As the COVID pandemic eased in 2021, most of us left our couch to work from the office and travel. But old habits die hard. We could not completely cut our ties with the old telly. There was no dearth of Bollywood movies or shows on Netflix, Prime and Hotstar. Some movies even hit the big screens. Here are some of the Hindi language films I watched and reviewed in 2021.
1. Pagglait — A situational comedy
Story: How a widowed daughter-in-law teaches a lesson to a family wanting to grab her Life Insurance settlement after the death of her recently deceased husband. Sanya Malhotra carries the banner for Umesh Bhist.
2. Sardar Udham — A historical dramatic biopic
Story: An epic retelling of the horrific Jaliyanwalla Bagh Massacre. Vicky Kaushal delivers with flying colors in a complex and award-winning venture by Shoojit Sircar. 2021 brought fortune to Kaushal professionally and personally!
3. Mimi — A quixotic comedy
Story: A comedic take on the moral, ethical and emotional question of surrogacy. Thought-provoking.
4. Meenakshi Sundereshwaram — A comedic love story
Story: How a bright young girl navigates the pressures of a new marriage and having to stay away from a not-so-honest spouse who is trying to launch his career. What about her? Exactly! Wish it would have retained more authentic Tamilian cultural swag.
5. India Sweets and Spices — A satire
Story: This is a feminist, coming-of-age story, hilarious satire, and bold attempt to unravel age-old desi mindsets. Kudos to writer/director Geeta Malik.
6. Shershaah — A war biopic
Story: This is a commendable debut film by Vishnuvardhan. It traces the valiant professional and tragic personal life of Vikram Batra, a former officer of the Indian Army who was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India’s most prestigious award for valor in the Kargil war.
7. Thalaivii — A political biopic
Story: Thailaivii is a melodramatic reference to the tabloid romance of Jayalalitha and MGR. Was it poignant? Not really. But Kangana Ranaut poured herself into the second half of the film and looked credible as the beloved chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
8. Bell Bottom — An action-thriller
Story: Bell Bottom is another more of the same Bollywood bonanza with a shout-out to Akshay Kumar fans. A bit humorous, a bit formulaic. Lara Dutta as PM Indira Gandhi certainly worked at getting the role right.
9. Stree — A Horror comedy.
Story: Raj Kumar Rao is fantastic as a rustic tailor courting a ghost. I watched it reluctantly but will not forget “ Bicky and his talent at taking measurements for outfits with his eyes, rather than a tape-measure”.
10. Saina — A sports biopic
Story: The film is made in honor of the former world no 1, India’s champion shuttler, Saina Nehwal. I laud the director to showcase the dedication of her parents and coach who inspired her winning streak.
11. Tadap — A romantic thriller
Story: Strange, misogynistic attempt to teach a girl a lesson and then make her fall in love with you. Painful like the name.
12. Sooryavanshi — Action-packed drama
Story: Veer Sooryavanshi (Akshay Kumar), a patriotic cop dons the cloak of his indomitable predecessors ( Ajay Devgan’s Singham and Ranveer Singh’s Simmba), and vanquishes Muslim terrorists while looking like an “aged Bond” in his antics. Uber flying, hanging from helicopters, random explosions, somersaulting cars and silly humor– all a shout out to male bravado. Why would someone who is a doctor and looks like Katrina Kaif fall for a guy who calls her Syria, Malaria and worse, instead of her name Ria?! Unbelievable! There was absolutely no need for Katrina’s wet-rain sequence: Tip tip barse pani.
13. 99 Songs — A coming of age love story
Story: A.R. Rahman put his heart, soul and music into it. It is very emotional and a bit too personal. I would have liked to see a different take/spin on the plot. “Music is the last surviving magic in the world.” but the movie did not touch the soul the way it was intended to.
14. Ramprasad Ki Terhvi — A surreal comedy.
Story: A hilarious peek into the victim mentality of a small town (Lucknow) extended family who can’t forget their own petty agenda even in the face of their father’s death and their mother’s bereavement. Honest.
Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.