Before we talk about the Hindi movies of 2022, let’s look back at the year that was. 2022 was thankfully a year when people went back to the cinemas. The threat of the coronavirus left us all with a sense of unease – scaring some of us from forever leaving our humble abode and venturing out to the theatres. But this year saw a gradual change, and as things turned for the better, people did actually leave their now-favorite OTT platforms to enjoy the sense of community-watching experience.
For Bollywood movies, 2022 was a year that hinged on two pertinent keywords – ‘Pan-India’ and ‘Boycott.’ While the prior was something that always existed and was often sidelined by calling ‘Bollywood’ the biggest film industry in India, the inclination of audiences to rather watch movies from the South than the same-old, riled-up stories, served as a wake-up call.
The latter was a social media trend that almost ruined the Box Office for supposedly big releases, including the much-anticipated Aamir Khan starrer, ‘Laal Singh Chaddha.’ The extremely toxic trend was short-lived, with the big success of another tentative boycott title, ‘Brahmāstra: Part One – Shiva,’ doing wonders when it comes to minting money. But, this led to some of the more renowned producers rethinking if their movies are, in fact, made for the big screen. As to whether this trend had some positive outcome is still debatable, but the release schedule of Hindi movies in 2023 will be an interesting thing to witness nonetheless.
Talking about ‘toxic’ things, 2022 would also serve as some kind of benchmark for producing the maximum number of Propaganda movies whose sole purpose was to peddle the central government’s Hindutva mindset. From the incredibly successful but downright vulgar ‘Kashmir Files’ to star-studded vehicles like ‘Samrat Prithviraj,’ ‘Rocketry: The Nambi Effect,’ and ‘Rashtra Kavach Om,’ among many others, filmmakers tried their best to mislead audiences and twist the narrative so that the naive section of the audience is forced to believe in a lie, that’s packaged as the ultimate truth.
Having said that, 2022 was a better year for Hindi cinema. After two years of absolute garbage being served in the name of movies full of lazy filmmaking antiques, 2022 saw some interesting stories that used the canvas to tell them in the right way. Of course, there were some big disappointments and mediocre efforts, but for me, 2022 did well.
So, before we dive into the list of the 10 Best Hindi Movies of 2022, I would also like to quickly mention a few honorable mentions that could have made the cut but didn’t for some reason or the other.
First up, Rajat Kapoor’s self-reflective yet inert meta film ‘RK/Rkay,’ which takes a dig at filmmaking but doesn’t quite lead its original idea to fructification.
Second, Suresh Trivedi’s ‘Jalsa,’ which features two exceptional leading performances from Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah but loses its well-rounded crime-thriller proceeding over jarring sound design, convenient plot progression, and a cathartic moment that undermines one of the character’s drive over the other. (Streaming on Prime Video).
Third, Behzad Khambata’s spiritual sequel to Neeraj Pandey’s acclaimed 2008 film, ‘A Thursday,’ which uses its Korean cinema inspirations to mount a well-staged thriller that ends up becoming implausible and predictable. (Streaming on Disney+Hotstar).
And lastly, Raj Singh Chaudhary’s ‘Thar,’ – a gorgeously shot neo-western that gives the Kapoors (Anil & Harshvardhan) a set of meaty roles; but never becomes as compelling as it could have been due to the unnecessary subplots. (Streaming on Netflix).
Based on Hussain Zaidi’s Mafia Queens of Mumbai, ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’ is a traditional Sanjay Leela Bhansali joint. A filmmaker who often exchanges gloss over realism might not be the right person to translate the life of the famous Kamathipura courtesan, but his rendition soars. Thanks in parts to his dizzying sense of cinematic caliber, making the supposedly ordinary seem like a grand world of its own, and largely because of Alia Bhatt. In what would be a definite star-making turn, the Bollywood actor is electrifying from start to finish.
She is the heart, soul, and body of this occasionally trite adaptation. The actor, who was initially met with blatantly miscast allegations, dips her toe in this transition from an innocent girl with gooey-eyed dreams of working in Bollywood to being forced into prostitution before championing the rights of sex workers by getting into politics.
It’s a hard, larger-than-life persona to be cracked on the cinema screen, but Bhatt; with only little to no help from Bhansali’s bravado – makes the statement that “She came to Bombay to become an actress but ended up being cinema” feel all the more true.
