MUMBAI—Only seven films were truly worth the while for viewers in the year gone by. The range here was from brilliant to above average even if niche. Of these, only two were theatrical releases. Some of them spotlighted great performances from lead or supporting artistes, known, little known or new, which I have already focused on in my individual reviews of these films.
Listing the films in alphabetical order, at the outset, I must mention that the best film in theatres and overall was “Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior,” also the only blockbuster of the year, while the most brilliant movie among the OTT releases, despite some add-on expletives due to an OTT platform streaming rather than a censored theatrical opening, was “Ludo.” “Panga” and “Kadakh” were the respective runners-up.
Gunjan Saxena—The Kargil Girl (Directed by: Sharan Sharma)
Sparkling performances from Janhvi Kapoor and Pankaj Tripathi elevated this dramatized biopic of the first Indian woman fighter-pilot ever, who played a vital role in the Kargil war. The script was kept simple, and effectively crisp at under two hours.
Kadakh (Rajat Kapur)
One of the best dark comedies in a long, long while, it had the most macabre end one could expect. The ensemble cast was a highlight with some fantastic lines by writer Rajat Kapur, doubling up as director and also quadrupling up as actor and co-producer!
Lootcase (Rajesh Krishnan)
This director Rajesh Krishnan seems a very promising find whose future projects we can expect to be even better. The dark crime caper with a comic flavor was engrossing in its realism-meets-entertaining content. Ironies of fate intertwine the destinies of a middle-class humble worker (Kunal Khemu) and a rogue but witty politician (Gajraj Rao). Amusing twists lined this plotline until the very end.
Ludo (Anurag Basu)
By far the most cerebrally written film of the year gone by, “Ludo” was also superbly directed and enacted. Arguably, it was among the less-than-handful of films in 2020 with a strong repeat value. Great dialogues (Samrat Chakraborty with Basu), sterling performances by Pankaj Tripathi, Abhishek Bachchan, Sanya Malhotra, Shalini Vatsa and Inayat Verma and some bearable to okay songs (Pritam) unlike the horrendous scores of other films in the year made “Ludo” a fab experience.
Panga (Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari)
Kangana Ranaut, child artistes Yagya Bhasin, Richa Chadha, Megha Burman and Neena Gupta were the five power-packed performers in the sports drama whose strength lay in Tiwari’s handling of the story of an ex-champion in Kabaddi. Now a mother, she takes on the challenge of battling age and society to realize her dreams, goaded by a supportive family.
Raat Akeli Hai (Honey Trehan)
A laidback, placid whodunit in the classic British novel style, it featured seemingly normal people of varied socio-economic classes with a “haveli” taking center-stage and their own, mostly dark secrets. A group of gifted supporting artistes enhanced the atmospheric thriller with Nawazuddin Siddiqui (in his only worthwhile film of four releases in 2020) and Radhika Apte as leads.
Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior (Om Raut)
What is left to be said of this masterpiece? Indian technicians, who did all the VFX and more, need to take multiple bows for their awesome global-standard work. But for once, all this technical razzmatazz was a support to the script, direction and powerhouse performances. And this is the key point that differentiates a good film from an extraordinary one, which this one is.