'Thappad' To 'Laxmii': The Best and Worst Bollywood Films of 2020
A look back at the films that brought us laughs and (unintentional) tears in 2020.
Who would have thought 2020 would feel like living in one long sci-fi film with the apocalyptic, world–will–end tomorrow films suddenly giving us an eerie documentary feel. The pandemic forced the world to press the pause button but still thanks to the OTT gods, the content flow remained uninterrupted. While so many want to permanently delete this year because of the coronavirus, here are some of the best films that we would like to keep save in our memory disk nevertheless presented in no particular order.
1. 'Yeh Ballet'
To keep our anxiety-ridden selves calm, Sooni Taraporewala’s Yeh Ballet is what the doctor prescribed. It centres around two young boys from impoverished backgrounds who struggle to master ballet. There is such emotional truth to their experiences and journey that it’ll feel real and familiar even to those raised in different circumstances. The cast, particularly the leads, Manish Chauhan and Achintya Bose, are astonishingly good. A story about friendship, hope and extraordinary serendipity, the film stays with you long after it is over.
This film had a theatrical release in February this year and one must say that the outing was worth every minute. Dealing with the subject of domestic violence, Thappad leaves a lasting impression without unnecessary sermonising. With Tapsee Pannu in top form, this one had to make the cut.
3. 'Chintu ka Birthday'
An uncomplicated simple film, written and directed by Divyanshu Kumar and Satyanshu Singh. Shot mostly inside a single house, this is a heart-warming story about a little kid wanting a perfect birthday. At a time when a lot of us couldn’t celebrate our special days quite the way we wanted to, this film tugged at our heartstrings.
Probably the first Hindi film made on demonetisation. Politics and incisive observations are always intricately woven into an Anurag Kashyap film. The tongue-in-cheek sarcasm is evident but a tad subtle as compared to his tweets and that worked in favour of the narrative. Sayami Kher and Roshan Mathew‘s performances are top notch as well.
Directed by Devashish Makhija, this one has Manoj Bajpayee playing a retired Mumbai police cop. Yet another performance by the actor that makes us wonder if there is anything that he cant do. The film’s commentary, the local vs migrant debate took on a new meaning forcing us to reflect on this skewed power structure where we were privileged enough to be in the comfort of our homes while millions we deemed “outsiders” set out on foot to go back to their homes miles away.
6. 'Raat Akeli Hai'
A whodunnit that doesn’t have many “pulling the rug from under our feet moments” but an assiduously mounted plot where every character has an identity and a role to play, irrespective of how small their screen time is. Casting director turned director Honey Trehan’s sophisticated thriller seduced us with its subtlety. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte along with the entire ensemble cast ensured that we stayed hooked to it throughout.
7. 'Serious Men'
Directed by Sudhir Mishra and based on a novel by Manu Joseph, the film tells the story of Ayyan Mani, a Dalit personal assistant to a Brahmin scientist and his “genius “ son. Wickedly funny and insightful in its class and caste depiction, the film's sharp satirical look at the skewed power equation in society gives us enough to ponder over.
There is an element of imaginative fantasy that makes Ludo, a uniquely colour-coded anthology, a pleasing, breezy watch. Just like a game of Ludo this one has four separate tracks and the characters cross paths due to a twist of fates brought about by Sattu Bhaiya aka Pankaj Tripathi. He is the one who holds the dice of the others' destinies. Like previous Anurag Basu films, the silence as well as music are redolent with meaning. From the beautiful use of the 'Kismat ki Hawa' from Albela to tracks composed by Pritam, the music matches the tapestry of the stories so well that the film is invigorated and energised by them.
An anthology consisting of five short stories directed by Raj & DK, Nitya Mehra, Nikkhil Advani, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Avinash Arun, Unpaused was made this year and about this year. From virtual dating and loneliness to the plight of senior citizens and the migrant crisis , it chronicles the times we are in and does so with a fair amount of insight and sensitivity.
10. 'Eeb Allay Ooo!
This story about a man and monkeys is a biting satire on the state of unemployment and the uncertain future that holds migrants hostage. Shardul Bharadwaj is astonishingly good and the film absurdly funny and relevant.
But OTT platforms also became Bollywood’s favourite dumping ground. For every decent film there were half a dozen terrible ones we had to negotiate. Here are a few films that only added to our misery:
A much anticipated film where even judging by the Bollywood standard of “brainless comedies” Laxmii fell short miserably. Neither funny nor inspiring and a horror in the most literal sense, it makes mockery of the very things it claims to be celebrating. A hero with a scientific temperament comfortable with his misogyny and a film where transgender characters have to carry the burden of nauseating stereotypes. Akshay Kumar is so loud in the film that it's just cringeworthy to see him.
Turns out it’s not the horror films that are scary but the the ones pretending too hard to belong to the genre that one should truly be afraid of. Durgamati ranks right up there with Akshay Kumar’s Laxmii in this regard. Was the coronavirus and this sad year not bad enough that we were forced to sit through terrible remakes of South Indian films?
3. 'Sadak 2'
When the Sadak 2 trailer released, it almost immediately became the second most disliked trailer of all times. But as it turns out Sadak 2 doesn’t need others to declare it as bad. It manages to do so on it’s own. Unimaginably bad. It seems such a pointless effort. Alia Bhatt and Aditya Roy Kapoor had no chemistry and it was just painful to see Sanjay Dutt trudge along.
4. 'Mrs Serial Killer'
As it is, the lockdown was hard and then to watch Mrs Serial Killer really brought on the blues. Your best friend while watching this on Netflix is going to be the 10 seconds fast forward button. Keep pressing it till you get a sneak peek of Manoj Bajpayee in the video thumbnail as you scroll on the progress bar. Apart from him, no one deserved our attention anyway.
5. 'Ginny Weds Sunny'
God knows this year we deserved a good love story… an exhilarating, however unreal romance that made our heart delirious with joy. Ginny Weds Sunny is nothing close to that. In fact, it has nothing to do with love or romance. It’s just a placid manual to quickly get one's shaadi cards printed. If an honest sequel was ever made, it should be called Ginny Divorces Sunny because Sunny isn’t the suitable boy for Ginny and this we knew five minutes into the film. So you can imagine how painful it was to watch this .
6. 'Love Aaj Kal 2'
The famous dialogue of this film is also what we wanted to tell Imtiaz Ali and the team: “Tum mujhe tang karne lage ho.” The most real scenes in the film are the ones where Zoe aka Sara Ali Khan books a cab and the driver never finds her location. That’s the bit one related to the most. As for the narrative, the GPS never worked. It’s off the mark and if you are an Imtiaz Ali fan, the disappointment was real.
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