The 15 Best Indian Films of 2018
9. Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil | Hindi | Aadish Keluskar
The sophomore project of Aadish Keluskar, Jaaon Kaha Bata Ae Dil is a fervour fever of maddening love filling the romantic walk with unabashed and unflinching discourse about romance, politics and society. The interpersonal dynamics between two nameless characters (Khushboo Upadhyay and Rohit Kokate) is a beauty to behold – which often juggles between the sharp criticism of each other. Khushboo is mellow, kinder and soft-spoken while Rohit’s practical ideology borders cynicism, he is chauvinist and highly opinionated.
Aadish roots the drama in the real world facing the real-life crisis, and discussing relevant socio-politics at length. By the time we adjust to the acidic romantic milieu Aadish is creating, the narrative plunges into the darkest space of a relationship to an unprepared jaw-dropping climax that would be difficult to shrug off. Aadish’s transition from an aggressive divergent thinking film ‘Kaul’ to a pragmatic, no-frills romantic drama, assures us of a great film-maker in making. Rohit Kokate lives and breathes the character. He gives an exalting performance that would be hard to digest, and Upadhyay perfectly fits him like ying-yang and renders the vulnerability and heart to the film. Aadish Keluskar on Politics of his Anti-Romantic film.
8. Vada Chennai | Tamil | Vetrimaaran
A sprawling and multi-threaded narrative having a non-linear structure and interjected with intense emotions of love, loyalty and betrayal, ‘Vada Chennai’ carries the traces of Vetrimaaran’s most accomplished film ‘Aadukalam’. An under-educated lead protagonist sees a future in sports but eventually, he gets embroiled in a local politics that takes him in the rustic and dark underbelly of Madurai [in Aadukalam] and North Chennai [in Vada Chennai]. Vetrimaaran is a prolific film-maker in sketching intricate and nuanced characters and grounding them in realism within its realm.
Vada Chennai does get muddled due to frequent change in the timeline and a plethora of characters thrown in the mixer who eventually contributes in the ambiguous morality of the lead characters and the repercussions of their actions. The strong foundation for the sequels has been laid, plenty of subplots are yet to be tied up neatly, the characters have already been etched in the mind, if not the heart. You can read the complete of the film here.
7. Badhaai Ho | Hindi | Amit Sharma
When a middle-aged woman discovers she is pregnant, her family is torn between the public discomfort due to social stigma and individual’s awkwardness. The only support she gets is from her husband who was initially reluctant to have this baby. This interesting narrative device could have turned into a bloated melodramatic embarrassment if not for its ingenious writing to wrap the sensitive drama in a semblance of humour and the clever character development, without compromising the very essence of it.
Amit Sharma never uses the quirky plot to mock the family in public and then cater the sympathy from their extraordinary circumstances. He observes the conflict among the family members and makes us ponder on the boundaries of progressiveness. The film is a laugh riot from the word go. The characters feel straight out of our neighbour. The smart writing reflects in its subtle charming sequences and the minimal expositions. If only the climax was not mushy and theatrical, and it not was handled tackily, unlike the rest of the film, ‘Baadhai Ho!’ could have been a near perfect film of the year.
6. C/O Kancharapalem | Telugu | Ventakesh Maha
Brimming with the emotion of love and the innocence of falling in it, the multithreaded and observational narrative of C/O Kancharapalem weaves the stories of four different men of different ages experiencing the very emotion like; a child who buys clothes of the color his crushes love; a young hood securing job for his love; a worker in wine shop proposing with a cheap rum bottle; and a widow woman proposing a 49 years old clerk. The characters are ordinary but not their characterization. Their love story is undecorated -without any frills but not their love.
Ventakesh Maha casually slips in enough nuanced societal issues that ultimately shapes the lives of these vibrant but deeply grounded characters. He tackles classism, labour exploitation, gender prejudices and casteism without overdramatizing the events, and keeping the narrative internal – close to the characters, rather making the film about their struggle to tackle them.
