My Top 10 Indian Films of 2016

It’s still January, if barely, right?  This is a list of my favorite films in Indian Cinema released in 2016.  I have not seen every film released, by a long shot, but I’ve seen quite a few of the top releases in Hindi and Malayalam cinema in theaters.  I still haven’t seen Pink, although that is definitely on my list, and it’s now on Netflix streaming.


1.  Kapoor and Sons (Since 1921)

Kapoor and Sons  was hands down my favorite Indian film of the year.  I just love the way the cast interacts.  It feels like you’re a voyeur in a real family and their drama.  I will admit that Sidharth is the weak link, but Alia and Fawad are so great in this.  Fawad Khan especially just blew me away.  And the soundtrack!  Kar Gayi Chull is my phone ringtone for a reason, because I never tire of hearing that hook.


2.  Kammatti Paadam

Dulquer Salmaan had an amazing year, but Kammatti Paadam is just a masterpiece.  I’m so glad I saw this Malayalam gangster epic in a theater.  I was nearly shell shocked by the experience of seeing this Rajeev Ravi film.   Dulquer is our eyes into this world of gangsters, and dalit toughs.  He is very, very good, but the two actors, Vinayakan and Manikandan steal the show.


3. Udta Punjab

Alia Bhatt also had a great year.  I’m still thinking about how fantastic she was in Udta Punjab, a film filled with great performances.  This is the film that introduced me to Diljit Dosanjth.  And how great was Shahid Kapoor as the comic relief?  This was an entertaining film, but also one with an important message about how the drug trade affects everyone– a message the censor board tried to suppress, and thank goodness they did not prevail.  Udta Punjab is currently streaming on Netflix.

kali-malayalam-movie-wallpaper-0922-006394. Kali

Oh my goodness, Kali is such a tense thriller.  Kali means rage.  I admire the script and how the director kept me on the edge of my seat. I did not know what would happen next at any given moment. I felt that anything could happen. And I loved that about this Malayalam movie!  The first half is a personal story of a marriage with young man with anger issues.  Then the second half grips you by the throat.  Dulquer Salmaan gives another stellar performance in a great year, matched by Sai Pallavi.


5. Dear Zindagi

I adored Shahrukh Khan and Alia Bhatt in Dear Zindagi.  We were afraid when the film was announced it was going to be a romantic relationship, but SRK is her mentor and therapist in this fantastic film.  This is my first Gauri Shinde film, and she is a wonderful director.  This was a nice crossover film that I took some Bollywood virgins to see, and they loved it.


6. Fan

Although not a perfect film, I submit Fan may be the one of the best performances of Shahrukh Khan’s career in the double role of Guarav and Aryan.


7. Neerja

This really felt like a year for women in Hindi cinema.  Sonam Kapoor was perfect casting for Neerja.  This film reminded me very much of United  93 – you know what’s going to happen, but you’re still on the edge of your seat watching it unfold, filled with tension.  Neerja is currently streaming on Netflix.


8. Dangal

I love that Aamir Khan made this movie about girl empowerment.  He let the young women at the center of this true story take the lead, and he was brave enough to play a father with a paunch, no less.  Dangal was one of the biggest family films of the year.


9. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

I’m still not happy with the ending of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, but man it has some glorious moments.  It’s full on lush Karan Johar film making – actually my first Karan film on the big screen.  I’m reading his autobiography now, An Unsuitable Boy, and he says that Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is about his own unrequited love story.  It’s a very personal film.  I wish there hadn’t been all the controversy about Pakistani actors, and Fawad Khan had a bigger part.  That soundtrack!!  I listened to the title track on constant repeat.


sultan-trailer-647_05241607500610. Sultan

I really enjoyed Sultan, and Salman made a great pairing with Anushka Sharma.  It was another Hindi film with a message of female empowerment, even if the majority of the film was about Salman’s character.  Great soundtrack, too!

Special mention for Brahman Naman which I saw the premiere of at Sundance back in January.  I’m not sure if it’s a purely Indian produced film, but it’s a quirky and wonderful teen sex comedy. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.

Still thinking about Brad Pitt’s cheeks on SRK


Oscar winning makeup artist Greg Cannom did the amazing prosthetics and makeup for Gaurav’s look in Fan.  He worked with Brad Pitt on Benjamin Button, and took the mold of Brad’s cheeks to make prosthetics for Gaurav’s face.  He also did the age makeup for Rishi Kapoor in Kapoor and Sons.




Super Interesting Making of Gaurav from Fan – SRK has Brad Pitt’s cheeks!

YRF released this behind the scenes Making of Gaurav video for the movie Fan.  I had so many questions after watching the film a second time, and really looking at how different Gaurav is from Shahrukh.  Besides the big cheeks, the eyebrows are different, and he just looked slimmer and smaller over all.

