You know your year has truly ended when the fourth edition of our world-famous-in-Mumbai year-ender – the 2018 IIF Awards – takes centerstage. We’ve had a relatively better year at the (Hindi) movies, so let’s try not to be completely cynical assholes. A bit, maybe, but not completely. After all, when more than 100 films regularly hit the screens – big and small – in a year, there are bound to be a bunch of custom-made categories so that NOBODY escapes our gaze.
Here we go then. No regional films, because Hindi cinema can really be a full-time job, believe it or not. Don’t panic if you haven’t heard of some of these titles. That is the point!
Best Film Nobody Saw: LOVE SONIA
Starring brave newcomer Mrunal Thakur, Love Sonia, not unlike Haryanvi film G Kutta Se last year (the winner of this category), is possibly the season’s most difficult viewing experience. It tells the story of a naive village girl who reaches big bad Bombay in search of her sister and gets trapped within the dark, depraved network of the city’s underground sex trade industry. Sonia’s journey is nightmarish and claustrophobic – a feverish montage of foul-mouthed pimps, ballsy prostitutes, underaged victims and sleazy clients. It branches into a human-trafficking drama that reaches Hong Kong and LA (Mark Duplass headlines the cameo list), blurring the lines between exploitative and unflinching filmmaking. It just about resists the ‘performative-poverty-porn’ trap so many independent movies tackling the same subject (case in point: Tikli and Laxmi Bomb) fall prey to, hinging on a powerful lead performance and some interesting side acts by Frieda Pinto, Richa Chadha, Rajkummar Rao and Manoj Bajpayee.
Special Mention(s): Gali Gulieyan, Once Again
Best Film That Will Never Win An Award: GALI GULEIYAN
A startling psychological thriller that shows us a side of Old Delhi we might have never seen, Dipesh Jain’s atmospheric and superbly ‘designed’ movie is propped up by a career-best performance by none other than Manoj Bajpayee. The plot/mystery doesn’t work as well as the nuanced character portrait – a memorably broken ‘hero’ that serves as a damning examination of trauma, loneliness, lost time and alienation in a city not known for subtlety and silence.
Special Mention: Bioscopewala
Best Worst Film: RACE 3
Race 3 is not a movie, it is an adjective. He is such a piece of Race 3. Race 3 is the worst Race-3-level film in the history of Race 3s. Steve Smith and David Warner are the Race 3s of cricket. Abbas-Mustan made Machine, the Race 3 of star-kid launch vehicles. Daisy Shah is the Race 3 of glorified item girls. You get the gist.
Special Mention: Hate Story 4, Fanney Khan, Genius
Worst Performer: KAJOL
Helicopter Eela might go down in history as the worst superstar comeback in the history of Hindi cinema. Kajol does the female version of Hrithik Roshan’s coked-out-bunny act in Main Prem Ki Deewani Hu – by overplaying, overselling and overkilling the role of a single urban mother in this atrociously acted movie. She is so screechy and so singularly annoying as a mother-playback-singer-wannabe-student that she would put cousin Rani Mukerji’s brainless interview quotes to shame. Her husband leaves her because he fears he might die early in life (no surprise there) and her son hates her because, well, she is a clingy-girlfriend-from-hell-turned-monster-mom.
Special Mention: Anushka Sharma (Zero), Aamir Khan (Thugs of Hindostan)
Best Comedy of 2018: KAALAKAANDI
Delhi Belly writer Akshat Verma’s directorial debut blows hot and cold, but stands out for its sheer audacity along with 2018 MVP Saif Ali Khan’s charmingly self-assured performance as a dying man on an acid trip. We need more of these black comedies – films free of baggage, faux social relevance and inhibitions.
