Best Indian Cinema of 2016

We've spent a lot of time here at Burnt Roti watching Bollywood films, listening to our favourite songs, re-watching videos of those songs and attempting to recreate dance moves, leading to lying in a sweaty wheezing mess on the floor. Suffice to say, we love Bollywood.

Indian cinema has been changing quite dramatically over the years, so we thought we'd put together a list of some of the films that shocked and entertained us this year. The need to push boundaries, while having something interesting to say, is vital in successful storytelling and it isn't just (don't get me wrong, we like it when it is), but it isn't just about falling in and out of love. 

1 - Neerja

Neerja Bhanot, was the lead purser (aka flight attendant) on Pan Am Flight 73, when it was hijacked by terrorists in 1986. The where loaded with guns and explosives when they boarded the flight Neerja was head purser on. Some may know this story, some may not, but the re-telling is quite impressionable.

Not to say it didn't have its faults. Many surviving members of the cabin crew have voiced concern that others who risked their lives on that flight were not given suitable credit and Neerja herself would cringe at the adoration.

Sonam Kapoor is great in this, I really rate her.

Did I cry? Yes.

2 - Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

Ranbir Kapoor is pissed of because he believes he's been 'friend-zoned' and so I spent the entirety of the film yelling at him. He falls in love and believes the world owes him something - the kind of mentality that makes me cringe. He is romanticised in this, but at the same time, he is confronted about it.

This is by no means a great film, but it's on the list because I liked the concept of Anushka Sharma just wanting and having a friend. A girl wanting a boy to be her friend. I can almost hear an auntie gasp right now.

Also, Aishwarya's sexuality, as an older woman, is just...*incoherent noises*

Did I cry?

3 -  Aligarh

One of the few Indian films I've seen that actually tackle the stigma of homosexuality in India and the treatment of the LGBT+ community. Based on a true story, the main character is a professor who is sacked because of his homosexuality. He is helped out by a Delhi-based reporter, who forms a friendship with him.

Every word said by the professor is pure poetry and the nuanced way they tackle how he is victimised is beautifully done. It's an important film, especially for Indian cinema.

Director Hansal Mehta claims the certification board were 'thwarting my promotion', he then went on to say 'they cannot ban the film, because my film does not in any way go against the guidelines of the Cinematograph Act'. 

I cried so much.

4 - Dangal

Now, I haven't seen this yet (I know I know), but it's on the list because everyone's raving about it and because it's important to tell the story of young women in a male dominated field. 

I've heard some great things, but I've also heard that it's strange that the film revolves around Amir Khan's character (the dad), even though the film is about his daughters and their success. Yet somehow, he's made it (yes he produced it) about him?

I dunno, I'll see. I welled up slightly at the trailer, so there's potential.

5 - Pink

Three girls have been sexually assaulted by a rich guy and his friends and we watch as they navigate police and the courts in order to prove their innocence. It's the first film I've seen that clearly talks about consent. 'No means no' is an important quote that is used through out. No matter what, if she says no, back off.

The film is quite shoddy in its storytelling, Amitabh's character is odd for odd's sake - I can't figure out why he acts the way he does. My biggest issue with the film is that Amitabh, a guy, had to speak up and be the 'voice of women', which really isn't about listening to women. In fact, I don't think he ever has a proper conversation with any of the women who were victims of the assault. 

But it's important that it's being discussed and that we're telling men who believe they have the power to do what they want that they are wrong and will get punished for it. Also, all the women in the film were fantastic.

Did I cry? Yes.

6 - Udta Punjab

Now I'm very into Shahid Kapoor, as an actor and a piece of art, so as soon as I put this film on, I fell deeply in love. It tells the story of four people in different spectrums of life, with their drug abuse, one of which is a rich pop star and another, a kidnapped sex slave. 

Despite the awful songs Shahid gyrates to, the film is phenomenal. The film has been prompted to cut scenes, remove associations with Punjab and change wordings to please the government, all because it confronts the very real issues of drug abuse in Punjab.

Despite Shahid Kapoor starring in this film, the spotlight is stolen by Alia Bhatt who plays a young woman that is kidnapped, forced to take drugs and used for sex.

Did I cry? Yes Alia, you made me cry.

7 - Dear Zindagi

Alia Bhatt again, making me feel so many emotions, as she plays a cinematographer who meets a therapist (SRK). He helps her work through issues she's kept hidden inside her, which have inevitably caused anxiety and sleepless nights.

The line in the film that resonated with me most is when Alia's (ex?) screams at her 'why are you seeing a head doctor, it's not like your life is so bad', which pretty much sums up everyone's attitudes towards mental health.

A few things were unforgiving in this film, including Alia's transformation from a series of sessions, helping to cure her sleeping. A few of us will be very aware that it takes a lot more, with warnings of more triggers and obstacles in life. You're not just 'cured', you're working towards being more self assured.

Alia's great though. I did cry, yes.

8 - Budhia Singh: Born to Run

An autobiographical film of Budhia Singh, the five year old who ran 48 marathons in a year. Yeah, you read that right. It talks not just about the kids talent, but considers whether his coach exploits him. It's not the patriotic film you may have been looking for, instead it delves into the world around the boy and coach during their time together.

The young boy is fantastic and we truly sit there wondering 'what is best for this young boy?'


9 - Dhanak

A beautiful tale of a blind young boy and his sister, travelling across Rajasthan to meet Shah Rukh Khan (who's filming close to them), in a misguided attempt to get him to fix his eyes. They come across some wonderful and awful characters on their journey, which they expertly navigate.

The stars are the two kids, in every way. The young boy is a massive Salman Khan fan and loves his food. If he's not kicking and punching the air, he's asking to eat everything he can smell. The girl has had to grow up too quickly, and takes care of her blind brother. Her only pleasure in life is seeing him happy and she's adamant to get him his sight back.

I cried pretty much throughout. Mostly from happiness..

10 - Phobia

I watched an Indian horror when I was young and it had something about snakes in it I think? Lots of dark scenes in a bedroom and I think there was a dead dog? Either way, I wasn't impressed and have since not come across one Indian horror that I enjoyed.

Phobia stars Radhika Apte, who I just adored in this film, as a young woman who suffers from agoraphobia since experiencing trauma. It's interesting that an Indian film took a mental illness and turned it into a horror. Something I can imagine agoraphobia sufferers not appreciating. Although, I would need to ask them to know (comment if you would like to say something about this).

I's not great, there are lots of problems with the film, but it's a step in the right direction and it made me jump a fair few times. No tears, just one scream.