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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 2014.

Best of Bollywood 2014.

written by Souranath Banerjee.

It’s time to ride the flashback roller coaster in search of some meaningful cinema in Bollywood that released in the year 2014.

The phase ‘meaningful cinema’ itself is debatable since everyone interprets cinema in their own way. For me a film that successfully walks the thin line between quality content and entertainment always wins the race.

So, let the race begin.

1. Queen

queen-posterMost entertaining film of the year and an award-winning performance by Kangana Ranaut.

(Click for the film review)

Girl power punched with fun and friendship.

Awesome music by Amit Trivedi, Vikas Vahl’s superb direction – a great story of a girl who learns to live her life Queen style!

film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGC6vl3lzf0

2. Highway

highway-posterBrilliant performance by Alia Bhatt – so natural and spontaneous that she has even managed to eclipse a much senior actor like Randeep Hooda.

(click for the film review)

The film takes you in a tour of the whole North India; the combination of Imtiaz Ali’s direction and A.R.Rahman’s soulful music – a treat for film lovers.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o66nNnGZ5Rg

3. Haider

Haider-poster

Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider is a film that doesn’t shy off from it’s attempt to show the real Kashmir (set around 1995), the daily agony of the locales and their struggle to survive the police, the military and the numerous violent groups inflicting terror.

(click for the film review)

A combination of Hamlet and Kashmir that is definitely worth your time.

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xakmvJ0WPa4

4. Ankhon Dekhi

ankhon-dekhi-posterThis film deserves a lot more appreciation, a beautiful story of a man with a strange conviction – he wants to believe only what he sees with his own eyes!

Rajat Kapoor skillfully directs this family drama and Sanjay Mishra gives the best performance of his life.

A rare gem – entertaining and thoughtful cinema.

film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3yKUHI2mE4

5. City Lights

Citylights-posterAfter the National Award winning film Shahid, (director) Hansal Mehta and (actor) Rajkummar Rao comes together with yet another promising film.

(Click for the film review)

A remake of the British film Metro Manila, uncomfortably real and raw, the film forces us to look at poverty and despair from disturbing proximity.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fyO8OFK9yw

6. Ugly

Ugly-poster

Anurag Kashyap‘s Ugly is a thriller that revolves around the kidnapping of a little girl and the rigorous search that follows. A nasty tale of mayhem, greed and corruption that doesn’t spare anybody – no one comes out clean and innocent.

(Click for the film review)

Probably the most dark film recently made in Bollywood.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fyO8OFK9yw

7. PK

pk-poster

The much awaited film PK is the latest Aamir Khan flick directed by none other than Rajkumar Hirani; a blockbuster that seems to have broken all the records in box-office collection.

(Click for the controversial film related article)

A light-hearted comedy with an important social message! A film surely worth a watch.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fyO8OFK9yw

8. Miss Lovely

Miss-lovely-posterThe underground sleazy film industry of the 1980’s is never been explored before in such gritty details.

Ashim Ahluwalia (the director) has captured the dark underbelly of the C grade industry with brilliant realism.

Anil GeorgeNawazuddin Siddiqui and Niharika Singh have all given superb performances.

film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzoAOoHdACk

9. Filmistaan 

filmistaan-posterA fresh take on the popularity of Bollywood and also the India-Pakistan tension.

(Click to see the film review)

Filmistaan deals with pretty sensitive issues but always with a divine comic touch.

Great acting performances overall; especially the dynamic and hilarious Sharib Hashmi.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-0LWnz8Ut0

10. Children of War

Children-of-War-posterHistory often gets blurred with time but such courageous films revive them and voices the truth.

(Click to see the film review)

The film successfully recreates the horrific crimes orchestrated by Pakistan over the Bangladeshi (Bengali) people in the pre-independence era of Bangladesh in 1971. Great effort by director Mrityunjay Devvrat.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzIa0wYfUwU

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

+1. Mary Kom

Mary-kom-poster

Mary Kom, the biographical film on a farmer’s daughter from Manipur, who become a boxer and creates history by being the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the six world championships.

(Click to see the film review)

Directed by debutant Omung Kumar and produced by Snajay Leela Banshali – one of Priyanka Chopra‘s best performance till date.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzIa0wYfUwU

And some honorary mentions are Finding FannyMardaaniKya Dilli Kya Lahore2 StatesBhoothnath ReturnsDedh IshqiyaHolidayHawaa HawaaiLakshmi and of course Sulemani Keeda

Best of Bollywood in 2014

Best of Bollywood in 2014.

written by Souranath Banerjee.

