BEST OF 2020 (Indian Films)
Here’s our list of what we consider to be the absolute best of Indian films and the most sterling performances there in, which riveted and had us spellbound in equal measure. (Please note we are only considering films that have been officially released in India this year.)
TOP 5 INDIAN FILMS
- Eeb Allay Ooo! ( Dir: Prateek Vats ) (ALT’s Favourite)
Eeb Allay Ooo! tells the story of Anjani Prasad (Shardul Bharadwaj) as he gets an odd job of shooing monkeys away from the high-profile areas of Delhi. It is an odd, absurd premise and this becomes the basis for director Prateek Vats to churn one of the year’s most intelligent, brave films. Eeb Allay Ooo! is a fantastic indie, a well-thought satire in a country where artistic voice is harder to hold. Vats handles the film with care and bravado, letting Bharadwaj give one of the year’s most understated, appreciable central performance in a film that found its political potency wrapped under a wonderful story.
2. AK vs AK ( Dir: Vikramditya Motwane )
The final release of the year also turned out to be one of the best. Vikramaditya Motwane creates a mad mayhem in his latest mockumentary by pitting Anurag Kashyap, and Anil Kapoor against each other in a one-of-its-kind thriller that dives deep into the fractured, fraudulent nature of the business and the people who breathe on the opposite spectrum of the industry.
In one of the most audacious imitations of life on screen, Kapoor, and Kashyap bring their worst selves on screen to give us a crackling film that almost seems like testing its own ability to find a deeper, more gruesome face-off between the two, as they are in a televised ticking-bomb situation.
You can read our full review of the film:
AK vs AK Review: A cheeky insider joke transformed into a meta experience about art, society…
Sagnik Kumar Gupta
AK vs AK is now streaming on Netflix.
3. Thappad ( Dir: Anubhav Sinha )
Probably the best film of the year, this Anubhav Sinha directorial starring Tapsee Pannu in a career-defining role was one of the fortunate films to come out before the pandemic hit us. The film was by far the strongest work by Sinha after the wonderful Article 15. The film was an honest, incredible representation of a subdued, resolved army of women who find their voice against institutionalized patriarchy.
At the core is Amrita (Pannu) a conditioned housewife who is jolted into an individual rebel after her husband (Pavail Gulati) slaps her in public. The film was the most introspective, conversational work of the year, seeing patriarchy for what it is — an institution — and not anything else. A few terrific performances along with Pannu further helped in making this the most memorable cinematic experience of the year.
Thappad is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
4. C U Soon ( Dir: Mahesh Narayanan )
Starring Roshan Mathew, Fahadh Faasil, and Darshana Rajendran, C U Soon was the quintessential lockdown film, shot entirely during the COVID-19 lockdown, with actors shooting from the limitations of their homes. The film focuses solely on the laptop/mobile of the three characters as we see a love-story brewing between a romantic Jimmy (Mathew), and a somber, reluctant Anumol (Rajendran) while Faasil plays Jimmy’s best-friend and ally Kevin, as they embark on an unlikely journey of discovering mysteries behind the opaque identity of Anumol.
The film, directed by Mahesh Narayanan, was a fascinating experiment that worked both, as a cinematic representation of the lockdown, and a story of life, relationships, and an entire generation locked in boxes of their screens.
You can read our full review of the film:
C U Soon Review: A taut ‘on-screen’ thriller about socializing and horrors of flesh trade.
C U Soon is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
5. Raat Akeli Hai ( Dir : Honey Trehan )
In this grim, investigative murder mystery, director Honey Trehan blends the complex image of a dysfunctional Indian family with an Agatha Christie-esque whodunit. Starring Nawazuddin Siddique, Radhika Apte, and a host of other talented actors, the film was a rare story of a cop who was bruised, and frustrated, stuck in an arc that was more desperate to be heroic, than anything else.
Like most good movies Raat Akeli Hai had a wonderful climax, with a fantastic critique on the Indian men, and their assumed predatory nature that is hidden under the garb of normalcy, and a united, functional family.