Special Mention: Blackmail
Best Film That Could Have Been: SOORMA
We should know better than to expect something solid from an Indian sports biopic, but Shaad Ali’s trope-filled rendition of heroic hockey player Sandeep Singh’s life story is wasted on actors of Diljit Dosanjh, Taapsee Pannu and Vijay Raaz’s caliber. The filmmaker began and ended with Saathiya, and follows the disastrous OK Jaanu with this utterly melodramatic and idiotic movie that has Pannu running across foreign cities in tears for being the worst girlfriend in Bollywood history (she leaves him after he gets injured so that it “inspires” him to stand on his own feet and become great again)
Special Mention: Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, Omerta, Gold
Cinematic Moment of 2018: ANDHADHUN
The piano sequence – where the pianist pretending to be blind plays old Bollywood tunes even as the aftermath of a murder in the form of a body being dragged out is unfurling in front of him – is already stuff of Hindi film legend. Sriram Raghavan cannot be commended enough for conceiving and designing a moment so simultaneously dark, shocking and hilarious that we ended up feeling guilty for chuckling in admiration at its tragic wickedness.
Best Mainstream Film: RAAZI, ANDHADHUN
Meghna Gulzar’s spy thriller, starring Alia Bhatt as an undercover Kashmiri RAW agent married into a Pakistani army family by her patriot father so that she can steal state secrets, rides on a combination of suspense and flawed morality to become one of the year’s most significant Bollywood movies – especially in this era of jingoistic and propaganda-thick storytelling. Not to mention Bhatt’s terrific turn as Sehmat, and a brilliantly subdued Jaideep Ahlawat as her merciless mentor/father figure.
Sriram Raghavan’s Andhadhun, about a blind pianist, a devious housewife, a crooked cop and an organ-trafficking sub-plot, is a bonafide modern-day masterpiece…despite a second half that doesn’t measure up to the mad brilliance of the first.
Special Mention: Mukkabaaz
Worst Best Film: TUMBBAD
‘Worst Best’ is politically correct for ‘overrated’. Last year, it was Lipstick Under My Burkha. This year, it’s Rahi Anil Barve’s daring and dazzlingly imagined Tumbbad – the fantasy adventure epic that, despite some groundbreaking imagery and technical finesse, lacked a soul to truly transcend its genre. It has been a film long in the making, going through multiple distractions and drafts, which sort of shows in how it places craft over the art of telling a story. The father-son angle is monotonous, while the narrative lacks the kind of punch you’d expect from a movie of such meticulous detailing and ambition.
Special Mention: Stree, Manmarziyaan
Best Film of 2018: OCTOBER
Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi’s meditative Delhi ‘spring’ movie about a drifting hotel management intern who decides to care for a comatose colleague is a mood to behold. Varun Dhawan is earnest and restless as Dan, a man-child in search of purpose and enlightenment. It may not have worked for everyone, but great literature isn’t an object of its time – it is a subject of time.
Special Mention: Andhadhun
Best Film Based on Social Relevance: Badhaai Ho
In a year that had Akshay Kumar play the sanitary-pad saviour as well as Independence-era hockey hero, John Abraham play a murderous vigilante and patriotic engineer and Rani Mukerji play a Tourette-syndrome-afflicted teacher, it was of course a film with Ayushmann Khurrana that delivered commentary on society without screaming it out. The perceptive, well-written and middle-class-Delhi movie about a 50-something couple having to deal with the ‘stigma’ of a late pregnancy is one of the year’s most heart-warming movies, with the affable Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta turning in moving and well-observed performances as the central characters.
Worst Film Based On Social Relevance: SATYAMEV JAYATE
Milap Zaveri’s dangerous and shameless exercise in vigilante torture porn was every bit as harmful to society as the evils it sets out to “fix”. With zero sense of craft, nuance or overall sensibility, it presents a disillusioned do-gooder who destroys corrupt cops whose names begin with alphabets that spell: Satyamev Jayate. It boasts of exactly the kind of unlettered lynch-mob mentality and “solutions” most arrogant urban filmmakers dream of while sitting in their air-conditioned offices without an ounce of understanding about morality and ground realities. Worst of all: the film became a box-office hit.
