10 Best Films of 2018

What a year it has been for Hindi cinema! The hits and the critically acclaimed films kept rolling out. At the last count, 10 films of the year had jumped into the 100-crore league. Not all of them deserved their success. Subhash K Jha picks the favourite films of the year.

BADHAAI HO

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!

OCTOBER

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.

PADMAAVAT

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.

LUST STORIES

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.

PADMAN

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor and Radhika Apte

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.

SOORMA

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?

SUI DHAAGA

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.

RAAZI

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.

MULK

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.

ANDHADHUN

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.

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