The year 2021 saw the release of some phenomenal films in Indian cinema, extending far past the limits of just Bollywood, with Tamil and Malayalam movies dishing out some of the best stuff on screen showcasing the true creativity and the real potential of Indian filmmakers. The films on this list are only some of the best that Indian cinema has managed to come up with this past year:
1. “Sardar Udham” (Hindi)
Shoojit Sircar’s brilliant biography on the legendary freedom fighter brings to life the struggle of Udham Singh’s attempt at dealing with the pain of the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, as he sets off to ignite a revolution and deliver justice by assassinating one of the main perpetrators of the crime, Michael ‘O Dwyer.
With masterful direction, excellent production and a stellar cast, “Sardar Udham” may certainly be the best Indian film of 2021. The film is a dark and powerful retelling of what might be one of the worst and heartbreaking events in the history of India. Also a point of notice is Vicky Kaushal’s acting as Udham Singh. He not only manages to do justice to the role, but also delivers what can only be described as his best performance yet.
2. “Sarpatta Parambarai” (Tamil)
Set in 1970s Chennai, “Sarpatta Parambarai” is a power-packed sports film with a compelling storyline packed with thrill, passion and excitement with a lot of emotion emanating from it. Set in the backdrop of the clash of two rival clans, director Pa.Ranjith has created a masterful film while exploring the local boxing culture and all that goes behind it, with the politics and power play being prominent themes.
There is little more to say aside from the fact that it is an inspirational and compelling watch. “Sarpatta Parambarai” counts among the best Tamil films, and one of the best Indian films of 2021.
3. “Shershaah” (Hindi)
Director Vishnuvardhan in his Bollywood debut has delivered a very realistic and powerful movie which does justice to the legendary PVC Captain Vikram Batra and his accomplishments in the 1999 Kargil War in this great biographical war film. Packed with strong direction, production, effects and acting, “Shershaah” is a masterful blend of facts and emotion with little romanticization as it delivers all the bullets in the right places in what is Siddharth Malhotra’s greatest and most heartfelt performance.
Not playing around with actual events, as is the case with most biopics “Shershaah” is a passionate piece of work built to create both a great movie and honour both the great soldier and the Indian Armed Forces.
4. “Jai Bhim” (Tamil)
T.J Gnanavel’s legal drama is certainly a compelling cinematic experience. With masterful direction, polished writing and technical skill, “Jai Bhim” is a no-holds barred story of caste oppression that stands tall with no punches pulled back. “Jai Bhim” is certainly not afraid of hitting where it hurts as it goes on to deliver one of the most immersive dramas packed by great dialogue and powerful acting. A must watch, “Jai Bhim” is the kind of film that Indian cinema needs today.
5. “Godavari” (Marathi)
Nikhil Mahajan’s Marathi film is certainly one to behold, as it is something that relies more on its aesthetics and acting to fuel the story than anything. Telling the story of a family living on the banks of the river Godavari in Nashik, “Godavari” can best be described as the case study of a character living more in doubt regarding the purpose of his existence than anything.
The great music and the powerful camerawork certainly manages to capture the misery and pain of protagonist Nishikant’s existence who is fed up with his life. Hitting off at just about all the right points, “Godavari” is a soulful journey that builds up its momentum at its own pace, and while it can be too much for the average Bollywood masala consumer, for those looking for a good film with great aesthetic and acting, “Godavari” is certainly for you.
6. “Garuda Garmana Vrishabha Vahahna” (Kannada)
Raj.B Shetty’s gangster drama is certainly one to behold as one of the best of the year, for it is exactly what a gangster film ought to be. More grounded in reality and technically brilliant, GGVV certainly deserves praise for its direction and brilliant story telling with its music adding more power to it. GGVV in its attitude is no “Gangs of Wasseypur”, but is something all in its own. So don’t go out with expectations, and you’ll certainly come find yourself having a good time.
7. “Drishyam 2” ( Malayalam)
The sequel to the 2013 masterpiece, “Drishyam 2” does not disappoint with its perplexing and engaging storytelling. Jeethu Joseph was faced with the tough task of creating a movie on par with the brilliance of the 2013 cinematic endeavour, which is no mean feat, though he was able to accomplish it. Set six years after its predecessor “Drishyam 2” is an expertly crafted film with masterful direction, writing and cinematography with exceptional skill at building suspense and is sure to leave audiences at the edge of their seats. Not much more can be said except that “Drishyam 2” is one the finest sequels one can ask for and is something which Joseph and his entire team can certainly be proud of.
8. “Malik” (Malayalam)
Mahesh Narayanan’s political thriller is certainly one of the best Malayalam movies of 2021 and is guaranteed to leave audiences hooked to their seats with what may be Fahad Faasil’s finest performance yet. Following a plot possibly inspire by the 2009 Beemapally police shooting, “Malik” knows how to induce thrills in the audience and requires strong attention or else the film might be lost on you.
“Malik” is a multi faceted dynamic cinematic piece of work and a political commentary, going somewhere a bit along “The Godfather” template, but it has a flavour more than likely to connect with local audiences. “Malik” is a fine film and is certainly one of the best films of 2021.
9. “Once Upon A Time In Calcutta” (Bangla)
Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s movie can be seen as a cinematic metaphor of the juxtaposition between the modern and old Kolkata, and his love and resentment for the metropolitan city. A co-production of India, France and Norway, “Once Upon A Time In Calcutta” is a multi layered film which more than anything very much portrays of modern life at a pace with which we can hardly process it. Modernity is seen as an oceanic tide or rather a current which merely sweeps us all away as we are all unable to fight it. A truly brilliant film, “Once Upon A Time In Calcutta” is a truly heartfelt movie and one of the best Indian movies of the year.
10. “Karnan” (Tamil)
With great direction, cinematography, technical skill and writing, director Mari Selvaraj has created a fantastic movie which is relevant to the times we live in today. Unlike many of the Bollywood movies of struggles between the oppressed and oppressor, “Karnan” is not the generic formula taking itself too seriously and trying too hard, ultimately becoming a parody of itself but rather, a more unique telling of similar story with a different formula which ends up working very well.
With a wider canvas and a great array of colours, the story of discrimination here has been given a far more elaborate and complex flavour. The socio political commentary is poignant with crafty use of allegories and metaphors in a far more subtle manner, with extremely well written characters and wonderful performances, made all the more impressive with the movie not holding back its punches and knowing just where to strike using strong violence to enhance its dark and serious plot. “Karnan” is a solid film and definitely one of the best Indian films of 2021.