Bollywood films have gotten dwarfed by the surge of the South cinema. But all is not lost. Here are some of the movies released this year so far that we have liked.
Note: (The list is not indicative of box office numbers)
Release date: 11 February 2022 Director: Harshavardhan Kulkarni Where to watch: Netflix
Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar, two of the finest contemporary actors of Bollywood, play Shardul and Sumi—a gay man and a lesbian woman–who opt for a lavender marriage. Apart from the nuanced performances, what makes this film a must-watch is its matured and sensitive writing and storytelling, and gaze. Although it tackles the social issue of the stigma that is still associated with homosexuality, it does so without getting preachy or diluting the matter to a point of ludicrous to make it palatable while breaking quite a few stereotypes along the way. Instead of patronizing the characters from the LGBTQIA+ community, the director opts to create flawed individuals, making this film more real and relatable than most in this genre.
Release date: 11 February 2022 Director: Shakun Batra Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video
A tempestuous, clandestine relationship between two distinctly different individuals forms the core of this torrid domestic drama turned thriller, which might remind one of Woody Allen’s 2005 film Match Point. It is a steaming hot dark brew of love, sex, deception, manipulation, infidelity, guilt, consequences, and childhood trauma. Although not as nuanced as Kapoor and Sons, and is accused of normalizing infidelity under the garb of ‘modern-day romance’, this is a must-watch for every Deepika Padukone fan; here the actor is in all her glory as Alisha, a yoga instructor who indulges in an illicit affair with her cousin sister’s boyfriend.
Release date: 25 February 2022 Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali Where to watch: Netflix
Loosely based on a true story of a brothel madame’s rise to power, this Alia Bhatt-starrer is set in Kamathipura of the 1950s and is a quintessential tale of a victim becoming a savior, of a wronged woman rising from her trauma to write her own destiny. The poignant drama unfolds in a baroque Bhansali world replete with rich colors, exquisite visuals, stylized scenes, heightened emotions, exaggerated characters, and embellished dialogues. If Bhansali makes the squalor and grime look aesthetic, Alia imbues the character of Gangu with an honesty that balances out the contrived and sucks you into the cinematic experience.
Release date: 18 March 2022 Director: Suresh Triveni Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video
Jalsa follows a hit-and-run incident with a firebrand journalist and single mom to a differently-able teen boy, Maya Menon at the driving seat. The girl she unknowingly hits with her car turns out to be the daughter of her house help. What unfolds is a tale that oscillates between power and guilt, a tale where the demarcation between the perpetrator and the victim slowly gets blurred. This is a movie with three powerhouse actors, Vidya Balan, Shefali Shah, and Rohini Hattangadi, and it is their gritty and nuanced performances that make this Rashomonesque film that explores shifting ideas of motherhood, morality, privilege, and power dynamics, an absolute must watch.
Release date: 6 May 2022 Director: Raj Singh Chaudhary Where to watch: Netflix
A sun-scorched dusty border town located in the middle of a parched and cracked desert landscape sees the arrival of a mysterious young man and the sleepy hamlet is suddenly jolted by action. Something sinister is brewing. It is a quintessential setting of a Clint Eastwood Western. Here trying valiantly to fit into his rather large shoes is a rugged and brooding Harshvardhan Kapoor. But it is Anil Kapoor as inspector Surekha Singh who steals the show, once again proving that baap aakhir Baap hota hai! Written by Anurag Kashyap, this disturbingly violent revenge drama has its flaws but is a delicious watch.
Release date: 20 May 2022 Director: Anees Bazmee Where to watch: Netflix
Pretty girl meets charming boy. She gets him hooked and they land up in a haveli haunted by Manjulika. A mix of a psychological thriller and a horror comedy, the movie has a sparkling performance by Kartik Aaryan (although he lacks the charisma of Akshay Kumar) as Ruhan Randhawa, aka ‘Rooh baba’, and of course Tabu in a double role. Although not a patch on the Priyadarshan film, this is a fun watch if you are looking for an out-and-out Bollywood comedy, and have an appetite for gags, slapstick, and a Bengali ghost stuck in a Rajasthani haveli singing Ami Je Tomarr.
Release date: 10 June 2022 Director: Anamika Haksar Where to watch: Theatres
Not an easy or breezy watch, this experimental film follows the lives, dreams, fears, and aspirations, of the street dwellers–the pickpockets, beggars, small-scale factory workers, and migrant communities–of crowded bylanes of Old Delhi. A heady and baffling mix of fantasy, magic realism, surrealism, and hyperrealism, it premiered at the 2018 MAMI festival but got a nationwide theatrical release only this year. Reminiscent of the 1988 post-modernist absurdist drama Om-Dar-B-Dar in its visual style, this subaltern saga is a quirky hybrid of documentary, cinema, theatre, animation, and folk painting, and is populated mostly by non-actors.
Release date: 24 June 2022 Director: Raj Mehta Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video
Kuku and Naina want to break the news of their decision to get a divorce to their parents. But Kuku’s dad has his own secret to reveal. The film attempts to explore the dynamics of arranged and love marriages but never takes itself too seriously. This is another story of an affluent but dysfunctional Punjabi family, which although not in the same league as a Dil Dhadakne Do, is an enjoyable watch. And Anil Kapoor once again steals the show. Go for it if you are missing the good-old Bollywood family entertainers.
Release date: 22 July 2022 Director: Rajat Kapoor Where to watch: Theatres
A filmmaker is struggling to put together a film on the editing table when he discovers that his lead character has vanished from the footage. Worse? He has entered the real world! Now, a movie character crossing the line between fiction and reality is not a new or unique concept. But Rajat, uses the film-within-a-film format to create a poignant, if quirky, tale that explores the existential crises of a filmmaker. The quirky crowd-funded meta-caper reflects his fear to lose control over the narrative, the constant struggle to find a balance between commerce and creativity, and explores the relations between art and its artist.
Release date: 29 July 2022 Director: Siddharth Sen Where to watch: Disney+ Hotstar
An adaptation of the 2018 Tamil film Kolamaavu Kokila, this Janhvi Kapoor-starrer neo-noir is the story of Jerry aka Jaya Kumari, who is in dire need of money to treat her mother suffering from cancer. She eventually lands up in the world of drug mafias and becomes a peddler. The quirky story traces how the sweet and innocent Jerry managed to outsmart not only the syndicate but also the cops. This whimsical film, with its wacky music and superlative performances, is a fun ride albeit with a few bumpers here and there.