Streaming on Netflix
Now that we are done with this bunch, let’s get to the 10 best Hindi movies of 2022:
10. Sharmaji Namkeen
Hitesh Bhatia’s ‘Sharmaji Namkeen’ is essentially a straightforward, feel-good movie that’s a little too saccharine for my taste. And yet it tells such an honest story about a forcefully retired 58-year-old named Brij Gopal Sharma that it is hard to look away.
What does one do when all they have ever known is to work all their life? Brij doesn’t have the answers, which is why he keeps tossing the question around million different things that he can do around the house. That is until he discovers the joy that lies in the essence of making food for others.
Now, the art of making food, especially in an Indian household, has been associated with being such a female-centric job that it has been dumbed down from being an art form to just something that is to be done. When Sharma decides to start a catering gig on his own, serving lip-smacking food to women at kitty parties, his only wish is to pass his time doing something he loves to do. Little does he know that this decision might rattle his son, who now runs the household.
Sharmaji Namkeen questions ageism and how we define what is age-appropriate behavior. It lightly hits at the cords that are attached to our prejudices and present a feel-good yarn that works because it is also a cheery swan song to the late Rishi Kapoor. For people who are interested to witness something more, it also serves as an interesting outtake as to how different actors (Paresh Rawal steps in to complete the missing parts of Kapoor’s work) interpret the same character.
Streaming on Prime Video
Related to Best Hindi Movies of 2022 – Sharmaji Namkeen  Review: A Deliciously crafted tribute to Rishi Kapoor
9. Laal Singh Chaddha
While Tom Hanks’ ‘Forrest Gump’ is often deemed to be one of the most iconic American movies ever made, people overlook its simplistic and often regressive political stance. So, when Advait Chandan’s ‘Laal Singh Chaddha,’ which is written by actor Atul Kulkarni was announced, it made me quite skeptical. Seeing how the entire Bollywood industry is quietly steering towards a right-wing agenda, I expected it just to recalibrate Gump’s dormant republican standpoint or blatantly ape its protagonist’s apolitical stance to make no statement whatsoever.
I was proved wrong. Laal Singh Chaddha, which is as light-feathered and feel-goody as any movie could be, is also loaded and told on the curves of a political outset. It tells the story of a Sikh Man who falls in love with a Christian Girl, befriends a South Indian, and saves a Pakistani. It is a decades-long-sprawling journey shown through the eyes of an apolitical character, who, in a way, recalibrates what we have been sorely missing from our mainstream films; it’s not about a religion or cast or creed, but about love, art, and stories.
That said, Aamir Khan, who is supposed to be the heart of the film, is its weakest element. The tangents in his act are either too off-track or not too subtle at all, making Laal Singh Chaddha – in spite of fixing and humanizing the problematic ‘Jenny’ subplot from Forrest Gump, fall short of greatness.
Streaming on Netflix
Remaking a renowned film is always a bad idea. However, remaking a renowned film with major narrative flaws could be even worse. Thankfully, Anurag Kashyap is someone who understands that. So, with ‘Dobaaraa,’ which is a movie that is about changing the narrative itself, he is not just able to fix the flaws but also able to use the gimmick of time travel to tell an interesting story about the fatality of life. His rendition of the film is not just a basic genre fare about time travel or loop jumps; his is a story about how even something as time-shattering as a change in reality, can’t change one’s identity.
Kashyap’s heroine finds herself in a parallel universe, but deep down, she is still rooted in another that she wanted to leave behind. So, his story becomes more about Antra (played by Tapsee Pannu) trying to understand what she needs to leave behind to bridge the gap between what she is and what she wants.
Like Mirage (the original Spanish film), the confounding twist and turns here don’t leave the viewer in a constant state of bewilderment. The remake streamlines the new narrative with the old so seamlessly that it surpasses the impact of the original by a great measure. While still inherently flawed with flat characterization, Dobaaraa can be seen as a great example of how to adapt a genre fare by making it more perceptive.
Related to Best Hindi Movies of 2022 – Dobaaraa (2022): Movie Review & Ending Explained
Streaming on Netflix
7. An Action Hero
The most interesting thing about debutant director Anirudh Iyer’s ‘An Action Hero’ is how it can be seen as one big chase sequence when, for the not-so-casual viewers, it can be something much more than that. Playing and taking digs at a lot of aspects of a viewer and star relationship, the film would remain memorable because of its super-urgent satire on how the press and the audience is not just ever ready to put their favorite stars on a pedestal; but they are also just as eager to put them down.
