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Friday, 10 February 2017

HIndie Awards 2017: Best Motion Picture [Drama]

Best Motion Picture 


Here it is, the big award of the year and hands down the best Hindi film of the year.

Before we head to the nominees, let us take a look back at each films journey so far.

Phobia has 8 nominations [excluding Best Picture] with 5 wins so far, with the biggest wins being for Best Film Editing as well as Best Lead Actor [Female] in Drama, putting it in prime position. There is tough competition though.

Parched apart from Best Picture has 10 nominations with 4 wins so far, and it has won the huge Screenplay award as well as Cinematography.

For Aligarh [apart from Best Picture] it is about 8 nominations but 3 massive wins with Best Director and Both Male Best Lead and Supporting Actors. That is another huge competitor.

Finally come the two weak links but still tough competitors; Udta Punjab has 8 nominations sans Best Picture and has 1 win as well as another win for Breakthrough Actor [Male]. It's singular win is massive as Udta Punjab scores for Best Ensemble, remember the Ensemble's love for the massive voters of the Acting Board from the Academy, was one of the major reasons why Spotlight took home the Best Picture win.

While Waiting has only 3 nominations with no wins, it's not an indictment on the film but rather considerable that it still secured the big Picture nomination despite other Drama films winning huge. This is because Waiting is absolutely worth it and as I've always maintained whether these awards or the Oscars; it is eventually the nominations that matter most.

Yet those also matter, that just didn't cut it. And here they are; [PS: I wont detail them rather just rank the films in terms of how each missed out the Best Picture nom]

6. Neerja
7. Budhia Singh Born to Run
8. Raman Raghav 2.0
9. Dangal
10. Pink

That's for that, now drumroll cause it is finally time...

Sunil Lulla and Viki Rajani for Phobia [EROS International]

Phobia's technical mastery in creating an absolutely fearsome plane of psychological horror speaks for itself, there are no jump scares in the film. Instead director Pavan Kirpalani and team rely on creating an atmosphere thorough the meticulous use of the two pillars of cinema; space and time by confining themselves with the former and bending the rules of the latter.

The cinematic aspects enhance this with a dexterous use of sound and some stirring tricky cinematography that is aided by sharp editing to both hide and reveal the plot with and it's high concepts for the thoroughly engaged viewer.

Above all there is Phobia's script, for what could have been a genre piece oft to reliant on it's moody world building through cinematic techniques also manages to leave a mark on paper. The films deeper rooted ideas and notion of the complexities of consent, rape culture, feminism and patriarchy/toxic masculinity is a heady cocktail worth looking into again and again.

At the center of it all?

The ballsy and blistering performance by Radhika Apte, firing on all cylinders she takes reigns of the screen and never lets go. It's a scary beauty to behold.

Phobia will go down as one of the finest genre films of Hindi cinema, yet it is the fact that it makes more commentary than that is what puts it onto another level; par excellence.

Sunil Lulla and Shailesh R Singh for Aligarh [EROS International]

Haunting is  really an intriguing way to define Aligarh, because at the end of the day the story of Prof. Ramchandra Siras is absolutely that especially considering the courts act of abolishing the law against Homosexuality just around the time of his death and then once again reinstating that ban years later.

It's that dreary fact that adds layers to Hansal Mehta's film, unlike most biopics it isn't named on the protagonist which is the beauty of the film. The lens that captures the constricting small town of Aligarh presents the narratives fearsome ideologies of the world around us, this might not be some scary sci-fi like a 1984 however Aligarh's visual flourishes are touted by a sense of a watchful spectre on the protagonist.

This dread is just a touch of the film offset by a sensational form of tenderness and sensitivity in the central relationship between protagonists Siras and reporter Deepu Sebastian, a peripheral character for the audiences viewpoint.

Aligarh's poetic touch comes from that central relationship that examines the absolute emotional greatness of  Professor Ramchandra Siras and the harmless dynamics of sexual relationships no matter the orientation, teaching and  enhancing the argument against the ban without ever becoming preachy.

The central performances are then just a heart wrenching boon thanks to Bajpayee and Rao's sublime form.

This will remain for generations.

Priti Gupta and Manish Mundra for Waiting [Drishyam Films]

Waiting is hope, Waiting is an opportunity and that speaks for both the film itself and its position in this race.

The film examines a personal and poignant story of character, of humans; the essence of which is absolutely touching without unnecessarily speaking of a grand idea unlike other films in such a current politically volatile world.

