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Thursday, September 21, 2023

10 Impressive & Impactful Indian Cinematic Moments 2022

This article includes spoilers

With the world still recovering and fighting the pandemic, Indian cinema has snowballed into becoming one entity. Even though there have been several box offices and critical setbacks, titles like RRR, Gangubai Kathiawadi and Chhello Show have achieved an expansive reach and now even represent the country overseas on worldwide platforms.

South-Indian movies have emerged as highly popular throughout 2022… An influx like never before has propelled the cinema to new mainstream heights. Films such as Vikram, 777 Charlie, Sita Ramam and Kantara have not only been commercial in essence but retained the human touch to the style of works from the region. Proving that human interest stories will always resonate with audiences.

This year also has proven to be distinctive in highlighting stories related to the LGBTQIA+ community, characters with grey shades and exploration of womanhood. Major money-spinners such as Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 and Drishyam 2, establish how nostalgia is still sellable. So paying homage to the year gone by, Filme Shilmy selects 10 impressive and impactful moments from Indian films in 2022.

The Ending: Gehraiyaan (Prime Video)

There is nothing more fascinating and curious than an open ending. In Shakun Batra’s Gehraiyaan, Deepika plays Alisha, a yoga instructor who has a steamy affair with her cousin’s fiance, Zain (Siddhant Chaturvedi), a businessman. She also breaks up with her boyfriend, Karan (Dhairya Karwa) This passionate bond transforms into a business deal too.

However, as time and financial pressures crunch, Zain finds Alisha a liability and in an attempt to murder her, she kills him in self-defence. The entire film then shapes how Alisha grapples with her emotional and mental issues whilst internalising her past trauma. The end leaves viewers gripped.

As she goes to Karan’s engagement, she meets his fiancée’s grandmother, who recognises Alisha instantly after she and Zain had helped her and her husband from a stranded boat. Alisha stares blankly, realising how her past continues chasing her. Padukone’s powerful portrayal of grey with exploring psychological issues. In fact, a rare and hard-hitting presentation of mental health in Bollywood.

’30-Second’ Dialogue/Dholida: Gangubai Kathiawadi (Netflix)

Every Sanjay Leela Bhansali film has some spectacular and symbolic cinematic moments. Gangubai Kathiawadi is no exception. The movie is based on a true story regarding a simple girl from Kathiawad (Gujarat) who is forcefully sold into Mumbai’s flesh trade in the Kamathipura area and swings destiny in her favour.

Prior to the ‘Dholida’ track, we see a vulnerable side to the hardened woman. She tries to call her mother and to her shock, finds out that her father died a while back. Her family refuse to acknowledge her existence. The pain is reflected through Alia Bhatt’s performance as Gangubai, where the lightness and deepness of her voice present the conflict of seeking acceptance yet retaining her position as the boss lady. Even the speed at which she talks reflects her state of mind. The loss of innocence, regrets and all sorts of nostalgic sentiments seep through.

As such, the song is significant as the red-light district women have conditioned themselves as worthy of celebrating their culture or even practising their beliefs. This scene shows how much Gangu has empowered women in the community. But towards the end, we see her in the trance of the Hindu Goddess. It is surreal observing Kamathipura Queen worshipping the supreme divine power.

Krishna’s Speech: The Kashmir Files (ZEE5)

The Kashmir Files is a very important movie. For many years, the 1990 Kashmiri Hindu genocide had been ignored by mainstream cinema. However, Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri’s modest approach is no holds barred and resulted in being a winner at the box office. It is discomforting and disturbing how humanity exposes its ugliest side.

Agnihotri narrates a heart-wrenching tale that captures the pain, suffering and struggle of the survivors. It leads Krishna (Darshan Kumar), a young college student, to set out on a quest to separate truth from misinformed and pseudo, agenda-driven intelligence. Throughout the movie, we see some gory and ghastly scenes. Especially the final one, but Krishna’s speech is the most powerful.

In this section, contrary to the agenda set by his Kashmiri separatist lecturer, he reflects on the ordeal faced by his Pandit family. Kumar’s earnest performance and the strength yet brokenness in his voice trace the character’s traumatising past. To top this off, the points highlighted are relevant and well-researched.