You can read our review of the film:
𝐑𝐚𝐚𝐭 𝐀𝐤𝐞𝐥𝐢 𝐇𝐚𝐢 𝐑𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰: A mostly promising, nail-biting premise falls prey to its…
Raat Akeli Hai is now streaming on Netflix.
Honourable Mentions : Gamak Ghar, Kadakh, Chippa.
BEST INDIAN ACTOR ( Male)
- Shardul Bharadwaj ( Eeb Allay Ooo! ) (ALT’s Choice)
On paper, Shardul Bharadwaj’s role in Eeb Allay Ooo! seems simplistic, but a closer scrutiny of his performance shows a dedication to explore layers upon layers that contribute in making the film one of the best of the year. He carried the role of a forgettable man with a ridiculed job perfectly, bringing the right amount of innocence, and angst in a role that was designed to be an understated performance.
2. Anil Kapoor (AK vs AK)
On paper, playing yourself on screen sounds like the easiest job that exists. And yet, in AK vs AK Anil Kapoor does something extraordinary. He gives voice to his worst perception, giving a performance so unhinged and powerful, that it makes everything about the character Anil Kapoor disdainfully likable.
He emotes from a worried father, to a pretentious, yesteryear actor, and a man out on vengeance with ease, having great fun in company of Anurag Kashyap and direction Vikramaditya Motwane. There is an honest dedication to extract his most inhibited performance yet, making for some wonderful cinematic moments.
3. Manoj Bajpayee (Bhonsle )
For a film that hinged on its leading man’s outing as an expressionless, quiet, lonely man, Manoj Bajpayee conveyed the arc of his titular role in Bhonsle brilliantly. As a retired man who stands by his ethics in times of hate, and divisive politics, Bajpayee was a presence of poise, and strength in this portrayal of a man vulnerable in his sixties.
They say the toughest thing to do as an actor is to economize your expressions, and Bajpayee in Bhonsle epitomized that quality.
You can read our review of the film:
Bhonsle is now streaming on Sony LIV.
4. Roshan Mathews ( C U Soon)
Imagine giving a performance sitting in front of an electronic device all along. Roshan Mathews did this brilliantly in the lockdown movie C U Soon, doing a wonderful job as a man in love, and his increasing concern and anxiety around her erratic behaviour. Mathews brought a great sense of honesty, and vulnerability to the role, doing a great deal in giving the film its emotional core, that it hugely benefitted from.
5. Adil Hussian (Nirvana Inn)
Adil is unsurprisingly excellent. He physicalizes the persistent damage of his deeds in a performance that is both loose-limbed in its execution and in full cognizance of the soberness of the situation. The gravity of the circumstance isn’t translated into convenient overbearing acting flashiness to stress it. Watch him closely in the scene where he breaks down and confesses to his acts, contrite. The camera’s tight on his face and his visage reflect a gradually unfolding plethora of heartbreaking regret, uncertainty that he had once grappled with, and the ultimate grasp of the overarching fatal implications and repercussions of his actions. It is absolutely breathtaking in its naked, unvarnished honesty and easily among the finest acting. It is unadulterated, wholly transparent and a spectacle of conviction.
BEST INDIAN ACTOR ( FEMALE)
- Tillotama Shome ( Sir ) (ALT’s Choice)
A film like Sir breathes in its subtlety. This subtlety makes the art of acting a tricky preposition. This is precisely why Tilotama Shome’s presence in this delicate study of love, and companionship is a fascinating outing for her. Shome, a seasoned performer, finds a delicate innocence with a great understanding of the film’s socio-cultural context to power the film with a silenced, but unforgettable performance.
You can read our review of the film:
2. Darshana Rajendran (C U Soon)
In one of her first major roles in a film, Darshana Rajendran championed a role with an elusive arc that ranged from a damsel in distress to a victim of a sex racket. Like Mathews, Rajendran found a valiant emotional core to give the film a realistic sense of anxiety, and intrigue, matching the brilliance of Rajendran, and Faasil beat-by-beat.
