• Friday, April 12, 2024

Entertainment

Movies that stood out in an action-packed 2023

By: ASJAD NAZIR

WHETHER it was in cinemas, streaming sites or at festivals around the world, audiences were offered an interesting variety of films from diverse genres and languages.

From artistic gems and groundbreaking narratives to huge blockbusters, they entertained film fans from different backgrounds.

Eastern Eye revisited 2023 to reveal 21 entertaining movies that are worth adding to any watchlist, listed in no particular order.

Pathaan: The first big blockbuster of 2023 saw Shah Rukh Khan portray a deadly secret agent taking on an equally lethal spy played by John Abraham, hellbent on destroying India. The flashy action entertainer joined the expanding spy universe kick-started by the Tiger film franchise and the blockbuster hit, War. Deepika Padukone also played a key role in a larger-than-life adventure, which combined flashy locations with fabulous fight scenes, superb stunts and a solid storyline. The highly entertaining film kick-started the resurgence of Bollywood’s biggest star after 12 years in the wilderness.

Jodi

 Jodi: The year’s best Punjabi film, inspired by the lives of the late great singers, Amar Singh Chamkila and Amarjot Kaur, revolved around the rapid rise of the singing duo in 1980s Punjab. Diljit Dosanjh and Nimrat Khaira played their roles to perfection in the musical drama, which saw them showcasing their singing prowess by performing all the songs themselves. Seamlessly blending comedy, romance, and outstanding music, the film presented a compellinging narrative that captured the essence of the era.

In Flames

In Flames: The Pakistani Canadian horror film had a successful world premiere at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. The captivating feature debut from writer and director Zarrar Khan revolves around a woman in a patriarchal society haunted by visions of the dead returning to life. Praised for its depth and exploration of female empowerment, the film earned critical acclaim and was chosen as Pakistan’s official entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 96th Academy Awards.

Berlin: The Indian espionage thriller, set in the early 1990s, garnered high praise on the film festival circuit. It follows a sign language expert tasked with interrogating a deaf man accused of espionage, and uncovering a deeper conspiracy within. Aparshakti Khurana and Ishwak Singh delivered two of this year’s finest performances in their contrasting roles. Eschewing unnecessary song-and-dance sequences or subplots, the film captivates with its well-crafted narrative, driven by an engaging storyline packed with unexpected twists.

Berlin

2018: The marvellous Malayalam-language survival drama film based on the severe 2018 Kerala floods was selected as India’s official entry for Best International Feature Film at the 96th Academy Awards. One of the year’s most successful Indian movies revolved around unconnected individuals battling their own respective challenges who step up to help others during a devastating flood. The gripping storyline with stirring moments was described as a tribute to ordinary people who became extraordinary because of their willingness to risk their lives to help total strangers.

A Jackfruit Mystery

3 Ekka: The great momentum of Gujarati cinema continued with this hit comedy. The family entertainer revolving around friends setting up a gambling den became the second-highest-grossing Gujarati film of all time. Less was more as the story and performances took centre stage. There are free-flowing jokes from start to finish in a film filled with plenty of hilarious sequences.

Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery: The Indian comedy-drama, drawing inspiration from a true-life incident, centres on a police investigation into the theft of two enormous jackfruits, leading unexpectedly to a missing girl. Sanya Malhotra delivers an outstanding performance as a dedicated officer juggling a trivial fruit theft case alongside the search for a missing girl, all the while navigating complexities in her personal life, including an emasculated fiancé who is a lower-ranked cop. The film seamlessly blends a unique storyline with well-developed characters against the backdrop of a vibrant rural setting. It subtly addresses themes of sexism and casteism without adopting a preachy tone.

Polite Society

Polite Society: The martial arts action comedy ripped up the rulebooks and delivered a brilliantly original British Asian movie. After a world premiere at the Sundance film festival, it was shown in cinemas to rave reviews and delighted cross-cultural audiences of all ages. The story of a stunt performer, an audacious wedding heist, sisterhood and family drama cleverly combined comedy with action. The genre-blending movie mixed up diverse influences and offered entertaining moments from start to finish, with a winning cast in top form.

Maaveeran: This unique Tamil movie gave a new spin to the superhero genre in India with the story of a cowardly comic book artist who becomes heroic after an accident and starts hearing a mysterious voice. He takes on the dark forces in a multi-layered story that also tackles issues such as political corruption, poverty and basic human rights. The simple story of a man finding courage in the most unexpected way also had plenty of comedy moments. The lead star, Sivakarthikeyan, delivered one of the year’s best performances.

