2020 has been the worst year of my life. One aspect of my life that was worst hit was the moving going experience. While I couldn’t imagine myself not enjoying a film in the theater for more than a week, Covid-19 kept me away from the big screen for over 6 months. That is easily the longest that I have spent without watching a film in the theaters. Almost all big releases of the year were pushed back and what we for content was mostly confined to the OTT platform. That had both a good and a bad impact on the overall cinema space in the country. While I thoroughly missed the big-screen treatment, the OTT platform did make it possible to put out a lot of content that would be difficult to release on the big screen.
Hence my year’s top 10 list is an assimilation of both films and series that released this year. While some were released in theaters, most of the others were put up on various OTT platforms. Just like every year, I would like to reiterate that this list is my personal picks for the year and you may agree or disagree with the picks and their placement on the list. I have also not watched every film and series released this year and hence I would request you to forgive me for not including films or series that might have been better than the ones that I have on my list but I had missed for some reason.
Tanhaji Malusare (Ajay Devgn), a military chieftain in the army of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, leads the charge to capture the strategically important Kondhana Fort from the Mughals that was guarded by the army of the fierce Rajput chieftain Udaybhan Rathod (Saif Ali Khan). Tanhaji proved to be a visually alluring and emotionally charged experience that had a healthy dose of pulse-pounding action and inspiring patriotism. Marked by uplifting dialogs and terrific rendering of the titular character by Ajay Devgn, Tanhaji scored big with its scintillating action and visual splendor. Saif Ali Khan as the antagonist was an added advantage.
9. Angrezi Medium:-
When his daughter decides to further her studies in London, a hardworking Rajasthani businessman, Irrfan Khan, does everything in his power to make her dreams come true. Angrezi Medium was a fantastic film that was marked by some of the best situational comedy that we witnessed this year. The film also featured a heartwarming chemistry between Irrfan Khan and Radhika Madan playing a father-daughter duo. The fact that Irrfan left us for his heavenly abode soon after the release of the film only elevated its appeal as we now knew that we will never see him reprise a similar role. The film spoke about the importance of relationships and how they are more important than any conflicts or dreams and delivered the message through two key characters in the film. Charming, heartwarming, and a must-watch.
Anurag Basu’s Ludo received mixed reviews with some hailing it as the director’s return to form and one of the best films of 2020 while others looked at it as a great concept that could have been executed better. The film told 4 different stories symbolized by the four differently colored pieces in a game of Ludo and Pankaj Tripathi’s character played a character that symbolized a dice in the game that pushed the actions of the other pieces. While all the stories had their share of charm, some were definitely better than the other. The thrilling climax and the satisfactory end to all the stories coupled with great performances and solid direction made Ludo one of the best films of the year.
Whodunit thrillers are one of my favorite genres. Raat Akeli Hai was a film that in many ways resurrected my sagging interest in the genre from a creative rut that it finds itself in Bollywood and resulted in a film that was both thrilling in its content and affecting in its character drama. Nawazuddin Siddiqui brings his best for the film and no matter how much we joke and ridicule Netflix for having Radhika Apte in its content, we cannot ignore the fact that she also turns in her best performances for Netflix products. Fantastic performances, engrossing narrative, and efficient technicalities combined together to give us one of the most haunting and effective thrillers of the year in Raat Akeli hai.
Undekhi was mostly unheard of to start with but garnered interest after it generated quite a buzz thanks to the positive word of mouth. I felt that the series that was terrific in every aspect. The patriarch of an influential and powerful family shoots a dancer during a performance at his son’s wedding when she thwarts his indecent advances. While the rest of the family uses violence and their political clout to suppress the issue, an honest cop and a young videographer go against all odds to ensure that the deceased gets justice. Undekhi is easily one of the most thrilling and pulse-pounding series to have come out this year and I am very interested to see how the story culminates in the upcoming season.
5. Paatal Lok:-
A down and out cop lands the case of a lifetime when four suspects are nabbed in the assassination attempt of a journalist. The pursuit of it leads him to ‘Paatal Lok’, the underbelly of the heartlands, and to shocking discoveries in the past of the four suspects. Jaideep Ahlawat, Neeraj Kabi, and Ishwak Singh turn in terrific performances but no one thrills you more than Abhishek Banerjee as the ruthless killer Hathoda Tyagi. The series stirred extreme protests and objections upon its release owing to its content and storytelling but that in no way disrupted the fact that it was a mighty impressive achievement in terms of storytelling, performances, cinematography, and execution.
Special Ops unfolds through the eyes of Himmat Singh (Kay Kay Menon) and is based on nineteen years of nationally significant events and several espionage missions undertaken by India. While the series is rich with intriguing plot twists, thrilling drama, and a lot of events that feels very close to what we have seen and experienced over the years in terms of India’s war on terrorism, its greatest strength is its protagonist played by Kay Kay Menon who not only turns in a terrific performance but also elevates some questionable and seemingly mundane sequences to cinematic greatness. He is ably supported by an ensemble cast who do their best.
Gaurav Shukla’s Asur is a unique crime thriller that pits two opposing worlds against each other — the less explored and intricate world of forensic science and the deep mysticism of ancient Indian mythology. Barun Sobti and Arshad Warsi turn in terrific performances that only go down to cement an already exciting and interesting concept further and root it in realism and emotional depth. The series ends on a sad note that compounds its impact further making us excited about its forthcoming seasons.
Panchayat is a comedy-drama that captures the journey of an engineering graduate Abhishek (Jitendra Kumar), who for lack of a better job option joins as secretary of a Panchayat office in a remote village of Uttar Pradesh. While he starts off as someone who despises his life in the place, he gradually warms up to the place, its warmth, and an eclectic mix of goofy and oddball characters that he comes in contact with on a day-to-day basis. Raghubir Yadav turns in a stupendous performance as the Panchayat Pradhan and the one with whom Abhishek shares a love-hate relationship. Panchayat is in many ways a coming of age story that looks sets to metamorph into something even more exciting in the coming seasons.
Set in the 1980s and 90s Bombay, Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story follows the life of Harshad Mehta, a stockbroker who took the stock market to dizzying heights and his catastrophic downfall when his questionable ways of doing business are exposed by a tenacious and righteous journalist. Pratik Gandhi, Shreya Dhanwanthary, and an ensemble cast elevate a series that could have been an uninspiring linear story to epic levels. Hansal Mehta’s direction and eye for details serve the series equally well as it turns out to be not only entertaining but also makes the viewer take sides with the different characters. The overall experience wholesome, exasperating, and highly entertaining.