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10 Best Films Of The Year 2018

Subhash K . Jha

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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 KJha picks his  favourite films of  the year.

1.     Badhaai Ho: An absolute charmer, a delightful exploration  of  the  suburban middleclass and its sexual-emotional anxieties as  the  matriarch  of the family announces her pregnancy.All hell breaks loose.Sophomore director AmitSharma  eschews  melodrama and hysteria. The reined-in screenplay gives  the characters breathing(and breeding) space . The  narrative never  breathes down the characters’ neck, allows them to just be. 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.

2.     October: Shoojit Sircar’s delicately-drawn  love story about an annoyingly  selfimportant  hotel concierge (VarunDhawan) and his softspoken  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.

3.     Padmaavat: Despite a fatally flawed script,  this epic—yes the  only film this year that  qualified as one—sailed across to greatness on  the strength  of its visual resplendence  and the  power of its director the great Sanjay LeelaBhansali to  bring glory to large-screen grandiosity. Bhansali  for my money is  the best filmmaker  in our country  today. Every in Padmaavat spoke to  us  in a language of spectacular  resplendence. On a second viewing the  performances except Jim Sarbh  left me unmoved. I’d have liked to see more of   the love story between  RanveerSingh’s  Allauddin Khilji and Sarbh’s  transgender  character Malik Kafur .

4.     Lust Stories: This 4-storey treat  on Netflix has so much to give, it requires, no demands,  repeat viewing. The theme is  lust.  This orgasmic omnibus opens with the weakest  story story of the  lot. Anurag Kashyap’s  ploughsthrough the sexual  escapades of  one of the most  unlikable  female  heroines I’ve seen in recent times. Radhika Apte  plays the sexually active Kalindi,  a college lecturer with the hots for her  virgin student Akash Thosar who remains  virgin  no more after she finishes with him.

Zoya Akhtar’s story sees Bhumi Pedneker blossom into  an actress  of substance . Playing a house-help who is helping her unmarried single employer(Neil Bhoopalan) with his bucket-‘lust’ Bhumi hardly speaks. Zoya tracks her unspoken movement through the  apartment which she  knows intimately  but can never own, as her employer-lover’s prospective bride descends  on  the  ‘1 BKH’ apartment with her  folks,  reminding her   of her place in the domestic hierarchy.There is a kind of unvarnished elegance  in Zoya’s  delineation of domesticity .In the  third story   DibakarBannerjee does an Ingmar Bergman-Basu Bhattacharya portrait-from-a-fractured-marriage in the third story where lust is not a predominant impulse.

Desolation is.  And who better equipped than Manisha Koirala to project the hurt and wounded pride of a wife who has found comfort in her  husband’s best friend’s arms? Bannerjee uses  a lot of words  to heal wounds in the fractured relationship. Dibakar builds a bewildering wall around the  triangular  relationship. I found the fourth story  in this Lust-omnibus to be the hardest to define.  Clearly  Karan Johar enjoys the  orgasmic beat much more than the  other three directors. His story is an unabashed  ode to the  Big O, though a little  broad  and  tactless in  the way it  makes  the  self-pleasuring vibrator seem like  a tool of sexual liberation.Sending  the warrior queen to the battle field with a sword….It is  really not that simple

Still,  full credit to Karan Johar and all the other three directors of Lust Stories for opening that  door into the Indian middleclass’ sexual consciousness where there lurks a lust for self-fulfilment , seldom explored, scarcely  realized. For  exploring what  goes on behind those doors of middleclass bedrooms this omnibus deserves an ovation.

5.     Padman:  R Balki’s  heartfelt propaganda  film on  female  hygiene  is  to  menstruation  what  Toilet Ek PremKatha was to defecation. There is the period  film. And then there is the film about the periods. Excellence comes in many packages. But rarely in a small secret package wrapped a newspaper. Sometimes these packages cost Rs 55 and are completely out of reach for the non-urban women of India.One man in Tamil Nadu, who is miraculously a convincingly-transformed North Indian in Pad Man, 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 ofChini Kam, Ki & Ka and the underrated Shamitabh to focus on the man and his mission with a singlemindeness of vision shared in equal measures by the protagonist and the filmmaker. There are passages of keen satire rubbing shoulders with fleeting images of deep contemplation in the supple sturdy and rugged storytelling,all merging in a marriage of Pure Cinema and Social Statement.

6.     Soorma:  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. Damn,  the  young need role models from  our everyday life, not imported super-heroes  who can’t save their own egos even as they purport to save civilization  from destruction. 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.I’ve suffered too.’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?

7.     Sui Dhaga:  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. Providentially Sui Dhaga lost none of the delicacy and sting of  a tale rooted to the  soil, even while providing space to its leads to surrender of to their characters .Varun Dhawan surrenders to his characterMauji as though the role was tailor-made for him .Never afraid to look less than heroic on screen, Varun furnishes hisdarji’s characters with a rugged candour.This is an actor and a character  who are so sincere to their craft  they don’t mind crawling on the floor if that’s what it takes to stay afloat.Dhawan’s performance is filled with a smothered disappointment .it takes his quietly confident deceptively docile wife Mamta to bring out the suppressed ambition in her husband. 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.Kataria is neither awed by stillness nor intimidated by noiseHe listens to the heartbeat of the Indian heartland.We listen.

8.     Raazi: 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. Raaziis  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  wife in a Pakistani family of armymen 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.

9.     Mulk: It is  very  hard to  believe  that 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—and full-marks to Anubhav Sinha for writing a script that doesn’t bend backwards to humanize  the  community under siege—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  Anubhavemerges  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 BalrajSahni in Garam Hawa.

10.  Andha Dhun: 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. Though mercifully he remains  a pianist right until the bitter battered finale when nemesis is no longer willing to stay huddled in a corner. 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. Filled with morally reprehensible  characters including  an absolutely debauched   cop(Manav Vij, dazzlingly slimy)  it doesn’t try  to  impress us with the right moral values.God is on leave. And goodness is on a hunger strike in this film about greed passion and nemesis.

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