It’s that time of the year to take a look at some of the best movies made in the past 12 months. Dominated by regional cinema, 2017 produced many great films. Though it’s a disaster year for mainstream Bollywood, small/indie films had a huge impact which helped mainstream to expand.
So, here are my top 5 Hindi, Telugu, Tamil films of 2017.
5. Shubh Mangal Saavdhan
Remake of a tamil film “Kalyana Samayal Saadham”, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan was a humorous attempt on breaking the society norms about “masculinity”. It says time to move on from “Mard ko dard nahi hota”. A man (Ayushman) who realises he suffers from erectile dysfunction few days before marriage and how the girl (Bhumi Pednekar) helps him to come to terms with it and their marriage. My favourite scene from the film is when Ayushman explains his “gents problem” using biscuit and tea. The dialogues are too hilarious but deliver the point they’re trying to make.
4. Lipstick Under my Burkha
One film suppressed by the Sanskaari man but fortunately made it to theatrical release. Just for Ratna Pathak Shah’s character and acting, this film is worth watching. Pushes boundaries in portraying women’s sexuality on screen and not necessarily just young women. In one of my favourite scenes, someone asks Ratna her name and she replies, “Aunty” and when asked her real name, she takes a few seconds to recall. It’s moments like these that helped “Lipstick..” work though it had few issues.
3. Bareilly ki Barfi
Looking back at 2017, amidst all major failures, the movies which worked had one thing in common – telling the story of people from small town India with honesty. Bareilly ki Barfi is the best among such films. It captures UP waala magic beautifully and weaving a love story with memorable characters to root for. Especially Pritam Vidrohi played by the exceptional Rajkumar Rao, parents played by Pankaj Tripathi & Seema Pahwa. The one liners and most of the dialogues are so hilarious. Just like the title, the film is sweet throughout.
3. Tumhari Sulu
Tumhari Sulu stands on the incredible acting abilities of Vidya Balan. Her laugh is infectious so is her grief. The way she says “Main kar sakti hai” always brings smile and spreads positivity. The small moments with the lady cab driver conveys much more with minimalist dialogue. Vidya stands above everyone else and makes sure we get over the flaws quickly and laugh for comedy scenes and feel for her towards the climax. I laughed my heart out and when I was walking out of the theatre, I had a wide smile on my face.
2. Secret Superstar
3 idiots was dedicated to students. Taare zameen par to special kids. Dangal to daughters. Now, Secret Superstar to mothers and motherhood. Led by the sensational Zaira Wasim and Meher Vij, Secret Superstar talked about domestic violence, misogyny, the beautiful mother-daughter bond and above all the importance and power of dreams.
Blended with satire/humour, Newton never got preachy and delivered its point without a tinge of melodrama. The comedy is so layered that behind every funny moment, there’s a quietly devastating reality which hits you hard. It’s cleverly written. Led by Rajkumar Rao who had the best year at the movies and the incredible Pankaj Tripathi who creates so much impact with his effortless performance, Newton is easily the best hindi film of the year.
Special Mention :
Tu Hai Mera Sunday
This small film is too cute and good in many ways. Coincidentally, I watched it in Mumbai which hugely increased the effect because it’s a movie in which Mumbai as a city plays a major role than just the characters mentioning the name. Though many movies explored Mumbai in different ways, this one is still lovely. The characters, their lines are all real and many of them bring a smile on your face.
The most chilling movie of the year. From Vikramaditya Motwane after Udaan and Lootera with literally one-man show of Rajkumar Rao. How is it like to be trapped in a house for 20-odd days with no food, electricity and communication? The fact that most of the urban people feel trapped in their houses was the origin for this story.
Hindi Medium had social relevance perfectly blended with humour just like Raju Hirani’s films. It worked because of two reasons – one being the message it tries to convey and of course Irrfan. He broke all the stereotypical “art” film acting and gives a performance which makes you laugh like crazy and still makes you think what he’s trying to say. I wish the writers could have avoided that simplistic ending.
5. Ninnu Kori
Led by Nani with his best performance since Yevade Subramanyam supported by equally good Nivetha Thomas and Aadhi Pinisetty and music by Gopi Sundar, Ninnu Kori was one pleasant story about love and life after marriage.
4. PSV Garuda Vega
After Kshanam, PSV Garuda Vega is the best thriller I’ve seen in Telugu and the action/spy part of it makes it even more interesting. From national award winning Praveen Sattaru, really well written with a taut screenplay, well shot, well acted by most of the actors led by Rajasekhar and a perfect score by Sricharan Pakala, this pure genre film is new for Telugu audience and they wholeheartedly appreciated it.
Directed by debutant Sankalp Reddy, Ghazi showed the other side of the coin which is telugu film industry. We can make a 123 minute feature film almost 98% in a submarine with no flashy clothes, no songs and delivering an emotional drama with a story lost in history. After Neerja, Ghazi is the most inspiring story I saw on screen. The detailed production design of the submarine deserves an award.
Sekhar Kammula’s treatment of Bhanumathi as a character and Sai Pallavi’s magical performance made Fidaa one of the best love stories of 2017. It marked the comeback of vintage Sekhar Kammula. Though it’s not as good as Anand, Sekhar’s best love story, Fidaa works because of its honesty and Bhanumathi/Sai Pallavi.
