After a highly disappointing show by the Bollywood film industry in 2017 (something which we witnessed in Hollywood also last year), the expectations of people from its productions in 2018 were rock-bottom. However, not only were we surprised with the successes low or middle budget films found last year but we also celebrated how mediocre high-budget star-studded flicks by Indian cinematic giants tanked. It’s important to understand that 2018 does not necessarily manifest the zenith of filmmaking in India and we will certainly see many superior films in future, but this year can be proclaimed as the most revolutionary year of modern cinema in this country and has certainly paved way for films that exhibit great quality and are not a hotchpotch of trite commercial filmmaking gimmicks. I always prefer to make a listicle of 10 but given Bollywood’s grand success in the previous year, I have listed down 15 films that rocked 2018.
Movies I Need To See: –
Honourable Mentions: –
In the simplest terms, Manmarziyaan can be understood as a modern retelling of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Regardless of how broadly similar their storylines are and how good both are in their own terms, this Anurag Kashyap directorial deserves compliments for being more realistic and grounded in how it depicts romance and relationships. It’s largely real in how it builds up characters and how they interact over time and the realism is made better through the stalwart acts of its three leads. It exhibits excellence in almost every element of filmmaking but the cake is taken by its euphonious music thanks to the genius of Amit Trivedi. Given that and Kashyap’s adept use of the films’ tracks without causing narrative breaks, Manmarziyaan can make up for a pleasant watch despite being a mixed bag of sentiments all of which are humane and relatable.
You may also wish to take a look at this: Manmarziyaan Review
It’s a well-known fact that Indians love horror flicks and it’s also true that Indian cinema has horribly failed in delivering good horror films for decades now, save a few exceptions. Horror comedy is not something the Indian audience is used to and hence we have never seen any that have been remotely satisfying. Amar Kaushik’s Stree was, however, a breath of fresh air for the Indian audience though not being novel in any form. It has its scary moments but its largely a laugh riot which uses sexual innuendos in the deftest manner so as to maintain their conspicuousness while also making them humorous and acceptable. Deep within all the mirth and hilarity lies a powerful message on equality and women empowerment which the film delivers with great effect. Stree might not be the best movie of 2018 but it’s surely the most entertaining one.
You may also wish to take a look at this: Stree Review
13. Badhaai Ho
The premise of Badhaai Ho might seem unnatural but it’s quite true and holds water in Indian society though rarely in the 21st century. The film is basically a comedy-drama but it has its own set of emotions and philosophies which have been brought on to the screen efficaciously. Its portrayal of romance among the older generation and its acceptance (or let’s say unacceptance) by their counterparts is spot on, being both delectable and disheartening at times. It has an abundance of youthful energy and its young, yet popular leads add to the exuberance but the soul of the film lies in the performances of the oldies particularly the leading three who give the film its real charm and meaning. Given its plot, Badhaai Ho could have had tons of indecent allusions but it strongly resists them and provides a wholesome entertainment which can be savoured by audiences of all age groups and societal notions.
You may also wish to take a look at this: Badhaai Ho
Depicting the predicament of a Muslim family after one of their own is found to have terroristic connections, Mulk is a movie which is relevant not only in the Indian subcontinent but well beyond it as well. Unlike similar works which would have otherwise portrayed Muslims as victims solely, Mulk shows both the sides of the coin. It doesn’t beg for the viewer’s sympathy nor does it vilify the other side, rather it understands how negatives and positives cohabit among people of all sections no matter where they are and what they follow. It’s an important film, an eye-opener for many who don’t understand the nuances and vividness of human society, especially that in the Indian subcontinent.
You may also wish to take a look at this: Mulk Review
11. Love Sonia
If Stree was the most entertaining film of 2018, Love Sonia is arguably the most disturbing flick. Stories on human trafficking are not new to cinema but they always leave some vexing impact on the minds of the viewers and this movie just takes it to a different level of horrendousness. It’s a no hold barred portrayal of the sex market in the ghettos of India and beyond, and its grotesqueness can even be traumatic for the weak-hearted. As a matter of fact, I have even witnessed a lady trembling as a response to the film’s distressing narrative while still in the midway of its runtime. Unlike most Indian films it never depicts brothels as these glorious abodes filled with the most beautiful and appealing women. Its portrayal is darker, grittier and natural about these places and the people trapped in them. Featuring some excellent performances especially by debutant Mrunal Thakur, Love Sonia is not solely about flesh trade but is largely a tale of love, persistence and resilience, all of which are required to get through the thick and thins of life, and to some extent this film also.
