From whodunits to murder mysteries, there is nothing more satiating than a well made thriller. Bollywood may have earned a notorious reputation but you can trust it for a good edge-of-the-seat crime drama once in a while. These films are sure to hold you hooked until the end. So, here are some of the best crime drama/murder mystery movies for the Poirots and Sherlocks alike. If you like to rattle your grey cells a bit, read on!
1. Talvar (2015)
This voyeuristic crime drama is a fictionalised retelling of the Arushi Talwar murder case. In a Rashomon style of storytelling, Vishal Bhardwaj’s script incorporates different perspectives to the same crime, allowing the viewer to participate in the story. A hair raiser through and through, the film is backed by its stellar cast, featuring Irrfan Khan, Konkona Sen Sharma and Neeraj Kabi. Directed by Meghna Gulzar, the film is a layered presentation, leaving no stone unturned to hold the viewer. Bhardwaj, who has also composed the music and Gulzar’s lyrics support the narrative. [Read our review here: Talvar (2015) Review: Hindi Cinema’s Best Police Procedural]
Where to Watch: Netflix
2. Manorama: Six Feet Under (2007)
This Abhay Deol starrer is a realistic tale, crafted with just the right amount of drama needed, no more no less. A path breaking piece of neo-noir thriller film, this one is loosely based on Chinatown (1974) by Roman Polanski. Although, it holds its own ground really well. Endlessly innovative in approach, this film essentially explores the psychology of a prospective spy. It marked the directorial debut of Navdeep Singh, who displays great finesse and craft in his dealing of the plot as well as the actors involved. With clever writing, no nonsense treatment and stellar performances by the entire cast, this film succeeds on multiple levels.
3. Andhadhun (2018)
Drawing inspiration from a french short film called The Piano Tuner (2010), Sriram Raghavan’s held-back yet provocative style of filmmaking makes Andhadhun an unmissable film. Fusing black comedy with thriller, it will leave you as unhinged as entertained. Featuring Ayushmann Khurrana, Tabu and Radhika Apte in prominent roles, the film is infused with dark humor and dual meanings throughout. It keeps you guessing till the very end, and every moment in the thriller is a cinematic masterstroke. With brilliant music by Amit Trivedi, it featured some of the best songs of 2018. The film won three awards at the National Film Awards — Best Feature Film, Best Actor (Ayushmann Khurrana) and Best Screenplay.
Where to Watch: Netflix
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4. Ardh Satya (1983)
Famously turned down by Amitabh Bachchan due to clash of dates, it went on to define the careers of many. Ardh Satya is, indubitably, one of the finest Hindi thriller movies ever made. Directed by Govind Nihlani and starring Smita Patil and Om Puri in lead roles, this film revolves around a policeman struggling with the systematic evils that surround him along-with his personal weaknesses. Winner of several awards and critically well-received, the film is still considered one of parallel cinema’s most commercially viable offerings.
The aspects of the system such as corruption, political stronghold and deceptions — those which are still relevant — form the heart of the film. The portrayal of the honest policeman without glamourisation is what makes the film a subtle, potent and meaningful investigation into the lives of our characters.
Where to Watch: Zee5
5. Madhumati (1958)
Involving some of the greatest minds of the film world, this film rests on the shoulders of director Bimal Roy, story writer Ritwik Ghatak and dialogue writer Rajinder Singh Bedi. The sheer lyrical quality of the film draws you in. Following the story of an artist and engineer, Devinder, the film is an investigation into the past lives of characters and was infact one of the earliest films to deal with reincarnation as a theme. It bagged the National award for Best Feature Film in Hindi along-with 9 Filmfare awards. It is paranormal, romantic, gothic and noir; all at the same time – a well made dish peppered with Salil Chaudhary’s brilliant music and Shailendra’s timeless lyrics. Who can forget the iconic song Dil tadap tadap ke keh raha hai featuring Dilip Kumar? Other actors include Pran, Vyjayantimala and Johnny Walker.
Watch Madhumati on Amazon
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6. Kanoon (1960)
Revolving around the many subjectivities of capital punishment, B.R. Chopra’s Kanoon is remarkably arresting. The film posits a debate upon a very pertinent issue. The claim to someone’s life under the garb of meting out justice to someone else. Starring Ashok Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, and Nanda, Kanoon won director B.R. Chopra a National Award for Best Feature Film. Songless throughout, the film is serious in subject, treatment and reception. It puts several question marks on the fixity and permanence of the supposedly just law prevailing in the country. Kanoon is a well-braided mixture of emotions and realities. It succeeds in carving out an ambiguous space within its nuanced realm, much like the forces of law it seeks to represent.
Watch Kanoon on Amazon
7. Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (1986)
This Hindi remake of Sidney Lumet’s Twelve Angry Men (1957) is a courtroom drama that was shot in one single room for most of its duration. Directed by Basu Chatterjee, the film revolves around a teenage boy from a slum who is on trial for killing his father. It boasts excellent camerawork which brings the action alive, making for a gripping watch. Commenting upon the subjective nature of the legal system, the script of the film when combined with its technical finesse, makes for a lethal combination. Compelling performances shape the film’s multi-perspective nature, allowing for the mystery to unravel smoothly, but chaotically.
