Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Sanya Malhotra, Neena Gupta, Gagraj Rao
An absolute charmer, Badhaai Ho was a delightful exploration of suburban middle-class and its sexual-emotional anxieties as the matriarch of the family announce her pregnancy. All hell breaks loose. Sophomore director Amit Sharma eschews melodrama and hysteria. The reined-in screenplay gives the characters breathing (and breeding) space. Never before have the people populating a movie-made housing colony seemed so real. The performances were so vivid and endearing, I had to go back to them. And to think the director Amit Sharma had earlier directed the potboiler Tevar, best remembered for putting the redoubtable Manoj Bajpai on screen in his innerwear to endorse a particular brand of lingerie. Yuck!
Starring: Varun Dhawan, Banita Sandhu
Shoojit Sircar’s delicately-drawn love story about an annoyingly self-important hotel concierge (Varun Dhawan) and his soft-spoken colleague (newcomer Banita Sandhu) who slips and falls into a coma. Did she give him a hint of her feelings for him before she lost consciousness? This was an audacious and daring premise for a love story. But then when has Sircar ever played the game by the rules? He breaks them with tender care and gives us a romance as wispy and gossamer as Shakti Samanta’s all-time classic Amar Prem, without R D Burman’s timeless songs. This is the problem with romantic films today. The soul may have music. But the music hardly ever has soul. When Varun Dhawan was deeply effective when he was not busy showing us how daring an actor he is.
Starring: Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, Shahid Kapoor, Jim Sarbh
Despite a fatally flawed script, this epic sailed across to greatness on the strength of its visual resplendence and the power of Sanjay Leela Bhansali to bring glory to large-screen grandiosity. In Padmaavat, Bhansali spoke to us in a language of spectacular resplendence. On second viewing, the performances except for Jim Sarbh left me unmoved. I’d have liked to see more of the love story between Ranveer Singh’s Allauddin Khilji and Sarbh's character Malik Kafur.
Starring: Radhika Apte, Manisha Koirala, Bhumi Pednekar, Kiara Advani, Vicky Kaushal and others
This 4-storey treat on Netflix has so much to give, it requires, no demands, repeat viewing. The theme is lust. But each story is treated with much tender care. Be it the (rather weak) part of Radhika Apte’s Kalindi, a feisty teacher with the hots for her student or the sublime story of Bhumi Pednekar, the househelp in lust with her unmarried employer (Neil Bhoopalan). Manisha Koirala and the sprightly Kiara Advani round off the remaining two stories. The directors – Anurag Kashyap, Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar and Dibakar Banerjee – have given us an anthology that takes a whole new look at modern relationships.
R Balki’s heartfelt propaganda film on female hygiene is to menstruation what Toilet Ek Prem Katha was to defecation. One man in Tamil Nadu, who is miraculously a convincingly-transformed North Indian in PadMan, decided to do something about making sanitary pads affordable to poor women. Balki adopts a simple straightforward linear narrative mode, leaving behind the swag and swagger of Chini Kam, Ki & Ka and Shamitabh to focus on the man and his mission. There are passages of keen satire rubbing shoulders with fleeting images of deep contemplation in the supple sturdy and rugged story-telling, all merging in a marriage of Pure Cinema and Social Statement.
Starring: Diljit Dosanjh and Taapsee Pannu
At a time when supposedly responsible filmmakers are glorifying gangsters, terrorists and sociopaths in ostensible bio-pics, Soorma about the struggles of hockey champ Sandeep Singh to overcome crippling obstacles to claim a name among sports legends, comes as a gust of unpolluted air. This is a film that needed to be made, a story about a man whom future generations need to know about and look up to. Diljit Dosanjh makes the character and his struggles look so artless and credible you want to reach into the innards of the plot and hold the protagonist’s hand and tell him, ‘It’s okay. You will be fine.’ In a sequence like the one where Diljit pleads and rages over the phone against his beloved’s seeming betrayal. Dilijit’s gentle control over the swelling emotions is laudatory. If this performance doesn’t fetch Dosanjh a National award, what will?
Starring: Varun Dhawan and Anushka Sharma
After I saw Sharat Kataria's debut film Dum Lagake Haisha I hoped Kataria won't sell out to the star system . But his second film starred a market -friendly lead star. I hoped Kataria's second film won't lose the charm and innocence of the first. Varun Dhawan surrenders to his character Mauji as though the role was tailor-made for him. Never afraid to look less than heroic on screen, Varun furnishes his darji's characters with a rugged candour. Dhawan's performance is filled with a smothered disappointment. The aspirational narrative of how Mauji finds his groove with considerable help from his street-wise wife, works like a charm because all the performers are solidly sincere . But most of all Sui Dhaga wins our hearts because the director never milks the milieu for soppy sentimentality. Nor does he swing the other way to make the middle-class ambience a place to celebrate misery. The tone is constantly energetic yet poised.
Starring: Alia Bhatt and Vicky Kaushal
Though I had several misgivings about the plot which bends backwards to show the traditional enemy as empathetic, this film is finally a brave and sensitive attempt to portray the life of an Indian spy in Pakistan. Raazi is that triumphant film which leaves you with some serious misgivings. The story, as we all know by now, is based on the real events during the eve of the 1971 Indo-Pak war when a valorous young Muslim Indian girl Sehmat decided to cross the border to become the wife in a Pakistani family of army-men to gather information for the Indian government. It is an audacious tale. And one waiting to be filmed. As a work of cinematic art Raazi scores very highly, almost rivaling the director Meghna Gulzar’s previous film Talvar. Alia Bhatt lets her performance merge into Sehmat’s moral dilemma . We often see her break down in private. But her grief earns no sympathy from us. Her imagined moral high-ground is not only patronizing to the people whom she betrays it is also unconvincing to us who watch in horrified silence as she murders and double-deals with a defiant impunity.
Starring: Rishi Kapoor, Taapsee Pannu, Prateik Babbar
It is very hard to believe that Anubhav Sinha whose earlier credits include fluff stuff like Tum Bin and Ra. One , has actually created this modern political masterpiece which attempts very successfully to humanize a community that has been demonized by some negative elements. And yet Mulk doesn’t take sides, doesn’t make the Indian Muslim community a portrait of injured innocence. What it does do is to lay bare the layers of deception that mars a truly fruitful dialogue between sane rational elements in both the Hindu and Muslim community. When the son(Prateik Babbar) from a Muslim family in the dense bylanes of Varanasi decides to became a so-called jihadi, the ramifications on his family are deep and wounding. It is in portraying the family’s anguish that Anubhav emerges with cinema that’s masterly and timely. There comes a time in the taut narrative when the patriarch of the family is asked to choose between home and safety. Rishi Kapoor making that resolute choice reminded me of Balraj Sahni in Garam Hawa.
Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Radhika Apte, Tabu
Everything and nothing makes sense in the morally unhinged world of Sriram Raghavan. People kill maim hoodwink and betray the unsuspecting at the drop of a hat. This intricately woven whodunit’s hero is a blind pianist, played with eclectic aplomb by Ayushmann Khurrana. We soon get to know the blind pianist is not blind after all. This movie has been told with a verve and velocity that the suspense genre has never experienced before in Hindi cinema. So if you’ve been wondering why suspense films in Indian cinema seem so amateurish think no more. Andhadhun is everything that a murder mystery should be.