In fact, I like it more because it makes a very blatant political statement by saying how the entirety of the media in the country is so hell-bent on entertaining that they have forgotten to question the government about the lapses in their duties. With a tone that brings an outstanding balance between the great Jaideep Ahlawat’s straight-faced black comedy and Ayushmann Khurrana’s frustrated, narcissistic take, An Action Hero instantly becomes one of those meta-films that is both urgent in its demeanor and more grass-root in its messaging.
To add to all that, the big-bloated conspiracy and investigative narrative of the film both hint at Bollywood’s obsession with the patriotic, jingoistic cinema and Boycott-Bollywood trend, with a quick-witted look at our constantly disappearing attention span for the content fed to us.
Streaming soon on Netflix
R. Balki and I have a strange relationship. Except for his debut film ‘Cheeni Kum,’ and in some measures ‘Paa,’ I have only liked his other movies on paper. They are all great ideas that somehow don’t translate to the screen and end up being so full of themselves that they never become memorable.
With ‘Chup: Revenge of the Artist,’ a film that directly speaks to me, R.Balki dives straight into Black Comedy with a story that winks and smudges the campiness of its premise on the viewer’s face. What works for the film, however, isn’t its gleefully odd premise – A serial killer who kills film critics?, but how Balki and his co-writers doll up a Bollywood-styled romance, a psychological thriller & and an investigative drama, with a homage to the unsung artists who never get their dues.
While the movie’s understanding of film criticism is far from being nuanced, the film is constantly engaging and deliciously unhinged. Thanks in large part to some of the more unconventional casting choices – Sunny Deol stars a cop with zero understanding of film criticism (get it?) slowly trying to piece together who the killer is and its ability to somehow balance the more wacky tonal shifts with ease.
Streaming on Zee5
Related to Best Hindi Movies of 2022 – Chup: Revenge of the Artist (2022) Review ― A Unique & Absorbing Thriller Which is Also a Love Letter to the Unheard Voices of Cinema
Having not been a fan of his acclaimed ‘Stree,’ I wasn’t too eager for Amar Kaushik’s take on the werewolve subgenre. However, I wasn’t aware that he was going to prove me wrong with a surprisingly poignant and subtle eco-fable that is out with biting teeth and sharpened claws to dig into the skins of the capitalists.
Starring Varun Dhawan as Bhaskar – a greedy contractor from Delhi with an affinity for money, the story sees him traveling to the Northeastern region of Ziro. His aim is to get the vote of the locals so that he can chop off the state’s natural resources (the jungle) and build a road there. But before he can get his task done, he is bitten in the ass by a wolf which later makes him transform into one.
The horror-comedy elements of Kaushik’s film thus serve as a metaphor for allowing the beast inside to be unleashed to the realization of what greed is doing to a man. The heightened senses help Bhaskar realize that he is avoiding the calls of the people and nature around him, slowly turning a blind eye to what’s important for everyone’s piece of mind. The comedy is sharp, grounded, and self-reflexive about cultural appropriation, and the horror is thankfully helmed in a composition that uses the surprisingly well-done VFX to transform the protagonist into a grown-up.
Streaming soon on JioCinema
Related to Best Hindi Movies of 2022 – Bhediya (2022) Review: The Impending Ecological Catastrophe Masquerading as a Killer in the Jungle
Technically speaking, ‘Gehraiyaan’ feels like a flawed film. The post-production is occasionally patchy, and the editing (at least in the first half of the film) is overdone. And yet, it proves once again why Shakun Batra is one of the better filmmakers we have in Hindi cinema. You can see that his clear agenda, in spite of casting A-lister, is not to show them off but to tell a story. He is someone who understands that human emotion, no matter what frequency you dial them to, will have to be grounded in a naturalistic progression that doesn’t inherently exchange and lose one element to prioritize the other.
Outwardly, this is a basic tale of desire getting the better of us. So, to make it more palpable, believable, and even a wee bit cathartic, Batra populates it with characters with shattered lives who are trying to escape the identity that their family history has bestowed upon them. This inconsequential measure comes in handy because he is looking at the lives of people with a certain privilege. The way he addresses the slight gap between those with enough money and those on the edge of ‘making enough money’ makes Gehraiyaan more complex than it actually is.
