The covid-19 outrage gobbled up the year 2020, restricting the source of entertainment to watching content on screens in an endless loop. An absence of the usual adrak wali chai at the street vendor made our heads numb. 2021 did bring in some respite, before becoming a pandemic-eaten year itself. At least, we found some consolation through the new wave of movies released.
The year 2021 gave us a good blend of theatre hits and new OTT releases to bring some color to our slo-mo lives.
A lot of turmoil was seen in the cinematic landscape, which has continued till 2022. While Bollywood was coming to terms with the downfall of the blockbuster film’ (except for a very few exceptions), regional cinema became the new success story. The most modest films stole the hearts of the audience, proving that true gems don’t need extensive marketing to sell.
There were some wonderful movies and titles from 2021 that made hearts twinge with feel-good moments. Casteism and sexuality were dominant themes on the silver screens. It wouldn’t be too far out there to say that cinema of 2021 did more in opening people’s eyes over implicit issues than most media coverage.
Here are some of the Indian films that I would recommend you watch before too much of the new year goes by and makes you fall behind:
1. Haseen Dillruba
A perfect Saturday night thriller that will keep you at the edge of your seat. The Netflix original had a well-crafted storyline with absolutely raw performances by the protagonists, Taapsee Pannu, who plays a loud Punjabi girl and Vikrant Massey, a straight-laced, poetic boy.
The characters are under a piling mountain of allegations for blurring out the truth as the story moves forward. The movie is an apt representation of the complications of genuine love mixed in with extramarital relations.
A carefree, upmarket girl (Rani) enters into matrimony with a small-town boy (Rishu). Their marriage starts to spring leaks when their intimacy doesn’t go as well as they hoped. Things go further south when Rani decides to engage with her husband’s brother. But the actual twist in the tale comes along when a murder is committed.
This is definitely not a conventional wife-and-lover-murders-the-husband mystery.
This year, it seems like Indian cinema has surpassed the earlier benchmarks in war dramas, carefully flipping through the pages of Indian militarian history for an interesting watch. 2021 film ‘Shershaah’ basks in the brilliance of simplicity, realist-drama and tender love.
In fact, this war drama, based on the life and achievements of Captain Vikram Batra of the Indian Army, stands out from all other war dramas because of the essential romantic plot, that forms a prominent influence on the soldier’s journey.
The only slight flaw in this film was the occasional slow pace that lost people’s engagement. But despite it, the film is a good blend of romance, drama and war if you are in the mood for a good heart-cry!
3. Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui
This movie exemplified the fact that if treated right and scripted well, movies with social messages can be blockbusters and have a profound social impact. A big shoutout to Abhishek Kapoor and the scriptwriters of ‘Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui’ for choosing such a daring topic, even by today’s standards. Another reason why this film stands out is that this is one of the few Ayushmnn Khurana films where the leading lady, Vaani Kapoor, completely steals the show from him.
The story depicts the friction between individual freedom and societal taboos. goes by how society still doesn’t accept the choice of free will. The story revolves around Manu, a bodybuilder (Ayushmaan) who falls in love with Maanvi, a Zumba instructor (Vaani). Maanvi struggles with a traumatic past and allows herself to become vulnerable with Manu.
The film keeps the cliched ‘point of realization’ but makes up for it with a strong storyline that strips naked the ugly realities of narrow-minded people.
A perfect, feel-good, family movie to binge on a weekend, especially if you or your parents are die-hard Kapil Dev and/or cricket fans, and if you want to see them jump up with joy at key moments. ‘83’, a 2021 sports drama that focuses on the
Story of the Indian Mens’ Cricket team during the 1983 Cricket World cup Tournament under the leadership of Kapil Dev.
83 is a proper yet enjoyable history lesson for generations of Indians to come, and a hair-raising trip down memory lane for the people who remember the day when India won the World Cup on that historic day.
As usual, Ranveer Singh nails the performance. As Kapil Dev, Ranveer Singh has perfectly mastered Kapil Dev’s speech, demeanor, body language, the Haryanvi accent and even the famous ‘Nataraja shot’.
Another important aspect of the film is the stellar cast that embodies the Indian Cricket team that clinched that historic win. The team of 83 could not have put together a better cast.
Hats off to the cinematographer also, who did a great job in picturizing the players’ emotions and the story of that particular day through the players’ vision of the huge stadium.
The final match shown in the film perfectly captures the “highs” & “lows”, the “peaks” & “troughs” of the actual match between India & West Indies at Lords.
Some movies hit you like a dried but still beautiful flower inside a poetry book, Parched but pretty. Underrated movies are something like that. 2021’s biographical comedy-drama, Kaagaz is something like that. This film is a narrative of dysfunctionalities and prevailing loopholes in government systems.
The story is of the struggles of an Indian farmer, Lal Bihari Mritak, who was declared dead on paper by his relative to illegally confiscate ancestral land. For 19 years Lal Bihari fought to prove his existence. The movie sheds a gut-wrenching light on the plight of the underprivileged working-class society.
Pankaj Tripathi infuses life into the lead role. His acting makes up for even the most cliched plot points. Pankaj’s balancing act in hurt, rage, humanity and madness uplifts the movie which is, quite frankly, a little behind the times.
The perfect movie for a good dose of female power, this movie lays bare the communal suppression of womens’ individual wants and thought-process.
Pagglait gets its name from the Hindi word that translates to ‘Madman’.
The lead character is effortlessly played by Sanya Malhotra who has a strong presence of mind. She plays a recently-widowed woman who finds herself unable to mourn the death of her husband, who died just 5 months into the marriage. Over the course of the film, we discover the reality of her 5-month long marriage and her family dynamics.
The movie paints a real picture of the crippling orthodoxy in society and sheds light on arranged marriages, which oftentimes turn out to be just a relationship of convenience. The movie sets the conflict between Sandhya’s indifference with her right to perform the last rites of her husband. Even though the film is a thought-provoking subject matter, the funny and lazy pace sets the right tone for a breezy watch.
7. Pushpa: The rise
Telugu film industry, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say, is filling in for people’s expectations of a blockbuster cinema. More and more people are turning over to the South Indian brand of cinema, and they’re not necessarily Dravidian language-speaking folk.
Pushpa is a loaded action drama that puts up a breath-taking performance through a great cast. Based on the smuggling of red sandalwood in the hills of Andhra Pradesh, Pushpa is the story (and name) of a coolie (porter), who rises above mockery to become a rustic, top gangster of the smuggling league.
8. The White Tiger
This book is a great example of the fact that with the right directorial vision and the right screenwriter, every great book can be turned into a great movie.
The White Tiger, a 2021 movie, is a book adaptation of the 2008 novel of the same name. The movie paints a vicious picture of the hardships of the lower socio-economic classes, throwing in a balanced but delicious platter of fraud, murder and hypocrisy.
The movie also strips naked the so-called upper-class-liberal lifestyle that sits, in all its hypocrite glory, upon a mountain of crushed servants.
The movie is a discourse on the unapologetic class divisions in India, and the extraordinary amounts of shrewdness and cunning needed for a marginalized person to rise through the ranks.
Balram (Adarsh Gourav), who makes it his mission to become the chauffeur for a treacherous, upper-class family, specifically for the youngest (and the least treacherous of the lot) scion of the family (Rajkumar Rao), goes on a roller coaster of an equation with his masters. Despite its increasingly dark tone, this movie serves up a good amount of twists to lend it a satisfying quality.
These are some of the movies that I found were worth killing time for in 2021. If you are someone like me, that is…..one who likes a good dose of gut-wrenching reality mixed in with a healthy course of hope for the future.