Belated Merry Christmas and advanced Happy New Year to everyone. Since 2020 has been a truncated year for obvious reasons it is difficult to make a comprehensive list of the movies which came in that year. Within the choices that we had following are the movies I liked best in the three languages I saw.
1. AK VS AK – Directed by Vikramaditya Motwane AK VS AK is easily one of the most experimental films that you have had this year. It is a perfect example of a well made Meta film with Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap bearing their souls. Both Anil and Anurag were excellent in their portrayal. The plot of the film revolves around Anurag kidnapping Anil Kapoor’s daughter Sonam Kapoor after a public spat between the two. This film has plenty of inside jokes which will make you chuckle like the scene in which Abhinav Kashyap’s successful film Dabbang is mentioned in comparison. However the scene which brings most laughs is when Harshvardhan Kapoor tries to impress Anurag Kashyap and blames Vikramaditya Motwane for sabotaging Bhavesh Joshi.
It is a clever joke because that film was also directed by Vikramaditya Motwane and co produced by Anurag Kashyap. But the film is much more than just a series of inside jokes. It also looks at the paradoxes of a Bollywood star’s life and how they are expected to act even during tragic times. The scene where Anil Kapoor has to dance for the audience amidst his frantic search for Sonam is an example for this. It is a scene which reminds you of Chaplin and Anil’s acting in that scene deserves a particular mention. In short don’t miss this one, it is streaming on Netflix.
2. Thappad – After Mulk and Article 15 director Anubhav Sinha delivered another socially relevant film called Thappad. It was a film which convinced many of us that a slap could lead to a divorce. Pavail Gulati plays the husband who slaps his wife played by Tapsee Pannu in a fit of anger. For him it is something which has happened at the heat of the moment but for the wife it dismantles her married life completely.
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Although this is the central plot you have other things happening simultaneously like the track of a poor domestic help who suffers beatings from her husband. It is not an easy film to pull off but Anubhav Sinha was in control for most part. The performances of the cast particularly the supporting players were very good. My favorite ones are Kumud Mishra, Pavail Gulati and Dia Mirza. Pavail Gulati in particular was very good as the husband who is clueless to his own shortcomings.
3. Chhapaak – Meghana Gulzar’s Chhapaak was a sensitive take on the real life acid attack survivor. The film also raised some important questions like the legal system which doesn’t treat acid attacks as grave a crime as rape. Is 10 years of imprisonment enough for scarring someone’s face/life and very importantly why acid is easily available across the counter are some of the questions that this movie raises. The film also had its share of light hearted moments like the conversations between Deepika and fellow acid attack survivors in a shop. Deepika in the title role slipped convincingly into the character making it the best performance of her career. The relationship of Deepika and Vikrant Massey’s Amol was also handled very nicely.
4. Shakuntala Devi – Generally Indian biopics glorify its protagonists, the best example of this is Narendra Modi film which was purely made with the intention of projecting Modi as a superman who can do no mistakes. Even Neeraj Pandey’s MS Dhoni didn’t offer any real insight into Dhoni’s life apart from showing things that people already knew. Anu Menon’s Shakuntala Devi was different as it portrayed the famous mathematician Shakuntala Devi with all her faults.
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In fact at a certain point you begin to resent this woman who lies to the media that her husband played by Jisshu Sengupta is a homosexual. She is so overbearing that you feel complete pity for both the husband and the daughter played by Sanya Malhotra. The film did have its share of loose ends but it was largely an engaging film on a woman who had a very strong personality. Vidya Balan’s uninhibited performance was an icing on the cake.
5. Ludo – After a disastrous Jagga Jasoos Anurag Basu made a strong comeback with this multi layered narrative. Much like Life in a Metro this one also looked at different aspects of the society through multiple characters. It also had a philosophical touch as it dealt with the concepts of Dharma and Adharma through the two narrators one of which is Basu himself. The only thing which could have been better is the character of Pankaj Tripati who starts off as an important character but after a point is sidelined. You also had some bold jokes on BJP and Republic Channel through the voice artist character of Aditya Roy Kapoor. The actors who stood out in the ensemble were Rajkumar Rao, Fatima Sana Sheikh, Aditya Roy Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan.
