Here are my picks of the best of Hindi versions of 2020, from Thappad to Gunjan Saxena, Eeb Allay Ooo! and Raat Akeli Hai.
When the COVID19 pandemic put the brakes on cinema around the world, it didn’t help the fact that once the Hindi film industry, aka Bollywood, tentatively started showing films on streaming platforms, their quality has been disappointing overall. Still, some shone in this otherwise bleak year. Here is my pick of the best of Hindi releases of 2020 in cinemas and online (films that only screened at festivals are not included).
Note: As so few new movies were released this year compared to Bollywood’s annual average, I made a list of my Top 6 instead of the usual Top 10.
1.Eeb Allay Ooo!
After making waves on the festival circuit in India and abroad in 2019-20, poignant newbie director Prateek Vats Eeb Allay Ooo! hit theaters here in December 2020. Vats tells a story written by Shubham of the Lutyens Delhis monkey hunters whose job it is to make sure the simians don’t harass bureaucrats and politicians. Their job is difficult and dangerous because, on the one hand, the beasts can turn violent, while on the other hand, their every move is watched by both animal rights activists and religious people.
Eeb Allay Ooo!The title of s is taken from the sounds that the protagonist (Shardul Bhardwaj) learns to make by his mentor to scare these primates. The film is a mind-boggling commentary on the attitude of using and throwing away the big cities towards poor migrant workers who are treated as consumables although their services are indispensable.
The brilliant cinematography of Saumyananda Sahis and the faithful sound design of Bigyna Bhushan Dahals complement each other in Eeb Allay Ooo! to capture a Delhi of creak-worthy contrasts, with towering buildings housing the capital’s mighty elite, secluded residential areas inhabited by the upper crust of society, and noisy, crowded and decrepit alleyways occupied by those like our guardian hero homes and workplaces of privileged and safe operation.
Eeb Allay Ooo! feels as real as if it was a reality show or documentary. Heartbreaking. And beautiful.
2.Gunjan saxena: The Kargil girl
Another newbie book. Biographical tale of a pioneering Indian fighter aviator, first director Sharan Sharmas Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl does what few Hindi films have done before: it examines the social conditioning and pressure that influences women’s career choices, the occasional misogyny in everyday life, and extreme misogyny in the workplace. Janhvi Kapoor embodies the passionate titular protagonist of aviation, joins the Indian Air Force (IAF) and stays the course in the face of morale-crushing patriarchy and humiliation.
Written by Nikhil Mehrotra, Sharma himself and Hussain Dalal (who is credited with additional dialogues), Gunjan saxena is surprisingly low-key for a film about defense services and recent warfare. He marks with his honesty about why Saxenas chose his profession, his down-to-earth approach to the IAF over canonization as is the custom in most Hindi war films and his refusal to translate patriotism into ugliness or sonority in accordance with the current. dominant public discourse supported by the institution.
Unsurprisingly, when it released on Netflix in August, the film aroused the ire of the IAF for its portrayal of prejudice within the Force.
Visually spectacular in the scenes where Saxena is in flight, with great music to boot, Gunjan saxena is inspiring and uplifting.
In a country where it is normal to react to reports of domestic violence with but the woman must have done Something to provoke it, it takes courage to make an entire film about what society is likely to describe as a simple slap (thappad). Producer-director Anubhav Sinha and actor Taapsee Pannu are nothing but brave, and so in 2020 they’ve teamed up for a second time, this time to give us Thappad co-written by Mrunmayee Lagoo Waikul and Sinha himself.
Pannu plays here a housewife, shaken by years of inertia and conformism when her husband publicly assaults her one day. In addition to its revolutionary zero tolerance for domestic violence, the other defining element Thappad is his spotlight on a likeable man who realizes that he like most liberal dads in real life hasn’t been as liberal with his wife as he is with his daughter.
A powerful and disconcerting film.
Numero uno’s casting director Honey Trehan made her directorial debut with this black murder mystery set in a northern India where female survivors of sexual abuse, regardless of class, are ashamed while that their predators are being left behind by society. Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Raat Akeli Hai (The Night Is Alone / Lonely / Solitary) plays a middle-aged police officer investigating the murder of a wealthy old man on the night of his marriage to a woman young enough to be his child.
Smita Singhs’ writing on this detective saga is as tense as a tightrope, politically conscious, detailed and exciting. The DoP Pankaj Kumars executives are some of the best seen in a Hindi film from this decade. And the large Siddiqui cast, Radhika Apte as a widowed bride and Ila Arun as a cop mother, among others, is the closest to perfection you’ll find anywhere.
5.Class of 83
After many years in relative oblivion, Bobby Deol chose wisely and well when he signed up for Class of 83. Director Atul Sabharwals’ crime drama is about a disillusioned senior policeman (Deol) who hires young new recruits into the Mumbai force to assemble his personal vigilante group and finish off the underworld through unconventional means. Deol is used well in this ensemble cast film in which he co-stars with five fantastic newbies Sameer Paranjape, HiteshBhojraj, Bhupendra Jadawat, Ninad Mahajani, and Prithvik Pratap playing his protected characters.
MarioPoljacs ambient photography and music by Viju Shahs complete the technical finesse of the films.
Class of 83 is a fine sample of minimalist cinema in which not a word, not a plan, not a single musical note is superfluous. Exciting and memorable.
Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana play Lucknowis at war with a rotting haveli in philosophically-inclined director Shoojit Sircars Gulabo Sitabo written by his regular contributor, Juhi Chaturvedi. The protagonists fight over a property without showing affection for Amma, the woman to whom he belongs, is open to multiple interpretations. Regardless of which one your mind turns to, Gulabo Sitabo is gloriously entertaining, folkloric fun, not least because of the emphasis on Amma played with panache by octogenarian actor Farrukh Jafar, the attention to detail in writing an array of quirky supporting characters, and the richness of the language used.
Director of photography Avik Mukhopadhayays, Ammas haveli’s shots are a beauty. The music is alternately as playful and thoughtful as the story itself. And the gender reversal of Uttar Pradesh’s Gulabo-Sitabo puppet tradition is one of the many understated ways this one-of-a-kind film makes fun of a convention.
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