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Rewind 2018: Which was the Best Film in Hindi this year?

From a horror comedy to a neo-noir drama and a spy thriller to a sisterly tale of mutual hate, we count down the year's best in mainstream Hindi cinema.

Sonal Pandya

Buoyed by last year's performance, which saw smaller films like Bareilly Ki Barfi, Hindi Medium and Tumhari Sulu shine, successful films in 2018 continued to bank on good content. In fact, the year saw small films continuing to march ahead.

This year, films like Andhadhun and Badhaai Ho stayed afloat longer than big-budget flicks like Race 3 and Thugs Of Hindostan. Furthermore, female-led films like Raazi, Veere Di Wedding, Padmaavat and Hichki were appreciated by critics and also earned well at the box office.

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This was the year when audiences embraced all kinds of films. They laughed as a small town was beset by a ghost in a horror comedy and gasped at the unexpected turn of events in a neo-noir drama. They held their breath as a young spy tried to escape detection in a thriller and empathized as a devout Muslim fought to clear his name of the charge of being a terrorist sympathizer.

Because there were so many good films that deserved to be in the list, that meant, too, that we had to leave some out of our top 10. We wished we could have included the satisfying period crime thriller Raid by Raj Kumar Gupta, or the breezy road movie Karwaan by Akarsh Khurana. Or even the inspiring Hichki featuring Rani Mukerji as a determined teacher with Tourette syndrome.

But we will have to put them in the Honourable Mentions category. Without further ado then, here are the best Hindi films of 2018 according to Cinestaan.

10. Badhaai Ho

A not-so hidden gem that had families flocking to the theatres was Amit Sharma’s Badhaai Ho, a family comedy about the middle-class Kaushiks, about to welcome their newest member. With two grown-up sons, one in high school and the other working and thinking of settling down himself, Jeetender (Gajraj Rao) and Priyamvada (Neena Gupta) had no plans of becoming parents again.

The film tenderly, and with a lot of humour, delved into what each of the Kaushiks goes through after the big announcement. But at its heart Badhaai Ho was a love story of an older couple and their journey to parenthood. The cast, which included the veteran Surekha Sikri as the cantankerous grandmother and Ayushmann Khurrana as son Nakul, all delivered. It was a circus everyone wanted to buy tickets to.

Badhaai Ho review: Hilarious, earnest and a complete joy

9. Pataakha

Pataakha was a welcome return to form for writer-director Vishal Bharadwaj after last year’s misguided Rangoon. Based on Charan Singh Pathik's short story Do Behnein, Pataakha was the tale of two sisters who loathe each other and conspire with every bone in their body to leave the other behind. But fate has a way of playing games, and Champa aka Badki (Radhika Madan) and Genda aka Chutki (Sanya Malhotra) find themselves moving from sisters to sisters-in-law.

Like India and Pakistan, the sisters share a love-hate relationship. Their idiosyncrasies drive the rest of the family up the wall, but aided and abetted by Sunil Grover’s Dipper, a mischievous jester, they continue to scheme to live life without the other, without much success. The sharp comedy and livewire performances of both Madan and Malhotra were the highlights of this small, rustic film.

Pataakha review: Radhika, Sanya's firecracker performances light up this wickedly hilarious film

8. Mulk

Anubhav Sinha's Mulk took us into the inner turmoil of a Muslim family living in Varanasi when a young man from the family, Shahid (Prateik), is discovered to be behind a terrorist attack on a bus. The Mohammeds are unable to believe the news at first and try to reason with Shahid. When he is killed by police in an encounter, the grim reality sets in as the community turns against them and they are put on trial.

As brothers Murad and Bilal, Rishi Kapoor and Manoj Pahwa were pitch perfect as they defended their actions and their faith. Taapsee Pannu put in a powerful but restrained performance as their Hindu daughter-in-law Aarti, who becomes their lawyer in court. Writer-director Sinha gave us a glimpse of what it means to be a Muslim in India today, complete with the prejudices it brings. The film attempted to tackle the myopia of Islamophobia that plagues the country today.

Mulk review: Anubhav Sinha exposes the many prejudices that ail this nation

7. Mukkabaaz

Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz was full of fire and passion. It followed the life of an ambitious boxer, Shravan Singh (co-writer Vineet Kumar Singh), who gets off on the wrong foot with Bhagwan Das Mishra (Jimmy Sheirgill), head of the boxing association in the state where he hopes to succeed. To make matters worse, Shravan falls in love with Mishra's mute but feisty niece Sunaina (Zoya Hussain).

But Kashyap’s film wasn’t just a romance against the backdrop of sports. It took a searing look at caste, identity and government through its characters’ lives. The performance by the leads, Vineet Kumar Singh and Zoya Hussain, were memorable; you could not help thinking of the couple long after the film had ended. The supporting characters, too, stood out, especially Ravi Kishan as Shravan’s coach. In the end, Mukkabaaz landed all the right punches.

Mukkabaaz review: A layered and entertaining film that floors you

6. Andhadhun

Audiences couldn’t get enough of the twists and turns of Sriram Raghavan's Andhadhun this year. The film continued to draw audiences and thrill them with the story of 'blind' piano player Akash (Ayushmann Khurrana) who accidentally walks into a crime scene after the murder of former matinee idol Pramod Sinha, a tongue-in-cheek performance by yesteryear actor Anil Dhawan. Akash must now convince Pramod’s wife Simi (an excellent Tabu) and her lover that he will remain quiet about what he thinks he ‘saw’.

