1. Kuch Bheege Alfaaz: Onir’s elegiac ode to a time when love was felt in the heart, and not in the social media. In his latest directorial venture the prolific and insightful director Onir probes wounds that never heal. The love that grows between two wounded people trapped in the numbing bustle of the metropolis—Kolkata this time, it was Delhi in Onir’s previous film Shab—is not uncharted territory in the cinema of emotional diaspora that Onir has constantly explored andAnurag Basu also examined with scrupulous integrity in Life In A Metro.In KuchBheege Alfaaz(KBA) the traditional tearfulness associated with the emotions of hurt, pain, betrayal,isolation and guilt—yes, all of these emotions are compressed into Onir’s latest—are alchemized into a warm-hearted frothy but never frivolous look at how craggily man-woman relationships pan out in the city.There is a lot of ‘ping’ in the pain of mutually shared hurt between the pair as they exchange messages on the phone that they find very entertaining.It’s Alfaaz’s good fortune that his misfortune is portrayed by an abundantly emotive new actor. Zain KhanDurrani is most decidedly a prized find. His command over his character’s dithering emotional graph is impressive. Viewers can rediscover this neglected gem of the year on Netflix.
2. Missing: That face is the map of the human heart. No one does it like Tabu. Not when she sets her heart to it. Everyone has gone ga-ga over her performance this year in Andha Dhun. Errrrr….aren’t we MISSING something? This time she plays a distraught mother who on a visit to Mauritius ends up with her little daughter kidnapped.Nothing in Missing is as it seems. In pursuit of an ever-renewable suspense Mukul Abhyankar’s writing lapses into the ludicrous. The twists and turns in the plot are meant to startle in a very ‘boo’ kind of way.And some of Manoj Bajpai’s efforts to do the ‘How A Good Actor Plays A Bad Actor To Con The Law’ is just not up to the mark.You see Manoj playing a sleazeball with a roving eye, for a large part of the film has to play a man trying to convince the cop(AnnuKapoor, playing the Mauritian law enforcer with a remarkably researched rigour) that his lies are the truth.In other words,a good actor doing a bad job of bad acting….Complicated? But just the way writer-director Mukul Abhyankar wants the set-up.On every step he plants a redherring so red, you feel you are walking through blood-soaked mine field. Except that there is never an explosion. In fact the feeble writing and the unconvincing situations would have done the strained suspense in were it not forTabu’s magnificent performance.Playing a grieving mother whose emotions can’t be trusted she brings a persuasive candour and an everlasting splendor to her role. That incandescent face of hers is lit up like a languorous lantern by cinematographer Sudeep Chatterjee . The cinematographer brings more emotion to Tabu’s face than to all the aqueous shots of sun-soaked Mauritius which never convince us the island is worth a visit.
3. Beyond The Clouds: I seriously think the English-language title did the film in. Majidi Majidi’s masterly study of poverty and crime in the slums of Mumbaiwas riveting bumpy ride across a world we only see through the side window of our moving cars. The message of hope and humanism shines like a beacon of light in the charged electric screenplay written by Mehran Kashani where the drama of the damned is not an affectation but a way of life. Right away from the very first shot showing a run-down hoarding for a cellphone company, Mumbai’s heartbeat throbs life and breath into every moment that Majid Majidi’s narrative exhales over frames that seem to embrace life in all its inglorious colours.In the very first sequence we see our hero hopping off a car in a distance across the road. Aamir is not up to any good, he never will be.Or so we think. The quality of life bequeathed to Aamir and his elder sister Tara(Malavika Mohanan) is such that beauty ,harmony, compassion and other luxuries of a desirable existence are hard to obtain.And yet , this is where the humanism of Majid Majidi’s cinema comes into voluptuous play. In spite of the abject seemingly irredeemable darkness, there is that spark of light igniting the soul.The film moves through two different narrative zones after the protagonist, siblings, are separated by a crime.Aamirfinds himself looking after and caring for the family of the very man (Gautam Ghose)who brought on disaster in his life. It is debutante Ishaan Khatter who stands tall in a film where life dwarfs even the bravest. Ishaan’s Aamir is impetuous volatile and self-destructive. The character’s redemptive journey is undertaken by the debutant actor with an honesty and vigour that are unmatched by anything we’ve seen in a maiden performance.
4. Mitron: The most neglected film of the year about an aimless Gujarati chap(Jackky Bhagnani) who marries a girl so focused on her promising career, she makes her husband look like a fly trapped aginst an opaque windowpane. The film directed by Nitin Kakkad(of Filmstaan) does a rare film about a marriage an uneven wicket withoutmaking the woman look like a victim or the man like a monster. Funny and wistful, catch Mitron on the small-screen format.
5. Halkaa: Somewhere I saw a supercilious review of this marvellous film describing it as an exercize in “potty training”This is akin to calling Pather Panchali poverty porn.Or Salaam Bombay i an exploitative exercize.The morning toilet habit plays a big hand in director Nila Madhab Panda’s new film. But Halkaa is not only about morning ablutions. The potty prattle secretes an immense compassion for the downtrodden.I wouldn’t call the wonderful children in director Nila Madhab Panda’s film “oppressed”.By India’s abysmal standards of povertyPichku(played by the wonderfully sensitive Tatthastu) is a happy child. Sure, his father is a wretchedly overworkedrickshawpuller(play with characteristic credibility by Ranveer Shorey) who dreams of owning an autorickshaw. He shouts at Pichku. But if your son did his morning business inside your one-room tenement would you lose the plot?Providentially, Panda doesn’t suffuse the narrative with the blinding light of positivity. He never glorifies poverty. Nor does he use it as a occasion to share a raga of wretchedness with the music of our stricken soul. There is no attempt to manipulate our emotions into state of sympathetic submission, as Pichku and Gopi set out on a mission to get a toilet at any cost.Non-judgmental poverty is not easy to process and project on screen. Panda does it with an exceptional level of success.Of course the performances lend a trend of great tenderness to the going-on.Little Tathtastu is as precious and prized a discovery as some of Panda’s child actors in his earlier films.Nihar Ranjan-Samal’s sound design and Pratap Raut’s
cinematography are in absolute harmony with the determined quality of Pichku’s dream. He won’t do his business at the railway track even if the trains that pass do not stop to carry his dream.