It’s almost half way through the year. Amidst the pandemic and the lockdown, all of us, have somehow trying to live in this ‘new normal’ way of life. Lockdown caused the theatres to get closed and people discovered OTT as their go-to place. OTT out of many things, also brutally exposes a film’s folly. Here, a good film gets its due recognition and a bad film gets heavily trashed. OTT also ensured that people could get their hands on good cinema, irrespective of the language barrier. Today, if a Non-Tamil speaking person can enjoy a Tamil film with English subtitles or for that matter any language with adequate subtitles, the credit solely goes to OTT. Thanks to the number of available platforms, many great films found their audience. Some were cinematic masterpieces and some were too brilliant to be labelled as just a film, perhaps art is the right word to describe them. We, at The Cinemawala, saw most of them and then ranked the top ten films from the first six months of the year. Hope you enjoy reading it and then go on watching these gems on various OTT platforms. 

The films which missed the list by a whisker – ‘The Disciple’, ‘Cinema Bandi’, ‘Joji’, ‘Maara’, ‘Kala’, ‘Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar’

10. ‘Sherni’ – Directed by Amit Masurkar

Panning out almost like a documentary that shows up on satellite channels like National Geographic or Animal Planet, ‘Sherni’ is the story of a tigress trying to get back into the jungle. It’s also the story of a woman, trying to fight for her place, in a man’s world. Amit Masurkar’s last film ‘Newton’ was a scathing attack on the electoral system of the country. This time he turns his gun on the forever volatile relationship between the common folks and the governance using the centuries-old feud between man and the wild. Vidya Balan plays the protagonist who sinks her teeth into the role, the way she usually means – Business! Loosely based on the Avni aka T1 incident in Maharashtra, ‘Sherni’ becomes a social commentary, a fightback, a reason for two females’ survival against all odds. It’s just that, the tigress has to fight against man, whereas the woman fights against the whole system, perhaps set in the image of men. 

‘Sherni’ is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. For the movie review, click here.

9. ‘Jathi Ratnalu’ – Directed By Anudeep KV

Writer-director Anudeep KV’s ‘Jathi Ratnalu’ loosely translated to ‘Jewels Of The Nation’ is a superb comedy that keeps its satire well disguised. It’s a smartly made film that manages to keep its silliness intact while punching well above its weight. It’s about the three good-for-nothing friends Srikanth, Ravi and Shekhar from a small town called Jogipet. Dreams of a big city lure them to Hyderabad. While looking out for jobs and trying to win the heart of the neighbourhood girl, the trio gets implicated in an attempt to murder case of a politician. How they come out of it, forms the crux of the story. Naveen Polishetty leads this hilarious comedy going full overboard with his antics and guffaws. With his atrocious English and crowd-pleasing slogans, he rocks the boat. In one of the funniest scenes in the courtroom, he calls himself the ‘Citizen Kane’ of the country and let the country’s ‘constipation’ (read constitution) decide his future! In this pandemic, ‘Jathi Ratnalu’ makes sure that your life turns into a zindagi by its amazing screwball comedy. Must watch!

‘Jathi Ratnalu’ is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. For the movie review, click here.

8. ‘Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi’ – Directed by Seema Pahwa

Grief. This word has a different meaning for each person undergoing the aforementioned sentiment. The loss of a loved one makes us crumble inside in deep, searing pain. The memories of the deceased keep haunting us, as we repeatedly relive them in our minds. The sheer fact that all of a sudden, a real person of flesh and blood just ceases to exist, is quite difficult to fathom. Death is inevitable, yet we choose to deny it until it comes knocking on our doors. Actor Seema Pahwa’s directorial debut ‘Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi’ is about death and the grief associated with it. It’s a splendid film with an enviable ensemble cast, that makes you ponder about the futility of life yet by the time the film ends, you are bound to leave the theatre with a smile on your lips. It’s that kind of film!

‘Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi’ is streaming on Netflix. For the movie review, click here.

7. ‘Master’ – Directed By Lokesh Kanagaraj

In this pandemic, if one perfect entertainer has managed to make people throng the theatres, it is Vijay And Vijay Sethupathi starrer ‘Master’. A college professor gets a punishment posting at a Juvenile detention centre which is ruled with an iron fist by a heinous criminal. A mishap makes the usually carefree professor take serious cognisance of the atrocities being committed on the inmates of the centre. The two ‘Vijays’ lock horns and a game of one-upmanship begins. With several crowd-pleasing dialogues, fight sequences, dance numbers, peppy music and the two superstars spewing their magic, ‘Master’ scores very high on the entertainment quotient. Check out the number of people doing their take on the song ‘Vaathi Coming’ on social media and you’ll know the craze behind the film. 

