Memorable moments of Indian cinema in 2021


This list of memorable moments – from scenes and songs to isolated shots – in Indian cinema this year comes with a few caveats. This isn’t a list of the 10 best movies of 2021, although it almost is. This does not include movies like pebbles and Write with fire, which have performed at festivals abroad but are not yet available in India. Two films on it, the disciple and Milestone, date from 2020, but were released in India on OTT this year. Finally, the list does not reflect how much this year has belonged to Malayalam and Tamil cinema; another list could be compiled with entries only from these two industries.

Read also: Review of “The Disciple”: A promising young musician

Pulao in ‘Geeli Pucchi’ (from ‘Ajeeb Daastaans’)

Neeraj Ghaywan’s segment in Ajeeb Daastaans is one of the best supported illustrations of how food helps uphold and perpetuate caste discrimination. Bharti (Konkona Sensharma), a worker in a factory, and Priya (Aditi Rao Hydari), a newly hired accountant, have lunch in the canteen. Priya offers Bharti a bite of pulao with her spoon. Bharti, who had rejected Priya’s food offer earlier in the movie, shakes her head, then looks around several times before taking a bite. Those quick glances indicate a life of mistrust: Priya doesn’t know that the woman who eats her food, out of her cutlery, is Dalit, but the other workers do. Later in the film, once Bharti’s caste is revealed, she is given tea in a steel cup while Priya, her mother-in-law, and her husband take theirs from cups in China. Yet that moment in the canteen is also an intimate connection forged, a way for Bharti – whose feelings for the new girl run deeper than friendship – to let Priya into his life. (Netflix)

All the dead in ‘Sardar Udham’

In the heart of Shoojit Sircar’s Sardar oudham is an atrocious recreation of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. An unforgettable image comes after the murder and the rescue work. The camera slowly withdraws to reveal a field littered with dead, still stretched out bodies. The cinematic parallel here is of course the famous foreground of Blown away by the wind (1939). But for those of us who watched it a few months after covid devastated Delhi, there was another, more immediate comparison: the searing photographs of the late Danish Siddiqui of cremation sites and burning pyres, taken during the second wave. (Amazon Prime Video)

Romance becomes political in ‘Karnan’

Composer Santhosh Narayanan and director Mari Selvaraj demonstrate in Karnan, as they did in Pariyerum Perumal (2018), a talent for ostensibly political song sequences. Thattan Thattaan begins as a simple romantic number. But then the attention shifts from Karnan (Dhanush) and Draupadi (Rajisha Vijayan), and we hear folk singer Meenakshi Elayaraja. “Our ancestors lost the highlands“, she laments.”Our ancestors lost farmland / We became wasteland / We became work. There is a return to romance, but not before Karnan is told ‘You must triumph, my child,’ a reminder that even though love and all is well, his people come first. (Amazon Prime Video)

Hope in ‘Sherni’

Forestry officer Vidya (Vidya Balan) and university professor Hassan (Vijay Raaz) look down on a gigantic career. “It used to be a dense forest here,” he says. “And now this copper mine.” The tiger they are trying to save has to travel across the chasm. As they are silenced by the enormity of the task, director Amit Masurkar offers a glimmer of hope: in the center of the frame, nestled in the flowers through which we see Hassan and Vidya, a solitary and industrious bee. . (Amazon Prime Video)

Shabeer Kallarakkal as Dancing Rose in “Sarpatta Parambarai”


The fight with Dancing Rose in ‘Sarpatta Parambarai’

No character this year has been more memorable than boxer Dancing Rose in Pa Ranjith’s Sarpatta Parambarai. In terms of a fight movie, Rose is the junior boss that the hero must defeat before fighting the final boss. But Rose, played by Shabeer Kallarakkal, is anything but a second villain, stealing every moment he’s on screen. His clown in the ring – he dances, jumps on the ropes, even does a backflip – has no bearing on his boxing abilities, something protagonist Kabilan (Arya) achieves within seconds of their fight. The two-round fight is a masterpiece of editing, sound and character revealing action. (Amazon Prime Video)

Go out in “The great Indian cuisine”

Towards the end of Jeo Baby’s film, Nimisha Sajayan’s anonymous protagonist finally takes the photo and walks out of her husband’s oppressive home. As she voluntarily walks along the road, the camera follows her. In the background we see women washing clothes, cooking, bathing their children, while men lounging and reading the newspapers. It is a subtle reminder that even though we have just witnessed a woman shed the shackles of patriarchy, this action carries its own privilege. (Amazon Prime Video)

A thoughtful proposition in ‘Milestone’

Ghalib (Suvinder Vicky) is a truck driver from Punjab. His wife, Etali, committed suicide and he is back in his ancestral village to try to make amends with his father (Arun Aseng) and his sister (Gaurika Bhatt). In front of the village council, he offers them one, then two lakhs. Both times it is rejected, but surprisingly the sister clarifies that it is not that the amount is too small. The council gives Ghalib 30 days to find something else. It is an idea that resonates: that the person who is, to a certain extent, responsible for the tragedy, do not seek to redeem their obligations, but think about it and propose a more personal gesture. (Netflix)

Hard truths in ‘The Disciple’

Sharad (Aditya Modak) is at a turning point, when he finally realizes that he might not be successful as a classical singer. Instead of reporting the name of his gharana, he is reduced to teaching schoolchildren. When one of them approaches him with his mother and asks her if he should join a fusion group, Sharad breaks down. “Let him join,” he said to the mother in a soft voice. “But if he does, he doesn’t need to come back here.” He goes on to explain in increasingly harsh terms that the kid is unlikely to be a classical singer anyway. His anger is, of course, fueled by a well of self-loathing. But it’s also, in a weird way, a cuteness, as Sharad knows better than anyone how difficult it is to be successful in this world, especially if you’re not the most talented. (Netflix)

Arjun unlocked in ‘Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar’

For about 110 minutes in Sandeep Aur Pinky FaraarArjun Kapoor strikes above his weight, but gives little indication as to why director Dibakar Banerjee thought of him for the role of the brutal ex-cop who finds himself on the run with a banking executive. But in the final 10 minutes of the film, he’s unlocked with a wonderfully risky streak. To escape the cop who found him in a town on the Nepalese border, Pinky disguises herself as a woman, chholiya wedding dancer accompanying the groom’s procession. Suddenly, the hesitation of the character and the actor are one. And when Pinky starts moving her hands and hips to the beat of the music, there’s a grace in Kapoor that I’ve never seen in his acting before. (Amazon Prime Video)

Octopus: ‘Nayattu’

Nayattu is the skinniest movie of the year. There is no lost frame, nothing to distract from the pessimism of Shahi Kabir’s storyline about three cops on the run after inadvertently causing the death of a young Dalit in a bicycle accident. The tone is set by an unusually macabre wedding song addressed to a “drunken octopus”: “He doesn’t care about her / he cuts her to pieces / until the edge of the knife decreases. “And a little later:”The knife shines / and his wife smiles in her dreams. “It’s an early warning that the arc of the universe is leaning towards chaos in the Martin Prakkat movie. (Netflix)

Also read: ‘Milestone’ review: The long road

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