The year 2020 was cruel to everyone including the film watchers, as it led many films to postpone their releases. Majority of the films were released on the OTT platforms. It wasn’t the usual theatrical release with fanfare, however, OTT did give them a reach to the viewer sitting at home. For bad films, it had a catastrophic consequence, as the audience literally massacred these films. On the other hand, the good films finally started to get the required attention it always deserved. We, at The Cinemawala, went through all the films that were released in 2020 and came up with a ranked list.

Note – Films like ‘Bhonsale’, ‘Sir’, ‘Eeb Allay Woo!’ have not been considered in this list as these films were officially released in the year before (as updated by IMDB) and were only open to Indian audiences this year as part of the OTT release. 

Honourable Mentions for those films that were equally good but missed the cut-off by a whisker – ‘Axone’, ‘Serious Men’, ‘Bulbbul’, ‘Taish’, ‘Chaman Bahar’.

Now on to the main list. Read on –

10. ’Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’ – Directed by Hitesh Kewalya – Released in theatres

Director Hitesh Kewalya’s ‘Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’ is about this societal norm that forces or stops people from accepting who they really are. It speaks about the mindset that either ridicules or despises homosexuality. The film works largely due to humour and its unique treatment of the story that could’ve gone a whole wrong route if it hadn’t been handled carefully. The stars of the film are undoubtedly the ensemble cast that is led by a superb Gajraj Rao and a spunky Neena Gupta along with Ayushmann Khurana and Jitendra Kumar who play the gay couple. Unlike other LGBT films, which highlight the plight of the homosexual people, ‘Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’ talks about the prevalent homophobia that refuses to leave our headspace. Within a run time of 120 minutes, using humour as a medium, the film effectively explains that when it comes to love, anyone can fall for anyone, irrespective of the gender. After all, love is love!

9. ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ – Directed by Shoojit Sircar – Streaming on Amazon Prime

Named after two warring puppets, director Shoojit Sircar’s ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ is the story of two men, bickering over a dilapidated property that’s even older than both of them. They say, just like a marriage, the relationship between a landlord and the tenant is also psychological. One of them is psycho and the other one is logical, but it ain’t clear who is who! ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ is a black comedy about a landlord and his game of oneupmanship with his tenants. It is a very interesting concept for the days we are living in, especially in the last few months, where many landlords and tenants are equally suffering due to ongoing lockdown. But don’t even think for a second that this is a sob story. If at all, it is a story about people with eccentricities and their ways of dealing with life. Starring Amitabh Bachchan as the eccentric landlord Mirza and Ayushmann Khurana as the tenant Bankey, ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ is about different idiosyncrasies of people.

8. ‘Thappad’ – Directed by Anubhav Sinha – Released in theatres

‘Thappad’ talks about many things – casual sexism, patriarchy, prejudice, discrimination, yet it isn’t in your face. It’s about a woman’s silent yet gritty resolute to right the wrongs, to uphold the fight against everything that’s considered “normal” in a man’s world. A man “accidentally” slaps his wife, amidst a whole lot of people and later apologises for it. The fact the words here are labelled within quotes defines our deep ingrained mindset towards certain events, which we continue to consider as things that happen. Directed by Anubhav Sinha, starring Taapsee Pannu and Pavail Gulati in the leading roles, ‘Thappad’ is an important film that urges the audience to think out loud – “Bas ek thappad, par mar nahi sakta!”

7. ‘Kadakh’ – Directed by Rajat Kapoor – Streaming on Sony Liv

Rajat Kapoor’s ‘Kadakh’ is about a bunch of people partying in a house, with a dead body hidden in it. The premise reminds you of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rope’, but the similarity ends right there. In every aspect, ‘Kadakh’ is an original and authentic black comedy that has come out of Hindi film industry for a long long time. Ranvir Shorey brilliantly plays the role of a man, living with guilt as the party goes on. His guilt grows four-folds, as he starts getting a rotten smell and throws away the freshly cooked food, whereas it’s his conscience that starts playing with his head. It is an author-backed role and Ranvir does full justice to it. Watch out for the ending. It’s so edgy that you may trip over your seat, considering the levels of bizarre!

6. ‘Halahal’ – Directed by Randeep Jha – Streaming on Eros Now

A father sets upon a course to find his daughter’s murderer with the help of a corrupt cop. When the investigation reveals the actual reason, he realises that the deep roots of corruption have been so deep in our systems, that it isn’t just another scandal anymore, it’s the rot beneath all of them. The powerful will always be able to get away because the system allows them to, as they keep manipulating it constantly for their own  personal gain with power and money. Starring Sachin Khedekar and Barun Sobti in the leading roles, ‘Halahal’ loosely will remind you of the ‘Vyapam’ Scam of 2013 that unveiled the nexus between politicians and officials for the medical entrance and recruitment scam. A stunning film that attempts to take a jab at the society!

