It’s time for my annual roundup of the year’s best Hindi films. I need to start with a caveat, in anticipation of any comments asking why certain movies didn’t make my list. Both my mother-in-law and father-in-law died in 2019, and I missed seeing a bunch of movies, especially those released in the first half of the year. I’m particularly disappointed to have missed Sonchiriya, since I’ve read many good things about it. It only ran in North American theaters for two weeks in March before heading to the streaming service Zee5 — which isn’t available in the United States. It’s not available for digital purchase or on DVD here either, so there’s no legal way for me to catch up on it. I’m sure there are other 2019 releases that I would have enjoyed that I also missed out on.
That said, 2019 was a fantastic year for action movie buffs like me, so let’s get to it!
What better place to start than with my favorite martial artist Vidyut Jammwal’s family-friendly eco-thriller Junglee. This is a rare Hindi film directed by an American: Chuck Russell, best known for the Jim Carrey hit, The Mask. While most Indian productions lean heavily on computer-generated effects to create animals on-screen, Russell had Jammwal and the rest of the cast interact with live elephants. It adds an element of awe that reinforces the story’s messages of conservation and respect for nature. And Jammwal’s excellent stunts are always a ton of fun.
India’s submission to the 92nd Academy Awards — Gully Boy — certainly deserved the honor, even if it failed to make the shortlist for the Oscars (not that any film can beat Parasite). Director Zoya Akhtar’s story of a young Muslim man voicing his generation’s frustrations through the medium of rap is timely and relevant, but also a great example of character creation and world-building.
Another of the action flicks on this year’s list is the thrill ride War. With world-class stunts and fight choreography — and a totally unexpected romantic undercurrent between characters played by Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff — War is a Bollywood action flick you could easily share with your non-Bollywood watching friends.
Speaking of Bollywood films for non-Bollywood watchers, the best of the year in that regard was the thriller Article 15. I recommended it to several acquaintances outside my Hindi-film circle, and all of them went to the theater to see it and really enjoyed it. Some readers have asked me if Bollywood movies can ever find crossover success in America, and to that end, Article 15 shows the value of having an English title and a plot that’s easy to describe. Oh, and it has to be a darned good movie as well, which Article 15 definitely is.
Given the theme of this year’s list, it’s no surprise that my favorite Hindi movie of 2019 is yet another action film, albeit an unconventional one. Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (“The Man Who Feels No Pain“) — which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018 but didn’t play in Indian theaters until March, 2019, followed by a May Netflix release in the United States — features a hero raised on a diet of old martial arts movies who doesn’t have an ounce of cynicism. He believes that the good guys really can beat the bad guys. It’s a fun, goofy movie with a ton of heart, lots of flying kicks, and wonderful performances by newcomer Abhimanyu Dassani, Pataakha‘s Radhika Madan, Mahesh Manjrekar, Jimit Trivedi, and Gulshan Devaiah in my favorite double role of all time. Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota makes me incredibly happy.
Kathy’s Best Bollywood Movies of 2019
- Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes/stream on Netflix
- Article 15 — Stream on Netflix
- War — Buy at Amazon/stream on Prime
- Gully Boy — Stream on Prime
- Junglee — Buy at Amazon/stream on Hotstar
Previous Best Movies Lists
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