Aarya, Bhonsle, Pushpavalli season 2, Thappad: Best Hindi films and series of 2020 so far
2020 is the year no one asked for. If there has been a ray of sunshine, it is the variety of quality content it has offered, including Aarya and Thappad.
2020 is the year no one asked for. If there has been a ray of sunshine, besides the fact that half of it is behind us, it is the variety of quality content this year has offered for our entertainment so far.
With movie theatres closed since mid-March, streaming platforms have pulled up their socks, and acquired both content lined for theatrical release and rejigged their calendars to make the most of the lockdown.
Below are our picks of the best films and shows released in 2020 till 30 June.
Less than a year after addressing casteism through Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer Article 15, director Anubhav Sinha reunited with Mulk actress Taapsee Pannu for Thappad, another social drama discussing the grey area that constitutes domestic 'violence.' However, tropes of the 'social drama,' which has become Sinha's calling now, were more muted here than in his previous two films.
The screenplay and dialogues were far more perceptive given he had a woman co-writer in Mrunmayee Lagoo Vaikul. This allowed Pannu to pull off a performance that was far quieter than her Mulk turn, yet not any less effective. Also, it was a wise call on Sinha's part to weave together a multifarious narrative, focusing equally on other women in the protagonist's life, and not dismissing her husband Vikram as a mere ruthless sinner.
Devashish Makhija's film, with Manoj Bajpayee in the lead role, enjoyed a successful festival run in 2018. But it had been struggling to find a home since last year, till SonyLIV stepped in. Bhonsle revolves around Bajpayee's character, a retired Mumbai Police officer who is pushed to the periphery till he resolves to stand up for a Bihari migrant in against the majoritarian Maharashtrian inhabitants of his chawl.
Bajpayee uses the same restraint he excelled in critically acclaimed films like Hansal Mehta's Aligarh (2015) and Dipesh Jain's 2017 psychological drama Gali Guleiyan. The visceral central performance, coupled with Makhija's assured treatment, makes Bhonsle a biting commentary on the othering of migrants as well as a deeply moving account of a man on the brink of death, who is left with only his honour and principles to live for.
Sooni Taraporevala's Netflix Original film straddled the two Mumbais that dominate the city landscape. Inspired from her documentary of the same name, it traces the graphs of two boys from the slums of Worli, Koliwada, who become international ballet dancers.
With extensive research on the background in tow, Taraporevala makes Yeh Ballet a lived-in experience, that benefits immensely from her capacity as a photographer who has captured all corners of Mumbai. It is also elevated by her rich experience as a screenwriter for Mira Nair's films like Salaam Bombay! and The Namesake.
The Kangana Ranaut-starrer falls under the classic underdog template of a sportsperson, who has long given up on their days of glory, working up the ladder again for another short at a goal they missed conquering in the past. This familiar yet unfailingly satisfying territory becomes rewarding with the leading actor's measured portrayal of a former Kabaddi player who gave up on her dream, thanks to motherhood.
Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari's adept handling as a director, and the involvement of her husband Nitesh Tiwari as an additional screenplay writer, brought into account the cost of a mother chasing her dreams, since that renders everyone at home helpless. Choosing to focus on the flipside of feminism, Ashwiny further underlined her noble intentions by reflecting the opportunity cost of a mother calling it a day.
The Netflix Original anthology is not a worthy follow-up to the far more layered and engaging Lust Stories that released two years ago. Unlike its predecessor, all its four short films are not consistently brilliant. In all fairness, they are diverse but only two of them are hits, while the other fail to live up to the expectations.
Zoya Akhtar's short scores maximum brownie points for the tightness of its script, a smooth translation into a riveting tale with persuasive atmospherics, and winning performances by Janhvi Kapoor and Surekha Sikri. Equally impressive is Dibakar Banerjee's apocalyptic zombie horror that doubles up as a witty political satire.
There is a lot to appreciate in Ram Madhvani and Sandeep Khosla's thriller on Disney+ Hotstar. It is a slow burn that is never ambitious to match up to the fast pace of an 'OTT thriller.' It makes a meal of the premise, the background, and the sumptuously realised characters, led undoubtedly by Sushmita Sen's titular role. She does not miss a beat as a woman struggling to wipe out the residues of her crime-laden family.
Sumukhi Suresh managed the seemingly impossible feat of upping the game in the second season of her fascinating Amazon Prime Video India show Pushpavalli. The actor in her never overlapped with the writer as the two mutually exclusive capacities only aided each other through the commendable detachment Suresh exercises across the series.
Another show on Amazon, Panchayat placed the Jeetu Bhaiya from TVF's Kota Factory in a Central Indian village. He is equally disillusioned in this setting as well, till he, like those of us watching, start warming up to the colourful characters of the village, including the Panch (Neena Gupta) and 'Panch-Pati' (Raghubir Yadav). The show was as unhurried as life in rural areas, yet as inviting as the simple souls residing in those stretches.
Nupur Asthana took over the directorial reigns from Anu Menon, who directed season 1 on Amazon. She did exactly what a successor is supposed to do, by retaining the essence, tone, and mood of the first season, and complementing it by raising the stakes for its characters. While the first season had to fight a tough battle against judgement and prejudice, Season 2 was busy having a lot of fun, yet not compromising on the various conflicts that riddled the lives of its women.
Amazon was clearly on a roll in the first half of this year, with its slate ranging across both exciting Originals and absorbing acquired content. Afsos, a product of Only Much Louder (OML) that also bankrolled Pushpavalli, was a fascinating one-line pitch detailed into eight episodes that were part-fun, part-thrilling, and part-philosophical. Director Anubhuti Kashyap built a world that had an oddball element in every character, led aptly by Gulshan Devaiah's Nakul, a man two-timing with death and mortality.
All images from Twitter.
Without mentioning names, Karan Johar's Dharma Productions' announced the news of the replacement, " due to professional circumstances, on which we have decided to maintain a dignified silence"
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