How 2020 rolled: The best movie memories

How do you break away from terrible bondage? Nawazudin Siddiqui in Sudhir Mishra’s Serious Men (based on Manu Jospeh’s novel of the same name) channels deep-seated anger and malice to elevate his son’s position on the socio-economic ladder, but he has a lesson in there himself, realising that your place is yours, and that’s where lies sanity. What a delight this one is, as it tracks a group of underprivileged Mumbai teens through the tough paces of ballet, a dance form we think of as one ‘belonging’ to the rich and the privileged. These passings would have been tragic any other year, but in this one, the loss has been heavier, harder to handle. We were forced to clamp down on so many things we took for granted, especially those activities which led us towards gathering in large numbers. And that dreams can come true. Also Read |Nasir: Arun Karthick directorial will stay with you for a long time
Who is a serious man? She has an ailing aunt to look after, and intimidating rent collectors to fight off. His ambition, too. ‘Chup raho’, counsels a sister-in-law whose wounds do not appear on the surface but feel as deep. Or a man who wants ‘seriousness’ as a label to be able to enter worlds which are not his automatically? Both have broken hearts, his from his fiancee, hers caused by a sister who rebuffs her efforts to make her rise above their station. Anvita Dutt’s debut feature Bulbbul is a period piece which feels sharply contemporary. As a long time film critic, my life has been divided into the times I spent inside darkened theatres, and the one outside. More than anything else, I will look back on this year as the one in which The Movies Came Home. Written by Shubhra Gupta