Time flies by and we are already halfway through this year. Here comes the list – the best of Bollywood in 2014 yet released (till June end).

I feel 2014 is turning out to be a great year for Bollywood and these movies are enough to prove it. A perfect balance of entertaining and meaningful cinema.

If by chance you have missed any of these awesome films please do the needful as soon as possible.

Ok then, sit back and let’s hit the rewind button.

10. 2 States (April 2014)

2 states

Adopted from Chetan Bhagat’s autobiographical bestseller novel (of the same name), probably one of the best entertaining commercial films of this year.

(Click to see the film review)

Alia Bhatt and Arjun Kapoor not only have a brilliant chemistry but also a set of parents who are culturally poles apart. Good music and it’s fun to watch.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGyAaR2aWcA

9. Hawaa Hawaai (May 2014)

Hawaa Hawaai

Amole Gupte (director) and Partho Gupte (actor) – the father-son duo gave us this superb emotional drama.

(Click to see the film review)

A boy with limited financial means had the courage to dream and also the strength to achieve it.

Roller skating is taken to new heights, overall brilliant performances; this film is a celebration of innocence.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8WEqUvoJw4

8. Kya Dilli kya Lahore (May 2014)

Kya dilli kya lahore

Debutant director Vijay Raaz came up with a completely different take on India-Pakistan war films – a fresh outlook and an interesting script.

(Click to see the film review)

Fine performances by Vijay Raj himself and Manu Rishi Chadha and the brilliant poetic lyrics by Gulzar. A daring film to attempt i must say.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H91RXZ0nRv4

7. Filmistaan (July 2014)

filmistaan

A fresh take on the popularity of Bollywood and also the India-Pakistan tension.

(Click to see the film review)

Filmistaan deals with pretty sensitive issues but always with a divine comic touch.

Great acting performances overall; especially the dynamic and hilarious Sharib Hashmi.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-0LWnz8Ut0

6. Citylights (May 2014)

CityLights

After the National Award winning film Shahid, (director) Hansal Mehta and (actor) Rajkummar Rao comes together with yet another promising film.

(Click for the film review)

A remake of the British film Metro Manila, uncomfortably real and raw, the film forces us to look at poverty and despair from disturbing proximity.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fyO8OFK9yw

5. Highway (Feb 2014)

highway

Brilliant performance by Alia Bhatt – so natural and spontaneous that she has even managed to eclipse a much senior actor like Randeep Hooda.

(click for the film review)

The film takes you in a tour of the whole North India; the combination of Imtiaz Ali’s direction and A.R.Rahman’s soulful music – a treat for film lovers.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o66nNnGZ5Rg

4. Children of war (May 2014)

Children of War

History often gets blurred with time but such courageous films revive them and voices the truth.

(Click to see the film review)

The film successfully recreates the horrific crimes orchestrated by Pakistan over the Bangladeshi (Bengali) people in the pre-independence era of Bangladesh in 1971. Great effort by director Mrityunjay Devvrat.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzIa0wYfUwU

3. Miss Lovely (Jan 2014)

Miss Lovely

The underground sleazy film industry of the 1980’s is never been explored before in such gritty details.

Ashim Ahluwalia (the director) has captured the dark underbelly of the C grade industry with brilliant realism.

Anil GeorgeNawazuddin Siddiqui and Niharika Singh have all given superb performances.

film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzoAOoHdACk

2. Queen (March 2014)

queen

Most entertaining film of the year and an award winning performance by Kangana Ranaut.

(Click for the film review)

Girl power punched with fun and friendship.

Awesome music by Amit Trivedi’s, Vikas Vahl’s superb direction – a great story of a girl who learns to live her life Queen style!

film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGC6vl3lzf0

1. Ankhon Dekhi (March 2014)

Ankhon dekhi

This film deserves a lot more appreciation, a beautiful story of a man with a strange conviction – he wants to believe only what he sees with his own eyes!

Rajat Kapoor skillfully directs this family drama and Sanjay Mishra gives the best performance of his life.

A rare gem – entertaining and thoughtful cinema.

film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3yKUHI2mE4

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

+1. Lakhsmi (March 2014)

lakshmiLakshmi – the young village girl who stood up alone in the court against a prostitution racket in Hyderabad.

A film that is both disturbing and real (based on a true story) and truly courageous.

Nagesh Kukunoor directs this dark film that shows us the horrors of human trafficking, the torturous lives of girls who are forced to prostitution.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf4hOMpKlEI

Highway (2014)

Highway review.

