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Best Offbeat Indian Cinema of recent times (10+1 list)

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 Offbeat-Indian-Cinemasurvive 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)

Language: Hindi

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3yKUHI2mE4

Offbeat-Indian-CinemaRevolves 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 MasaanDhanakWaiting and Newton.

9. Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost (2013)

Language: Punjabi

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pAByInA4kM

Offbeat-Indian-CinemaAn 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 ShomeTisca 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

Offbeat-Indian-CinemaWritten 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)

Language: Malayalam

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNuJPc8u8WM

Offbeat-Indian-CinemaVisually 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)

Language: Marathi

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sc8z7zav9A

Offbeat-Indian-CinemaWritten 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)

Language: Bengali

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFObwB9TAwc

Offbeat-Indian-CinemaLabour 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)

Language: Tamil

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mnzK2KIz9U

Offbeat-Indian-CinemaDirected 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)

Language: Panjabi

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFS-ETnMSw4

Offbeat-Indian-CinemaMid 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)

Language: Kannada

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_NltD4Stv4

Offbeat-Indian-CinemaA 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!

  1. Aligarh (2015)

Language: Hindi

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JezwsQKpXuU

Offbeat-Indian-CinemaBased 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!

(Film Review)

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)

Language: Marathi

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsR8pclAW1Y

Offbeat-Indian-CinemaWritten 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

Best of Bollywood 2015 (10+1list)

Best of Bollywood 2015.

written by Souranath Banerjee

Bollywood cinema essentially means films made in Hindi language, generally produced and distributed in and around the Bombay Film Industry.

Last year 2015, according to me, was a good year for Bollywood.

Films, some of them of finest quality have been made or released, which successfully maintained the thin line between aesthetics and entertainment, and kept both the critics and the audience content.

And so, here is the list of Best of Bollywood 2015. Hope you agree with me on this. (If not, then let’s at least disagree on it)

10. Drishyam

Film Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuuX2j14NBg

Drishyam-posterA thrilling tale of a common man who by his intellect and imagination tricked everyone in order to save his family.

Directed by Nishikant Kamat, a south remake starring Ajay DevgnShriya Saran and Tabu.

A thriller that keeps you on the edges of your seat and doesn’t reveal the suspense till the very last shot of the film.

9. Bajrangi Bhaijaan

Film Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyX4toD395U

Bajrangi-Bhaijaan-posterA Salman Khan film, that has a realistic story line, enough scope for acting and most importantly high on emotions and less on dramabazi!

Directed by Kabir Khan, this one is about a big hearted man who went all the way to Pakistan to unite a cute little girl (who is also mute) with her parents.   

A perfect family entertainment clubbed with fun-filled sentiments.

8. Tanu Weds Manu Returns

Film Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGGmyaurjAI

tanu-weds-manu-returns-poster1With a double role (playing the sexy Tanu and the tomboyish Datto) Kangana Ranaut yet again shows that she is currently THE best actress in Bollywood.

(Click for the review)

Directed by Aanand Rai and written by Himanshu Sharma Tanu Weds Manu Returns guarantees a smile on the audiences face as they leave the theaters. And believe me that’s a huge achievement. 

7. Nh10

Film Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9icNqWlylw

nh10-poster1A perfect romantic trip turns into a nightmare.

(Click for the review)

Directed by Navdeep Singh, this is one hard hitting thriller where a urban woman experiences the brutal face of rural India, as she unintentionally becomes involved in a case of honor killing.

Raw, edgy, gritty and very much realistic, and undoubtedly Anushka Sharma‘s best performance till date.

6. Bajirao Mastani

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHOc-4D7MjY

Bajirao-Mastani-poster2A take on the life of Baji Rao Ballal Balaji Bhat, a Maratha general of the early 1700!

(Click for the review)

Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, there are rarely any Bollywood films (if any) that are so pleasing to your eyes that the story, content and characters almost get sidetracked by the sheer beauty of each and every frame.

5. Margarita, with a Straw

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YORjJiWBxAg

Margarita-with-a-Straw-posterDirected by Shonali Bose and Nilesh Maniyar this is an exceptional film about a young girl with cerebral palsy who is not afraid to fall in love!

(Click for the review)

Kalki Koechlin – her innocence, her vulnerability, her dialogue delivery, her body language, expressions, her smile – she is the reason to watch this film.

4. Talvar

Film Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQNMsw8Ljjc

Talvar-Poster2Directed by Meghna Gulzar, this one is a well researched version of the Noida Double Murder Case of 2008, also known as the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case.

(Click for the review)

A gripping tale that often makes it difficult for the audience to remember that after all, it’s a fictional representation of the dismal crime and its aftermath.

3. Piku

Film Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeiKUlUUNQ8

piku-poster1Directed by Shoojit Sircar, one of the best entertaining films of the year, emotional, real and so much fun.

(Click for the review)

Amitabh Bachchan as the selfish constipated dad,  Deepika Padukone as the devotedly caring yet tired of taking-care-of daughter and Irrfan Khan as the suitable suitor (perhaps).

2. Titli

Film Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOqiQiMkXDA

titliA family whose family-business is car-jacking, often violently abusing the passengers and looting their valuables. The youngest member of this family is named Titli, and this is his story of freedom.

(Click for the review)

Superbly directed by Kanu Behl, the film even got a nomination at the Cannes Film Festival!

