2014 delivered a bunch of well-crafted films aimed at a savvy audience. Here are my ten best of the year. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
Films with budgets large and small took aim at social issues affecting ordinary citizens. Siddharth powerfully explores poverty through the experience of a man searching for his missing child. The divisive intersection of politics and religion is skewered both by indies — Filmistaan and Dekh Tamasha Dekh — and the year’s biggest hit, PK.
Other films put creative spins on existing formulas. Highway turns a typical damsel-in-distress scenario into a young woman’s journey of self-discovery. Dedh Ishqiya features a budding romance between a middle-aged couple, played by Madhuri Dixit-Nene and Naseeruddin Shah. I thought I’d seen enough gangster movies for a lifetime until Kill Dil revitalized the genre in stylish fashion.
Ankhon Dekhi challenges the notion that a movie has to be “about” a specific theme, instead presenting itself as a movie to simply experience.
My sentimental favorite film of 2014 is Queen. Watching Kangana Ranuat as charming small-town girl Rani gallivanting about Europe on her solo honeymoon is a joyous experience. It’s a movie I look forward to revisiting.
Yet one movie stood out from the rest because of its riveting story and immaculate direction. The best Hindi movie of 2014 is Haider.
I’m a huge fan of director Vishal Bhardwaj, and even with high expectations going in, I was still blown away by Haider. It’s gorgeous, thanks both to the natural beauty of Kashmir and Bhardwaj’s use of a bold color palette against a snowy backdrop. Kudos to cinematographer Pankaj Kumar as well.
Bhardwaj — who also wrote the film’s music — maximizes the potential for song as a narrative device in a sequence in which Haider (a modern Hamlet, played by Shahid Kapoor) publicly implicates his uncle in his father’s disappearance. The scene is much more effective as a musical performance than it would have been as a speech.
Bhardwaj also deserves credit for placing his version of Hamlet in such a politically and emotionally charged environment. Notes at the end of the movie highlight how ongoing tension between India and Pakistan have cut off a beautiful place like Kashmir from the rest of the world, to the detriment of regular people simply trying to exist. Placing a 400-year-old story within the context of a modern conflict emphasizes that quelling the dangerous temptations that come with political ambition is a problem humans haven’t yet solved. Haider is a magnificent piece of visual storytelling.
Best Bollywood Movies of 2014
- Haider — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Queen — Buy/rent at Amazon
- Siddharth — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Ankhon Dekhi — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Highway — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Dedh Ishqiya — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- PK — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Dekh Tamasha Dekh — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Kill Dil — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
- Filmistaan — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
Previous Best Movies Lists
- Best Bollywood Movies of 2013
- Best Bollywood Movies of 2012
- Best Bollywood Movies of 2011
- Best Bollywood Movies of 2010
- Best Bollywood Movies of 2009
- Best Bollywood Movies of 2008