You may also wish to take a look at this: Love Sonia Review
If there’s anyone in this industry apart from Anurag Kashyap who can make movies raw yet appealing, then it has to be Vishal Bharadwaj. On broad terms, Pataakha might simply boil down as a tale of the never-ending tussle between two sisters and a trickster who always ensures their fights, but deep within it has more to offer. The film is out and out bizarre and there’s no second opinion on that but it’s thoroughly enjoyable also. The lack of plot gives an ample room for the characters to develop and they do, all in positive directions. Its rawness is not only reflected in its setup and character sketch but even with its humour which is remarkably amusing. The actors in their most de-glammed form bring out the best of their respective personas and the result is a cracker (pataakha) – noisy, but bright and ultimately satisfying.
You may also wish to take a look at this: Pataakha Review
One doesn’t really understand Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s proficiency as a director unless he or she compares his historical works with those of contemporary Indian period drama films like Mohenjodaro and most recently Manikarnika. Most Indian flicks fail to deliver in one aspect every time and that’s VFX (and we are not even talking about storytelling, direction, etc). Throwing money doesn’t necessarily ensure better CGI and Krrish 3 can be (ironically) a bright example of the same. However, it’s not just terrific visuals that makes Padmaavat likeable but the storytelling and the building of characters as well. It’s true that Bhansali’s characters and his films’ narratives are melodramatic but in the right way and that can be seen in this adaptation of Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s epic adaptation of the same name. There’s a lot to appreciate about Padmaavat irrespective of the myriad controversies it created but the best thing about it is Ranveer Singh’s stellar act as the antagonist Alauddin Khilji, something which we’ll cover on a different list.
You may also wish to take a look at this: Padmaavat Review
To hell with romance and tragedies, on honest terms, no other film genre induces the kind of waves of emotions as sports films do. We have seen them in Chak De India, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, and many other films, all doing the same thing in different manners and still being effective just like Reema Kagti’s Gold was. This flick is outright Bollywoodish, having quintessential filmic entities which you find in Indian cinema and has ample of extravagant sequences which never really reflect the subtlety of daily life, but that’s not wrong. It understands its main focus which is largely on the game and its patriotic sentiments which it executes remarkably well. Gold is not an artistic feature and I’m glad that it isn’t. Sometimes it’s essential to rely on the clichéd commercial elements of filmmaking in order to make a movie more likeable. Its main purpose was to reach out to the audience and it does that grandiloquently through its wholesome entertaining premise and stimulating emotions which magnify its excellence by many folds.
You may also wish to take a look at this: Gold Review
Just like Gold, Hichki isn’t a very novel film with its subject matter being done to death. It’s a story so old that you know what’s going to happen next and how things are going to begin and conclude. Regardless of all of that, it touched me, not in a cry-cry way but in a gleeful and jocund manner. Hichki has a heart and it has it in the right place which is why it reaches out to its viewer’s heart as well. It never over-dramatises its narrative or its characters and resists mawkishness pretty strongly. Its characters are real, their behaviour is natural and the story is believable in spite of the seeming magical influence of its protagonist over her pupils. Featuring a sterling performance from Rani Mukherjee, Hichki is not just about a teacher ameliorating her class but also about one’s unrelenting fight against social stigmas, one’s struggle against his/her limitations and the very fact that humans are flawed no matter who. It’s a very simple film which is run by unfeigned emotions, dealing with genuine people who act like humans both good and bad.
You may also wish to take a look at this: Hichki Review
6. Pad Man
Menstrual taboo is not any news and is not restricted to India alone. However, Indians owing to their religious and cultural beliefs have a much longer way to go in these terms as compared to the Western states. Based on the amusingly true story of Arunachalam Muruganantham (the film’s character is named Lakshmi) who embarked on a journey to make affordable sanitary napkins for his wife, Pad Man is a sterling piece of work which is endearing as well as inspirational in many fronts. The film tackles a serious issue with great subtlety without being hideous or servile to those who still adhere to menstrual taboos. It explores various kinds of characters who showcase different forms of positivity and negativity with respect to the subject matter and hence explores the same with much groundedness and versatility. The performances make it a whole lot better but the best of all is lead actor Akshay Kumar who charms his way through the narrative making his character and even his Linglish difficult to detest. Pad Man brings out a mixed bag of emotions which hits the audiences like waves, frequently and effectively, who are nothing but glad that they could see a movie so serious yet so light-hearted at the same time.
You may also wish to take a look at this: Pad Man Review
5. 102 Not Out
Life is meant to be lived large and not lived long. There have been several films which have expressed this and 102 Not Out might be the latest Bollywood entry in that rota. It’s not very novel in its filmmaking or storytelling approach and doesn’t shy away from pouring in mushy elements in the narrative. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be something out of the box to deem itself likeable. Going through our mundane lives filled with pain, sorrow and unrelenting moments of despondency, what’s better than a feel-good film or story which tells us to live a life beyond the realms of the clock, laws of the world and rules of nature. With effortless performances, endearing chemistries, quirky engagements and a few sentimental elements, 102 Not Out does nothing that’s neither sweet nor touching. It’s the kind of film you’d want to watch when you’re down in every sense and want to see what’s beyond all the melancholy of life. After all, life doesn’t stop till you stop breathing, so why die millions of times before you actually pass away!
