on screen though each one of them wasn’t necessarily honest, and Five – the year marked the beginning of serious movie content being developed exclusively for digital, something that is bound to see explosive growth in the years to come. Clearly, there were a lot of movies that contributed to these trends, and some of them appeared as top class, finding their very deserving place in the Best Hindi Films of 2018.
Before we get there, here is quickly looking at a few films that turned out as real Missed Opportunities for me. These are not bad films necessarily, but the expectations from them (either due to credentials of the cast / crew associated with the project, or the hype around them) was tremendous, and the films did not do justice to them. This includes Nandita Das’s Manto, which was ‘designed’ to be an great film but its ambition compromised on its soul; Vikramaditya Motwane’s Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, which could have been a milestone film of its genre but could not rise above the execution fallacies, Amar Kaushik’s Stree that wanted to be a genre bender in its subversive sub-text of empowerment but fell in its own trap of a very casual treatment, and Sajid Ali’s Laila Majnu, which like its protagonist was in love with the concept of love but faltered in its execution. I really wish the films had more in them to connect with me.
And then there were films that I really enjoyed watching and definitely deserve an Honorable Mention for all the entertainment and satisfaction that they provided. This includes Netflix’s anthology film Lust Stories, that dealt with a bold take on Lust from the woman’s point of view and had two brilliant shorts by Zoya Akhtar and Dibakar Banerjee; Sharat Kataria’s predictable but thoroughly entertaining Sui Dhaaga – Made in India that imbibed its tag line of Sab Badhiya Hain to the tee in spite of minor issues; Deb Medhekar’s Bioscopewala that adapted the Rabindranath Tagore’s classic into a fresh modern tale without compromising on the aesthetics; Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi that had a surprisingly subtle and sensitive take of patriotism staying clear of jarring jingoistic overtones, however falling short on scripting loopholes; Onir’s Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz, a delightfully refreshing film basking in languishing nostalgia and a heartfelt tale of emotions; and Abhishek Kapoor’s Kedarnath, a film that delivered its romance fresh and pristine but got convoluted in the tonality of the drama. Overall, all of these were good films and could have easily come in to take a top ten spot had the competition around them not been so strong, or had they pushed their own bar a little higher!
And now let us look at the films that stole the thunder away from these and are the deserving top ten best films of 2018. Each of them had a very unique story to tell, stand strong on their convictions and have tremendous repeat value. Excerpts from their reviews are quoted to summarize why they worked so well, and their detailed review links are also provided wherever available:
10. ONCE AGAIN | Director – Kanwal Sethi : “I have a sense that reactions to this film are going to be polarized and rightfully so, because an unconventional love story like this honestly deserved a better writing. But this film will work wonderfully for a few purely because of the atmospherics it is able to establish and the unassuming and irresistible charm of its protagonists in their search for themselves beyond the mundane. Their story deserves a chance, it desires to be loved, and has worked its way to get mine. I will definitely end up watching them Once Again!” – Read the complete review here.
09. TUMBBAD | Director – Rahi Anil Bavre : “Having said all this, there is still a lot to like in Tumbbad. An evocative visual experience like this laden with metaphorical subtext has definitely raised the bar of the horror genre in India and has earned its dedicated special fan base in its own right. And it feels great when such a niche but spectacular film gets a 70%+ occupancy on a weekday of its third week! Guess what, greed for good cinema isn’t such a bad thing after all!” – Read the complete review here.
08. MUKKABAAZ | Director – Anurag Kashyap : “And yet, when the most impactful parts of the film is the power packed long opening shot in the beginning, and the absolutely realistic end followed by a terrific closing titles frame, you know the film has lost you in the middle.. Anurag Kashyap knocks the ball out of the park with the end message of what happens as life goes on.. and Bharat Mata ki Jai never felt more relevant on the cine screen before this! Kudos for that brilliant end.. Wish the same could be true evenly and as powerfully for the entire film!” – Read the complete review here.
07. PATAAKHA | Director – Vishal Bharadwaj : “The sparkle of Vishal Bharadwaj’s latest oddball comedy lies in the fact that in spite of riding on a wafer thin plot about two loud squabbling sisters who themselves do not know what do they fight for, the film keeps one fairly entertained and hooked at large, generating frequent chuckles and raising pertinent thoughts on futility of war at the same time. The quirky, dark and situational comedy plays out well primarily because of the authentic milieu it is able to create powered by terrific writing, great performances by the entire ensemble, in sync background score, and great attention to detail in building up the rustic charm.” – Read the complete review here.