Best Underrated Performance of 2018: MANOJ PAHWA (Mulk)
It was surprising enough to see a film of Mulk’s progressive ideology and incisive understanding of religious bigotry from the stable of the otherwise-iffy Anubhav Sinha. Taapsee Pannu and Rishi Kapoor are reliably good in the story about a Banarasi Muslim family struggling to deal with sociopolitical consequences of unwittingly rearing a terrorist family member, but it is veteran Manoj Pahwa who turns in an unexpectedly moving performance as the flawed and inferiority-complex-afflicted younger brother whose son disgraces the family. You feel for Pahwa the most, and it’s his condition that triggers the film into staging the most sensibly written and impassioned courtroom debate of the year.
Special Mention(s): Avinash Tiwary (Laila Majnu), Manav Vij (Andhadhun), Manisha Koirala (Lust Stories), Gitanjali Rao (October), Ratna Pathak Shah (Love Per Square Foot)
Best Villain of 2018: TABU (Andhadhun)
Tabu’s poker-faced death stare as the morally compromised housewife whose affair forms the crux of the ingenious film is also the most twisted expression of the year. Here is a lady who barely grieves the “suspicious” demise of her ’70s-actor husband, casually flings an old lady off the balcony when her innocence is threatened, lies to everyone including her emasculated lover and almost outwits the ‘wit’ of Andhadhun’s central artist – until a rabbit, literally, derails her plan. Pune’s Lady Macbeth has rarely spawned a deadlier avatar.
Special Mention: Ranveer Singh (Padmaavat), Radhika Apte (Lust Stories), Jimmy Shergill (Mukkabaaz)
Worst Villain of 2018: JIM SARBH (Sanju)
He’s a fine stage actor, but Sarbh becomes the only person on his list to retain his title. Last year, he won this for Raabta. It isn’t his fault as much as director Rajkumar Hirani’s. His role in Sanju as Dutt’s fictitious “evil friend” – a chap who makes drugs and bad things appear magically – barely trumps the miscasting of Anushka Sharma as a curly-haired “British” author in the same film. Sarbh plays him too literally, again, almost as if he were told to embody the face of the ‘devil’ in Sanju’s weak mind in contrast to the angel (his best friend, played by Vicky Kaushal) trying to rescue him.
Special Mention: Lloyd Owen (Thugs of Hindostan), Saif Ali Khan (Bazaar), Neeraj Kabi (Hichki), Rajat Kapoor (Pari)
Best Action Film of 2018: N/A
Like last year, we refuse to rate “action entertainers” like Rohit Shetty’s Simmba, Neeraj Pandey’s Aiyaary and Ahmed Khan’s Baaghi 2 in this category. Most of them are an insult to the concept of action. Or inaction. Or life itself.
Worst Mainstream Film: NAMASTE ENGLAND
It takes a special type of excretory valour to win this with movies like Race 3, Hate Story 4, Zero and Thugs of Hindostan in the same category. But Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra – the zaades of Ishaqzaade who have consequently embraced the lifeless mediocrity of Issaq in their deteriorating acting careers – are enough in this “comedic love story” to kill the very idea of badness. Arjun, particularly, might do well to look for an alternate career. The ‘Pind’ ka tractor he rides gives a better performance.
Special Mention: Thugs of Hindostan, Fanney Khan, Race 3, Hate Story 4
Most Disappointing Film: ZERO
Shah Rukh Khan, as the vertically challenged small-town hero who grows a heart, continues to display sparks of ambition, but his larger-than-life legacy fails him again in Aanand L. Rai’s Zero – a film so badly and wishfully written that an entire army of optimistic masala-movie lovers have decided to find hidden metaphorical meanings and strands of ingrained star commentary within its awfulness. Those who hate it apparently don’t “get” the movie as much as those who “read” between the lines.
Special Mention: Pataakha, Bhavesh Joshi Superhero
Worst Film of 2018: SATYAMEV JAYATE
No questions asked. The filmmakers belong in prison. Forever.
