Top 20 All India Films 2019
This is the first part, my Top 10. The second part (11-20), will appear next week.
Here's my Top 20 All India and South Asian films of 2019, including fiction features, animation and docu-fiction. This is the first part, my Top 10. The second part (11-20), will appear next week.
1. Kumbalangi Nights by Madhu C Narayanan, Malayalam. Jaw-droppingly gorgeous film, masterfully written by Syam Pushkaran, also co-producer. It stars Fahadh Faasil, Soubin Shahir and Shane Nigam. Women are absent in this family of four brothers, yet it delicately evokes femininity in this masculine space, while ripping machismo. Uff! One for the ages. On Amazon Prime.
2. Super Deluxe by Thiagarajan Kumararaja, Tamil. Staggering film that takes Indian cinema to higher realms, also literally. Starting with death-by-orgasm, it weaves four stories that refuse to judge women—a porn star, a married woman having an affair, or a transgender (gorgeous Vijay Sethupathi). Starring Fahadh Faasil, Samantha Akkineni, Ramya Krishnan. Another one for the ages. On Netflix.
3. Prathi Poovankozhi (Accused: Rooster) by Rosshan Andrrews, Malayalam. Straightforward, yet powerful film on what happens when a woman is groped in a bus. Starring Manju Warrier and written by Unni R, it explores why women's decency keeps them from taking easy revenge, with a superb climax. In all-India theatres this week.
4. Bulbul Can Sing by Rima Das, Assamese. This delicate jewel from the North East, a bittersweet coming of age drama of three teenagers, comments on India's moral police. Was at the Berlin and Toronto film festivals. Das's Village Rockstars was India's Oscar entry.
5. Eeb Allay Ooo! By Prateek Vats, Hindi, is a sharp satire on India's unique profession, the monkey-chaser, who's on a government contract: the man must become a monkey to keep the job. Was at the Pingyao and Mumbai festivals (where it won awards), and will now be at the Berlin film festival.
6. Aise Hee, Just Like That, by Kislay, Hindi. Quietly revolutionary film about what happens when an ageing grandmother decides to live for herself. Was at the Busan and Mumbai film festivals.
7. Bombay Rose by Gitanjali Rao, Bambaiyya, animation feature. Staggeringly rich film about street flowersellers Kamala and Salim, and the magnificent, bisexual Shirley. Valentine to Bombay, old Bollywood and an inclusive culture—a rich visual and aural feast. At the Venice, Toronto, Busan, London film festivals.
8. Uyare (Height) by Manu Ashokan, Malayalam. Pallavi trains to be a pilot, but when her jealous boyfriend throws acid on her, she not only manages to become an airhostess, but even, briefly, a pilot. Will be an exhilarating companion piece to Meghna Gulzar's forthcoming Chhapaak.
9. Virus by Aashiq Abu, Malayalam. A biomedical thriller on the deadly Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala, that underlines the courageous fight of many to contain the epidemic, and how compassion started it all. On Amazon Prime.
10. Iewduh (The Market) by Pradip Kurbah, Khasi. This quietly revolutionary film from Shillong, makes a toilet cleaner (Albert Mawrie) its hero, and the anchor of three lives, shot in Shillong's busiest market. It won the Kim Ji-Seok Award at the Busan film festival; was at the Mumbai film festival, and released theatrically all India. Bravo!
Meenakshi Shedde is India and South Asia Delegate to the Berlin International Film Festival, National Award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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