2018 turned out to be a really bad year for Hindi Cinema. While every year features a truck-load of crap, 2018 will be especially known for celebrating mediocrity. To me, there was only one film that really managed to surpass expectations and remain memorable. Bollywood Movies in 2018 were so overtly bad that everyone had to seek getaway in indie film. However, the Best Hindi Films of 2018 sadly didn’t even get out via the responsible indie-circuit. It didn’t work its magic and produce something as exceptional as the top three picks from 2017. I did not just struggle to keep up with the films produced but even tried more than I should to like them.
Before getting into the count I’d like to point out three films that could have slipped into the list but didn’t for some reason or the other. One of those was the Netflix Original “Love Per Square Foot” – A modern-day rom-com that mostly worked because it knew that everyone eventually searches for a home – be it in a person or a place. Also missing the list is the Netflix Anthology “Lust Stories” which was two stories short of being a great film (go figure yourself which two am talking about). And Vikramaditya Motwane’s pretty down-to-earth vigilante drama “Bhavesh Joshi Superhero,” which was somehow botched down by inconsistent writing, lack of character depth and conventional cut-out villains. This comprehensive list only includes those films that I think managed to tick at least a couple of boxes when it comes to being a good film.
10. Manmarziyaan | Director: Anurag Kashyap
The most divisive Hindi films of Anurag Kashayp’s career came out in 2018. Brought down by questionable character motivations, Anurag Kashyap’s “Manmarziyaan” was a layered love story that scalped the modern-day Indian lovebirds with the precision of an old-school melodrama. Kanika Dhillon penned a ferociously energetic central character in Rumi which Taapsee completely dissolved into. A wise, abide messy film whose characters sometimes so completely inhibit the title’s meaning that it gets frustrating.
9. Gali Guleiyan | Director: Dipesh Jain
Dipesh Jain’s “Gali Guleiyan” was a slow-burning psychological drama that revolved around a man who is so stuck in the criss-cross lanes of Old Delhi, that even deeply seated wounds can’t help him escape. A delirious tale of a voyeuristic individual whose obsession with the kid next door shuns him into despair as his sanity keeps slipping away. Featuring one of the best Manoj Bajpai performances ever, the film also examined how physical and emotional abuse seen at homes can sometimes scar lives forever.
8. Pari | Director: Prosit Roy
When it comes to horror, Indian directors have unsuccessfully drenched themselves in poorly woven CGI-theatrics and unabashedly horrendous evil plots. However, Prosit Roy’s “Pari” was that rare India horror film that married creepy atmospheric thrills with cleverly placed social commentary (unlike the unintentional hybrid ‘Stree’) on the situations and derogatory life that raped and abused women of the country have to face.
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7. Manto | Director: Nandita Das
In spite of a pretty basic, surface level, theatrical representation of the great Pakistani writer Saadat Hasan Manto, Nandita Das’s “Manto” works because it understands that even though many decades have passed since the writer was charged with intolerant obscenity, the subject is more relevant now than ever. Featuring another fantastic central performance by Nawazuddin Siddiqui that film follows a narrative that pays homage to the blurriness between Manto’s idea of reality and literature itself.
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6. Mukkabaaz | Director: Anurag Kashyap
Foreshadowing his previous films with grim realism, Anurag Kashyap’s “Mukkabaaz” featured him diving into the mainstream cinema without holding off his punches. An angry, unforgiving sports film disguised as a dark, brooding critique on the ever-alarming and the ridiculously unfair caste system. Featuring Vineet Kumar in the role of a lifetime, Mukkabaaz is a cheering winner for Bollywood.
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5. Badhaai Ho | Director: Amit Sharma
Genuinely heart-warming and funny, Amit Sharma’s “Badhaai Ho” understood the middle-class family dynamics so well that it turned numerous simplistic instances into crackling moments of pure joy. If mainstream cinema needed saving, this film is the rightful prodigy of the better side of it all. Featuring an ensemble cast that does exactly what they are supposed to do – make sense out of this crazy inane idea.
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4. Pataakha | Director: Vishal Bharadwaj
Vishal Bharadwaj’s “Pataakha” was loud, brash and an absolute cracker of a film. It pitted the two protagonists against each other to divulge a war analogy between two neighboring countries. This Hindi movie is gleaming with ferocious energy and unending love that ripples in spite of the win-lose state of cricket matches, the film flags a positive celebration of colours as the embrace-worthy moment approaches towards the end of 2018.
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3. Tumbbad | Director: Rahi Anil Barve
A folk horror, epic fantasy or a heist thriller? Rahi Anil Barve’s “Tumbbad” was that rare Hindi film that didn’t fit into one specific genre. It is a film that cleverly mingles elements of folklore with a burning enigma of greed getting the horrors out of a human being. In it’s an unflinching, creepy storytelling method, the film surpasses every other contemporary film on the sheer value of its technicality. The sound design and cinematography alone is absolutely top-tier work. There’s no denying that fact that Tumbbad is one of the top Hindi movies that 2018 had in store for the audience.
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2. Andhadhun | Director: Sriram Raghavan
While most Indian films base themselves on a narrative that introduces a central conflict in order to move the protagonist into battling it in the third act, Shriram Raghavan’s “Andhadhun” introduced conflicts every 10 minutes. In doing so, he dished out a deliciously pacy black comedic thriller that keeps you on your toes from start to finish. Filled with hilarious, colorful and deranged characters, the film rides like a hopping rabbit on an enlarged piano who suddenly gets its leg stuck on the key that plays the highest note. Andhadhun was certainly one of the best Hindi movies of 2018.
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1. October | Director: Shoojit Sircar
In Shoojit Sircar’s “October,” none of the characters express their love for one another. And yet, like the changing season that comes and goes – you feel it’s presence. On the shimmering, tired, yet always hopeful face of the selfless protagonist, Love blooms like a fallen flower that still retains some of its fragrance. Even when it is no more a part of the place that gave it light, it flickers with sadness that grows tenderly into something that the four letter word is too small to encapsulate.