  1. Masaan

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVZzYa0MxM8

masaan-posterBrilliantly directed by Neeraj Ghaywan, there is a certain honesty about Masaan that eventually grows on you and within it’s 100 min screen time, the film compels you to relate to it’s characters.

(Click for the review)

Shot in Varanasi, stories and incidents are threaded together like precious little pearls and the thread being the holy Ganges!

and (The ‘+1′ film is not necessarily the best but certainly the most crazy one. A must watch).

+1. Manjhi: The Mountain Man

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9KAoTQlEWs

mountain-man-poster-1Directed by Ketan Mehta,  a brilliant biopic of Dashrath Manjhi, a man who single-handedly (with only a hammer and a chisel) sliced open the mountain to make a passage through it, reducing the distance from his village to the nearest hospital to minimal.

(Click for the review)

It took him 22 years but he made the impossible possible.

Poster courtesy:  www.bollywoodmdb.com

Haraamkhor (2015)

Haraamkhor review.

written by Souranath Banerjee

My Ratings: 4/5.

Haraamkhor recently won the Silver Gateway Award at the JIO MAMI 17th Mumbai Film Festival and according to it’s producer Guneet Monga of Sikhya Entertainment, the film is all set to release in the theaters very soon.

It is a rural tale of a teacher-student liaison.

Till now Bollywood has always played the safe game while portraying the ‘sacred’ emotions of a teacher-student relationship; such relations have always been handled delicately, from a safe distance and that too often dipped in deliberately dramatized dignity.

Haraamkhor-poster1But in the film Haraamkhor, the only emotions that are taken into consideration are unprocessed and raw, intense, realistic, and devoid of any kind of sugar-coating for sure.

Set in a small town of Gujarat, a school teacher named Shyam (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is said to be having an affair with one of his student Sandhya (Shweta Tripathi).

At the initial stage though, it all seems to be just a rumor, a small-town gossip but as the film reveals itself along with it’s characters, it soon becomes pretty evident that Shyam and Sandhya’s relation is way beyond the usually expected tutor-pupil correlation. It’s a strange mix of lust and passion, of naive innocence and also a bit of love.

And then, Sandhya being underage (15-year-old) and Shyam being a 35-year-old married man makes their relationship more of a taboo!

The premise is simple but the execution is savagely precise and gritty and very entertaining as well.

Now of course, Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the selling point of the film as undoubtedly he is the most gifted actor of our recent times. And yes, he has done a tremendous job with his character in Haraamkhor; the cunning, libidinous, occasionally violent school teacher who at the same time is desperate to maintain his reputation!

But this film is not a one man show.

Haraamkhor-posterThe stage is been shared by another very talented actor Shweta Tripathi, who already appeared earlier in a soulful film called Masaan, and yet again in this film has proved herself to be one of the best upcoming talents of our industry.

Along with the two child actors who added enough humor to the script, Trimala Adhikari‘s performance is also much creditable as Sunita, the wife of the flirtatious school-teacher Shyam.  

Written and directed by debutant Shlok Sharma, the film is an unique combination of serious adult drama and numerous fun-filled moments. An awesome debut film!

Though the ending is not the part to be particularly proud of but overall the film is based on a taut script, beautifully portrayed emotions, attention given to every little details in preparing the characters and superb acting.  

If you prefer realistic films and aren’t shy of looking into an illicit relationship between a minor girl and a much older married man, this film is definitely worth a watch.

poster curtsey: www.clickmaza.comwww.ibnlive.com

Masaan (2015)

Masaan review

In the cinema hall (which was a full house on the Saturday night show) the audience (including me) felt a rare connection with the on-screen characters of the film; felt genuinely disturbed by their misfortunes and heartily laughed with them at their joy.

My ratings: 4/5.

At the time when big guns like Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Baahubali are ruling the box-office, one would be surprised by the profound impact a relatively low budget film like Masaan can make on the audience.

massan-poster1There is a certain honesty about Masaan that eventually grows on you and within it’s 100 min screen time, the film compels you to relate to it’s characters.

May be it’s the power of the script (written by Varun Grover), or may be the boldness of the dialogues and the aptness of the poetry or is it simply the credit of director (Neeraj Ghaywan) or can it be the brilliant performances by each and every actor that make the film so real?

Most probably, it’s all of these factors combined together that make Masaan such a strong emotional cinema.

Shot in Varanasi, small stories and incidents are threaded together like precious little pearls and the thread being the holy river Ganges!

Richa Chadda (who proved herself in films like Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and Gangs of Wasseypur) plays the part of a guilt-ridden daughter seeking an independent life where as Sanjay Mishra (after his brilliant role in the film Ankhon Dekhi) portrays the desperate father afraid of losing his social standing and morality.

Massan-PosterAnd then there is the innocence of first love between the teenagers from different caste Vicky Kaushal and Shweta Tripathi (both played to perfection).

Pankaj Tripathy as the railway booking clerk and the child actor Nikhil Sahni suited their roles perfectly.

I think casting director Mukesh Chhabra did a terrific job here.

Music by Indian Ocean and Bruno Coulais perfectly complements the script. And the beautiful poetry by various renowned poets cleverly weaved into the story-line adds a certain depth to the film.

Masaan, though often a bit predictable, has a soul of it’s own that reaches out to you.

No wonder Neeraj Ghaywan, the debutante director has won the FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics Prize) and the Prix Un Certain Regard (Young talent, innovative and audacious works) at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Cinema lovers – don’t you dare miss this film.