5. ‘Lootcase’ – Directed by Rajesh Krishnan – Streaming on Disney Hotstar

The great Charlie Chaplin had once said that life is a tragedy when seen in close up, but a comedy in long-shot. It’s true considering the times we are living right now. Each of us is part of a struggle that feels enormous at times, crushing the average Joe under his own load of expectations. However, that very struggle can turn into a comedy, if it’s watched from a different vantage point. Such is the travesty of the life that we are living today. Director Rajesh Krishnan’s ‘Lootcase’ is the story of a common man who accidentally discovers a bag full of cash. Just as he’s about to fix all the miseries of his life, he encounters some unscrupulous folks who originally are looking for the bag. Misfortune happens at every turn and just as Chaplin figured, we get to witness a rib-tickling comedy of errors. Starring Kunal Khemu, Rasika Duggal, Ranvir Shorey, ‘Lootcase’ is a fine comedy that ticks all the right boxes. The climax of the film exemplifies another Chaplin quote that states – Nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles!

4. ‘Chintu Ka Birthday’ – Directed by Devanshu Kumar and Satyanshu Singh – Streaming on Zee5

‘Chintu Ka Birthday’ is told from a six-year-old’s perspective. Without wasting any time, the director and writer duo Devanshu Kumar and Satyanshu Singh set the premise, at the very onset. Using the child’s imagination, we go through the story of how first the water purifier salesman father and then the family landed up in Iraq. Their happy life goes for a toss as the ‘America wale Uncle’ decides to invade Iraq, making their way back home, next to impossible. From the easiness of a loving family celebrating the birthday, the script takes rapid strides as the two American soldiers are introduced into the narrative. In the garb of telling a story that runs for approximately ninety minutes, it tries to blend in many things that brings in a clash in the culture of the central characters, in a very unorthodox manner. The splendid Vinay Pathak, the effervescent Tillotama Shome and the ever dependent Seema Pahwa lead the cast, with only seven additional members in the ensemble including Vedant Chibber  who plays the protagonist Chintu.

3. ‘AK Vs AK’ – Directed by Vikramaditya Motwane – Streaming on Netflix

Metacinema – is where the audience is told that it’s a work of fiction, yet it seems to be part of the real world because the characters reference themselves, their work and their eventual actions of their consequences. Director Vikramaditya Motwane sets a story between two warring characters Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap in a semi-fictional world where the director kidnaps the actor’s daughter and has the actor find her in 14 hours while being shot on camera. It sounds ludicrous yet on screen, the experience to see two real-life characters feuding along with other real-life characters is a novel experience. Anil Kapoor does a fine job as the actor desperate to find her daughter whereas Anurag Kashyap plays himself perfect to the letter T. Both play their parts really well, hurling insults and abuses as well as showing the desperations and the insecurities that are often associated with people involved in the movie-making business. Kudos to director Motwane for his innovative film, who gets blamed for apparently having’ fucked’ Harshvardhan Kapoor with ‘Bhavesh Joshi’!

2. ‘Ludo’ – Directed by Anurag Basu – Streaming on Netflix

Director Anurag Basu spins a tale of quirk as he takes multiple stories with his star-studded ensemble cast, in a shared timeline and makes them part of the cause and effect phenomenon. ‘Ludo’, his latest offering talks about morality, good, bad, ugly and how it impacts the average Joe. Having previously dabbled in ‘Life Of A Metro’ (2007),  anthology stories are not new to Mr Basu, however ‘Ludo’ takes idiosyncrasies to a new height with its abstract, weird and comedy of errors. A leaked sex video, a dead man, two bags of loot, a self-kidnapped child, it all happens – in a game of Ludo! Eventually ‘Ludo’ ends on a note where some win and some lose, representing the game where the lucky ones get to their bases first. Logic takes a back seat and events bordering on ridiculousness occurs, that makes the viewer smile. Well, Isn’t that the original purpose of the game? After all, life is Ludo and Ludo is life!

1. ‘Raat Akeli Hai’ – Directed by Honey Trehan – Streaming on Netflix

The debutant director Honey Trehan’s ‘Raat Akeli Hai’ is a remarkable murder mystery and one of the best in the genre, that has come out of the stables of Hindi films, in a really long time. It hits the nail hard and to the exact point. The movie has its roots embedded in the last year’s classic whodunit ‘Knives Out’ (2019) and Jack Nicholson’s classic thriller ‘Chinatown’ (1974). But the similarities end there. ‘Raat Akeli Hai’ is a thriller that keeps you on the edge of the seat, with its slow burn and captivating tale of the murder most foul. Instead of the film focusing on the murder extensively, it allows the peripheral characters to build their story. Eventually, when the truth is revealed, it becomes obvious that even the most abused, ill-treated members of the family are part of an elaborate scheme of systematic abuse. Perhaps that’s what patriarchy does to the family. If you’re a fan of noirs and thrillers, if murder mystery excites you, then ‘Raat Akeli Hai’ is the perfect watch for you. One of the best Hindi films on Netflix. 

So which films you feel deserved to be on the list? Do share in the comments section.

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