Written by Souranath Banerjee.

My Ratings: 4/5.

Recently saw director Imtiaz Ali‘s latest film Highway. A good experience – full of emotions and genuine performances.

But before probing into the film’s story-structure lets consider these two archetypes:

Story No 1. – You probably know the story of the princess who gets bored living the mundane, affluent life in her palace. She feels confined and skeptical about marrying the stereotype prince and all she wishes is to experience the real world. In the bizarre realm of cinema these kind of adventurous wishes are promptly granted and before you know it (or rather she knows it) our beloved princess gets sucked into the wicked but exciting, sometimes too-real-to-handle vortex of a thrilling new life. Highway-poster1Least assured she has the excitements of a lifetime and almost invariably finds the love of her life (generally a common man with sharp features who is largely responsible for keeping her safe from the bad, bad world through out her adventure).

This story version is very popular in Hollywood and two best examples are Princess Jasmine from animated feature Aladdin (1992), Rose in Titanic (1997).

Story No 2. – This time a different story but I am sure you know this one as well. A girl and a boy (specifically a rich girl and a poor boy) who are forced by certain unforeseen/unavoidable circumstances to stay together in very close proximity for long enough till they fall in love. These two must have dissimilar backgrounds and social class, contrast features and habits, different upbringings – the more incompatible the better! They should loathe each other at the start but finally they will be all sticky in love. Then it’s time for the parents to interfere. Usually the rich girl’s parents are more of a pain in the ass and the film ending totally depends on them – if they accept the good-for-nothing guy then it’s a love story (99% times that’s the case) but if they reject him (the other 1%), then it’s a tragedy.

This story version is extremely popular in Bollywood and two prominent examples are Raj and Simran in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), Raghu and Pooja in Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin (1991). 

highway-poster3Well, now bake these above two stories (the primary ingredients) and you have the base prepared. Now to make it smell different add the concept of Stockholm syndrome (where the kidnapped person falls for his/her kidnapper) and delicately sprinkle some sensitive issues of childhood trauma.

Highway is ready to serve.

Looks like an easy dish to prepare but I assure you it’s not. Only expert chiefs with the caliber and imagination of Imtiaz Ali can bring such unique flavors, where the actors and their emotions are marinated to perfection.

Brilliant performances – Alia Bhatt is so natural and spontaneous; she has managed to eclipse a much senior and gifted actor Randeep Hooda (Randeep has also done justice to his character but perhaps a bit less-utilized). The decision to cast Alia for the role was the trump and it really paid off (Imtiaz wasn’t that lucky in his earlier film Rockstar when he casted Nargis Fakhri in the lead role).

HIghway-posterIn a nutshell Highway is all about this fun-loving, rich, ‘bride-to-be’, young girl Veera Tripathi (Alia Bhatt) – what happens when her life takes a wretched turn as she gets kidnapped by a crude, merciless criminal Mahabir Bhati (Randeep Hooda) – and finally how this unfortunate event changes her – she experiences love, her dreams come true and she learns to see the world from a different perspective.

Oscar winning composer A.R.Rahman‘s soulful music is skillfully weaved throughout the film to smoothen the bumps on the highway. (Thankfully not a single abrupt/forced song sequence added).

The attractive highway sequences seen mostly from the point of view of a moving vehicle (the truck) are always layered by the humming of the truck-engine to give the audience a feel of being a part of the journey. Excellent sound designing throughout the film – thanks to Amrit Pritam Dutta and the Oscar winning sound designer Resul Pookutty.

highway-poster2No high-end camera rigs used, no artificial lights (in most of the shots), very less use of make-up for the actors, no extreme image manipulation in the post-production; credit goes to the cinematographer Anil Mehta who still managed to make the film look classy.

Two emotional sequences worth mentioning – one of Alia crying and laughing at the same time as she let herself go and the other one where Mahabir cries watching Veera making food and cleaning their new home in the mountains, very touchy and superb performances by the actors.

A scenic journey through Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir, seat back and enjoy the emotional love story of Veera and Mahabir as they hit the highways.

Highway is a film that will engage you, entertain you and in a certain level make you uncomfortable.

P.S – A note of comparison: There’s the scene where Veera confronts her uncle in front of other family members – she accuses him of abusing her when she was nine years old. I feel that Mira Nair handled the same kind of situation in her film Monsoon Wedding (2001) much better when the child abuser (played by Rajat Kapoor) gets accused by the victim (played by Shefali Shetty).