 Khufiya: The espionage thriller based on Amar Bhushan’s novel Escape to Nowhere had a successful world premiere on Netflix. Tabu delivered a terrific performance as a secret agent investigating the murder of an Indian spy and trying to catch an inside mole who may have betrayed her. Acclaimed director Vishal Bhardwaj delivered a gripping spy movie filled with surprises, surveillance cameras and secret agents. The intriguing game of cat and mouse also had multiple layers that included a very subtle same-sex romantic sub-plot.

Khufiya

The Taste Of Mango: Chloe Abrahams’ inaugural feature documentary did the rounds of global film festivals, earning acclaim and the audience award for best documentary at the London Film Festival. This poignant film delves deep into the layers of family history, unravelling the painful traumas of the past while highlighting the intricate threads that bind mothers and daughters together. It fearlessly explores the dynamic between three generations of women, navigating through difficult moments and untangling knots of past familial tension.

The Taste of Mango

Jawan: The biggest Bollywood blockbuster hit of 2023 was also arguably the most entertaining. Shah Rukh Khan played the dynamic double role of a father and son in the vigilante actioner filled with plenty of surprises. Although Jawan had a strong supporting cast, a solid storyline and powerful social messages, what really drove the film were the spectacular action sequences from start to finish and the great performances from a strong cast. Director Atlee delivered escapist action cinema at its best. The film was so loved that an extended cut was made available when it was premiered on Netflix.

Jawan

 Chithha: The Tamil-language film received great reviews and positive buzz upon its release. The story of a devoted uncle taking the law into his own hands to protect his niece was a slow-burning drama that packed a punch. It handled the sensitive issue of child sexual abuse with tact and stood out as one of the year’s finest Tamil movies. Siddharth delivers a dynamic lead performance in a movie that defies traditional heroism norms in Indian cinema.

 Joram: The survival thriller delighted audiences at film festivals globally before going on general release. One of the year’s best Bollywood films skilfully combined action, emotion, human drama, political corruption, and a police procedural investigation. The story of an innocent tribal villager on the run with his baby daughter from police and darker forces took a hard look at those living on the margins and exploitation of the poor. Manoj Bajpayee delivered one of the year’s best performances in the multi-layered movie. Joram found that hallowed middle ground between a commercial entertainer and more artistic cinema.

Am Sirsat

 Bheed: There have been many movies set during the Covid-19 pandemic and this multi-starrer was one of the finest. Director Anubhav Sinha assembled a strong cast that included Rajkummar Rao, Bhumi Pednekar, Dia Mirza and Pankaj Kapur for an episodic film that showed multiple stories of struggle during India’s lockdown. The powerful drama, shot beautifully in black and white, was inspired by real events. It captured important moments without being preachy and revealed how people reacted during a turbulent time. It also looked at issues like the Indian caste system, religion and political neglect.

 Ponniyin Selvan II: The stunning Mani Ratnam-directed sequel concluded an epic story that began with an acclaimed 2022 film. The magnificently mounted multi-starrer based on an epic 1954 novel once again combined a stunning star cast, with eyecatching costumes, lavish sets, and thrilling action. These were complemented by some magnificent music from AR Rahman. The satisfying Tamil-language sequel received positive reviews and was particularly praised for its mesmerising visuals from start to finish. The memorable characters added an extra layer to a landmark movie.

Dunki

Dear Jassi: This powerful drama based on real-life events won an award at its world premiere at the Toronto international film festival and was then screened in official competition at the London film festival. Hollywood director Tarsem Singh Dhandwar returned to his Indian roots with the story of a Canadian girl from an affluent family falling for an uneducated kabaddi player during a trip to Punjab. The Romeo and Juliet-inspired drama combined romance with a darker lawless element. The two young leads breathed life into extremely challenging characters and left a lasting impact.

I Am Sirat: This timely documentary received a terrific response at international film festivals that included Toronto and London. The fascinating film revolved around a transwoman in Delhi who is forced to lead a double life, as a dutiful son at home for his disapproving widowed mother and as Sirat in her everyday life. Apart from opening a fascinating window into a silent world, what made the Deepa Mehta-produced documentary remarkable is that it was filmed on a smartphone and retained its emotive power without any compromise. The movie also sparked important debates about a taboo issue in south Asian culture.

The Queen of My Dreams

Animal: Ranbir Kapoor delivered an explosive lead performance as a man abused by his overbearing father who grows up to become an out-of-control maniac. Ace writer and director Sandeep Reddy Vanga cobined a father-son story with elements of trauma, vengeance, gang wars and full-throated action in a powerful entertainer. Great musical numbers and stunning turns from the entire cast, including Bobby Deol, turned this into explosive entertainer. The film may have divided audiences, but it clocked up huge box-office numbers.

Animal

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