Special Mention: Hate Story 4, Genius, 1921
Best Actor: VINEET KUMAR SINGH (MUKKABAAZ)
It’s easy to forget Vineet Kumar Singh’s do-or-die performance as an underdog boxer in Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz because it appeared early in the year before any of the traditional biggies. But there has been no role as compelling, strongly researched, deeply felt and poignantly realised as his, in the face of overwhelming odds – both in real life and reel.
Special Mention: Manoj Bajpayee (Gali Guleiyaan), Ayushmann Khurrana (Andhadhun)
Best Actress: ANUSHKA SHARMA (PARI)
Alia Bhatt and Taapsee Pannu’s performances in Raazi and Manmarziyaan/Mulk might have won this category another year, but Anushka’s role as the lovestruck demon in Prosit Roy’s enigmatic feminist fable of gore and folklore is easily the most significant turn of an important year. She might have failed miserably with Zero, but with the fearless and alarmingly touching Pari, she proves that when the producer in her hires the artist in her, there is no more hypnotic combination in contemporary Hindi movies.
Special Mention: Neena Gupta (Badhaai Ho)
Best Supporting Actor: JAIDEEP AHLAWAT (RAAZI)
He is the grizzled cautionary tale to Sehmat Khan’s childlike humanity in Raazi – the robotic yin to her disillusioned yang. Ahlawat is restrained and strangely evocative as the veteran trainer who is both Sehmat’s protector and face of reckoning. His chemistry with her mirrors, in an alternate universe, that of the moral fabric connecting Pankaj Tripathi with Rajkummar Rao’s deer-in-headlights character in Newton.
Special Mention: Manav Vij (Andhadhun), Vicky Kaushal (Sanju, Manmarziyaan, Raazi), Pankaj Tripathi (Stree)
Best Supporting Actress: GITANJALI RAO (OCTOBER)
The one-time stage actress and accomplished animation filmmaker Gitanjali Rao makes her film debut with one of the most memorable portraits of slow-burning grief, single-parent independence and quiet dignity in the face of disaster. Her beautifully restrained dialogue with Varun Dhawan’s Dan and perpetually pained eyes form the crux of Shoojit Sircar’s offbeat examination of inner monologue.
Special Mention: Ratna Pathak Shah (Love Per Square Foot), Rasika Dugal (Manto), Sheeba Chaddha (Badhaai Ho)
Special Rajpal-Yadav Ham-fest Award:
Kajol (Helicopter Eela), Anushka Sharma (Zero), Aamir Khan (Thugs of Hindostan), Saqib Saleem (Race 3), Aishwarya Rai (Fanney Khan), Karan Wahi (Hate Story 4), Shraddha Kapoor (Batti Gul Meter Chalu)
Best Actor in an Average Film: Rajkummar Rao (Omerta)
Hard to go through a year without Rao on an acting list – but 2018 hasn’t been as good a year for the artist in Rao as it has for the upcoming star in him (A middling Stree was a super-hit). But his fairly balanced performance as embattled British-Pakistani terrorist Omar Saeed in Hansal Mehta’s narratively facile biopic went under the radar because of the film’s Wikipedia-ish blandness.
Special Mention: Emraan Hashmi (Tigers), Ranbir Kapoor (Sanju)
Best Screenplay: Juhi Chaturvedi (OCTOBER)
It’s hard to imagine that the mournful silence of October was “written,” which is where Juhi Chaturvedi – one of the foremost screenwriters of Hindi cinema today – excels. She has so far dealt in plenty of dialogue and texture and Delhi chatter, but in October we see a different, colder side of the city that revels in people who can’t quite communicate as loudly. The film is beautifully structured, like the hidden emotions we usually overlook at the corners of lonely hotel and hospital corridors.
Special Mention: Jyoti Kapoor, Akshat Ghildial and Shanatanu Srivastava (Badhaai Ho)
Worst Screenplay: RACE 3
Writing? What writing?