(Gifs from KKKG Tumblr)

This 14 minute video answered a lot — it was prosthetics and lots of VFX on top.  This is the same special effects makeup artist who worked with Brad Pitt on Benjamin Button.  So he looked up in his work shop and saw a mold of Brad Pitt’s face, and decided to use those unique cheekbones to make Gaurav’s look.  Fascinating!


Song of the Day – Ishq Dance

One of the little Easter eggs in the film Fan is that they used scenes and music from Shahrukh’s own past films.  In one scene he’s rehearsing for a stadium concert in London, and this is the music Aryan’s dancing to — Ishq Dance by A. R. Rahman in Jab Tak Hai Jaan.  Because this scene from JTHJ was in London!  I loved that attention to detail.  Now, if only SRK had had the same VFX and makeup team to make him look 25 in Jab Tak Hai Jaan.  My husband (who is Shahrukh’s age) and I have a private joke because he has a plaid hoodie like Shahrukh’s in this scene that he likes to wear ALL the time.  It’s not my favorite, and he just says, “I’m just trying to look 25 like SRK.”

Fan Review – Some of Shahrukh’s best acting in years

When I first saw the trailer for Fan, I was frankly creeped out by the look of the character Gaurav (the Fan).  Through the use of prosthetics and major CGI, the filmmakers have made Shahrukh look just similar enough, and just different enough that it’s eerie.  The eyebrows are straightened out of their normal “S” shape.  The cheeks are too wide and the teeth different, and mostly, he looks so young!

But once you watch the film, it’s great, because Shahrukh Khan the actor has been able to create two distinct characters in this film.  Aryan Khanna is for the most part the real SRK, a little more arrogant and less warm maybe.  And Gaurav is the young obsessed fan from Delhi.  The prosthetics and CGI let you see them as two different people immediately.

I was fortunate to see Fan before I really read any reviews or saw anything about the plot.  Of course, I had my suspicions that this would be a darker psychological  thriller, and it most definitely is.  I was traveling for a conference in Las Vegas on Friday, and asked at an Indian restaurant which of the total two theaters in town showing Fan would be a safer neighborhood to take an Uber.  Totally worth it to see it the first night!  I knew a bit what I was getting into, that there would be no songs, but I think the audience I was seeing it with really didn’t know.  As the end credits started, the guys behind me said out loud, “What, no song?”  The tone and moment that the film ends with, I’m glad that we didn’t have that peppy Fan Anthem song over the credits.  It would have been jarring.  (Like the credit song was for Badlapur!)

I don’t want to spoiler the movie at all.  I’m just going to tell you that you should really see this film.  It is a return to Shahrukh the actor, which I had been hoping for!  This is acting of a level with Darr, with Swades, or Chak De!  Yes, it really is that good.  It’s up with all the great performances.  I’ve already seen the film twice and I plan on seeing it again in a few days with a friend.  For a Shahrukh Khan fan, there is so much to delight in references to real past movies of SRK’s.  Real old interview footage, footage from his SLAM! Tour in the US in big stadiums –  they even filmed at his home Mannat on his birthday to capture the craziness.

You can guess from the trailer that it’s about a super star, and an obsessed fan, and things are going to get crazy.  I’m giving it four and a half stars out of five, because I loved it that much, but there were a few logical leaps in the second half.  I’m not sure the logic of the thriller completely worked, but I just loved watching it unfold before my eyes anyway.  The action set pieces are really good, and Dubrovnic is gorgeous!!  (That’s the rooftop chase from the trailer.)

I’ve seen people say this is a copy of the Robert DeNiro/Wesley Snipes film The Fan, and it really isn’t.  Yes, you have an obsessed fan in both thrillers, but that’s where the similarity really ends.

None of the other actors in the movie are big names.  There’s another rival “star” in the film named Sid Kapoor that I think is supposed to be a take on Hrithik.  I recognized the character actors playing Gaurav’s parents, but really the movie is Shahrukh vs. Shahrukh.  I also admire Shahrukh for poking a little fun at his own stardom.  There’s a scene where Aryan is performing for a wedding for a huge fee, and even him punching the star Sid Kapoor at a party could be reference to real dustups that Shahrukh has had in his own life.  Aryan is an aging star, who has declining box office for his films, and Gaurav at first won’t stand for any rival to take his God, HIS star’s place.

What is fantastic in this double character study is that your sympathies go from one character to the other and back and forth again.  There are shades of gray to both characters, and I loved that.  This was writer/director Manesh Sharma’s dream project for years.  Yash Raj had him prove himself with a few other films first, and he started with Band Baaja Baaraat, and what a debut that was!  He had to wait fot the timing to be right for Shahrukh to be involved — really I don’t know if I can think of any other Bollywood actor more perfect for this dual role.  It’s a triumph for Shahrukh, Manesh Sharma and the VFX team.

I’m so excited for Raees now!