1. Jaanu – Jaanu is the remake of Tamil film 96 which starred Vijay Sethupati and Trisha. This one starred Sharwanand and Samantha. For those who haven’t seen the original, the story is about two silent lovers Ram and Jaanu meeting at a school reunion after many years and exploring their past. It is one of those rare love stories where you root for the couple and want them to have a happy ending which isn’t possible.
The contrasting characters of the two also made it interesting. Ram is someone who is too shy while Jaanu on the other hand is more expressive. The one complaint with the film though is its pace. It takes time to get used to it and you get the feeling that the initial portions could have been a little crisper. While Sharwanand was good, it is Samantha who is the driving force of the film. The supporting cast comprising of Vennela Kishore, Saranya etc were also good in their brief parts.
2. Ala Vaikuntapuramlo – Story of this film isn’t new by any stretch of imagination. You have two babies who are swapped at their birth like in the book Midnight Children by Salman Rushdie. The rich one grows up in a poor family and the poor one grows up in a rich family. But what made Ala Vaikuntapuramlo entertaining is the treatment of Trivikram Srinivas and the performances of Allu Arjun and Murali Sharma. The best part of the film was the cat and mouse relationship between the characters of Allu Arjun and Murali Sharma, son and father. Trivikram Srinivas invested plenty of time to build their relationship which is why the scenes between them work most in this film. Murali Sharma got very good footage as the greedy father and he was impeccable in his portrayal. Tabu who should have been an important character in this film was totally wasted.
3. V – It is not always that you have an action thriller which has repeat value but Indraganti Mohan Krishna’s V got its masala elements in a perfect order. The story of V is about a mystery man who tries to take revenge for his wife’s brutal murder without getting caught by the police officer who is determined to catch him.
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It is a straight forward premise elevated by the treatment of the director and particularly the performance of Nani as the villain fighting for a cause. There is also lot of black humor and the scenes of Nani with his fellow travelers were hilarious. After playing the hero for a long time it looked as though Nani completely unburdened himself in this one.
1. Putham Pudu Kaalai – Set during the lockdown Putham Pudu Kaalai was a well made anthology by directors Sudha Kongara, Gautam Menon, Suhasini, Rajiv Menon and Karthik Subbaraj. The first four stories were set in the upper middle class milieu while the last one was about two thieves and a typical Karthik Subbaraj film. My favorite story of the lot is Gautam Menon’s ‘You and me’. This segment was about a reluctant granddaughter who has to stay at her grandfather’s place due to lockdown. She is waiting for the stay to get over. Director Gautam Menon built up the different stages of the relationship well. A scene which deserves a particular mention is an emotional conversation between the two and through that the director tells you what a good conversation can do. MS Bhaskar is riveting as the grandfather and gets able support from Ritu Varma, the granddaughter. Another segment which deserves mention is Karthik Subbaraj’s Miracle. The black humor makes you chuckle and the background music is also done well. But it has to be said that this segment works as a single unit more than a part of anthology. Bobby Simha as the main thief appears to have had lot of fun playing the character.
2. Dharala Prabhu – A remake of Ayushmann Khurrana’s Vicky Donor, Dharala Prabhu was a well made film where the makers retained the soul apart from adding a certain freshness of their own. For those who haven’t seen the original the plot revolves around a young man who takes up the job of sperm donor to earn some quick money and the wife’s reaction when she comes to know of it. The best part of Dharala Prabhu was how it dealt with a number of sex and reproductive issues without making them feel like moral Issues. A particular mention must be made of how it dealt with the topic of adoption from a female perspective. Harsh Kalyan is no Ayushmann but the actor did a good job nevertheless. Vivek is over the top but still his character works well as the fertility specialist Kannadasan.
These films are by no means representative of the films of 2020 but within the limitations of availability these are the films that I chose. I would end by wishing advanced Happy New Year to everyone and hoping 2021 turns out to be a better year regarding movies. If you haven’t seen some of these films I would definitely recommend you watch them.