In the disturbingly intolerant times we live in, it’s heartening to see more filmmakers than ever before, coming forth, with fresh ideas and stories. Stories unheard and unseen on celluloid. Stories in their unique, unbridled voices. While some films already have their release dates, others may face their customary censor hurdles before they reach you. But in the hope that they eventually do, here are all the indie films to look out for this year. The bling, big-budget films will eventually find their way to your feeds but it’s these obscure, lesser-heard films that might be worth exploring this year:
1. Sexy Durga (Malayalam)
Acclaimed Malayalam director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s (who received death threats for allegedly “insulting religious sentiments”) indie drama snapped a big win recently at the Rotterdam Film Festival. The ‘provocatively’ titled film, Sexy Durga aims to highlight the hypocrisy our women face at the hands of men and the society, at large.
The director, who apparently went in ‘without a story or written dialogue,’ filmed it all in 20 days.
Vikramaditya Motwane’s (of Udaan and Lootera fame) Trapped premiered at the Mumbai Film Festival last year. The survival drama trails Rajkummar Rao, whose character is stranded in a room for 25 days. Motwane shot the film in less than a month. Trapped is slated for a theatrical release March 17.
Another indie gem starring Rajkummar Rao, Newton has already done us proud at the Berlinale this year, winning top honor. The jury said “…it’s dark humor, ironic approach and the positive use of typical clichés in Indian society gives Newton a unique form and style which will delight audiences in art house cinemas all over the world.” Director Amit Masurkar, who gave us the charming Sulemani Keeda in 2014, is at the helm of this political satire.
4. Lapachhapi (Marathi)
Debutant filmmaker Vishal Furia’s Lapachhapi became the first Indian horror film to get officially selected for the Brooklyn International Film Festival. It has already won several awards and nominations at other global fests. Catch Flickside’s interview with director Vishal Furia on what inspired the film here. The film is due for release July 14, 2017.
For all Rajkummar Rao fans out there, the actor’s third release is yet another collaboration with director Hansal Mehta. A combination that never fails to impress. The political thriller recounts the story of British-born terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who kidnapped and murdered WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.
6. Kaagaz Ki Kashti
Borrowing from a popular ghazal of the iconic singer, Kaagaz Ki Kashti is a docu-biopic on maestro Jagjit Singh. The film trails the life and 50-year career of the celebrated singer. In his long spanning career, Singh altered the landscape of ghazal singing through his melodious and soulful compositions, along with writer Nida Fazli. Director Brahmanand S. Singh, best known for the National-Award winning documentary on R.D. Burman, Pancham Unmixed is at the helm of this project.
7. My Son is Gay (Tamil)
Chennai-bred filmmaker Lokesh Kumar’s debut feature My Son is Gay highlights the dark reality of the community’s acceptance prevailing in our society. The Tamil indie is a story of a mother coming to terms with her son’s identity and sexuality. The subject is more relevant than ever before in light of the restoration of the archaic Sec 377, which criminalizes homosexuality.
8. Raakshas (Marathi)
Raakshas is an indie thriller that centers around a missing documentary filmmaker and his daughter’s quest to bring him back. The Marathi film’s script was selected for the prestigious Sundance Writer’s Lab. Dnyanesh Zoting, who wrote the Marathi film Half Ticket, will mark his directorial debut with Raakshas.
9. Side A Side B
Indie filmmaker Sudhish Kamath, who gave us the critically-acclaimed Good Night Good Morning (2010), will be back with a love story this year. Side A Side B explores the bittersweet heartache of first love through a 20-something couple who undertake a day-long train journey. The indie musical romance created enough buzz with its teaser, which was first released few months ago on Twitter. What’s unique about this musical is that it has its lead actors Rahul Rajkhowa and Shivranjani Singh perform live in the film.
10. Lipstick Under my Burkha
“Lipstick Under My Burkha chronicles the secret lives of four women in search of a little freedom. Though stifled and trapped in their worlds, these four women claim their desires through small acts of courage and stealthy rebellion.”
How often do we have narratives told from the point of view of women? Narratives that don’t conform to the usual, objectified portrayal of women in our cinema?
But our scorned Censor Board, who denied it a certificate last month, must ensure we don’t deviate from the norm. And while the film remains banned here, it has already won several awards at film festivals abroad. It will open the New York Indian Film Festival, the oldest Indian film festival in the US, next month.
Here’s hoping filmmaker Alankrita Srivastatva’s (who’s fighting the ban) film gets a release.
Since some of these films were already out there for viewing (through festivals and screenings) in 2016, they might overlap with our Best Indie Films of 2016 list.