2022 was a bizarre year for Hindi cinema. Compared to last year, more films had released in theatres than on OTT channels. But very soon it was evident that the post-pandemic audience had become a different beast altogether, proving very hard to please. This was the 2nd year in a row where the quintessential Bollywood masala films had no takers. The staple potboilers were majorly discarded by the audience who frankly wanted more entertainment than the usual fare. And they were duly entertained by the massive, larger-than-life films from the Southern states of the country which created a flutter in the heartlands of the Hindi film industry. There were films which found their niche on OTT channels, thus proving the age-old idiom – Entertainment is king.

This was the year where the words ‘Pan India’ and ‘Boycott’ ruled the roost and impacted the Hindi cinema, to a large extent. There were films like RRR, Kantara and KGF-2 which the audiences appreciated for their sheer entertainment values. Films like ‘The Kashmir Files’ divided the nation with its war of narratives about the genocide of the Kashmiri Pandits and their forced exodus from their homes. While the film posed burning questions, it also did blockbuster business at the box office. Nevertheless, it was a difficult year to pick up the best of the year. We, at The Cinemawala, have tried our best to rank the top ten Hindi films of the year 2022. But first, there are three films we would like to highlight as Special Mentions –

‘Chup’ – Directed by R Balki

‘Chup’ is dedicated to Guru Dutt. In his short span of life, Guru Dutt saw the dazzling heights of success and the unfortunate nadirs of failure, perhaps more of the latter. Many shots of ‘Chup’ are tributes to the maestro, who despite having directed only 8 films, lives on in the hearts of film lovers. Those moments, where the film indulges itself in savouring the moments of nostalgia, make the film immensely watchable To be honest, every frame of the film, is mesmerizing. To shoot a film in Bandra and make it look scintillating, is a work of art. Yet something seems amiss in the film. I liked ‘Chup’ a lot. But I wanted to love it. I liked the way, the film kept me engrossed in its bloody, gory psychopathic serial killer, who sets on killing the film critics. But somewhere, on its path to a gorgeous climax, the film stumbled and then took the safest way home back. Just like the killer in the film, I wanted to whack off the storyteller, to have squandered a glorious opportunity to tell a great story.

‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ – Directed by Advait Chandan

An official adaptation of ‘Forrest Gump’ (1994), it is the story of an autistic Sikh man, who recounts his journey of life, to people unknown to him, while he travels on a train. His life, intertwined with various incidents from the post-Emergency era of India till today, gives the audience a deep insight into the ever-changing world around this man, who has lived a life full of surprises, sprinkled with an equal amount of joy and sadness. ‘Forrest Gump’ was made in the year 1994 and essentially was about 20th century America. In three decades, the world has completely changed. Perhaps the saccharine sweet story of ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ did not appeal to the contemporary sensibilities of the modern filmgoer. Some may also wonder at the futility of remaking a cult film, rather than watching its subtitled version. Whatever it may be, ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ is an important film to watch out for, in today’s time with its epic tale about humanity and its message – Life, be it a box of chocolates or a box of golgappas, it still surprises you its unique flavours.

‘The Kashmir Files’ – Directed by Vivek Agnihotri

‘The Kashmir Files’ is not a mere film. To put the right word in context, it’s a burning cauldron whose sole purpose is to wake the viewer up from slumber, by making him feel the heat. It asks pertinent, uncomfortable questions about the genocide of the Kashmiri Pandits and their forced exodus from their homes, which sadly has never been given a focal point in the country. It’s heartbreaking to see the gruesome torture and eventual deaths of countless innocents. It makes you wonder about the politically incapacitated administration, which stood as a mute spectator as the terrorists wreaked havoc on the Kashmiri Pandits and liberal Muslims alike, who stood up to their atrocities. On the other hand, another uncomfortable question dares to rise its head – Is it another attempt to divide the country which is already in a politically tumultuous situation? Whatever it is, ‘The Kashmir Files’ has managed to do the unthinkable i.e. stir the hornet’s nest and rake the moolah!

Having said that, here goes the list of the top ten Hindi films of the year –

10. ‘RK/Rkay’ – Directed by Rajat Kapoor

What happens when a fictional character of your film, who has been conceptualised and created by you, starts having an existential crisis and walks out from the frames of the movie and stumbles into your life? Director-actor Rajat Kapoor comes up with a delectable black comedy about an artist’s struggle with his creation, and his story telling. The film had released in various festivals in 2021 but got its India release only in 2022. A meta film that not only highlights the predicament of an artist, being forced to compromise with the quality of his creation in the name of entertainment, but it also talks about how egocentric yet lonely artists are. Starring Rajat Kapoor as Rk/Rkay, Kubra Sait, Manurishi Chaddha, Chandrachur Rai and Ranveer Shorey, this is a fine film.

9. ‘Jalsa’ – Directed by Suresh Triveni

After ‘Tumhaari Sulu’, director Suresh Triveni and actor Vidya Balan join hands again for a heart-wrenching drama about human beings and their inner conflict. Along with the above two, Shefali Shah jumps into the bandwagon. ‘Jalsa’ begins with a hit-and-run case and soon becomes a moral dilemma where people from different strata of lives collide with their thoughts about the situation. It asks the viewer a very difficult question about being self-righteous during certain situations and then tearing away every strand of morality at the drop of a hat when the fire becomes too hot. Shefali Shah and Vidya Balan are brilliant!

