Films I admired in 2016

Every film that you watch teaches you something. It could be an idea, an approach to storytelling, a technique or a perspective on life. Or it could simply reinforce something you already believe in.

These were some of the films I watched in 2016 that made me pause, reflect and learn.


This film provides the most balanced perspective with the Sri Lankan war as backdrop. It doesn’t take sides. It shows us how three refugees who escape to France, claiming to be family, have to fight it out to survive. Initially, the characters only want to stay alive and then gradually other needs begin to sprout. It shows us how France houses not just refugees fleeing civil war in Sri Lanka but also immigrants from other countries like Albania. It uses the life of Sri Lankan refugees as a lens through which it looks at more generic issues of displacement, war and the need for survival.


Whenever I mention this film to any friend, they either grin or groan “Oh that one with the Radhika Apte leaked video?” I must have been living under a rock because I never knew about this video. And I think this film is a must watch for its storyline and the impeccable acting of Radhika Apte and Tannishta Chatterjee. Also, it portrayed a simple Indian household woman as the oppressor and oppressed. It shows how women themselves become tools through which oppression is dispensed and for doing that this film deserves a salute.

I have written in more detail about this film here.

Suleimaani Keeda

I’ve started watching Netflix recently and it’s getting to be addictive. Came across this Indian independent film. I had wanted to watch it because one of the protagonists is from Chai Sutta Chronicles and I love his acting. This film is about two wannabe writers in Mumbai, their quest to make a film and how they come to terms with their lives. The best scene is the one in which the girl tells the guy to live his life as he wishes since there’s only one life. He remarks that maybe that’s his problem. That there’s only one life.

This film also goes to show how Netflix could easily be a viable platform for independent movies of the future. There are many more films like Brahman Naman that I’m planning to watch soon.


Finally, I got to see this initial Nolan film that many of my friends had been raving about. It was heart-warming to see several Nolanisms, including the kothu-parotta-style screenplay and the batman logo stuck on the writer’s door. Also, if you’re passionate about making films you can always figure out a way to make it. This film is a classic example of extreme low budget production but kickass concept.


My biggest fascination with this film is that there are several scenes that make you wonder if they’ve been enacted or they’re actual documentary footages. And that’s the style of this film. The director has intentionally combined documentary-like footages and re-enactments of a real incident to make you feel unsure of what’s real and what isn’t. That works well with the film’s theme that’s about a guy who impersonates another man. It instantly made me a fan of Abbas Kiarostomi. Also, this interview of his!

Taste of Cherry

Another terrific film from Abbas Kiarostami. Throughout the film a guy drives around in a car, picks up random people from the streets and then offers them money to bury him. Watching it gives me the confidence that you can make a film out of any simple concept, provided you get your actors and setting right. Also, sometimes it can be much more powerful if you don’t reveal the exact motivation for your characters but instead you merely hint at it. You never get to know anything of the protagonist’s past and why he wants to be buried. And that’s the beauty!

Tokyo Story

I must say Yasujiro Ozu woke me up to the possibilities of cinema in its simplest and purest form. I loved how his camera captures the interiors of the Japanese homes. It got me thinking that what happens in a story is as important as where it happens. While the characters on screen form one layer of storytelling, the spaces they inhabit can form another layer of narration. The film is about an old Japanese couple who travel from their native village to Tokyo to visit their children, who’re grown up and living their own lives. It’s about how these children welcome their parents, how they interact with each other, what expectations the parents have of these children and what happens to those expectations. It’s a simple film that focuses on the nuances of relationships and human feelings. And it’s one of the best commentaries on death and how the human race has learnt to accept it.


Watching Ikiru, you can sense that Kurosawa wants to experiment with screenplay and camera movement. There are several innovative usages of both that were awesome. Let me give you two examples.

1. The protagonist, an old government servant, who’s not sure if his grown-up son loves him anymore, walks towards the main door of his house in the night to ensure it’s locked before going to sleep. He picks up a little baseball bat to place it against the door as protection from being opened. In that moment, he’s reminded of the baseball match in which his son played and the screenplay momentarily cuts to it.

