Top 20 All-India and South Asian films: Part 2
I had already discussed my Top 10 Bollywood films on December 16 and Top 20 All-India and South Asian films
I had already discussed my Top 10 Bollywood films on December 16 and Top 20 All-India and South Asian films: Part 1 on December 23. Thrillingly, 14 of these 30 top films, nearly 50 per cent, are first or second features.
11. Pariyerum Perumal (The God on a Horse) by Mari Selvaraj, Tamil. Starring Kathir, Anandhi: Debut feature produced by Pa Ranjith (Kaala). Outstanding, level-headed story about why Indian society won't allow an inter-caste romance between Pari and Jothi, with compelling performances. On Amazon Prime Video.
12. C/o Kancharapalem by Venkatesh Maha, Telugu. Starring Subba Rao, Praveena Paruchuri: Debut feature presented by Rana Daggubati. Named after a suburb of Visakhapatnam, it weaves together four unconventional love stories that seem ordinary, yet are quietly remarkable and radical. With mainly local, non-professional cast.
13. Mouna Kaandam (House of My Fathers) by Suba Sivakumaran, Sinhalese, Tamil, Sri Lanka. Starring Bimal Jayakody, Pradeepa: Debut feature. Asoka and Ahalya, from a civil war-scarred Sinhalese village and Tamil village in Sri Lanka respectively, must journey to the Forest of the Dead, in order to lift a curse that leaves women infertile. Powerful imagery. Presented at the Busan and Mumbai film festivals.
14. 96 by C Prem Kumar, Tamil. Starring Vijay Sethupathi, Trisha: Debut feature. A school reunion connects K Ramachandran and Janaki Devi, childhood sweethearts who realise they are still in love. She's married, but he's still single. Restrained performances bring it depth.
15. Nude: Chitraa by Ravi Jadhav, Marathi. Starring Kalyanee Mulay, Chhaya Kadam: Powerful critique on the place of art in Indian society. Laxman disowns his mother Yamuna for posing as a nude model in an art school, in order to fund his education. The censorship only proved the point Jadhav was making.
16. Ek Je Chhilo Raja (There was a King) by Srijit Mukherji, Bengali. Starring Jisshu Sengupta, Jaya Ahsan, Aparna Sen, Anjan Dutt: Lavish period drama, based on the sensational case of Raja Mahendra Kumar Chowdhury of the Bhawal Estate, who was apparently dead and cremated, but returned 12 years later as a sanyasi to reclaim his place.
17. Ahare Mon (Lonely Hearts) by Pratim D Gupta, Bengali. Starring Adil Hussain, Paoli Dam, Anjan Dutt, Mamata Shankar, Ritwick Chakraborty: Four stories of relationships woven together: of a traveller and immigration officer; a widow and a veteran in a senior citizens' home; two swindlers; and a cancer-stricken girl who has a crush on Bengali superstar Dev.
18. Koode (Together) by Anjali Menon, Malayalam. Starring Prithviraj Sukumaran, Nazriya, Parvathy: A life-affirming brother-sister story, adapted from Sachin Kundalkar's Happy Journey. Sent away to the Gulf to work as a young man, Joshua grows cold, until his sister Jenny rekindles warmth in him again.
19. Ma'ama (Moan) by Dominic Sangma, in Garo, from Meghalaya. Guilty of neglecting his late wife, an old man seeks redemption. Largely autobiographical, this film mainly features Sangma's family. An Indo-Chinese co-production, it was at the Mumbai film festival.
20. 2.0 by Shankar, Tamil. Starring Rajinikanth. On the dangers of mobile phone radiation, this science-fiction fantasy had world-class SFX and action. With a more convincing storyline, we would have better enjoyed Rajinikanth's multiple avatars. Amazon has rights.
Special mentions include Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil (Lovef**ked) by Aadish Keluskar (Hindi); Balaji Tharaneetharan's Seethakaathi, Mani Ratnam's Chekka Chivantha Vaanam and Vasanth Sai's Sivaranjani And Two Other Women (Tamil); Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti's Naal and Sandeep Modi's Chumbak (Marathi); Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. by Steve Loveridge on the Sri Lanka-born pop icon Mathangi 'Maya' Arulpragasam (USA, UK, Sri Lanka); and Nilesh Karamunge's Mahaprayan (The Last Journey, Konkani), an astonishing, single-take satire based on a real-life story of a man who walked home for miles with his wife's corpse, as he had no money for a hearse.
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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