(Updated: March 8, 2021) Hotstar may not be focusing on original content but there are a decent number of good Hindi films streaming on the online platform. From Mukti Bhavan (2017) to Maqbool (2003), here are the best Bollywood movies on Hotstar, playing as of March 8, 2021:
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1. Panga (2020)
Director: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
A sports film that seamlessly engages without dramatizing the goings on, Panga is a simple script elevated by a realistically rooted treatment. Bolstered by a stellar Kangana Ranaut and an equally brilliant supporting cast, this bittersweet tale of triumphs and tribulations makes for a hearty watch.
2. Badhaai Ho (2018)
Director: Amit Sharma
Having a good story and the knack to tell one is two things. It’s a double delight when a film promises both. It isn’t just a fresh idea and a compelling narrative that works for Badhaai Ho. The modern-day rom-com drama fires on all cylinders: taut writing, crisp editing and superlative performances all round make it one of the best viewing experiences of the year. And while it ticks all boxes, what rounds it out is its genuine, engaging charm, a scarce screen commodity in Hindi cinema.
Badhaai Ho stays true to and well justifies its genre. It doesn’t solely rely on barbed, punchy one-liners to bring in the humour. Writer Akshat Ghildial intelligently and subtly infuses humour into the narrative; director Amit Sharma effectively recognises and pulls it off while the characters comfortably lend themselves it. The beauty of the film lies in how it manages to keep the humour alive even in the most emotional moments. The film flows organically thanks to a talented ensemble.
3. Gurgaon (2017)
Director: Shanker Raman
Gurgaon is one of the best noir films to come out in the year 2017. The daughter of a real estate tycoon gets kidnapped by her own brother. The family tries to track her down but in doing so, they uncover many secrets and everything goes downhill. A well-scripted, narrated thriller, Gurgaon keeps you engaged throughout its runtime.
4. Mukti Bhavan (2017)
Director: Shubhashish Bhutiani
Shubhashish Bhutiani’s nuanced and enriching family drama is a profound meditation on life and death. Haunted by a dream Daya, a septuagenarian man is convinced it’s his time to die. Following tradition, the old man donates a cow to the temple. He further insists on spending his last days on the banks of the Ganges. Daya, accompanied by his stressed son Rajiv, arrives at the hotel built to serve this specific purpose. In the days waiting for death, the father and son tentatively examine their past grievances. Although the plot outline seems a bit schmaltzy, Bhutiani’s delicate direction offers very mature snapshots of life’s simple joys and unalterable sorrows. Aided by a well-rounded ensemble cast, Hotel Salvation pays a fitting tribute to the city’s timelessness and hypnotic beauty.
5. Tu Hai Mera Sunday (2017)
Director: Milind Dhaimade
Milind Dhaimade’s debut feature revolves around a group of friends, from varied walks of life and ages, bound by their common love for football. A feel good film with its heart in the right place, Tu Hai Mera Sunday endears us to all the characters (each of which is well written) acquainting us with their worlds – their everyday lives, relationships, fears, insecurities, daily struggles.
Right at the start, the film sets the mood and makes it clear what to expect but don’t be duped by its casual, leisurely pace. Packed with life lessons abound, the film subtly and effortlessly makes its point without getting preachy. The brilliantly done music (courtesy Amartya Rahut) brings out the mood of the film.
The charming little gem is also a sobering reminder to step back from the humdrum of our everyday lives and appreciate and admire the world around us. Tu Hai Mera Sunday is the kind of film you wish would never end.
6. Waiting (2016)
Director: Anu Menon
A wonderfully written, executed and acted piece of work, Waiting is a finespun concoction of a variety of elements – love, life, relationships. It makes you ponder over the fragility of relationships despite the connected worlds we live in. It explores the ever widening generation gap through its sixty and twenty somethings Shiv and Tara. And blends all these elements into a heartening, un-preachy, sometimes sad, sometimes funny film.
