Director: Nagesh Kukunoor
Dhanak trails young, orphaned siblings Pari (Hetal Gada) and Chhotu (Krrish Chhabria) who set out on a journey, with a dream in their heart. Like his other films, Nagesh Kukunoor’s Dhanak seems straight out of a novel. Fairy tale, dream-like, magical and deeply satisfying. There’s something equally majestic and dramatic about the backdrop the director places his stories in. The settings have a character of their own.
Set in Rajasthan, Dhanak is lush visual delicacy, courtesy cinematographer Chirantan Das, who beautifully, captures the land of sand and sun. (Read full review here by Mansi Dutta)
Director: Raam Reddy
Raam Reddy’s excellent debut feature Thithi is a rare film. There’s great interest in providing textures (ingrained with realism) to the frame and imbuing character details rather than chasing greater narrative aspirations. The film does have a central familial turmoil and a string of conflicts, but what Raam wants us to witness is simplicity and purity of character. Thithi may seem a bit hollow for those expecting broader realization of narrative conflicts. The film is anything but hollow. I am not saying the film’s form is utterly flawless. There might be few unsatisfying aspects. But it takes no didactic approach to comment on the inbred patriarchal issues or other social issues, common in Indian villages. That’s what makes Thithi more profoundly layered. (Read full review here by Arun Kumar)
Director: Rohit Mittal
The docufiction was shot in all of 14 days with a skeleton crew of 12 people. It was made on a shoestring budget with money borrowed from family and friends, until producer Amit Verma came on board.
Autohead involves a documentary crew that trails a sexually frustrated auto driver Narayan (Deepak) and his macabre exploits. The film is as much a character study as a dig at cinematic realism, bringing into question the morals and ethics of the crew filming it. Mockumentaries are a rarely explored form in India and debutant director Rohit Mittal does a deft job navigating an engaging storytelling experience through a powerful debutant lead Deepak Sampat. (By Mansi Dutta)
Director: Pawan Kumar
Kannada independent filmmaker Pawan Kumar’s sophomore directorial effort U-Turn was a watchable thriller. It starts off well, gracefully introducing the lead character Rachana, a young journalist trying to make ends meet. The major backdrop for the film is the Double Road flyover in Bengaluru. Rachana works on the cover story of those who make an illegal u-turn on this flyover. Kumar finely builds a murder/mystery plot in the film’s first half. However, too many insipid twists and an unconvincing resolution gives a little unsatisfactory movie experience. (Read full review here by Arun Kumar)
10. Lipstick Under My Burkha
Director: Alankrita Srivastava
In the same mould of Leena Yadav’s Parched, Lipstick Under My Burkha explores the interconnected lives of four middle class women at different life stages, and their struggle with sexual liberty and freedom in a patriarchal society which weighs them down and limits them in every way. Produced by Prakash Jha, the film is bold, refreshing and armed with a powerful message to the extent that you wish it’s a film every Indian is forced to see. (By Suchin Mehrotra)
11. Chauthi Koot
Director: Gurvinder Singh
Gurvinder Singh’s film doesn’t focus on the horrid spectacle that was Punjab in the early 1980s. Several films have already captured the deaths and the aftermath of the infamous Operation Bluestar. Chauthi Koot focuses on bringing the audiences into the life of a Sikh family, living in the shadows of fear, doubt and remorse with its beautiful yet haunting images. To a regular moviegoer, the imagery in Chauthi Koot may often feel random and an exercise in obscure experimentalism. But for those who wish to consume cinema in its rawest, most delicately carved form, this is an essential watch. (By Shikhar Verma)
12. Nil Battey Sannata
Director: Ashwini Iyer Tiwari
Ashwini Iyer Tiwari’s shining directorial debut tells the touching tale of a single mother and her 15 year old daughter. The film has wonderfully written characters and a theme, which advocates on the vitality of education. However, the narrative on some occasions gets a little high on preachiness. Swara Baskar in her first lead role gives a very mature performance. Pankaj Tripathi as principal Srivastava is an absolute delight to watch. Nil Battey Sannata does lack emotional shades in the beginning of the story, which is made up for in the second half.
Yet, the film would work fine for those seeking feel-good cinema with an engrossing message. Nil Battey Sannata was remade in Tamil titled Amma Kanakku. (By Arun Kumar)
For the keen, Thithi, Dhanak, Autohead, U-Turn and Maroon are streaming on Netflix.
Which of these are your favourites? I’m sure there are more we might have missed. Tell us what we missed and your favourites in the comments below. You can also connect with us on facebook or twitter.
Recommended: 11 Best Bollywood Movies Of 2016, Ranked