5. Merku Thodarchi Malai | Tamil | Lenin Bharathi
If there is any film from the list that you should watch right away, it should be cinematographer Theni Eswar and debutant director Lenin Bharathi’s ‘Merku Thodarchi Malai.’ The quotidian life of the landless labours is thrown in jeopardy when the political emergence conflicts with the personal politics, and, ultimately, ruin the harmonious living. The film reflects the inward turbulence of the lead protagonist that peaks to a violent incident, forever changing the fate of his life.
The film opens with a leisurely paced forty minutes shot of labours trekking uphill on ‘Western Ghat.’ It is one of the most beautifully photographed sequences you would see this year in Indian cinema. It is almost poetic until these labours carry a sack of cardamom downhill, on their back, which makes it elegiac. Some portion of the third act may feel out of sync, which could be possibly due to an abrupt moralistic change in the lead character to achieve the desired climax, it is nonetheless one of the most thoughtful films on the labour class.
4. Sudani From Nigeria | Malayalam | Zakariya Mohammed
Writer-director Zakariya Mohammed weaves a soul-stirring and thought-provoking humanitarian narrative in the back-drop of sports. Though the film is marketed as a sports drama, the real battle is off the football ground in ‘Sudani From Nigeria’. The film narrates the battle of two different individuals – Majeed, a football team Manager, harbours the resentment towards her mother who remarried, leaving him to sacrifice his studies; Samuel, a foreigner, is caught up between a physical accident that has thrown him off the ground and emotional turbulence of financial crisis back home.
Debutant writer-director Zakariya approaches the story with the simplicity that is reminiscent of Iranian cinema, and yet he is able to successfully portray the most complex and profound emotions of a person – love and forgiveness. It is commendable how smoothly the tone of the film shifts gradually to touch upon the issues of refugees, though the film is not without the glitches. The action of Samuel, at times, feel forced to convey his empathy and rage.
3. Jonaki | Bengali | Aditya Vikram Sengupta
Indian writer/director Aditya Vikram Sengupta follows his mesmerizingly poetic debut-feature, Labour of Love with a stately, dream-like love story, filtered through a dying octogenarian woman’s decaying memories. Mr Sengupta’s Jonaki (‘Firefly’, 2018) is an incredibly idiosyncratic and personal film, in which the director offers surrealistic snapshots from the life of his beloved grandmother, who passed away at the age of 81 before lying in a comatose state for 4 days.
Sengupta combines the subsequent nightmares he had after his grandmother’s passing with what he envisages as the echoes of memories that might have afflicted her when she was in the coma. Vikram Sengupta’s formal experiments and treatment of normative space and time is unique in its own way. You can read the complete review of the film here.
2. October | Hindi | Shoojit Sircar
The writer-director duo of Juhi Chaturvedi and Shoojit Sircar are quaintly fascinated with the Human Anatomy. With their third collaboration, they venture into the human brain and its occasional, unreasonable acts of selflessness. In comparison to the other two films, “October” is a toned down, meditative exploration of love, grief, and sadness that slowly seeps into each frame but never numbs you. Which is why you feel it completely, tenderly and with all your heart. You can read the complete review of the film here.
October Featured in the 10 Best Hindi Films of 2018 – Check out the List here.
1. Ee.Ma.Yau | Malayalam | Lijo Jose Pellissery
Lijo Jose Pellissery has mastered the art of blending the drama with quirky and eccentric humour that is less situational and more observational. The seeds were clearly sown in his flawed Double Barrel and further explored in Angamaly Diaries but with Ee.Ma.Ya, he really got hold of the balance between the humour and tragedy that makes him one of the few tragic-comedy film-makers in India who can pull off black comedy with ease, without succumbing to substandard comedy.
‘Ee.Ma.Yau’ revolves around a loving son – Eeshi (Chemban Vinod Jose) – trying to organise a grand funeral for his father with dignity and respect but things don’t go as per his plan. The funeral proceedings pave a path for idiosyncratic drama and observational humour that gradually turns into a circus, revealing the greater deal about the quirky characters in the town and their humanistic values.