Much of what the film ends up being has to be accredited to the performances. Rajat Kapoor delivers any part with splendid effortlessness. I wonder if Naseeruddin Shah ever needs to give a retake. Kalki displays angst and impatience with an equally admirable mad intensity as the calm composure she dons while learning to cope with her reality. (Read full review here)
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7. M.S. Dhoni – The Untold Story (2016)
Director: Neeraj Pandey
The challenge with films that tell real-life stories (of public figures) is that the audience already has a broader picture of the narrative. The director’s ability to pull it off then is in the telling. And there are few storytellers in Hindi cinema like Neeraj Pandey. His debut A Wednesday still stays his best work so far. But MS Dhoni – The Untold Story is an ambitious project, bigger than anything he’s helmed before.
MS Dhoni trails the journey of a young passionate boy from Ranchi with big dreams. He won’t settle for a meagre existence, like his father. The film interestingly captures his journey from the school kid who takes keen interest in sports (though not cricket) to a star cricketer loved by millions.
It’s an inspiring, moving tale. But what’s endearing about this journey is that it doesn’t change or lessen the person he is. The tremendously talented Sushant Singh Rajput in the role of M.S. Dhoni made sure he brought that out with his near-flawless performance.
8. A Billion Color Story (2016)
Director: Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy
Adman-turned-filmmaker Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy’s debut feature is a thought-provoking piece, more so, relevant in today’s times. It trails an agnostic Hindu-Muslim couple subject to constant religious prejudice. The theme might be heavy but the treatment is light and fresh; the tone never gets preachy. The director is in complete control but never tries to manipulate viewers’ emotion or force his ideas onto us. Performances are subtle, real and all heart but Dhruva Padmakumar (director’s son), as the narrator, is the real deal here.
Another small-budget film that proves script is king! If you don’t have Netflix, the film is also streaming on YouTube.
9. Pink (2016)
Director: Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury
It’s sad that an idea like Pink has taken this long to be told. A well-intentioned and a well-made drama, Pink takes you by the scruff of the neck, immerses you into our reality and shakes you up in the process. The film questions your mindsets more than your morals.
We, as individuals, make up a society. Our collective mindsets and values define the society we live in. And Pink tells us everything that’s wrong with us. And men alone aren’t to be blamed. Women stand equally guilty. Treating our boys any different from our girls or measuring their values on different yardsticks, begins at home. If only we taught our sons to grow up to be real men, we wouldn’t need to set ‘rules’ for our daughters to live by.
10. Neerja (2016)
Director: Ram Madhvani
Neerja is a fitting tribute to the young, brave flight attendant Neerja Bhanot, who died an untimely death, acting beyond the call of duty. Ram Madhavan’s directorial is a disturbing account of the 23-year old’s final moments, brought alive by sublime performances from Sonam Kapoor and Shabana Azmi.
11. Moh Maya Money (2016)
Director: Munish Bhardwaj
A solidly written and narrated script that boasts of brilliant performances in Neha Dhupia and Ranveer Shorey, this indie thriller keeps you on the edge throughout its runtime. It’s an intense plot-driven film that packs enough twists and surprises along the way, while touching several themes of greed, fear, love, betrayal. Choosing a location to tell your story in, is as important as getting the right team to work on your film. But when the makers succeed in making good use of the milieu and bringing out its nuances so much so that it feels like another character in the film, you know the job is well done. First-time director Munish Bhardwaj manages to bring out Delhi and its milieu in all its dark flavor, which in turn aids visual storytelling.
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12. Island City (2016)
Director: Ruchika Oberoi
Ruchika Oberoi’s intriguing anthology film features three short stories which explore the impact of urban living, loneliness and technology on everyday lives. Think of it as Black Mirror-style set of tales on modern Indian lives which boasts of a strong cast with the likes of Vinay Pathak, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Amruta Subhash. The film makes for an engaging watch that is equally thought-provoking, with the story titled Purushottam being one of best things I saw last year. The film’s ability to be absurdly entertaining whilst shedding light on some infinitely relatable themes makes it the unique, refreshing experience Hindi cinema needs far more of.