Updated: December 27, 2020 9:18:40 pm

A look at some films that stood out in 2020. Geetha J’s Run Kalyani, which I saw as part of the virtual New York Indian Film Festival ( NYIFF), trains a soft but sure gaze on a young woman who works as a part-time cook. The movie hall became one of the first places to be ruled out of bounds; now, when theatres are slowly opening up, we are still reluctant to return to a place which entertained us, and transported us. Konkona Sen Sharma and Bhumi Pednekar play small-town cousins, very different from each other in situation and ‘swabhaav’, but finding common cause in their quest for self-hood. Everything changed. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
For all the latest Entertainment News, download Indian Express App. As a doting father, who will go to any lengths to make his demanding ‘beti’ happy, Irrfan lifted the strictly serviceable script as only he could. Despite a few cheesy, heavily underlined passages, the film waves a strong flag for women, especially those who have made their peace with holding it down for their men. You may be a ‘modern’ man, but you may be as bound in patriarchy as the older generation. Female desire is such a hot potato that most moviemakers stay away from it. Putting aside my derision for ‘binge watching’ has been a huge learning curve. And, bringing up the rear, for no other reason than they came towards the end of the year, are Anurag Basu’s Ludo, and Vikramaditya Motwane’s AK vs AK. The former is called Ghalib, the latter, Pash, and the film is pure poetry. Ditto for Dil Bechara, not Sushant Singh Rajput’s best, but one in which he reminded us of how difficult it is process untimely, shocking deaths. The free-spirited Bulbbul, played by the doe-eyed Tripti Dimri, is schooled in pain and privation, and taught the value of silence. In Honey Trehan’s assured debut feature, toplining Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte, we get a sharply drawn small-town eco-system which allows powerful men to prey upon helpless women. A child bride, more tree sprite than little girl, in 19th century Bengal is told that her feet are adorned by ‘bichiyas’ (toe rings) in order to tie her down, to home and hearth, and never-ending domesticity. Arun Karthick’s Nasir is a razor sharp film about a man who is nothing but gentle. Alankrita Srivastava dives straight in, with Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamaktey Sitaare, which works as a companion piece to her previous what-women-really-want Lipstick Under My Burkha. And is doing away with a despicable human such a big crime? I missed Sooni Taraporevala’s Yeh Ballet when it came out in February, and have only managed to catch up with now. 2020 was the year that no one wanted, but couldn’t escape from: the deadly virus was, and is still, around us. Raat Akeli Hai is a crackling whodunit. Rajat Kapoor’s Kadakh is yet another exploration of some of the director’s favourite themes — of truth and falsehood, crime and punishment — and leaves us asking ourselves tough questions. The meek shall not always remain trodden. Also Read |Kadakh: A tantalising morality tale
A two-timing husband, played by Ranvir Shorey, finds himself saddled with a dead body, and a problem. 📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. And here I am, thinking of the movie memories of 2020, those numbers a perfect symmetry, but with nothing else that added up, with the gifted people we lost (Irrfan Khan, Rishi Kapoor, Sushant Singh Rajput, Saroj Khan, Jagdeep, Nishikant Kamath, Soumitra Chatterjee). Both felt like a stretch in places, both could have done with tighter writing, but both had that special something which leaves a residue behind. And women are not meant to bear the brunt of your frustrations. How submissiveness is flipped on its head, turns Bulbbul into a strongly feminist subversive tale. His needs are modest. Who is more of a menace, the humans or the simians? Also Read |Run Kalyani is a beautiful exploration of tedium and solitude
Desire doesn’t always have to be sexual. But it is also more than just a murder mystery. It can also manifest as breaking free from whatever it may be that holds us back. Pankaj Tripathi as a trippy don, and both AKs (Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap) being played to their strengths: especially the latter who gets to do a hilarious send-up of himself, as the guy who makes those ‘dark, realistic flop films’ and manages to stay in the news because he gives everyone ‘gaalis’: kismet ki hawa kabhi garam, kabhi naram. Here are, in no particular order, some of the films that stood out for me. Right on top is Prateek Vat’s Eeb Allay Ooo, which has been doing the festival rounds and has arrived in theatres, just as the year is about to end. Can something with a crack in it, ever be mended? A biting satire of striking originality, it focusses on the plight of migrants, and people who live on the margins, through the very-specific-to-the-Rajdhani-sarkari-naukri of a man (Shardul Bhardwaj) who chases away monkeys. Achintya Bose and Manish Chauhan are fleet-footed, and grounded, and the film says something we tend to forget, especially in bad times— everyone can dream. Also Read |Angrezi Medium review: Irrfan Returns
Ordinarily, Angrezi Medium wouldn’t have made it to this list. The film, quite aptly, was about two young people in love, and how they deal with difficult lives and impending deaths, and with it, we bade Rajput farewell. In a few hours, their best friends will start trooping in for a celebratory dinner, and he needs to hide his crimes, both corporeal as well as of the spirit. is a biting sharp satire
Meel Pathar, Ivan Ayr’s terrific tale of a man who counts out his time by the mileposts he passes, is another of my favourites of the year. Suvinder Vicky plays the trucker with countless miles on his clock, and a creaking back; Lakshvir Saran is the apprentice hungry to take-over. © IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd No inside-outside silos, just one long, endless blur of movies and shows.×1.png
And that’s the other thing I had to embrace – series and shows – which up until then, had always been an option, not an essential part of my viewing life. I can’t say I’m a happy binge-r still, but there you go. Within a month, he was gone. A man we take seriously? He is caught at the wrong time, in the wrong place, and his fate mirrors so many others who have become casualties, in real life, of these polarised, communalised times. Through the everyday actions of an ordinary woman, we see patterns emerging, of love, succour, and most importantly, freedom. We know how hard that will be, for both the ‘sahib’ and the ‘maid’: will it last? Also Read |Eeb Allay Ooo! Sir plays out like a realist-fantasy which sets out to prove that two lonely humans can find a connection, overcoming often-insurmountable differences in class, and position. Anubhav Sinha’s Thappad also centres around a couple of connected lessons. March-end onwards, I spent weeks trying not to get overwhelmed by the endless array of things to watch: ‘new’ Bollywood (and Hollywood, and every other language) films made a reluctant move towards streaming platforms, and OTT became my own home theatre. But not only will I remember it as the last film I saw in a theatre this year (third week of March), it will be marked as the last time we saw Irrfan on screen. All Nasir wants is to be able to live a life of fulfilment and dignity, with his family. Rohena Gera sets her thought-provoking film in a swish Mumbai location, where a well-appointed high-rise flat houses Vivek Gomber’s wealthy, US-returnee and his live-in domestic help, played with implacable dignity by Tillotama Shome.