‘Master’ is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

6. ‘Operation Java’ – Directed by Tharun Moorty

Writer and director Tharun Moorty, in his feature film debut ‘Operation Java’, use cyber crimes as the central premise of his film. Two in-between-jobs engineering graduates, team up with the police to solve multiple cases by tracing the digital footprints associated with the crimes along with good old ways of police surveillance. The investigation that follows, without going into the details, keeps it simple so that the process can be understood by the average joe. The chase sequences are shot in the narrow lanes of the slum and are terrific to see on the screen. Without any huge stars, the ensemble cast performs superbly like perfectly set pieces of an orchestra. However, it’s the human element of the story and the crimes that make the film immensely watchable and saves it from only being a legal procedural drama. ‘Operation Java’ is an excellent watch and again a constant reminder of the fact that the Malayalam film industry at present makes the best films of this country.

‘Operation Java’ is streaming on Zee5. For movie review, click here.

5. ‘Nayattu’ – Directed by Martin Prakkat

Director Martin Prakkat’s ‘Nayattu’ which loosely translates to ‘The Hunt’ is essentially about the ghastly politics that has engulfed the whole system into a state of hopelessness. Three police officers go on the run, after being implicated in a case that later becomes a tussle between the people and the elected government. With an eye on the upcoming elections, the government turns its back on the same police which it uses to its advantage. Cornered from all angles, the police officers realise that they’ve been turned into pawns in a much bigger game. They make a run for their lives, with the system firmly closing on their heels. ‘Nayattu’ becomes a stark reminder of an incompetent system that can be twisted, turned, even mangled into a falsified narrative.  

‘Nayattu’ is streaming on Netflix.

4. ‘Drishyam 2’ – Directed By Jeethu Joseph

There is a metaphorical theory called Scotoma, which defines itself as the mind sees what it wishes to see. It’s amazing how the mind reacts to seeing certain things. Events that have occurred in such a pattern that makes them impossible to forget, as they keep playing in the subconscious like an LP record on a loop. But can they be planted inside the head? Can there be the inception of an idea, which makes it believable? ‘Drishyam’ (2013) told you it’s possible. Eight years later, its sequel tells you that if the family gets into trouble again, Georgekutty will stand again between law and his family. Mohanlal is back as Georgekutty in the sequel to the blockbuster movie, where now his family is constantly under the threat of getting caught for the crime they had committed years ago. Similar to its predecessor, ‘Drishyam-2’ pulls the audience into an abyss of facts, counter-facts and the eventual shocking climax that leaves the viewer gobsmacked. 

‘Drishyam 2’ is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. For the movie review, click here.

3. ‘Karnan’ – Directed by Mari Selvaraj

As the movie begins, an old woman sings the paeans of someone called Karnan who has always been their saviour. This song’s juxtaposed with the images of a masked man in handcuffs, being brutally assaulted by the police, with blood dripping from his overalls. As an audience, it rakes you up from slumber. Who is this man? Why he’s being worshipped by one and hated by another? Director Mari Selvaraj’s ‘Karnan’ may look like a straightforward clash between the haves and the have-nots, but trust me, it’s much more than just a revenge story. It’s a saga of a man standing tall to the oppressors and their brutal caste-based oppression. It’s the tale of one man taking the centuries-old traditions and beliefs head-on. Dhanush is simply fantastic as the protagonist Karnan who will do anything for his loved ones, be it laying his own life or for that matter, taking someone else’s life. Lal as Karnan’s mentor is equally superb in his role. The grand vision of director Selvaraj ensures that ‘Karnan’ is going to stay with the audience for its cinematic brilliance and epic portrayal of the defiance against the tyrants. Magnificent!

‘Karnan’ is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. For the movie review, click here.

2. ‘Mandela’ – Directed by Madonne Ashwin

When two warring sons of an ailing local leader, born of two wives, belonging to two different castes, decide to contest the election, the whole village gets segregated into two factions – North and South. Soon they realise that both groups are even-stevens and the deciding vote has to be cast by the one man, who is ostracised equally by both factions – the nameless village barber. Well utilised by all and sundry for their tasks yet when it comes to his identity, he’s known to all as a jackass! The need for a bank account makes him seek his own identity. A kind-hearted employee of the local post office helps him to get one and the name he chooses for himself – yup, you guessed it right – Mandela! A political satire that takes casteism to the task, ‘Mandela’ is a rib-tickling comedy that makes you chuckle but also makes you think hard over the futility of modern-day politics. Yogi Babu as the protagonist Mandela gives a riveting performance. 

‘Mandela’ is streaming on Netflix.

1. ‘The Great Indian Kitchen’ – Directed by Jeo Baby

‘The Great Indian Kitchen’ is a stunning rebuttal to the patriarchy that encompasses our lives. The picture of a happy man, lovingly embracing his smiling wife is the perfect antithesis of what the film portrays. In about 100 minutes, the film shows what’s wrong with our so-called perfect lives and how we end up orchestrating it. There’s so much truth in the film that it completely shuts you from arguing against it. The long shots of a woman doing the various household chores, make the rounds again and again, again and again, again and again, till it slowly starts to make sense. The fact that patriarchy is a silent curse that completely engulfs people along with it, hits home with the brute force of a sledgehammer. Directed by Jeo Baby and Starring Nimisha Sajayan in the leading role, this is by far, the best film of the year. 

‘The Great Indian Kitchen’ is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

So which were the films that you liked the most? Please share in the comments section.

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