At year's end, looking back on the films of the year, it has been an embarras de richesses. Here's recalling some of my favourite Indian films of 2015:
MASAAN by Neeraj Ghaywan: Remarkable, memorable debut feature that won two prizes at the Cannes film festival, of the younger generation escaping small-town suffocation in Varanasi. Superb screenplay, performances, cinematography, lyrics, and music by Indian Ocean.
COURT by Chaitanya Tamhane (Marathi, Hindi, English): Another remarkable debut feature that won two prizes at the Venice film festival. A powerful attack on the judiciary, as a folk singer is tried in court on fake charges of abetting the “suicide” of a sewer cleaner.
DUM LAGA KE HAISHA by Sharat Katariya: delicious film on a useless chap who marries an overweight teacher. The small town atmosphere, slow-burn chemistry between the leads, and lyrics by Varun Grover were fab. Bravo also to producer Yash Raj Films.
Thithi won two awards at Locarno film festival
KILLA by Avinash Arun (The Fort, Marathi): An evocative coming of age story of a young boy whose mother is transferred to small town Konkan. This debut feature won two prizes at the Berlin film festival. Hats off to producer Jar Pictures' Alan McAlex & Co.
OTTAAL by Jayaraj (The Trap, Malayalam): A haunting, lyrical film on a grandfather who does on his grandson, but is forced to sell him as child labour. MJ Radhakrishnan's exquisite cinematography and performances ensured it won prizes at the Kerala and Mumbai film fests.
PIKU by Shoojit Sircar: It frankly admitted the devotion of daughters to ageing fathers, and the selfishness of parents, in a way Bollywood never dared. Juhi Chaturvedi's screenplay is remarkable, and Irrfan-Deepika's tentative romance a highlight.
THITHI by Raam Reddy (Kannada): This superb debut feature won two prizes at the Locarno film festival. A sharply observed story of four generations of a farmer's family and how three of them respond to the death of the eldest. Good script, remarkable performances by non-actors.
NH10 by Navdeep Singh: a powerful, brutal film on a Delhi couple who get caught up in an honour killing. A good script, a feminist film; but it speaks of how a woman must become a killer in order to survive amidst killers. Anushka Sharma was strong, and also co-produced.
TITLI by Kanu Behl: a compelling, brutally cynical film on car-jacking brothers, in which the bullied Titli turns oppressor, that was at Cannes. Shashank Arora and Ranvir Shorey are excellent. Dibakar Bannerjee's DBP and Yash Raj coproduced—glory be!
ISLAND CITY by Ruchika Oberoi: Superb debut feature that was at the Venice film festival. It weaves together three stories that offer a portrait of Mumbai as a stifling metropolis in which to live and work.
TALVAR by Meghna Gulzar: A controversial film on the Noida double murder case involving Aarushi Talwar's parents, it boasts strong performances by Irrfan Khan, Konkona Sen Sharma and Neeraj Kabi. A petition to reopen the case followed the release of the film.
CHAUTHI KOOT (The Fourth Direction, Punjabi) by Gurvinder Singh: This film, which was at Cannes, recreates the paranoia gripping Punjabis trapped between militants and government forces, in the 1980s. But it does this elliptically. Satya Rai Nagpaul's cinematography is a strong suit.
BAJIRAO MASTANI by Sanjay Leela Bhansali: An opulent version of history: the married Hindu Peshwa Bajirao I takes Mastani, a Muslim woman warrior, as his second wife. Remarkable mise-en-scene. Hats off to Bhansali for celebrating a Hindu-Muslim relationship in a right-wing vitiated era; and equally for bringing classical Hindustani music (he's the music composer), classical dance (Birju Maharaj) and great art (including Raja Ravi Varma's Damayanti and the Swan) in an expensive, mainstream Bollywood film: he doesn't have to, but chooses to. Bravo!
Meenakshi Shedde is South Asia Consultant to the Berlin Film Festival, award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. Reach her at email@example.com.
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