Top 20 All-India and South Asian films: 1
I had already discussed Top 10 Bollywood films of 2018 in my last column on December 16
I had already discussed Top 10 Bollywood films of 2018 in my last column on December 16.
1. Vada Chennai (North Chennai) by Vetri Maaran, Tamil: Masterly, sprawling gangster epic about a carrom player drawn into the mafia, starring Dhanush, Aishwarya Rajesh and Andrea Jeremiah. The densely packed screenplay, also by Vetri Maaran, is superbly directed, with panache. Premiering at the Pingyao International Film Festival, it certainly lends itself to a web series as well.
2. Ee Ma Yau (RIP) by Lijo Jose Pellissery, Malayalam: Brilliant tragi-comedy on death, and how a funeral overwhelms a modest family living on Kerala's coast. Eesi promises his dad a grand funeral, but he hadn't accounted for an unsympathetic Church, his dad's mistress or unending rain. Best Director at IFFI.
3. Balekempa (The Bangle Seller) by Ere Gowda, Kannada: When Kempanna and Saubhagya are hounded for being childless, he coolly engineers a jugaad solution that gets everyone to shut up. At Rotterdam film festival. Ere Gowda was Assistant Director and co-writer on Raam Reddy's Thithi.
4. Kaala by Pa. Ranjith, Tamil: Starring Rajinikanth, it powerfully and stylishly fused mythology (Raavan is Kaala/Black, the good guy) with contemporary Hindutva politics, highlighting the exploitation of Dalits, low castes and migrants in Dharavi and today's India. On Amazon Prime Video India.
5. Mahanati by Nag Ashwin (Great Actress, in Telugu; Nadigaiyar Thilagam in Tamil): With Keerthy Suresh and Dulquer Salmaan. A biopic on superstar Savitri garu, it is a sensuous, period feminist film, rivalling Bollywood's best. Kommareddy Savitri starred in nearly 200 Telugu, Tamil and Hindi films, alongside Sivaji Ganesan, MG Ramachandran (MGR), Gemini Ganesan and Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao (NTR); was often paid more than the heroes, and herself produced and directed six films. Top notch acting and technical credits. On Amazon Prime Video.
6. Bubul Can Sing by Rima Das, Assamese: Moving coming of age story of three teenagers, whose lives are torn apart by the local moral police. Will be at the Berlin film festival.
7. Mayaanadhi (Mystic River) by Aashiq Abu, Malayalam: Starring Tovino Thomas and Aishwarya Lekshmi, this is a tender, yet volatile love story between a complex woman and a naïve man, where the woman calls the shots.
8. Sudani from Nigeria by Zakariya Mohammed, Malayalam: Absolutely delightful, heart-warming film about a small town football manager who hires a Nigerian football player for the local Malappuram team, and how the entire town warms up to them. With meticulously observed writing by Muhsin Parari and Zakariya, and charming actors, it is a winner all the way. On Netflix.
9. Thundenek (Her. Him. The Other), Sinhalese, Tamil, Sri Lanka: Anthology film by Prasanna Vithanage, Vimukthi Jayasundara and Asoka Handagama, Sri Lanka's finest directors. An ex-militant videographer from the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) travels to meet a young widow to ease his conscience. Locarno film festival.
10. Shonibar Bikel (Saturday Afternoon) by Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, Bangladesh. Very courageous, deeply humanist, Bangladesh-German co-production. Thriller inspired by the terrorist attack on the 'Holy Bakery' in Dhaka, that left over 20 dead. Accomplished, single-take feature, shot by Kazakh cinematographer Aziz Zhambakiyev, who won Berlin's Silver Bear for Harmony Lessons.
Special mentions would certainly include Ivan Ayr's Soni (Hindi, Venice film festival); B Ajithkumar's Eeda (Here), M Padmakumar's Joseph, Tinu Pappachan's Swathanthryam Ardharathriyil (Freedom at Midnight), Sudeep Elamon and Goutham Soorya's Sleeplessly Yours, Venu's Carbon and Jayaraj Nair's Bhayanakam (in Malayalam); Sukumar's Rangasthalam (Telugu) and Sachin Kundalkar's Gulabjaam (Marathi). Kaushik Ganguly's powerful Nagarkirtan (Bengali) is not detailed here because it is a 2017 film expected to release in 2019.
Meenakshi Shedde is South Asia Consultant to the Berlin Film Festival, award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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