Confused? Don’t be. Let the drama take you for a drive as Akash, his girlfriend Sophie (Radhika Apte) and Simi try to figure out who is telling the truth. With Sriram Raghavan at the helm, Andhadhun was layered with Easter eggs. But, eventually, it was a great, dark thriller, keeping you on the edge on your seat till the very end. Khurrana, as the unreliable narrator, was at his best, trying to keep his emotions in check even as his world is upended right before his very 'unseeing' eyes by Tabu’s Simi.

Andhadhun review: Ayushmann Khurrana, Tabu revel in this symphony of mysteries

5. Stree

One of the year’s surprising delights was the horror comedy Stree, written by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK and directed by Amar Kaushik. In this movie universe, the small town of Chanderi is terrorized every year by the ghost of a scorned courtesan who lost her love. During the four days of Puja, the men of Chanderi are on alert, forced to return home before dark and watch where they go.

Stree cleverly flipped gender norms, starting with the lead character, a star tailor for women named Vicky (Rajkummar Rao). As Chanderi Ka Manish Malhotra, Rajkummar Rao led an impressive cast, including Pankaj Tripathi, Abhishek Banerjee and Aparshakti Khurana. Shraddha Kapoor rounded out the ensemble as a mysterious young woman who comes to their aid when the group hilariously bands together to eliminate the ‘Stree’, creating ample opportunities for humour and to educate the audience about gender relations.

Stree review: When a brilliant cast takes on consistently good comic writing

4. Tumbbad

A film that defied the usual slotting of genres — it is fantasy, horror, period, drama, thriller, all combined into one — we had never seen anything like it in Indian cinema. The brainchild of Rahi Anil Barve, who worked on it for more than a decade, Tumbbad begins in a small eponymous village in the coastal Konkan region of Maharashta in the year 1918. The film follows young Vinayakrao (Sohum Shah) and his family's history that is intertwined with the accursed village and the god Hastar, who hides riches where he dwells.

As the story moved from 1918 to India’s independence, Tumbbad explored the universal theme of greed. Co-directors Barve and Adesh Prasad, along with creative director Anand Gandhi, created a visual world that is stunning. The drama kept pace with Vinayak’s greed and treachery, which knew no bounds, even as our dread of his fate grows. Technically as well, the film was a triumph for the Indian film industry and, hopefully, more such gambles lie ahead.

Tumbbad review: Deliciously morbid and fascinatingly metaphorical

3. Manto

Manto was a true labour of love on the part of its writer and director, Nandita Das. The film starred Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the writer Sa'adat Hassan Manto who migrated to Pakistan after Partition. The painful chapter in the histories of both India and Pakistan made up a prominent part of the period film set in the 1940s and 1950s, popping up in Manto’s life and those of the characters he writes.

The drama was beautifully shot and enacted, lending a bittersweet, nostalgic air to the cities of Bombay and Lahore. While the film belongs to Siddiqui, its large cast of characters — from film star Shyam (Tahir Raj Bhasin) to writer Ismat Chughtai (Rajshri Deshpande) — were also impressive. But, eventually, it was the relevance of the late writer’s struggles and his constant battle against censorship that resonated strongly. Das’s Manto was a wonderful portrayal of a heartbroken man in an exile of his own making.

Manto review: This portrait of Manto is charming, engrossing, but not as provocative as his pen

2. Raazi

One of the top performers of the year at the box office was this tense thriller about a young Kashmiri woman who is sent as a spy to Pakistan. The period film, set in 1971, was co-written by Meghna Gulzar and Bhavani Iyer. Led by a vulnerable yet strong Alia Bhatt, Raazi deftly portrayed the politics and tensions of the time when the countries were on the brink of war.

Adapted from Harinder S Sikka’s 2008 book, Calling Sehmat, Meghna’s film showed how an unsuspecting young bride became a key force in the armour of the Indian intelligence set-up, and the toll being a double agent took on Sehmat (Bhatt), who comes to love her understanding Pakistani husband, Major Iqbal (Vicky Kaushal). But she has to continue to pull the wool over the eyes of her in-laws, as she asserts time and again, thanks to her father: "Watan ke aage kuch nahin [Nothing comes before the country]."

With high production values, a strong script and a memorable soundtrack thanks to the lyrics of Gulzar, Raazi brought the drama home without amping up the emotions too high.

Raazi review: Alia Bhatt adds another incredible story to her name

1. October

The sensitive drama, crafted with care by screenwriter Juhi Chaturvedi and director Shoojit Sircar, explored the unexpected yet moving relationship between a comatose girl, Shiuli (Banita Sandhu), and co-worker Dan (Varun Dhawan). The two have a minimal relationship while working as hotel management students in a Delhi hotel, but after an accident lands Shiuli in a coma, the two are bound together in an inexplicable relationship.

The formerly reckless Dan comes into his own as his life is transformed by his selfless relationship with Shiuli and her family. The directionless young man begins to have a larger understanding about the important moments in life and what moments are worth fighting for. Actor Dhawan wonderfully played out these life-changing events as Dan. He was noteworthy as he displayed Dan’s growing dissatisfaction with life and, later, underplayed his maturation as he finally heals from knowing Shiuli and her mother Gayatri.

October, which had a beautiful score by Shantanu Moitra, left an emotional impact both as a personal story of the two young individuals and as an unusual love story where the emotions did not have to spelt out, for once.

October review: An intimate, emotional journey

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Year in review