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In the last 5 years, Hindi film industry has produced some really great films which were groundbreaking in their own ways. We had films like Delhi Belly, Gangs of Wasseypur, The Lunchbox, Ankhon Dekhi, Haider and Masaan, which had the unconventionally good content our industry is yet to embrace totally and they were films we could at least think of putting against the films of the west and the far east. Compared to that, 2016 had been quite an ordinary year for Hindi Cinema. There were good films of course, but I think only a handful of them had a global appeal or so. Nonetheless, here are the top 15 Hindi films of 2016:

15. Dhanak

There are two ways to approach Nagesh Kukunoor’s Dhanak. Either, you watch it as a realistic human drama and find out that Dhanak isn’t real enough and has more to disappoint and lesser to be praised about. Another way to look at it is to consider it a fairytale, a fantasy which follows the conventional “where there is a will, there is a way” path. I decided to be more inclined towards the latter approach and Dhanak ended up giving me more than what I was expecting. It’s a humane story about a loving sister who is ready to go the distance to bring back his blind brother’s eyesight. There is genuine warmth and heartfelt emotion in the relationship we get to see between 14-year-old Pari and ‘about to be’ 9-year-old Chhotu, so much that you find it unfair to nitpick its flaws.

14. Nil Battey Sannata

A mother’s dream about their kid growing up to become a successful person is devoid of class and society. It’s a common uniform dream in the eyes of every mother, whether she is a doctor herself or a housemaid. However, for the kid, things are not simple like that, especially adolescent kids. They accept their reality after a time and stop dreaming what they think is impossible to achieve. It’s the age when they take impulsive decisions and make wrong choices in life. Nil Battey Sannata is a dreamy fairytale of a mother and her teenage daughter and how the two transform their lives to achieve the impossible.

13. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

There is much to appreciate in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, so much that it breaks my heart thinking how Karan Johar have the talent to put out such genuine emotions on screen but not the skill to know how to keep it subtle all along. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil has great writing which makes me defend this average film, its characters grow mature with time and yet they hold on to what they stood for once upon a time. It’s a film about how making peace with unrequited love is a big deal even in our times. Wish the film was well edited, because the performances are top notch here.

12. FAN

FAN is the definitive Indian film about the two most important elements of celebrity culture in India; the stardom and the fanaticism. Now, a common question is whether the Star created fans or the fans created a star or maybe they both created each other at the same time and thus their relationship must have true compassion and love.However more important question is that if subjected to unpleasant salutation by each other, who is going to lose his senses first and hit the bottom to reach his inner demons; that would definitely be the ‪Fan‬ because, for the star, fan is a plural advantage, a luxury available in overabundance, but for a Fan, the star is the only voice, the only face that ever made sense to them. Here is ‪‎SRK‬ taking a jibe on himself as Aryan Khanna and allowing this new guy to totally take charge of the film. The way Gaurav looks at Aryan Khanna, the first time he sees him off screen was so intense that there is no doubt that ‪Shahrukh‬ Khan is himself his biggest fan and with that intensity in Gaurav’s eyes, I admire such narcissism.

11. Neerja

Neerja doesn’t break grounds but it’s definitely sincere. Neerja tells the heroic story of Neerja Bhanot, the air hostess who dies in a plane hijack while protecting the lives of 359 passengers. Neerja goes too sentimental at times but what keeps it going is Sonam’s stellar performance as the leading lady. Neerja maybe a crowd pleaser, but it is a good one at that.

10. Parched

Every now and then, a particular pop music plays in the background in Parched, the music is contradictory of what the film is showing you. It’s liberating and conflicting and tries to explain what Parched is all about. Parched is a film about a society where women are beaten when they offer to take care of the financial situation of their family. A film about a society where their biggest shame is an educated woman who gifts books to young brides. Parched is far more brutal from the general Indian patriarchy, it is shocking and yet the women rebels to thrive forward in a society like that. 

9. Waiting

After the news of her husband’s accident, a young Mumbaikar wife rushes to a new city where the husband is being treated. He is in coma and there is nothing she can do but wait until there is a visible change in his condition. There she meets Shiv, another person whose spouse is in coma, only he is an old man with a marriage which is 30 years old. He has mastered the art of waiting and he teaches his young disciple what it means to wait. Waiting is about two people in grief belonging to different generations, having different mindsets about life and yet there is something which makes their lives look similar. They have great conversations about life and supports each other raising important life questions. It shows an unconventional friendship on screen which we don’t see much in Indian Cinema.

8. Phobia

Boosted by a terrific central performance by Radhika Apte, Pawan Kripalani’s Phobia is an intriguing look into human paranoia. The type which leaves you on the thin thread between sanity & insanity, reality & illusion and the cure, within the cure. Hindi cinema hasn’t seen  a good horror film in years and Phobia is certainly a ray of hope for the horror genre in Hindi Cinema.

7. Dear Zindagi

Is Life really complex or are we just making it look like one? Maybe there is an easy option to all our dilemmas, but we, kind of underrate it. Perhaps sometimes a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ can fix huge problems but we choose to linger around the ‘maybe’. Life is a beautiful gift and we need to address it with more compassion. Instead of being too harsh on it all the time, we can stop for a while and give Life a term of endearment. Maybe call it, Dear Zindagi. Gauri Shinde’s Dear Zindagi is a love letter to life. 

6. Dangal

Since everyone has probably watched Dangal, let me just tell you my relationship with the film. I was quite critical of Dangal when I watched it the first time. Maybe, because I read reviews which claimed that it is a better film than Lagaan. For me, a film better than Lagaan must be a masterpiece, because Lagaan is one and Dangal is nowhere close. I think I was being unfair to the film putting it against a better film and belittling it. So, I gave it another watch and this time I managed to grab the high points in Dangal. Dangal is pure formulaic and textbook sports film and even then, you cannot help but fall for it, cheer, laugh and possibly shed a few tears. That’s good commercial cinema for you. 

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