This essence of ease and realism considering the humanistic characters is so refreshing to watch.

Waiting begins with an accident that propels forward a minimalistic plot and a dramatically profound character piece. At the centre of this study that speaks of hope and relationships, comes two stirring performances.

One by the veteran Naseeruddin Shah who when at the top of his game is untouchable and gives a tender turn of a husband grieving his comatose wife for a lengthy time and adding a nice hint of an old curmudgeon bringing a touch of nice comedy and chemistry with the other.

That other is the underrated Kalki Koechlin, a subtle nuanced take unlike no other; Kalki brings a fortified strength to her performance as well as a sense of hope and strong dramatics to a turn that will hopefully finally signify she is top class. Better late than never.

At the end, this humanistic story is moving without forcing it and powerfully relatable to many making it a renewed take this year.

Ajay Devgn, Aseem Bajaj, Rohan Jagdale, Gulab Singh Tanwar and Leena Yadav for Parched [Shivalaya Entertainment]

Parched's most imitable quality is that it is a film that never really takes itself seriously yet knows when to consistently extract drama in different forms from the arcs of its three lead protagonists.

At times the film then feels like a look see into the lives of women in rural Rajasthan, where at one point the focus is on the intimate moments shared between and amongst the women outside of the sphere of men. Then there is the larger plot function, as each of the three characters navigate the world of patriarchal dominance according to their status; whether it be as a widow with a hot headed son trying to stay afloat in society to a hard working but barren young firebrand seeking a child to their exotic dancing friend whose looking to both succeed on her own terms in this grim world yet not be exploited.

The comedy thus is presented with neat elements, like a voyeur the camera spies into the collective women and their surprisingly taboo conversations. There is the intangible use of Shahrukh Khan as a device of sexual liberation, he seems present in many films this year.

Then there is the drama, the odd friendship between the widowed Rani and her husbands lover the dancer Bijlee, there's the still excitable Lajjo who finds a shared intimacy with Rani though not necessarily seeking a relationship. Finally these tales teach Rani the importance of doing right by those not in a position of power to do so, in this world it's women;

So then Rani gifts her suffering young daughter in law, this freedom. Bringing the film full circle and teaching that sometimes women just need women.

Leena Yadav who hasn't left her mark with her first few films does so with this, because it comes from her own tortured soul and that soul is given heart by three beautiful leading performances.

Parched may sound dry, but it is a glistening, glittering and great celebration of womankind worth watching.

Shobha Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, Aman Gill, Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vikas Bahl and Sameer Nair for  Udta Punjab [Balaji Motion Pictures]

The fact that Udta Punjab courted so much controversy is a mark upon those that wished to hide what the films revelations of the cinematic Punjab of bangra and love is not as we know it.

This lengthy controversy is what will go onto define Udta Punjab and rightly so as it becomes a statement of how and why democracy is so important and art is such a vital piece of this institution, when cinema is suppressed by the powers that be; cinema has always flourished and for Udta Punjab this is no different.

However what is sad is that within this abstract front page headline, what will eventually be lost and also hurt by the hype is a fine film that harks back to great works of hyperlink cinema; makes a social commentary without ever feeling like an agenda.

Instead Abhishek Chaubey presents a dark, unrelenting morality play that makes the teaching an experience and Punjab a world of both heroes and villains without the mythical cinematic elements that overshadow it.

It touches upon the need to not just save a place or a people but rather the whole of the country against a harsh epidemic.

Udta Punjab does so with the assemblage of a cast on absolute form and of a technical flourish that is once again thankfully becoming a trademark of Hindi cinemas ability to not only be rooted to its local cause but also prove its cinematic mettle to the world.

In Abhishek Chaubey, Udta Punjab finds a filmmaker faithful to a cause but not married to it and with that a cinematic gem. In the cinematic gem that is Udta Punjab, Hindi cinema finds another film to remember 2016 by and that is as a film, as an art piece that speaks truths but not just a controversy to be forgotten the next day.

Truly this one gives an intoxicating high.

And the Winner is...


It might have flopped at the BO but EROS takes this home because Phobia proves to be a masterclass in filmmaking and one of the finest psychological horror films made as well as probably the best genre piece of modern Hindi cinema. 

It's a blistering take, and we should also mention that it pays homage to the underrated cult classic RGV'S Kaun. 

That's it for the HIndie Awards until next year, a complete breakdown of this seasons awards will come soon. 

Till then...

'Nuff Said,

Aneesh Raikundalia

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