2. The government servant begins to finally do something about his life and help to build a park for the poor people in his locality. Immediately, the film cuts to the mourning of the government servant’s death and through the conversations of his colleagues and others present at the mourning, we piece together if he was able to achieve what he wanted.

The biggest plus of both these screenplay effects is that they grow organically from the story. They’re not gimmicks inserted by a filmmaker who wants to show off being intelligent. And that’s important if you don’t want to make pseudo-films like the ones Kamal Haasan is making these days.

Oh and that haunting Gondola song… I’m sure even Mysskin will agree that songs sometimes can be extremely powerful.

The Next Three Days

Hollywood has this obsession to portray the bad guys getting away with the crime. Fooling the system. Off late in Tamil too, you’re beginning to have such films like Soodhu Kavvum or Mankatha. The Next Three Days adds a small twist to it. It makes you want the protagonists to get away with the crime.


Liam Neeson’s popular blockbuster film. I must say Hollywood knows how to make its thrillers. Although this isn’t a cinematic masterpiece, there are some moments in this film that are supremely thrilling. And the twists were real good. Sometimes you just want to stop analysing art and then fill your mind with some crazy whodunits. When you’re in such a mood, you know which film to turn to.

Taxi Teheran

The passion Jafar Panahi has to make films is amazing. He makes his limitations into his strengths. He was issued with a ban on filmmaking. So what does he do? He thinks up a film concept such that he drives a taxi around Tehran with a camera fitted inside and makes a film with it. And it’s an engaging film. Each passenger who gets in is unique and some of them, especially the little girl will make you cry.

I wrote about this film in more detail here.

12 Monkeys & Brazil

Vision. That’s the only word I can think of when I see a Terry Gilliam film. The first thing that will strike you about a Terry Gilliam film is that every single detail has been meticulously added by him. He’s a painter but with film as his canvas. And it’s not details just for the heck for it, but details with a purpose or a clearly-defined aesthetic sense. His stories are always gripping, passionate and crazy! The theme song of Brazil shall forever be etched in my memory.


I love this film simply for suggesting the possibility that a relationship is possible between humans and machines. It also questions every single assumption we have about relationships and in that sense I think this is an “evolutionary” film. And I loved the way futuristic technology is depicted. It feels like whatever’s shown in the film is plausible a few decades from now.

The Apu Trilogy

Thanks to the restoration of this Satyajit Ray masterpiece I got the chance to watch all 3 films back to back in a film theatre with an audience. The trilogy keeps growing each time you watch it. You notice more details, things you had missed earlier. You make new connections. It was this time around that I got the relevance of why Ray shows us elaborately the onset of the monsoon just before Durga gets wet in the rain. Nature transforms from something beautiful and replenishing to cruel and destructive in a short span of time.

With each viewing I realise with greater conviction that no matter how many years and how many miles separate me from this film, I am Apu.

Jai Baba Felunath

This film shows how a laid-back mystery can unfold in the unlikeliest Indian city – Varanasi. And if your film is made well, it can be engaging for children and adults alike.

Memories of Murder

Spoiler alert! This is a terrific film that’s best if you watch it without reading anything about it. So let me give you a spoiler alert before you read further.

I loved this film simply because it obsesses over who committed certain heinous crimes and then towards the end it makes the question seem completely unnecessary. It makes a bigger point that it doesn’t matter who did it. The fact that these crimes occurred is a reflection of the state of the society and its people. If you take the Delhi rape incident for example, it was committed by certain specific people whom we can arrest, try in court and punish. But, are they solely to be blamed for the crime? Will the problem get resolved if they’re punished? Was the society in no way responsible for their upbringing? It’s questions like these that Memories of Murder raises. And the best movie frame of this year for me was this one.


I’ve written in more detail about this film here.

So that was 2016 for me! I’ve got a long list of movies to watch in 2017! Let’s see which ones I get around to watching!

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