06. PARI | Director – Prosit Roy : Pari revolutionized the genre of horror in Hindi cinema like nothing else before, and Anushka Sharma led the charge from the front, stepping totally out of her comfort zone. It was path-breaking for an A-lister to play the devil on screen, and the story became so much more fascinating as the brutality and grotesqueness of the devil got humanized with love, emotions and basic goodness for the mankind. Led by solid performances and a deeply empathetic take on relationships, Pari flourished as the angel within the devil, a milestone film for keeps! Unfortunately, a detailed review was not done as it was watched later on Digital.
05. MULK | Director – Anubhav Sinha : “Yes, the tonality does go high at places as already talked about, but it does not overpower the depth of the message for a moment, and that is where the film succeeds. It also succeeds because the writing is so strong and is surprisingly neutral to point out issues across both ends of the religious divide without taking sides. Hence it pleads the human side of every single individual to rise above the ‘us’ and ‘them’ and unite as ‘we’ – We who can build the nation together, we who can protect it together, and we who can see the basic goodness in everyone around us leaving behind our every single prejudice.” – Read the complete review here.
04. BADHAAI HO | Director – Amit Sharma : “Its great to see that a well made film like Badhaai Ho is doing so well at the box office. It can be a lot of encouragement for films that want to deliver important social messages based on clean entertaining humour and engaging free flowing effective drama without getting preachy, over the top, cheap or melodramatic. After all, this is the kind of cinema Bollywood needs and we deserve. Lets welcome this bundle of joy with open arms and all the love.”. And yes, did I tell you that the senior Kaushiks, who share a world full of affection, understanding & mutual respect, told us the love story of this year? – Read the complete review here.
03. ANDHADHUN | Director – Sriram Raghavan : “Satyajit Ray was of the opinion that in order for suspense stories to retain their repeat watching pleasures, they need to camouflage themselves into thrillers rather than mysteries, and the focus has to shift to Why rather than Who and How. Shriram Raghavan seems to have followed the Master’s advice to the tee here. There is so much more to this film than what simply meets the eye and you question every single Why. It almost gives you the option to believe what you see, can’t see or don’t want to see. It almost gives you the liberty to use your vulnerability to protect yourself, whether you are the hunter or the hunted. And it leaves you with the thought that your weakness also gives you your position of strength – of deeper focus and of broader perspective.” – Read the complete review here.
02. MANMARZIYAAN | Director – Anurag Kashyap : “Its exactly this grey shade of love that Anurag Kashyap is interested in exploring, and quite naturally so. Nothing is as complicated and convoluted as love, nothing is as illogical and whimsical as love, nothing is as treacherous and devastating as love, and yet nothing is as pacifying and inspiring as love. It surprises me hence that someone like Kashyap actually took so long to make a full-fledged feature on matters of the heart and the dark complexities of relationships; but when he does it finally, he does it like no one else. Thank you Anurag Kashyap for this brilliantly flavorful and delicious take on love, doesn’t matter if it is Pyaar or Fyaar. With Manmarziyaan, you have made one of your most well-orchestrated and adequately crafted films to date, making it very organic in its complexities without going overboard on any of the cinematic tropes.” – Read the complete review here.
01. OCTOBER | Director – Shoojit Sircar : “There are films about uncompromising affection, chilling pain, or life as it happens in its complete glory or drudgery; and there is October which is all of this stitched together as an unforgettable personal experience of melancholy! Pain so unspoken, pain that stays away from any form of melodrama by miles, and yet pain so choking and affecting that it leaves you totally numb! And its how this pain sucks you in to become a part of the very personal journey of everyone around a delicately fragrant October flower is what sets October apart. Apart in tone and texture from anything that has been seen on the hindi cinema screen before! And yet cinema like October needs to be made and experienced in its full glory! Its such a beautifully immersive experience that it may leave you completely numb for a very long time even after it ends, and the impact will possibly only get stronger if you let it settle down for some more time!” – Read the complete review here.
And that was a wrap on looking at the Best of what 2018 had to offer for Hindi Cinema. Should we look at the Worst of series as well? We will see. Meanwhile please share your thoughts on the Best Films you watched this year. Also please follow the rest of Best of the year ranked lists here. Here;s hoping for a much more entertaining and enriching experiences at cinemas in 2019. To good cinema!
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