Best Production Design: Rita Ghosh (MANTO)
The devil is in the details – of the post-partition life of a writer whose mind channelized devils and demons like nobody else. Nandita Das’ period biopic on the celebrated Urdu author is a fascinating blend of fact and (Saadat Hasan Manto’s) fiction – a style elevated by Rita Ghosh’s unobtrusive chronicling of a time that most Hindi films go terribly overboard with. From the streets of Lahore to the Irani cafe meets and Bollywood parties in Bombay, Ghosh’s job had as much to do with the psychological complexity of the tortured protagonist as the physical “look” of the film’s withering atmosphere.
Special Mention: Nitin Zihani Choudhary and Rakesh Yadav (Tummbad)
Worst Production Design: Thugs of Hindostan
It’s hard to go wrong with the unlimited possibilities of adventure-fantasy, but trust YRF to find a way.
Best Sound Design: Kunal Sharma (TUMMBAD)
What Tummbad lacks in narrative heft, it more than makes up for in its unique language of audiovisual imagery. The soundscape – sounds of greed (a merchant descending into a well), attachment (son making the journey with flawed father across arid Maharastrian landscapes) and inner demons (the “creature” has its own palette) – is an integral part of the film’s fable-like fluidity.
Special Mention: OCTOBER
Worst Sound Design: SIMMBA
Don’t you know by now? Sound is a villain in the Rohit Shetty Extended Universe.
Best Cinematography: Pankaj Kumar (TUMMBAD)
Pankaj Kumar’s ‘framework’ exceeds the film’s ideological framework. He is a master of spatial grammar – navigating the dark corridors of a dilapidated house, the mysterious outgrowth of an ominous mansion, the shadowy dangers lurking in a red well (womb) and the hypnotically moody landscape that connects these regions, as if they were beating and bloody organs located at different corners of a human body.
Special Mention: Aveek Mukhopadhyay (October)
Best Editing: Pooja Ladha Surti (ANDHADHUN)
The twists and turns of a film plot are as “cut” as they are, written. The superb timing of Andhadhun’s most outrageous moments is down to Raghavan’s perceptive editor, Pooja Ladha Surti (also co-writer and associate producer). That the pace and visual language of a film about a “blind” pianist is its most remarkable part defines the triumph of Andhadhun like nothing else.
Best Background Score: ANDHADHUN
The blend of piano, retro ’70s riffs and classical Beethoven pieces define Andhadhun’s pulpy, tense flavour – especially its playful tendency of using its blind protagonist’s piano-playing skills as the film’s pointed sound cues. Andhadhun references, and reinvents, the role of music in mainstream Hindi cinema in a way only a Raghavan thriller can.
Film That Didn’t Deserve Hate: SONU KE TITU KI SWEETY
Just kidding. It deserved all the critical hate and more. The casually misogynist film parading as a “comedy” about a devious lady out to dilute her boyfriend’s bromance is just stupid on so many levels that it doesn’t deserve to be acknowledged.
Best Ensemble: BADHAAI HO
The middle-class and upper-class Delhi households of Badhaai Ho felt like a charming throwback to Habib Faisal’s brighter days with Do Dooni Char – thanks to the top-class actors populating a ‘concept’ that might have been made into a tasteless adult comedy by so many commercial filmmakers.
Best Director: SRIRAM RAGHAVAN (Andhadhun)
When Raghavan connects, the ball disappears into orbit. Everything about Andhadhun was pure guile and control.
Best Cameo: ANIL DHAWAN (Andhadhun)
Anil Dhawan playing a proud ’70s Bollywood actor popular for dying in his movies getting killed in reel (real?) life is a stroke of geeky genius.
Best Debutant: Mrunal Thakur (Love Sonia)
Playing a relentlessly exploited sex worker must take a lot out of a newcomer. Thakur excels as the face of survival in the bleak and distressing Love Sonia.
Special Mention: Radhika Madan (Pataakha)
Worst Debutant: Utkarsh Sharma (GENIUS)
Last year, it was Mustafa Burmawalla. Both these ‘actors’ are sons of filmmakers – Abbas of the Abbas-Mustan fame, and Gadar director Anil Sharma – who have forgotten how to make films. It’s no surprise, then, that they have forgotten how to act before even beginning their careers.