8. Khamosh (1985)
Directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, this film follows a starlet’s murder on a film set, and a long-drawn investigation that follows. Essentially, a movie about the intricacies of a moviemaking set up, this film starred Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Amol Palekar, Soni Razdan and Pankaj Kapoor in lead roles. A melting pot of the finest talents of its time, this 35-year old film is a rather old-fashioned murder-mystery exposing the exploitative underpinnings of the film industry. Commenting on things like casting couch effectively, Chopra shows the compromised position of a female trying to make it big into the industry. Keeping it a songless film, Chopra showed immense skill and keen insight; that itself has proved as a device that heightens the film’s inherent drama.
9. Dhund (1973)
A rather gripping, successful attempt at a suspense thriller, it is an essential watch. An Indianised version of Agatha Christie’s novel The Unexpected Guest, Dhund follows a traveller whose car has a breakdown in the misty weather in the night, following which he seeks refuge in a house on his way. The events that unfold from there make up for an engrossing watch. B. R. Chopra’s directorial finesse transcends genres, and that clearly comes across in this film; one that is not in the ambit of the socially relevant films that form a majority of his oeuvre. The reason why this whodunit succeeds, is because it denies the viewer enough time to logically eliminate and decide who the murderer is, it keeps him/her hooked into the story through flashbacks.
Watch Dhund on Amazon Prime
10. Detective Byomkesh Bakshy (2015)
This film marks the first time Byomkesh entered Bollywood, and it is an adaptation in the literal sense of the term. It does not simply lift its story from Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s text. A master of establishing cities as characters, the film’s director Dibakar Bannerjee does so for the Calcutta of his film, by introducing it in the very beginning through one tram ride. Interspersed with elements of fantastical reality and neo-noir style, the film is a potpourri of mystery, action and thriller. Following the core structure of a whodunit, the film reveals at every step, a new piece of the larger puzzle. With great attention to detail, careful execution and featuring one of Sushant Singh Rajput’s finest performances, it’s a film absolutely worth your time.
11. Aakrosh (1980)
An interjection of social drama and conspiracy thriller, Aakrosh comments on the lawless nature of the law prevalent in our country. Revealing the incompetencies of the oppressive state machinery, the Govind Nihlani directorial is one of the best Indian films ever made. With an extremely powerful narrative sans any sort of cinematic justice, the film reveals what is real as it is. Written by Vijay Tendulkar, the story follows the journey of a poor man hailing from a tribal community, falsely framed for killing his wife. The film also served as the coming together of some of the finest talents of the country, including Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and Amrish Puri.
Watch Aakrosh on Amazon Prime
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12. Soni (2018)
This film follows the life of a female police officer, who, while fighting crimes against women in Delhi, also grapples with gender issues in her personal life. The film has been screened at several national and international film festivals, and received wide critical acclaim. Reflecting the society and our times perfectly, the film is meticulously drawn out. It lays bare and questions issues like everyday sexism, patriarchy, male entitlement, we are conditioned, as a society, to accept. Soni‘s narrative is kept simple and tight throughout.
The protagonist is fiery enough to be compared to a female bandit, Phoolan Devi, and a force to be reckoned with. It realistically shows the many caps a female police officer has to don; the many forms of exploitation and harassment she has to go through in a ‘man’s world.’ Soni is our list of 16 Best Indian Movies Of 2019
Where to Watch: Netflix
13. Haider (2014)
The ever-courageous Vishal Bhardwaj adapts Shakespeare’s Hamlet into the world of Kashmir. While Hamlet is considered to be Shakespeare’s most difficult text to adapt, it has however been adapted and attempted by the likes of Sir Lawrence Olivier. Along with co-writer, Basharat Peer, Bhardwaj lets the personal story of Haider (the Hamlet figure) play out against the backdrop of a socio-political tragedy. Merging the personal and political, the film is narrated in a Rashomon-like fashion, with multiple entry points into the same story. The themes of revenge run deep into the film, as it revolves around the protagonist’s wicked uncle, who gets his father killed in order to marry his mother. Indianising a prominent story with panache, the film relies on Bhardwaj’s direction and music.
Besides, brilliant performances by Shahid Kapoor, Kay Kay Menon and Tabu truly make Haider a classic. Among the essential films on Kashmir, Haider is in our list of 50 must watch Bollywood movies of the 21st century.
Where to Watch: Netflix
14. Johnny Gaddar (2007)
Drawing from french film Symphonie Pour Un Massacre (1963) by Jacques Deray, which was in turn based on Alain Reynaud Fourton’s French crime novel Les Mystifies, this film was a clear-cut sleeper hit. The hard-boiled thriller revolves around betrayal, deception and death with gritty portrayals of the underbelly of the crime world. It’s uniquely constructed in how it keeps you second guessing the story at every step. It is this unpredictability that is the strength of the film. Johnny Gaddar clearly passes all tests of a masterpiece; it makes you masticate over every nuance of its story, and every possible technical detail.
Where to Watch: YouTube
14. Ek Hasina Thi (2004)
Sriram Raghavan’s debut film revolves around a woman falling in love with a mysterious man, which takes a horrific turn when she gets framed for his underworld crimes. The unwitting ‘haseena’, Sarika (Urmila Matondkar), meets the reality of the crafty Karan (Saif Ali Khan) and plots a revenge. A chilling, fear-inducing climax makes Ek Hasina Thi a memorable thriller. It keeps you guessing the in-betweens of truth and lies crafted on screen. With a taut script, brilliant cinematography and crisp editing, the film builds up to its end well. It keeps the audience as involved as the characters themselves. A real, brutally honest depiction of scapegoat-ism, it is worth a watch if you’re looking for some real drama.
There we are! These are some of the best hindi thriller movies! What did we miss? Let’s talk in the comments below.
By Sanghmitra Jethwani
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