Tiger Fight: RRR (ZEE5/Netflix) 

S S Rajamouli’s movies are not just cinema pieces. They are emotions which often pure larger-than-life escapist and mesmerising experiences, but yet rooted in Indian history and culture often with a fantastical twist. ‘Golden Globe’ nominated RRR is one film which has made a huge noise not just among native audiences but also Western viewers.

RRR centres around two real-life Indian revolutionaries, Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan) and Komaram Bheem (Jr NTR/Tarak). Their fictional friendship and their fight against the British Raj. Set in the 1920s, the plot explores the undocumented period in their lives when both the revolutionaries chose to go into obscurity before they began the fight for their country.

Bheem unleashes a truck full of savage tigers and other animals in this epic fight scene against the British. Background music, picturesque cinematography and high-octane action stunts make this a spectacular watch, especially through Charan and Tarak’s performances. Moreover, this scene is a stark reminder of how indigenous communities will always fight against imperialism. And in this battle, nature will always take its course.

Cinema Reels Destroyed: Chhello Show (Last Film Show) (Netflix)

Pan Nalin’s Chhello Show (Last Film Show) is the second Gujarati movie to represent India at the Oscars. Nalin is known for making visually aesthetic movies like Samsara and Angry Indian Goddesses. He calls this story a ‘celebration of light’. It revolves around 9-year-old Samay (Bhavin Rabari), living with his family in a remote village in India discovers films for the first time and is absolutely mesmerised.

Against his father’s wishes, he returns to the cinema day after day to watch more films and even befriends the projectionist, Fazal (Bhavesh Shrimali). He, in exchange for his lunch box, lets him watch movies for free. The child quickly figures out that stories become light, then films which further translate to dreams. Samay and his wild gang of friends move heaven and earth to catch and project light to achieve a 35mm film projection. Together, they use an innovative hack and jubilantly succeed in making a film projection apparatus.

One of the most visually appealing but heartbreaking scenes is Samay witnessing reels getting broken in a factory and made into cutleries and other jewellery. The machines are presented as butchers, crushing the dreams and innocent period of this ambitious child. This amplifies his psychology of pain and loss, as a new era of digital cinema paves its way.

Pre-Interval Action: Brahmāstra (Disney+Hotstar)

Ayan Mukerji’s Brahmāstra had been years in the making. The action/adventure serves as the first instalment of a planned trilogy, which is itself planned to be part of a cinematic universe titled Astraverse. Legends like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Nagarjuna join this major ensemble cast.

Inspired by stories in Hindu history, the film follows Shiva (Ranbir Kapoor) an orphan with pyrokinetic powers who discovers that he is an Astra, a weapon of enormous energy. He attempts to prevent the strongest of the astras, the Brahmāstra, from falling into the hands of dark forces that share a history with him.

Before the interval, we see Shiva and Esha (Alia Bhatt) visit his Guruji. They are chased by the antagonistic Junoon (Mouni Roy). As they reach his doorstep, both are under attack. During this spell-binding scene, we see a plethora of VFX effects explode on celluloid. Simon Franglen’s enchanting background scene enriches the action scene, marking the perfect entry for Mr Bachchan. The 3D format only makes this experience more visceral and leaves viewers hooked and excited for the second half.

Confrontation of Two Queens: Ponniyin Selvan-I (Prime Video)

A paragraph is not sufficient to summarise and explain Ponniyin Selvan-I‘s story and its origins in detail. But this magnum-opus is Mani Ratnam’s most ambitious film yet with a stellar ensemble. It is an adaptation of Kalki Krishnamurthy’s novel of the same name.

PS-I dramatises the early life of Chola prince Arulmozhi Varman, who would become the renowned emperor Rajaraja I (947–1014). What follows throughout the movie, is a constant game of thrones, power struggles and mystical elements. An absolute visual treat which emerged as a money-spinner at the box office.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Trisha’s face-off was highly awaited and it is exquisite. Both the Queens (in the film), from opposite sides of the moral compass conceal their emotions through their confidence, grace and dignity. The sharp exchange of dialogues and formidable body language is topped with engaging music by AR Rahman. Moreover, it is so empowering to see strong women call the shots in a film which is centred on masculinity.

Presence of the Divine: Kantara (Netflix)

Kantara, despite a conventional ‘masala’ coating of rural inhabitants fighting a corrupt landowner, Rishab Shetty’s directorial and (starrer as the lead) is among the first to present Tulu Nadu’s tradition of Buta Kola in mainstream cinema. Subsequently, it emerged as Kannada cinema’s second highest-grossing film of all time.

