The 10 Best Indian Movies of 2019 (so far)
5. To Let | Chezhiyan | Drama | Tamil
After winning accolades in various festivals and the 65th National Awards for the Best Feature Film in Tamil, ‘To Let’ finds the digital space on Amazon Prime. To Let is a minimalist drama. It captures the ever-growing disparity and helplessness of a lower-middle-class family caught up between a sharp appreciation in real estate price and a dream of making a film in the unfavourable industry.
Chezhiyan ditches the genre tropes and doesn’t succumb to the melodrama to put across the plight of a family who find it harder to rent a flat. The IT booming, discrimination based on caste, religion and diet, and exploitation at work & in the hands of the landowner are categorically explored in the slow-burning narrative that catches the spirit of Indian real estate.
To Let is available on Amazon Prime
4. Sonchiriya | Abhishek Chaubey | Hindi | Drama
Having worked with Vishal Bhardwaj on ‘Omkara’, ‘The Blue Umbrella’ and ‘Kaminey’, Abhishek Chaubey has meticulously created a niche for himself. He doesn’t merely create characters and narrative around the indigenous environment, he rather surrenders himself to the root of it. Even at times, Abhishek Chaubey’s films feel more observational of milieu and characters inhibiting them. The emotional undercurrent in his films is universal.
On the surface, Sonchirya is about dacoits on the run from the police of Chambal who won’t budge until they have cleaned the town. But if you probe deeper into the subject matter, the underlying subtext is cruel and universal; the deliverance for the sin we commit, the toxic masculinity & patriarchy plaguing the families and the shifting moral dilemma in the face of crisis. The poetic and often dreary, Sonchiriya is an existential dacoit drama that succeeds much more than what it sets to achieve.
3. Photograph | Ritesh Batra | Hindi | Drama
Ritesh Batra returns to the film-making with another lyrical and meditative narrative that warmly embraces two lonely souls living in Mumbai. One is a photographer, Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui in his most understated performance) working on Gateway of India, trying to clear the debts his father, and another is a young introverted girl, Miloni (Sanya Malhotra) who thinks she owes everything to her parents.
Helpless circumstances around them and the shallowness of society govern their lives. On the flip side, the editing of the film in the first act is frustrating and jarring. Despite the hiccup, Batra manages to weave a heartfelt tale of two people sharing the grief in the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps. Read the complete review of Ritesh Batra’s Photograph.
Sanya Malhotra’s last film ‘Pataakha’ appeared in our annual list of the 10 Best Bollywood Movies 2018.
Stream Photograph on Amazon Prime
2. Bhonsle | Deveshish Makhija | Hindi/Marathi | Drama
Commonly referred to as the ‘outsiders-insiders’ issue, the north Indians have been subjected to prejudices. They are treated as a second-class citizen by Mumbaikar aligned to anti-Bihari sentiment. Devashish Makhija, popularly known for bone-chilling revenge-drama ‘Ajji’, base his new plot around the anti-Bihari sentiment. Languorously paced and painstakingly slow, Bhonsle is a nuanced and sweeping character study that demands utmost patience.
As much as Bhonsle belongs to Devashish Makhija’s excellence in writing & direction and towering performance of Manoj Bajpayee, the supporting cast, production design and every technical department bring their game to reimagine the reclusive and detached world of Bhonsle living like a beaten hermit. Continue reading the complete review of Bhonsle.
1. Soni | Ivan Ayr | Hindi | Drama
This is the underrated gem of Indian movies, and, so far, the best Indian film of 2019. Unlike the hyper-exaggerated fantasy about Police drama, Rohit Shetty put on display in his film. Ivan Ayr’s roots the police drama ‘Soni’ in realism. He avoids all the Bollywood genre tropes, which he could have easily fallen trap to. He deconstructs the power of hierarchy that widens the gender gap.
Soni is a micro-budget drama about two women police officers. They are torn between the ethical and moral dilemma of their duty as an officer and their want to uproot the women based crimes like gender prejudice and sexual harassment. Ivan Ayr avoids theatrics and sensationalism and roots the film in the realistic milieu. It is further solidified by two moving & nuanced performances which have already gone unnoticed this year.