You may also wish to take a look at this: 102 Not Out Review
The fact that Anurag Kashyap directed two films in 2018 and both are in this list shows his acumen in his job, and that too without us even talking about his acclaimed Netflix series Sacred Games! Kashyap’s USP is the rawness which he inducts in each of his films and how they reflect the sentiments and beliefs of the common man. If he, as a Bollywood director, could do that in a romantic film like Manmarziyaan, then it’s obvious to find it in Mukkabaaz. It’s a blend of romance and sports-drama but not like the generic ones such as Sultan. It’s neither a journey towards victory nor a tale of winning the heart of one’s beloved but a strange mixture of real-life scenarios where caste and politics dismantle the lives of commoners and their dreams. The film has an abundance of talents giving sterling performances but Vineet Singh, who plays the lead, hits the home run in a star-making performance which has cemented his place in Bollywood for at least a decade now. The tensions and emotions are fleshed out not just through the performances but also with the music that traverses in an undulating manner in an otherwise gruelling narrative that shocks you even with the things that you are aware of. Mukkabaaz might not be a perfect film and definitely not Kashyap’s best but it’s a relevant and thought-provoking piece of work which talks about a lot of things even in some form of silence.
You may also wish to take a look at this: Mukkabaaz Review
We always look for films that have out of the box stories, which tell us something new and remarkable, and such cravings are only fair. But films aren’t necessarily made great by how different their stories are, but how differently they are delivered to the audience. Tumbbad is an epitome of such a film which depicts an ordinary story in an extraordinary manner. Its narrative is set in a grim environment that precisely captures the essence of the 40s along with a shroud a mystery that keeps folding even till the end, ensuring its viewers’ unhooked attention throughout its run. It melds elements of fantasy with horror and suspense immaculately without going over-the-top, something is even rarely seen in Hollywood and European films of the same type. With all the grand set pieces, consummate choices of darker colour palettes, combined with astute direction, sleek editing and immaculate camera work, Tumbbad turns out to be one of the most visually vibrant movies that have been made in Bollywood in recent times despite its horror based premise. It’s not a movie that’ll scare the hell out of you but will slowly get on your nerves and immerse you completely in a story that simply tells you that ‘greed is vice’.
You may also wish to take a look at this: Tumbbad Review
Nandita Das has an acuity and terrific understanding of realism in filmmaking. Her approach as a director and screenwriter is neither too artsy nor too commercial. She portrays her characters the way they should in the real world with scarce or no embellishments and yet makes them powerfully effective in conveying ideas and thoughts. This reflects heavily in her biographical take on the life of acclaimed writer Saadat Hasan Manto. Manto is a nearly perfect film with great filmmaking in almost every aspect and powerful performances from a bunch of extremely talented actors who make the most of their screen presence no matter how long or short. It’s a thought-provoking flick which deals with many issues ranging from freedom of expression to social prejudice, to one’s own battle for an identity. Das’ exploration of her protagonists conflicting ideas and beliefs, and his constant struggle against a world that rarely understands his love for the truth is beautifully done with such finesse that even the viewer finds himself/herself in his (Manto’s) shoes and plummets into a world of nihilism that never gets better. However, the growing depressive narrative, soaring despondency and slow descent into pessimism never really makes the film unbearable, rather Manto lives on in the hearts of its viewers just like the stories of its eponymous character have through half a century and will so for eternity.
You may also wish to take a look at this: Manto Review
To be very honest I’m not sure where to start and what to talk about so as to convey to people how beautiful this film is. There are moments which bring life to a dead stop. The reason can be absolutely anything and it seems like such moments never really pass away with the passage of time. October is a poetical narration of such a standstill life which revolves around love but not necessarily in a romantic way. It’s a story about pure emotions and one’s lack of control over them as well as the turns and tribulations of life itself. There’s a lot of mundaneness in its slice-of-life approach of making but it’s not void of sentiments. Unlike most films its feelings are unembellished and they never really hit you hard, rather just settle in your soul like a breath of fresh air does early in the morning. It’s not an unstirring piece of work despite its stock-still nature and that’s chiefly because of Varun Dhawan’s stellar performance and Shantanu Moitra’s haunting theme music which keep its emotions alive and vibrant and ensure that you don’t let go of the film from your heart easily just like Dan held on to Siuli. October is not simply a great film, it’s Bollywood’s uncrowned masterpiece.
You may also wish to take a look at this: October Review