What seems to have stricken a chord with audiences, is the tradition’s accurate depiction. So Buta Kola is a traditional dance form which is dedicated to various Gods. There are multiple versions of the dance. Performers often dress in elaborate outfits, makeup and choreographies. During the dance or ritual worship, the performer often gets inhibited by divine power.

This is seen beautifully during the ultimate moments of the movie where Shetty delivers a spectacular performance, topped by intriguing music and cinematography. His character Shiva gets blessed with the power of Guliga Daiva, a deity related to Lord Shiva. Often considered to wreak havoc on evil spirits and a protector of devotees. We observe this spiritual energy through Rishab’s portrayal, which acts as an assurance that even today, the almighty has our backs during adverse times.

The Polygraph Test, Coming Out: Maja Ma (Prime Video)

It is heartening to see our legendary and prominent actors foray into the OTT space. This year has been quite a game-changer for Madhuri Dixit-Nene as she acts in a series and original film. In roles which are not just ‘glamorous’ but grey, layered and socially powerful. Anand Tiwari’s Maja Ma is one such title.

The movie showcases Dixit-Nene as Pallavi Patel. A simple housewife living in a housing society and is famous for her cooking and dancing. Her husband, Manohar (Gajraj Rao)  is the chairman of the society. Her daughter (Srishti Shrivastava) is pursuing PhD in sexuality and gender importance. An ally of the LGBTQIA+ group. Her son Tejas (Ritwik Bhowmik), who lives in America, is in love with Esha Hansraj (Barkha Singh). The family is her world. But when Patel’s closeted sexuality is addressed, will her family stand by her side or turn against her?

One of the most powerful cruxes is when Pallavi decides to give a polygraph test to ‘prove’ her heterosexuality to Esha’s parents. Despite her son and (to an extent) her husband disapproving of reality, she dresses up, asserting her truth. Even during the test, she gracefully clarifies the stereotypical and archaic views of homosexuality. Madhuri’s dignified and solid presence is inspiring to all women. It encourages that beyond the tags in life, there is an individuality that one must always exude, regardless of naysayers.

Climax Scene: Qala (Netflix)

Post-Bulbbul, Anvita Dutt revisits the magic realism genre once again in the Netflix Original, Qala. The stunning picture is reminiscent of the 40s-60s Hindi music industry, where art and talent are depicted in a mystic and foreboding manner. Some intense themes such as patriarchy, sibling rivalry and toxic parenting are explored. Play on light and darkness is reminiscent of VK Murthy’s masterful cinematography.

The film is set in pre-independence India. Haunted by her past, Qala (Triptii Dimri) a talented singer with a rising career copes with success, a mother’s (Swastika Mukherjee) disdain and the voices of doubt within her. Also, a gloomy past that she suppressed for years comes to the surface as pressures build in her mind.

There are plenty of aesthetic and haunting moments throughout the picture. However, the climax is chilling. We see the guilt-driven protagonist imagining the snowy Himachal Pradesh as she is in the studio to record her next hit in Kolkata. The use of geographical locations is foreboding in presenting the character’s decaying mentality. Enhanced by Dimrii’s marvellous performance.

A stark and pivotal reminder from cinema in 2022 is that content is king. Ambitious works such as Brahmastra and Ponniyin Selvan-I worked due to sincere effort made during the visual effects and universe created. Even in Bhediya, the transition of Varun Dhawan into wolf testaments how India has progressed in the inclusion of VFX in its films. Thus, viewers still crave immersive experiences, but sentimentality is a factor which also entices them to theatres.

Although remakes are frowned upon if a movie like Drishyam 2 is customised to its target audience. Fused with the original work and makers’ creativity spin, there is room for experiments and recreations but will only succeed if the product comes across as sincere and not just a money magnet. Since Cirkus is concluding 2022, it will be fascinating to see if that lives up to Rohit Shetty’s previous blockbusters.

In 2023, there are some highly anticipated Pan-India pictures that are scheduled to release. For instance, Pathaan, Adipurush, Salaar, Indian 2, Kabzaa, Tiger 3 and Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani, to name a few. Hence, one keenly awaits to see how creatively competent these films will be.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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