It also helps that Batra mostly takes an honest approach toward his characters. Alisha is disturbed from the first sequence itself, and her lack of belief in her luck destines her in a kind of loop that no love can save her from. The same goes for Zain. His inability to have what he wants and still not have anything concrete of his own has also put him in a loop that he so readily and desperately wants to escape from.
It is obvious that this is a tale that will explode at some point in time, but when it does, it still feels unexpected and alarming. Point in time, we aren’t expecting these people to mess up, even though they are almost always on the clear path of fucking up. This makes Batra’s approach feel like a thriller in the way of Woody Allen (the Match Point Allen, I mean), as written by Asghar Farhadi.
Streaming on Prime Video
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3. Doctor G
It comes to me as a surprise, too, that two of Ayushman Khurana movies are on this list. The star, who has unknowingly invented the small-town social message sub-genre, has been stuck in its vacuum for so long that I wasn’t expecting a movie about the female-private parts as seen from the lowbrow male-savior complex to break the chain. Anubhuti Kashyap’s ‘Doctor G’ doesn’t just break the chain; it makes the supposed hero see a mirror of his own problematic wrongdoings. Thereby upholding the need for the female gaze in a story that is majorly about them.
It is a film that doesn’t just call out the pseudo-liberal-feminist hero; it makes him confront his own sorry image of himself. As much as the film is about normalizing gender-specified fields, it is also about the self-deception that we, as humans, impose on ourselves. What makes it great is how Kashyap presents these implicated truths in a comedy that knows how to balance all its varied elements well.
It never over-does the comedy to hide its serious truth, it never hides its serious tonal shifts by punctuating them with slapstick humor, and it never allows the audiences, who usually like to see a narrative unfurl – to settle down. It actually treats them with respect and acknowledges their intelligence to drive a more profound point across. In short, Doctor G is my favorite kind of mainstream comedy; one that knows its sole aim is to entertain but also never restricts itself to being just that.
Streaming on Netflix
While far from Marathi filmmaker Nagraj Manjule’s (‘Fandry,’ ‘Sairat’) best work, his debut Hindi film ‘Jhund’ is a story that can’t go as unnoticed as it has been. Starring acting legend Amitabh Bacchan in a role that never lets him take center stage, this is a powerful story that carefully maneuvers through the generic sports drama about the underdogs to become a fable about the obstacles that actually define that trope.
Featuring an ensemble cast that mostly features first-time actors – Manjule rounds up a group of Dalit Boys to play a version of themselves. The story, on the other hand, pivots on cluelessness before manifesting the real divide between two sets of people – the posh upper-class school kids that live on the other side of the wall and the begging, stealing, and drug-addicted slum kids who find some solace in hitting a ball around.
This, however, isn’t a straightforward redemption story either, as it doesn’t end where the poor win over the rich, but it leads us into a more complicated puzzle. The fact that these kids have no identity forms its crux. The redemption thus lies in allowing us to see beyond the criminality of their arc. Manjule allows us to see that these kids are victims of their fate, and to get out of it; they would need more than just a win. The climax, which, in a typical sports drama, would be about a flight being taken towards greatness, becomes more about passing through the security check.
Streaming on Zee5
Related to Best Hindi Movies of 2022 – Jhund (2022) Review: A Realist And Transfixing Tale That Deserves To Be Seen Despite Its Contrived Tone
1. Badhaai Do
Queer representation in Hindi cinema is not as affluent an affair as we would like it to be. Even in movies like ‘Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’ – a film that champions itself as being the first mainstream film to showcase same-sex love, the whole idea is rigged in a narrative that ends up generalizing everything to an extent where it borderlines problematic. More so, these are movies that bill themselves as comedy and end up cracking a joke at the expense of homosexuality itself.
Simply put, Badhaai Do looks at Shardul and Shumi in a lavender marriage – the duo decides to get married but pursue each other’s personal love interests in guise. And while Shumi is quite comfortable with her sexual identity, it is Shardul who really needs to come out of the closet. Director Harshavardhan Kulkarni devices a genuinely funny small-town comedy, but he and his co-writers are pretty aware that they need to do it without making jokes about loving people and/or stereotyping them like most of what Hindi cinema has done to date.
The sensitivity with which everything in Badhaai Do is treated feels like such a departure that we don’t really mind the familiarity of these characters. Their sexuality is humanized, normalized, and presented in a way that most stories only dream of achieving. Which is what makes Badhaai Do the best Hindi movie of 2022.