3. Konkona Sen Sharma (Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare)
The moral ambiguity of Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare was quite opaque, and it needed a convincing central performance to ensure the politics of the film does not hinder the narrative flow. Konkana Sen Sharma comes in handy here, giving a restrained, mature performance as a wife stuck in a marriage, and taking the first few steps in the realm of an extramarital affair. Sen brought a relatable vulnerability to an act of moral ambiguity, making Dolly a character we empathized with while we critiqued her choices in the film.
You can read the full review of the film:
Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare Review: Once Again, The Politics in Alankrita Shrivastava’s…
Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare is now streaming on Netflix.
4. Sobhita Dhulipala (Ghost Stories)
Ghost Stories was generally a disappointing anthology, but Anurag Kashyap’s short was a testament of his artistic grasp on the medium. Shobhita Dhulipala starred in this as a mentally unstable pregnant woman, giving the film a terrifying central performance, that was eerie, but not over-the-top.
Ghost Stories is now streaming on Netflix.
5. Rajshri Deshpande (Nirvana Inn)
Rajshri is compelling and she locates something unknowable and inaccessible about Mohini. Despite her character having little breadth, Rajshri has a charismatic presence and plays her with a subtly inviting air.
BEST INDIAN SUPPORTING ACTOR (Male)
- Anurag Kashyap (AK vs AK) (ALT’s Choice)
- Pankaj Tripathi (Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl)
- Fahaad Faasil (C U Soon)
- Santosh Juvekar (Bhonsle)
- Kumud Mishra (Thappad)
BEST INDIAN SUPPORTING ACTOR (Female)
- Geetika Ohlyan (Thappad) (ALT’s Choice)
- Amruta Subhash (Choked)
- Ila Arun (Raat Akeli Hai)
- Tanvi Azmi (Thappad)
- Seema Pahwa ( Chintu Ka Birthday)
BEST DIRECTOR (INDIAN)
- Prateek Vats (Eeb Allay Ooo!) (ALT’s Choice)
A story of a monkey-repeller, who is given the job to keep our supreme leaders and the various ‘Bhawans’ in the capital city away from the monkeys. Prateek Vats tackles a satire about employment, faith and class divide in the brilliant ‘Eeb Allay Ooo’ with astute knowledge about the current politics and detailing of Delhi.
2. Vikramaditya Motwane (AK vs AK)
Motwane who co-wrote the film AK vs AK uses all the mainstream tropes and brews it like a fine stew of both mainstream and arthouse sensibilities. Motwane is probably the only director working in the film industry who has such a varied and equally brilliant filmography. He for once isn’t scared of embarking on this risky endeavor.
3. Devashish Makhija (Bhonsle)
Another normalization in our country — the othering — has been tackled by Devashish Makhija in Bhonsle. Through Manoj Bajpayee, Makhija finds a character via whom the audience enters the Mumbai chawl the film is set in. The sense of — someone is different from us — has been deep-rooted in minds that if we see someone different from us, the first thought comes is of the difference and not of the sameness — of being a human being. The Bihari-Marathi divide depicted by Makhija through its four principal characters and a mind-bending performance by Bajpayee, makes it worth a watch.
4. Anubhav Sinha (Thappad)
Apart from various other things that have been normalized in this country, domestic violence against women probably tops the list. It has become so normal that whenever it takes place, the man is asked if he is okay and is all blamed on his temper, his problems but no one asks, why did it happen in the first place. And, how did it creep into his mind that it was okay to do so in the first place? The Anubhav Sinha version 2.0, after addressing Islamophobia, Casteism in his last two films, attacks patriarchy this time in his usual verbose manner and passes with flying colours. He addressed every, basic minute details that have been ingrained into us living in a patriarchal society, in such a measured way, it’s hard-hitting and a gripping drama at the same time.
5. Mahesh Narayanan (C U Soon)
Mahesh Narayanan in the on-screen screen film ‘C U Soon’. Narayanan and his team has utilized all those aspects and used various screens (laptops, CCTV, mobiles, etc.) to give us a gripping tale of fickle nature of technology, relationships formed within moments and horrors of young women being coaxed into prostitution.
Honourable Mention: Achal Mishra.
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