2. Bahubali : The Conclusion
I remember watching Baradwaj Rangan’s review of Bahubali 2 and he aptly described Rajamouli like this – “For most filmmakers, masala is just a flavour. But for Rajamouli, it’s a legitimate genre derived from myth and he treats it with respect.” He is a master storyteller who has the best abilities to judge what audience exactly wants and how to package a commercial/masala blockbuster. He invests so much in the characters and makes us do the same. Of course there are flaws and palm trees action sequence is stupid. But the whole experience is so good that these things were overlooked quickly. I’ve always talked about Rajamouli, Anushka, Ramya Krishna and others, but this time, I won’t forget to acknowledge the effort Prabhas put in. I could clearly see the growth in him as an actor. He’ll be the BAHUBALI forever.
1. Arjun Reddy
Every few years or a decade, there’ll be that one filmmaker who comes and changes the way the whole industry is functioning. After Ram Gopal Varma, it took 25 years for Telugu Cinema to find Sandeep Reddy Vanga. Led by Vijay Devarakonda who deserves every single award for his exceptional, crazy performance, Arjun Reddy proves why flawed characters are way more interesting than single dimensional boring ones. Except for Preethi’s initial parts and its romanticized misogyny, I found Arjun Reddy to be consistently well written and that’s why 181 minute running length was not a major problem.
Special Mention :
With 79 shoot days(less than the war sequence of Bahubali) and a very limited budget, the team of Gautamiputra Satakarni delivered nothing less than an epic. Full credits to words sharper than swords by Burra Sai Madhav and Krish for beautifully putting together everything in place.
Hello! is purely a director’s film. It shows the abilities of Vikram Kumar in turning a simple love story to a sweet, heart warming romantic film. If it had depth in the story, it could’ve been another Ishq. Nonetheless, it was worth watching once for the pure love which believes more in magic than logic/reality. Special mention to Anup Rubens’ beautiful score and P.S. Vinod’s different camera work.
5. Theeran Adhigaram Ondru (Khaki in Telugu)
Many cop movies are produced in South every year. What makes “Theeran…” special and different from them is its realistic approach. Led by Karthi, this film gave something exciting every few minutes like the bus action sequence and other chases which kept it exciting and lively.
After Ram Gopal Varma, Siddharth & team respected the horror genre and tried to make a genuinely scary film. The sound mix was so good that the sound itself will scare you at places without any visuals. No wonder it got appreciation from an Oscar winner. Aval sticked to the horror genre without any deviations.
This indian version of Sherlock Holmes by Mysskin is ultra stylish and it constantly tests your intelligence. As Baradwaj Rangan said, “It’s an entertaining mystery, even if it engages the head more than the heart”. Mysskin is one of those few filmmakers who creates comedy out of situations which you’d generally don’t think would be funny. A special mention to the super cool action sequences.
This film is set in Chennai but can easily be in any other big city or a metro. How three parallel stories come together in a crime/kidnap scenario keeps us guessing constantly and one hilarious kidnapper guy provides humour. Its natural projection of lives of people struggling in a big city/metro deserves a special mention(like the driver who migrated to Chennai to work in a corporate company. We see them every day). It’s one of the most engaging thrillers of 2017 and well made.
2. Vikram Vedha
The best commercial/masala tamil film of the year. Uber cool Vedha (Vijay Setupathi) v/s stylish & smart cop Vikram (Madhavan). Slow motion shots of Sethupathi’s entry are still fresh in my mind. When Vikram (Madhavan) is introduced, he’s in a white shirt whereas Vedha (Sethupathi) is in pure black. By the end of the film, they both are in grey shirts.That itself beautifully etches the character arcs of both Vikram and Vedha. Special mention to the background score and music (I’m addicted to “Yaanji” for almost 2 months now).
This film will stay for a long time with me. It’s one film which redefined movie watching experience for me. It’s a satire on these ridiculous tv shows where “supposedly” family issues are solved (Bathuku Jatka Bandi in Telugu, Ennama ippadi panreengale in Tamil). Above all, it’s a journey of this girl Aruvi who’s misunderstood by her parents and goes through a lot of trauma because of few men. Imagine someone pitching this story to some big actress, “A diseased lead character becomes good friends with a transgender, enters this tv show, does all crazy stuff!” Aruvi is well written, well made, brilliantly acted by debutant Aditi Balan and its editing surely deserves a national award.
A DEATH IN THE GUNJ
One of the best films of 2017. Since it’s technically an English film, I didn’t put it in Hindi films list. Otherwise, it would be at the top with Newton. It’s a brilliant direction debut by Konkana Sen Sharma. Though it has some really good actors like Om Puri, Tanuja, Kalki etc. it’s this young man, Vikrant Massey who stands out with his knockout performance as Shutu. He gets all the emotions, Shutu’s vulnerabilities pitch perfect on screen. It’s his film.
Some of the popular movies I missed :
Angamaly Diaries (Malayalam) – This one is supposed to be the best film of the year.
Toilet : Ek Prem Katha
Anaarkali of Aarah
Qarib Qarib Single
Malli Raava (Telugu)
Mental Madhilo (Telugu)
I watched only few of the many tamil releases. So, I could’ve missed few films. Please mention them in the comments. I heard Pa Paandi, Aramm, 8 thottakkal are good. Will watch them soon and update the list if necessary.