Best Offbeat Indian Cinema of recent times
written by Souranath Banerjee
Offbeat Indian Cinema, huh?
The term ‘offbeat’ generally conveys a certain idea of non-commercial, arty, not-for-the-masses kind of movies; those
intellectual films which almost invariably wouldn’t do much business in the box office but will probably travel around several festivals and survive exclusively on the blessings of a handful of niche audience and critics.
Well, that more or less covers everything except for the most essential fact, that most often these so-called ‘offbeat’ films are the real trendsetters, so unique and revolutionary in their treatment and storytelling that they are responsible for the evolution of meaningful Cinema around the globe!
And this particular list of Offbeat Indian Cinema (many are in regional languages), although some of them might have been lost in the popcorn-culture a tad too quickly for my personal discomfort, but then again, all of these films are undoubtedly the most important Indian Cinema of our recent times!
Here we go! (Listed according to their year of release)
10. Ankhon Dekhi (2013)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3yKUHI2mE4
Revolves around a simple yet philosophical concept of a man’s belief, as he decides to believe only what he sees with his eyes!
Brilliantly written, directed and acted by Rajat Kapoor, the film that succeeds in recognising the true talent of performer Sanjay Mishra.
And most importantly this movie sets the stage for one of the most prominent Indian producer of today – Manish Mundra, who in the following years have given us such brilliant films like Masaan, Dhanak, Waiting and Newton.
9. Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost (2013)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pAByInA4kM
An uniquely metaphorical film based on the post-partition era of India and Pakistan. A Sikh desperate for a male heir, but then when his fourth daughter is born, he declares her to be a boy and obsessively brings her up in the same fashion!
The first collaboration between director Anup Singh and actor Irrfan Khan which resulted in such a brilliant piece of story telling and powerful acting.
Tillotama Shome, Tisca Chopra and Rasika Dugal – absolute brilliant performances by all!
8. The Lunchbox (2013)
Dabba (original title), Language: Hindi
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sK3R0rvnlPs
Written and directed by Ritesh Batra, this film is essentially a love story between an unhappy housewife and a middle-aged man, and they depend on the Mumbai’s famous ‘dabba’ delivery system to share their delicious little love-notes.
Probably the most commercially popular in this list, this unique love affair is crisp, real and yet as romantic as a fantasy.
The performances of Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur and Nawazuddin Siddiqui makes the movie a true memorable experience.
7. Ottaal (2014)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNuJPc8u8WM
Visually the most eye-pleasing film in the list; a soulful story of a little boy and his grandfather and their beautiful fishing village somewhere in the backwaters of Kerala. But then there is ‘The Trap’ that awaits.
Superb direction by Jayaraaj, the story adopted from Anton Chekhov’s story Vanka.
The songs, the water, the innocence of the village – and the beauty of nature captured by M.J. Radhakrishnan in the most cinematic way ever!
6. Court (2014)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sc8z7zav9A
Written and directed by Chaitanya Tamhane, the film which won the National Award (Golden Lotus Award) and was the official entry from India for the Oscars 2016!
(Click for Review)
The film is a sarcastic take on the Indian dysfunctional legal system that revolves around a folk-singer’s prosecution!
A script so powerful and so confidently executed, superb performances, the most unique court-room drama ever made.
5. Asha Jaoar Majhe (2014)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFObwB9TAwc
Labour of Love, winner of two National Awards and many International ones, probably the most sensitive and poetic film in this list.
(Click for the review)
Directed by Aditya Vikram Sengupta, the story of a married couple who yearns to meet and spend time together but couldn’t because of their work timings. The best thing that happened to the Bengali Industry in the recent times!
4. Visaaranai (2015)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mnzK2KIz9U
Directed by Vetrimaaran, this was India’s official entry for the Oscars last year!
Based on a true story, four state-immigrants who experience the tragic police brutality as they were forcefully arrested, illegally detained, tortured and threatened to admit crimes of which they have no knowledge whatsoever!
Dark, gritty and dangerously realistic, the movie emphasises on the corruption of the Indian police department and the helplessness of the common man.
3. Chauthi Koot (2015)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFS-ETnMSw4
Mid 1980s, politically turbulent Punjab being the backdrop, the film focuses on one particular family that (like most of the other Punjabi families of the time) gets crushed in-between the Indian Army and Sikh separatists.
Brilliantly written and directed by Gurvinder Singh, (his debut film being Anhey gorhey da daan), this movie brilliantly portrays the agitation and terror of the innocents of that era.
2. Thithi (2015)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_NltD4Stv4
A man, 101-year-old – dies. His sons and their sons and their family (the next three generations) prepare for his funeral, after the customary eleven days. The film is based on their actions and reactions over the old man’s death.
Smooth flowing, realistic and immensely engaging; a story of a seemingly every-day village life but told with such conviction.
Superb direction given by Raam Reddy, impactful performances, winning multiple awards – probably the best film in the list!
- Aligarh (2015)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JezwsQKpXuU
Based on a true story of Dr Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, a professor who taught Marathi at Aligarh Muslim University, and was suspended from his job because of his sexual orientation!
Masterfully directed by Hansal Mehta and such powerful performances by Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkummar Rao.
Manoj Bajpayee (according to me) deserved the National Award for his role as Professor Siras.
and (The ‘+1′ film is not necessarily the best but certainly the most innovative one. A must watch)
+1. Kaul (2016)
Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsR8pclAW1Y
Written and directed by Vasudev Keluskar, this film is one of a kind – experimental, surrealistic, mysterious and stunningly visual!
The tale of a village school teacher who tries to maintain his sanity when assigned with an incredible responsibility that might change the fate of our universe!
Exceptionally well edited, shot in style playing with lights and shadows, sold performances – overall an exceptionally courageous example of story telling!
A few names of Offbeat Indian Cinema which are deserves the applause are Shahid (2012), Ship of Theseus (2012), Titli (2014), Killa (2014), Margarita with a Straw (2014), Talvar (2015), Haraamkhor (2015), Hotel Salvation (2016) and Trapped (2017).
Poster courtesy: www.imdb.com