The Indian independent scene is looking vibrant than ever, with new storytellers and unique ideas surfacing in the space. The year that went by, saw a fine assortment of films from varied genres. These aren’t festival favorites alone but have resonated with audiences and film fans, locally and globally. Flickside picks some of the bravest, experimental and most engaging Indian indie films to have come out in 2016 (in no particular order).
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. The film 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 by Mansi Dutta)
Director: Leena Yadav
Leena Yadav’s Parched is a tale of three women, from a subjugating patriarchial society with a thirst for life and freedom. On the first look, the film seemed to be an Indian treatment of Ridley Scott’s Thelma and Louise. But the writing keeps the tale grounded to the atmosphere, making it easier to relate with the emotions of shackled characters. Director Leena makes sure to focus on the harsh realities faced by the women, yet emphasizes on their friendship, compassion and solidarity. The wonderful cinematography finds both abrasiveness and vibrance in the arid desertscape. Although the West may not have such a tightly controlled male-dominated society, the theme of domestic violence lends universality to the narrative. (By Arun Kumar)
3. Kaul – A Calling
Director: Aadish Keluskar
A school teacher starts losing his sanity after witnessing a baffling event that takes him on a journey of unlearning everything known to him about humans and God. Kaul – A Calling is a highly experimental film that will be a rewarding experience if you peel each layer of it. It’s a milestone film that relies heavily on an exploratory audio-visual medium that is rare in Indian cinema. Kaul takes a vehement jibe at the superficial way of living and how we perceive God. The film is a meditation on sanity that challenges our confined thinking by the decree of society and thrashes the conventions of normalcy. (By Nafees Ahmed)
4. Island City
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. (By Suchin Mehrotra)
A dark psychological drama about a man whose wife goes missing, Maroon is more of a character study than a who-dunnit mystery. The indie thriller is well written and actualized, mostly because of a remarkable performance from protagonist Manav Kaul. (The latter delivered a memorable brief role in Hansal Mehta’s Citylights (2014)). Shot entirely in a single house, the film is so arresting it puts you inside the protagonist’s head, making you empathise with and feel for him, particularly as the character begins to unpeel, unravel. The climax may leave you with a lot of questions, but look closer. There are enough hints scattered throughout the film. If this a debut attempt of writer-director Pulkit, I can only wonder what more he has in store for us. (By Mansi Dutta)