This year's official Oscar selection for the Foreign Language Film Category, is the Tamil film Visaranai, which explores the dark side of prisons in India.
Other than Visaranai, which also won a national award, there were a total of 29 films in the list of the Film Federation of India. This included films such as Deepika Padukone-Priyanka Chopra-Ranveer Singh's Bajirao Mastani, Akshay Kumar's Airlift, Salman Khan's Sultan and Sonam Kapoor's Neerja.
But what about those films that didn't make the list? In a year, we have close to a 1000 films releasing under a multiple of languages (Bollywood is only a fragment of it).
While we can't boast of having seen all of them (we wish!), here are a few films from 2016 apart from Visaranai, which didn't make the cut, but had immense potential.
This 2015 film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award. It is written and directed by director Prashant Nair, who told Indiewire in an interview that that the film is about "about the mythology of America and, more generally, how cultures perceive each other: the stereotypes, assumptions, misunderstandings and labeling as 'exotic' of all things unfamiliar".
Though the film has received mostly positive reviews, with Variety and Hollywood Reporter giving it a thumbs up, international reviewers have been a little less optimistic. The Jerusalem Post called it 'a bleak story of young people who aspire to better lives and are torn from the families they want to help.'
Umrika centers around a poor isolated village in India in the 1980s; it is about the villagers yearning for the wonders of a country they only know as 'Umrika'.
Ramakant , a young child, has an adored older brother, Udai (Prateik Babbar), who decides to head for the States. While the entire village sees him off with great fanfare, their mother (Smita Tambe) can barely contain her grief. She lives for the arrival of Udai’s detailed letters, and Ramakant comes to suspect that something is off about the letters, although he doesn’t find out the truth for years.
When the older Ramakant (played by Suraj Sharma) finds out the that the letters are not really written by Udai, and he embarks on a journey to look for his older brother and to quench his fascination for 'Umrika'.
The highest grossing Marathi film till date, Sairat couldn't make it as India's official entry to the 89th Academy Awards. The low-budget Marathi language regional film Sairat, about the cruel and unsettling consequences of falling in love in India has become the biggest sleeper hit of the year.
With the international box-office collection of more than 110 crore, it also challenges Bollywood stereotypes of love and gender. The plot surrounds an upper-caste girl and how she falls in love with a lower-caste boy. The assertive girl takes the lead in the relationship but eventually there is no happy ending.
Sairat was selected for the 66th Berlin International Film Festival under its Generation 14 Plus section. Rinku Rajguru was awarded a National Film Award – Special Jury Award / Special Mention (Feature Film) at the 63rd National Film Awards in 2015 "for her effective portrayal of a lively girl who defies societal norms but ultimately has to face the wrath of her family".
Punjabi film, Chauthi Koot or The Fourth Wall, debuted at the Un Certain Regard section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and also won the Singapore International Film Festival Silver Screen Award for Best Asian Feature Film in December 2015.
Director Gurvinder Singh takes us to the post 1980s era in India where rural Punjab is a tense place post operation Blue Star. It is based on the short stories The Fourth Direction and I Am Feeling Fine Now from Indian author Waryam Singh Sandhu's 2005 collection Chauthi Koot.
According to Gayatri Gauri, in her review for Firstpost, Chauthi Koot is "a profound observation and comment on how a political and religious environment can impact the daily life of a commoner."
The film won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Punjabi for 2015.
A dramatic comedy set in a village about three generetions of a family took the box-office and award show circuit by storm.
Thithi is a dramatic comedy about how three generations of sons react to the death of the oldest in their clan, a man named Century Gowda: a locally renowned, highly cantankerous 101-year-old man. Set in a remote village in Karnataka, the three storylines intertwine before converging at Century Gowda’s ‘thithi’ — the final funeral celebration, 11 days after a death.
Tithi won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Kannada, and it also bagged the First Best Film, Best Supporting Actress and Best Dialogue awards at the 2016 Karnataka State Film Awards.
Nil Battey Sannata
Apeksha (Ria Shukla), a class ten student, loses interest in her studies as she feels that she can only become a maid like her mother (Swara Bhaskar), who tries hard to get her educated.
The unconventional Bollywood film did not make a mark at the box office but it did garner critical acclaim for the film.
Udita Jhunjhunwala says in her review for Firstpost, "Bhaskar embraces the role of the indefatigable feisty mother who does not give up hope. This is one of her most nuanced performances and a welcome change from the motor-mouth characters seen in Tanu Weds Manu and Raanjhana. As a precocious teenager, Ria Shukla is a fine sparring partner. Pankaj Tripathi is the scene-stealer as the zealous school principal and Math teacher. He has a skip in his step and playfulness in his sternness, which are a delight to watch."