The 10 Best Indian Movies of 2019 (so far)
2019 has been a strange year for Indian films, especially Bollywood movies. The much-raved Zoya Akhtar and Ranveer Singh’s ‘Gully Boy‘ is a missed opportunity. I was left cold by the time end credits rolled. The subtle and restrained narrative in the first act is compromised in the last two acts to please the masses. The sudden tonal shift in the film is jarring. The singularly focused narrative is often muddled with clunky subplots. The subplots are used, often, as a catalyst but felt manipulative and disjointed at times.
Aditya Dhar’s URI: The Surgical Strike manufactures the melodrama using every character to generate the emotional connect during the attack on terrorists in its third act. The character arc of Vickey is sketched unevenly. It could be misunderstood he helmed the surgical strike for personal loss than the tragic terrorist event in the URI base camp. Even the cameo of Kirti Kulhari comes with sentimental baggage. It makes her character more like a dead weight than an ace in a hole.
Kavaludaari | Hemanth Rao | Crime Mystery | Kannada
‘Ratsasan’, ‘Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru’, ‘Thadam’ are a few of the films that suffered from inconsistent writing and incoherent narrative due to needless subplot, but Hemanth Rao, one of the writers of Sriram Raghavan’s Aandhadhun and director of family drama Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu, stays away from the glittery expositions and redundant subplots and manages to make a coherent film even though it has issues. Anant Nag is a revelation in the film. Rishi manages to stay true to the character Hemanth must have envisioned. The understated and nuanced performance of Rishi manages to stand out despite Nag’s presence. Read the complete review of Kavaludaari.
10. Aamis | Bhaskar Hazarika | Horror Drama | Assamese
Bhaskar Hazarika sophomore film is an experimental horror drama. It weaves the suppressed desire of women and unconventional facet of love. A young doctorate student, Sumon (played by Arghadeep Barua), is researching on the regional meat-eating traditions across India. He falls head over heels with a paediatrician Niri (played by Lima Das) during their kinky outings to explore various animals meat-eating sessions. Never explicitly confessed about their mutual love but the spark that set off their platonic relationship soon turns into obsessive and transgressive meat eating exploration that tests their limit of love. Read our review of Aamis from Tribeca Film Festival 2019.
9. Hamid | Aijaz Khan | Drama | Hindi
It’s irrelevant how the movies rank on any list, but Hamid is the most important Indian movie of 2019 on the list. Perhaps, it is the most significant film of the year even if all the subplots don’t come together well. Another crack in the film is the dependency on ‘deus ex machina’ to take the plot forward. In spite of that, Hamid works like a wonder. It pulls the strings of your heart and leaves you pondering after the credits roll.
An innocent and naive kid calls ‘786’ believing it is Allah’s number. The call redirects to an Army officer battling his own demon. Their conversation is heartwarming and heartbreaking. Keeping the innocent kid at the vantage point, Aziz Khan’s ‘Hamid’ never picks the side. He rather presents a poignant and anti-war film surrounding hope, faith and death.
Stream Hamid on Netflix
8. Mallesham | Peddinti Ashok Kumar | Biopic | Telugu
Mallesham opens with a euphonious song chronicling the intricate and nuanced detailing that goes in weaving Pochampalli sarees. The lyrics describe in admiration the craft of weaving every fabric to create a mosaic of the art design on a saree. From the judicious selection of threads and its colour to the infinitesimal gap between every thread, you would be sweating by the end of the song, realising the monumental hard work that goes into making a single Pochampalli saree.
And if that was not enough, writer Peddinti Ashok Kumar and debut film-maker Raj Rachakonda give us sight into the lives of the men and women who toil endlessly on ‘asu’ to design the saree. Before they start knitting the narrative, we see how cruel and unrewarding the art is for the artists in debt who are pushed over the edge to end their life.
Mallesham (131 minutes) is a moving and heartwarming film that doesn’t fall into any biopic tropes and engages in theatrics. The honesty, sincerity and love in making this biopic reflect in the intention of telling a story than selling it. Continue reading the complete review of Mallesham.
8. Nagarkirtan | Kaushik Ganguly | Social Drama | Bengali
We are in 2019, and Indian movies have rarely explored the existence of a gender identity crisis with compassion and dignity as Kaushik Ganguly’s ‘Nagarkirtan’ does. The myopic view of commercial Indian film-makers has confined transexuals to the neglected space in the narrative for making crass and insensitive jokes.
Kaushik Ganguly takes the very neglected, invisible community to weave a heart-breaking and moving tale. It not only questions the social prejudices and lack of empathy for transexuals but also the acceptance of intrinsic sexuality by an individual and the society.
Ganguly doesn’t indulge in a scathing commentary on the society as much as he paints the aching life of transgenders in the society through their eyes. He renders the narrative a humanistic stance. It’s also a tender love story. The performances of Ritwick Chakraborty and Riddhi Sen are tangible to feel their plight and intense love.
7. Kumbalangi Nights | Madhu C. Narayanan | Family Drama | Malayalam
After the end credits roll, how you feel about Madhu C.Narrayanan’s directorial debut Kumbalangi Nights is debatable, but we all have to unanimously agree that Fahadh Faasil gave the phenomenal performance of the year that would be difficult to beat in India this year.
He has measly screen time in a tale of dysfunctional brothers navigating through the life when not beating each other black and blue, but Faasil’s character is omnipresent. Kumbalangi Night has its issues but Fahadh and Soubin Shahir more than compensate for the issues.
6. Sir | Rohena Gera | Drama | Hindi
In her debut feature film, the documentary film-maker Rohena Gera patiently observes a maid who has newly found freedom due to her widow status that gave her an opportunity to leave behind her conservative family in the village and a heartbroken writer from New York, staying together in a flat and sharing silences and disconcertment of loneliness in the most crowded city of India.
‘Sir’ is a heartfelt drama about finding love and solidarity in the most unusual place. Tillotama Shome owns the role and breaths the heart and soul to it.