The 15 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. It left me cold by the time end credits rolled. The subtle and restrained narrative in the first act feel 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.
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.
Manu Ashokan | Social Drama | Malayalam
Uyare’s strength lies in the honest and diligent performance of Parvathy that pulls you emotionally even in the shaky, melodramatic patches of the film. Also, the applause should be given for meticulous portrayal of a toxic relationship & women’s place in a patriarchal society that has seldom been captured with such truthful eyes.
A dream of an ambitious Pallavi Raveendran (Parvathy Thiruvothu) comes crashing down when her insecure, incompetent boyfriend Govind throws acid on her face. The film definitely deals with the narrative of hope and courage that Pallavi displays to resurrect but it is done in a plausible manner. Even though Bobby & Sanjay’s writing stumbles, largely to incorporate the commercial element, they do not mess in portraying a parasitic & emotionally manipulative Govind who wants to have everything his way.
Khalid Rahman | Police Drama | Malayalam
Mammooty reclaims his stature as a versatile actor who could slip into the character with ease, Unda is a great testament to it. After doing melodramatic, commercial movies for almost two decades, Mammooty has picked up character roles in 2019, and Unda is no different. Essaying a character of Kerala police, Sub-Inspector Manikandan C.P, he is sent to Basthar, a Maoist area for election duty. Given the political awareness among the masses, politics has become an integral part of everyone.
Under the garb of action-comedy Police drama, Unda investigates the sensitive but searing conundrum of the threat to democracy without giving an explicit answer to the viewers.Unda is a perfect companion piece to “Newton”, in fact, the aesthetics and milieu were so strikingly similar if you expect Newton would walk into the school patrolled by Kerala police, then you won’t be wrong.
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 an obsessive and transgressive meat-eating exploration that tests their limit of love. Read our review of Aamis from Tribeca Film Festival 2019.
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
Aashiq Abu | Medical Thriller | Malayalam
Aashiq Abu’s Virus is an exemplary cinema that is rarely tackled with such sensitivity and urgency in the narrative. Based on the outbreak of Nipah virus that hit Kerala in 2018, Virus functions as a medical thriller. It tries to understand the origin of it so to help to contain it from further spread.
Several characters are introduced that give different emotional and psychological weight and perspective to this outbreak in order to understand the behaviour of human under such deadly event. It’s “Contagion” with more heart and dramatics than a terrifying thriller.
Anuraj Manohar | Thriller | Malayalam
A young couple in pursuit of stealing a kiss finds themselves in trouble when two people catch them making out in the backseat of a car. What follows after that will make you shudder in horror. Ishq is a tricky film and might prove divisive as well. It puts two men from different strata and educational background in a circumstance that dismantles their bruised male ego to strip down their illusional gentleman-ness and expose the toxic behaviour they harbour underneath their masculinity. It also sheds light on the madonna-who*e complex behaviour of young men to expose their hypocrisy in a brutal manner.
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. They are often mocked and used 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 for their dejection of transgenders. He merely 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.
10. 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.
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.