Rajkummar Rao and Gulshan Devaiah in a still from ‘Badhaai Do’.
Now that all major releases of the year are done with, I am fairly comfortable charting out my list of best films from India. In the year 2022, movie buffs finally flocked to theaters (after a gap of nearly two years since the pandemic outbreak) and Anees Bazmee’s Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 revived the theatrical business for Hindi cinema. But the sequel to the Akshay Kumar-starrer 2007 original, came months after the commercial success of non-Hindi films in the traditional Hindi circuits across India.
Kartik Aaryan’s Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 was the first Hindi film to score a box office numbers in the same ranks as those of films such as KGF Chapter 2 and RRR. Before the horror-comedy, The Kashmir Files also made impressive figures at the box office but the film was marred with political controversies and the subject and its treatment in the film also made it impossible for The Kashmir Files to be bracketed as the typical Bollywood film.
Through the year 2022, movies such as Monica O My Darling, and Badhaai Do matched steps and proved that Hindi films are here to not just stay but entertain one and all. Here is my list of best films that came out in the year 2022 (This is not a ranking):
Monica O My Darling
Directed by Vasan Bala, the movie features Rajkummar Rao, Huma Qureshi, Radhika Apte and Sikander Kher. An adaptation of the Japanese novel Burutasu No Shinzou by Keigo Higashino, Netflix original Monica O My Darling is a well-crafted, quirky murder mystery. And, Bala does not restrict the film to the genre – the film is peppered with the most enjoyable pop references, and also offers a fun take on life, machines, and human behavior.
Qureshi is in her best elements as Monica in the film. She is playful, smart, beautiful and also villainous. Writers Yogesh Chandekar and Bala have come up with the quirkiest lines and the ones for Monica are hilarious, mean and empowering at the same time. While I see her villainy, it is sheer joy to see a Hindi film’s woman modeled with complete feminity (no traits of masculinity are enforced to denote the power she wields), as someone who behaves with such power and strength as Monica. The same goes for Apte’s fun cop act. These may not be the first ones, but they certainly are rare.
Badhaai Do is one of the best Hindi films that talks about queer spaces, marriages and their positioning in the contemporary Indian society. It is directed by Harshavardhan Kulkarni and Rajkummar Rao, Gulshan Devaiah, Chum Darang and Bhumi Pednekar play the lead roles of a cop, a lawyer, a paramedic and a physical education teacher.
Through the story of a lavender marriage, Badhaai Do builds the much-required bridge to bring the queer, and their families together. It also features one of the most lovely, warm and playful acts by Devaiah. Right from his first scene, to the last one where the entire worlds of the lead characters come together, he is a sumptuous treat each time he is in the frame.
The Kashmir Files
The Kashmir Files is about the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits who were killed in the 1990s in the Indian valley of Kashmir. The film was surrounded by controversies and a few even questioned its authenticity. The makers insist the film is based on the personal accounts of several families of the victims. The politics of the director – Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri – may be a subject of debate, but The Kashmir Files is undoubtedly a deftly written, tightly edited cinematic experience that is backed by strong performances.
The opening sequence of the film outlines the innocence of childhood and also showcases communal harmony. Throughout the film, Agnihotri brings a horrific genocide that is part of Indian history, and does so with a film that is also a a visual spectacle. In a film featuring veteran actors such as Anupam Kher and Mithun Chakraborty, it is surprising to see Pallavi Joshi outshine all of them. Joshi’s introductory scene outlines the politics of the film, but it also brings out the best of her skills.
Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2
Kartik Aaryan hit the jackpot of his career with Anees Bazmee’s directorial venture Bhool Bhulaiyya 2. The film also stars Kiara Advani and Tabu in important roles. It is unapologetically a Bollywood masala film, but, it also packs all the elements of an entertainer wonderfully.
Tabu and Aaryan’s performances particularly lift up the movie. She plays a double role and aces both the aggressive and sweeter parts equally. Aaryan, on the other hand, carries the entire film on his shoulders. His acts as a possessed man, and the dance to the song Aami Je Tomar deserve special mention. Vidya Balan danced to the same song and gave a hair-raising performance in the 2007 film Bhool Bhulaiyaa. Aryan’s craft ensures you do not miss her.
Rajat Kapoor’s latest is the trippy film RK/Rkay – a meta film about the process of filmmaking. It also showcases the identity crisis where one wonders whether is life driven by predestination or do they have free will. Interestingly, it is a crowd-funded film that displays the names of all those who contributed right with the opening credits. It has clear references to Woody Allen and Guru Dutt, and the film also interweaves humor with the existential questions of commerce versus art.
Chup: The Revenge of An Artist
R Balki’s 2022 outing was another trippy film – it was about a killer who targets movie critics and carves out stars on their foreheads (for each fake star they give to a film). The film was like an ode to Guru Dutt – his famous frames oft-used for the film, his songs double up as the backdrop and his passion for films is a major trigger for the narrative, as well as the killer. Amitabh Bachchan composed a music piece for the end credits of the movie. The movie stars Dulquer Salmaan and Sunny Deol in lead roles.
An Action Hero
An entertaining Bollywood film about a Bollywood hero weighed down with his how stardom and a series of chance events that render him a murder suspect. Debutante filmmaker Anirudh Iyer manages to weave the edge-of-the-seat suspense drama with all the elements of an entertainer – a special song-and-dance sequence, fight scenes, picturesque locations and a hero who is not apologetic for his flaws but is still the one who gets to win it all.
An Action Hero features some brilliant performances by Jaideep Ahlawat and Ayushmann Khurrana. The film also has special appearances by Akshay Kumar, Malaika Arora and Nora Fatehi.
Apart from these, I watched quite a few non-Hindi films and found a few gems among those as well. Samantha Ruth Prabhu’s convincing act in Yashoda made the film interesting to watch while also being a powerful film that showcases the strength of women without being judgemental.
Kamal Haasan’s power-packed performance in Vikram and Sai Pallavi’s sensitive portrayal in Gautham Ramachandran’s Gargi were also remarkable. Rishab Shetty’s colorful depiction of folk culture and scathing commentry on impacts of modernization on the environment catapulted Kantara to national success within weeks. Shetty wrote and directed the Kannada film that also featured him in the lead role.
R Madhavan’s narrative, looks and acting combined together in an engaging film made for the perfect movie on a scientist in the film Rocketry The Nambi Effect. The film is based on Indian Space Research Organization scientist Nambi Narayanan.
I may have missed many wonderful films – India produces more than 2000 films in a year across various languages. Do you feel strongly about a movie you loved? Drop in your suggestions and we can discuss the merits.