Oh this is just too hard! Out of all the movies from 2016, which one is my absolute favorite? Hmmm. Oh! I just remembered a loophole! Oh good, I’m all set then. I get to talk about my favorite films that weren’t mainstream Hindi and didn’t necessarily get a big release, and why I loved them anyway. And why you should love them (and see them) too.
This is the one category I don’t have to limit it to Hindi films! Yaaaaay! Because I’m not making value judgments, I’m just talking about my personal feelings. I suppose I could have chosen non-Hindi for least favorite too, but Ki & Ka had that thing in such a lock, no other film stood a chance.
(May you burn in the fires of hell, Ki & Ka!)
Favorite film of all the ones I watched in 2016, Ohm Shaanti Oshana maybe. Or Manam. But favorite of all the films that technically released this year, that’s easy. Although still a split vote. First, Dhanak.
Yes, technically it is another Hindi release. But it’s not a mainstream one, I didn’t see it in theaters, it didn’t even play in theaters in most places. Instead it snuck out on streaming platforms and DVD to be discovered by people going “What the heck is Dhanak?”
It’s lovely, is what it is! Or as my mother called it after I forced my parents to watch it, “exquisite”. Just a beautiful film with beautiful thought and beautiful feelings. And non-beautiful people. On the outside that is.
These are two lovely children with bright eyes and big smiles and big dreams. But they aren’t the polished and perfect kids you usually see in movies. And the world around them isn’t polished and perfect either. But it is filled with goodness and love and miracles, if you know where to look for them.
And then there’s the other film I loved this year. Which also wasn’t part of the mainstream Hindi release list. Because it was a mainstream release but it wasn’t for the Hindi audience.
Kabali kind of blew my world apart watching it. It showed me what a Tamil Rajnikanth blockbuster in theaters can do. It made me cheer and cry and think and feel and most of all it made me ANGRY.
That’s what I want media to do, I want it to make people angry at injustice and abuse and everything bad in the world. I want it to make people ready to go out and storm the temples of power. And I want it to provide sustenance and support to those who are already struggling to survive.
I couldn’t believe that Rajnikanth, arguably the biggest movie star in the world, put his career on the line and laid it all out to make a story to help his fans who are suffering in silence. This is why My Name is Khan was my favorite film of 2010, not just because Shahrukh (and Karan) risked everything to get it released, but because they did it all for the people who they only knew from a distance, the ones struggling to survive overseas in the face of prejudice and hate. It was a great gesture of benevolence and love to their followers, telling them “yes, we hear you, we know what you are going through”.
And that’s what Rajnikanth did here, even more so. He didn’t just reach out to his fans, he reached out to the most humble and oppressed of his fans. He let their voices he heard on the soundtrack and their faces be seen in the crowds. He told them “yes, I’m here, I care, I feel your anger and your pain and your frustrations”.
Really, these two films are the yin and yang of art. Dhanak is the art that inspires, that tells you the world is full of good things and good people and hope and love and laughter and happiness and miracles. And Kabali is art that shows you the problems to be solved and tells you that it is up to you to fix them, to make that world which is filled with hope and love.