8. ‘Kaun Pravin Tambe?’ – Directed by Jayprad Desai

It’s the story of Pravin Tambe, the man who did the unthinkable by debuting at the age of 40 for the Rajasthan Royal team at IPL 2016 and later achieved his lifelong dream of playing Ranji trophy. The film shows the struggles of countless cricketers of this country who spend the prime of their lives, putting their efforts into the game, so that one day, they can represent the country at the international level. Pravin Tambe was one among such players. His ascension from rags to the riches is no lesser than a fairy tale. And this tale has everything in it. A tragic backstory, the hardships of a man destined to be a failure, his terrific comeback and a villain who may or may not remind you of Boria Majumdar! Shreyas Talpade, after a long hiatus, is back with a great performance.

7. ‘Dobaara’ – Directed by Anurag Kashyap

Indian cinema’s Enfant terrible Anurag Kashyap’s brand of filmmaking is, for the lack of a better word, genre-bending. Over the years, his filmmaking have grown leaps and bounds. Do not judge his films by the amount of money they make. Rather, do judge him on his storytelling and his craft. Despite remaking a film that’s available on Netflix, he ensures that he infuses it with his trademark style of satire. ‘Dobaara’ which’s primarily a science-fiction film, runs at a breakneck speed, thanks to its rapidly changing scenarios in both timelines – present and past. And as a viewer, you remain deeply invested in the story, which keeps you glued to it, with its twists and turns. Despite being a film that keeps the mystery alive in its central premise, one cannot help but notice the subtle touches about marital discord, distant relationships and people falling out of love. This makes the film a superior product, even more than its original.

6. ‘Badhaai Do’ – Directed by Harshvardhan Kulkarni

Based on the concept of Lavender marriage, director Harshvardhan Kulkarni’s ‘Badhaai Do’ explores the issues and difficulties of a gay man and a lesbian, bound by marriage, yet lonely in their lives. They fake being a happy couple while leading dual lives with their respective partners. But soon they realise, that the more they lie to themselves, the harder it becomes to fake it to the world. Starring Rajkumar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar, the film is a bittersweet story of the struggle of queer people, which they undergo each day of their lives.

5. ‘Darlings’ – Directed by Jasmeet K Reen

This film is a satirical take on a marriage that oscillates between love and abuse. On paper, it’s the tale of women who get trapped in marriages that knocks the wind out of them. But when this gets translated on-screen with powerful performers such as Alia Bhatt, Shefali Shah and Vijay Verma, it becomes a film to watch out for. There’ve been only a handful of films made about domestic violence yet ‘Darlings’ manages to carve a niche for itself for its quirky take on an abusive marriage and how it leaves its victim seeking a shred of dignity back into her life. While the film hits home hard with its tale of abusive relationships, well hidden in the disguise of a satire, credit must go to the director Jasmeet K Reen, who has also co-written the film with writer Parveiz Sheikh, to have handled a delicate subject with much nuance and humour.

4. ‘Gehraiyaan’ – Directed by Shakun Batra

‘Gehraiyaan’ is more than just a story of infidelity. It’s a complex tale of modern-day relationships that keeps crumbling under the heavy load of expectations and compromises. Alisha and Tia are cousins who are in a relationship with Karan and Zain respectively. Sparks fly between Alisha and Zain who identify themselves as the victims of their respective relationships. As they get into a relationship, skeletons start tumbling out of the closets evoking painful memories which lead the protagonists on a path of no return. Deepika Padukone and Siddharth Chaturvedi play their parts brilliantly, to portray each half of the star-crossed couple.

3. ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’ – Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali

A young woman, duped and sold into a brothel, becomes the queen bee of the same place where she was dumped to die. ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’ directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali is sheer poetry, etched on screen, something that Mr Bhansali has been often found to be known for. While the film shows the predicament of a young woman who ends up being at the mercy of people, while getting deceived by their folks, it is also a poignant tale of women looking for a single shred of dignity in their whole life. Alia Bhatt is magnificent in the titular role along with Ajay Devgn who plays a kind-hearted gangster along with Vijay Razz and Jim Sarbh in pivotal roles.

2. ‘An Action Hero’ – Directed by Aniruddh Iyer

A man gets accidentally killed by a famous film star who then escapes out of the country. The dead man turns out to be the younger brother of a politician-criminal who follows the film star to London for revenge. What happens afterwards, is something to be seen and savoured of. ‘An Action Hero’ is a meta film that is also a satire about the media trial, and the witch hunt that today’s media does to garner TRPs. The TRP becomes a meta-joke in the film while asking the audience to vote for the possible punishment for the film star. Starring Ayushmaan Khurrana and Jaideep Ahlawat, ‘An Action Hero’ is a delicious black comedy about privileged people and their choices.

1. ‘Monica, O My Darling’ – Directed by Vasan Bala

Welcome to the world of Vasan Bala, where everything can happen, everywhere at once! Before you can point out the obvious pun, let me say it – ‘Monica O My Darling’ may not be your cup of tea if you aren’t willing to believe in Mr Bala’s vision. He weaves his tale in a world, where everyone is a victim of their scheme of things, spinning their tales of deceit and debauchery. Filled with pop culture references, 80s-infused music and characters who are as grey as they can be – this is not a film. It’s a rollercoaster ride full of murders, mayhem and yes, of course, Monica! Starring Rajkumar Rao, Huma Qureshi, Sikandar Kher, Bagavathi Perumal and above all Radhika Apte, ‘Monica, O My Darling’ is the best Hindi film of the year.

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