13. Masaan (2015)
Director: Neeraj Ghaywan
Masaan is a movie that heavily critiques the so-called customs and traditions of Hindu society which are narrow-minded, unjust and absolutely illogical. The cinematography is beautiful and aptly captures the essence of the holy city Varanasi in all shapes and forms and deftly contrasts the external beauty of the city with its internal corruption and hidden ugly face. The socio-cultural commentary is poignant and features some of the best performances on screen.
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14. Highway (2014)
Director: Imtiaz Ali
A young woman gets abducted and is held hostage days before her wedding. In a strange course of events, an unlikely bond spawns between the two. After a forgettable role in Student of the Year, Alia Bhatt is a revelation in her sophomore film as Veera. Randeep Hooda delivers a fine, memorable performance. In an interview with Flickside, Alia Bhatt revealed why Highway is her most special film.
Director Imtiaz Ali’s remarkable storytelling skills bring alive the narrative. Anil Mehta’s cinematography and AR Rahman’s soundtrack aid the director’s vision.
15. Parzania (2005)
Director: Rahul Dholakia
A brave and heartbreaking film on the Gujarat riots of 2002, starring Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika in the lead roles, the film is inspired by the true story of a ten-year-old Parsi boy, Azhar Mody, played in the film as Parzaan Pithawala in the film. The film centers on the family of Parzaan and the search for their son. This gem of a movie gives a depiction of the bloodlust lurking between the semblance of calm during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
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16. Black Friday (2004)
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Black Friday, arguably Anurag Kashyap‘s best, based on a book of the same name, chronicles the events that led up to the infamous 1993 Bombay blasts and the subsequent police investigation. While the docudrama received critical acclaim from both national and international audiences alike, it wasn’t without controversy. Black Friday was due to screen in India on December 29, 2005. But after a petition filed by one of the accused in the 1993 blasts, Mustaq Moosa Tarani, the Bombay High Court raised a ban.
The court allowed a release 20 months later in 2006, post the verdict.
17. Maqbool (2003)
Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
Maqbool is based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth and came out at a time when classical interpretations were all out of date. And this movie proved how wrong the trends were. It brought back classical interpretations with an absolute bang. It was graced not only by its plot which was absolutely superb but also by the fine-tuned pacing, direction and brilliant performances. The movie takes its core from the original play but adds a lot of its own flair and originality to it. Truly, a reinterpretation did perfectly.
18. Hazaaro Khwaishein Aisi (2003)
Director: Sudhir Mishra
The movie has the backdrop of political tensions during the 1970s, mainly in the form of Naxal revolutions. The movie smartly portrays a love triangle as the forerunner in this setting.
19. Khamoshi: The Musical (1996)
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
An unlikely plot for a Bollywood film, Khamoshi: The Musical is a heartbreaking, heartwarming tale. What a fine directorial debut by Sanjay Leela Bhansali! An original story and plot coupled with some of the best performances given by some of the greatest actors, we get an end product that is steeped in love, drama and romance.
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20. Aakrosh (1980)
Director: Govind Nihalani
In this film, Shah plays the role of an advocate. The conviction with which he fights his cases feels sincere and honest. And his portrayal of the knowledge of the dismal condition of the scheduled tribes in the country upon knowing their misfortunes and the concerns that he emanates all stand as exemplary acting. The defence of a man who has been arrested for killing his own wife is quite morally taxing on the character and it shows with the subtle facial changes of the actor. His skill is marvellous as can be seen through the reactions of both critics and audiences alike towards this movie.
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21. Talvar (2015)
Director: Meghan Gulzar
This is Hindi cinema’s best attempt in the recent past at realism within the ambits of mainstream conventions. One that would be hard to surpass in the years to come.
Talvar is based on the investigations and the subsequent court pronouncements of the infamous 2008 double murder case of Noida which shocked and made voyeurs out of the average Indian TV viewers. Understated storytelling aside, what makes Talvar possibly more significant is that it could arguably be rated as Hindi cinema’s best police procedural.
By Team Flickside
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