This year, a global pandemic changed our perception of entertainment and life as we know it. And yet, through the lockdown and beyond, we saw films on the small screen that raised some big questions, intrigued, provoked and yes, entertained us all. Reminding us in the process that life does go on and will continue to flow as long as we have stories to tell and to hear.
Here is an overview of some of the best films of 2020:
Axone: This Yoodlee production was directed by Nicholas Kharkongor and path-breaking in that it represented a North-Eastern perspective without appropriating it. It showcased a milieu that remains invisible in mainstream story-telling and instantly sucked us into the lives of a group of North-Eastern tenants living in Delhi. Soon, what was to be a celebratory meal turns into a full-blown conflict over the smell of Axone or a fermented soybean condiment specific to Naga cuisine. Kharkongor, who is from a Naga town called Mokukchung, brings personal insights into a story that doesn’t get enough play time on our screens and in our consciousness. The popularity of the film also triggered a spate of articles in mainstream publications about Naga cuisine and Axone, in particular! The film stars Sayani Gupta, Vinay Pathak, Lin Laishram, Dolly Ahluwalia, Adil Hussain, Lanuakum Ao, Tenzin Dalha and Rohan Joshi.
Unpaused: Right at the end of a very difficult year, came ‘Unpaused,’ an anthology consisting of five short segments directed by Raj and DK, Nitya Mehra, Nikkhil Advani, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Avinash Arun. Its ensemble cast tells stories of survival, pain and hope through a pandemic that has tested people in diverse ways. Many have been pushed to the edge by poverty, depression, loneliness and uncertainty about the future. What emerges from this richly woven tapestry though is the common thread of humanity that connects us all, no matter which demographic we may belong to. The anthology stars Gulshan Devaiah, Sumeet Vyas , Saiyami Kher,Richa Chadda,Abhishek Banerjee, Ratna Pathak Shah, Ishwak Singh, Lillete Dubey, Shardul Bharadwaj , Geetika Vidya Ohlyan and Rinku Rajguru.
Ludo: Anurag Basu’ s ‘Ludo’ was a surreal ride into the dark zones of life, death, loss, lust , crime and deception. It was also however a celebration of the stuff that lights up the world. Love, empathy, kindness, redemption and connection. The film had a Ludo board for a canvas with stories representing a specific colour of life. As lives intersect, we begin to see that there is always more to human-beings than is apparent on the surface. Another big plus is the edgy writing and a set of complicated characters we don’t come by easily in cinema. Ludo also boasts strong performances by an ensemble cast of Abhishek Bachchan, Aditya Roy Kapur, Rajkummar Rao, Sanya Malhotra, Pearle Maaney, Pankaj Tripathi, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Rohit Suresh Saraf, Saurabh Sharma and Inayat Varma.
Raat Akeli Hai: Honey Trehan’ s ‘Raat Akeli Hai’ treads the by now familiar territory of hinterland crime and dysfunctional family politics but its lead characters played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte stand out because they represent the hope for tenderness, empathy and even love in a cruel and violent world. The unlikely love story between a small-town cop and a woman nobody trusts is supported by the stories of a vast array of characters played by Shweta Tripathi, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Nishant Dahiya, Gyanendra Tripathi, Ila Arun, Swanand Kirkire, Nitesh Kumar Tiwari and Aditya Srivastava.
Bahut Hua Samman: Veteran Sanjay Mishra is on a roll this year and belts out another winning performance in ‘Bahut Hua Samman,’ a satire about small-town aspirations and the big mistakes they sometimes can lead to. The capers of two clueless engineering students who decide to rob a bank in Varanasi, are both comical and insightful because along the way, they reveal just how disconnected we are as urban viewers from the reality of Indians who live outside our bubble. The specifics of the geography, local dialects, the idiosyncrasies of the characters and the witty writing make the ride even more enjoyable. This Yoodlee Films production is directed by Ashish Shukla and also stars Ram Kapoor, Abhishek Chauhan and Raghav Juyal.