The year 2021 has been an emotional rollercoaster for the entire world. We had to deal with a more deadly COVID outbreak in India. People were isolated in their homes for months due to the lockdown, which apparently had an adverse effect on their mental health. For many, movies became their only companions.
Almost half of the year was spent with the theatre closed due to lockdown. Despite the obstacles, art found its way. OTT platforms are to thank for this. In 2021 we saw some incredible stories told in cinema. All through this year, a great number of movies across many languages have been released.
With 2021 coming to a close, we are here listing our picks for the 10 best Indian films of the year. Our team at Moviemashup watched more than 70 Indian movies in 2021. It includes movies in different languages like Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, Oriya, Marathi and Kannada. We didn’t get a chance to watch movies in languages like Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Assamese etc.
1. Joji (Malayalam) – Directed by Dileesh Pothan, Written by Syam Pushkara
Joji, inspired by Macbeth, depicts the story of a family in which everyone wants the family’s head to die. Power, greed, and ambition are important themes in the film. The majority of the movie takes place in a house. They did an excellent job of incorporating the Covid period into the narratives. Fahad Fasil, who is unpredictable, will keep you guessing throughout the movie. Joji is without a doubt the best film of 2021. The film effectively creates a tense atmosphere with dark humour and subtlety.
2. The Disciple (Marathi) – Written and Directed by Chaitanya Tamhane
Sharad Nerulkar has devoted his life to become a vocalist in Indian classical music, adhering to the traditions and discipline of previous masters, his mentor, and his father. But as years go by, Sharad starts to wonder whether it’s really possible to achieve the excellence he’s striving for. The Disciple talks about an artist’s search for answers in the modern world. There will be many simple ways out in your path, but walking straight without getting diverted in this material world is quite difficult. It’s almost like visual poetry, incredibly intimate and introspective.
3. Karnan ( Tamil) – Written and Directed by Mari Selvaraj
People of Podiyankulam village are constantly denied a bus stop thanks to caste politics. Things get messy when Karnan and his friends vandalise a bus for not helping a pregnant lady. Many compelling films have recently been made that discuss caste-based inequality and police brutality. What distinguishes Karnan is its cinematic language. It masterfully blends truth and fantasy, giving it the feel of an epic tale. From animals to bus stops to swords to headless idols, each and every aspect depicted in the film is a crucial component of the story. Karnan is a metaphor-heavy film with a lot of parallels.
4. Meel Patthar (Hindi) – Written and Directed by Ivan Ayr
As soon as veteran driver Ghalib’s truck touches the 500,000 kilometers mark, a record at his company, he is struck by a sudden pain in his back. As Ghalib struggles with this ache, an existential threat begins to overwhelm him when he is asked to train a young new driver. It portrays a person’s life journey. A moving film where silence speaks louder than the words. Through the story of a grieving truck driver, the film presents a gloomy portrayal of alienation. Truly a milestone (Meel Pathar) in Indian cinema.
5. Nayattu (Malayalam) – Directed by Martin Prakkat, Written by Shahi Kabir
Three police officers who are on a run for life, escaping the outbreak against them due to the unlawful arrest and torture of a civilian. The film depicts caste politics in a realistic manner. It’s a sociopolitical thriller that leaves you choked up at the conclusion. You were left with nothing but helplessness.
6. Sardar Udham (Hindi) – Directed by Shoojit Sircar, Written by Shubhendu Bhattacharya and Ritesh Shah
It’s not the story of how Udham Singh killed Michael O’Dwyer, it’s about how the Jallianwala Bagh massacre so affected Udham Singh’s young mind that he endures grief even 20 years after the incident and In the end he takes revenge. Sardar Udham is not your usual espionage thriller. The treatment is dramatic but underlying. This is very rare for a Hindi movie to carry such cinematic language. One of the most important aspects of the movie is, it’s pacing. The way the pacing is controlled in the movie is really interesting. It is a well crafted film with a unique take on the biographical genre.
7. Kalira Atita (Odia) – Written and Directed by Nila Madhav Panda
When Gunu, a mentally challenged man returns to his coastal village. He found only ashes of his village left because it has submerged in the sea due to climate change. Due to his mental condition he couldn’t cope up with reality. In the hopes of seeing his family, he stays there alone. The helplessness of man against the force of nature is the subject of the film. The environmental aesthetics are well presented. It has a surreal and hunting feel to it. It is not fair to limit this film to climate change only. We think it also talks about the identity crisis and the fear of extinction.
8. Drishyam 2 (Malayalam) – Written and Directed by Jeethu Joseph
When we first heard about the sequel. We all became very sceptical about it. Nothing happens in the first two hours of the film and then the last act begins. The reveal in the final act will drive you crazy. Geroge Kutty became a sensation again with the release of Drishyam 2. One of the most satisfying suspense thrillers we have seen this year. A worthy successor to the first instalment.
9. 83 (Hindi) – Directed by Kabir Khan, Written by Kabir Khan, Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan and Vasan Bala
The 83 Cricket World Cup is one of the most illustrious sporting events in Indian history. Winning the World Cup as an underdog by defeating world giants like the West Indies and England is a truly remarkable accomplishment. It’s surreal to see that era play out on the silver screen.The film 83 is a love letter to those legends, to that era, and to India. 83 is not a story, it is a mosaic. With all the heavy drama, music, emotions, and celebrations, it is Indian cinema in all its magnificence.
10. Cinema Bandi (Telugu) – Directed by Praveen Kandregula, Written by Vasanth Maringanti
When a driver finds an expensive camera in the back seat of his rickshaw, he comes up with a ridiculously ambitious plan to gather the village and make a film – a ticket to get their drought-hit village out of its dreary conditions. Everyone is a filmmaker by heart. This light hearted comedy film beautifully showcases the passion of filmmaking. An ode to filmmakers across the world.
These are our picks for the ten best Indian movies of 2021. It is a special year for Indian cinema especially for regional films. Regional films have broken the language barrier and expanded their reach. Next year, We hope to see some of the amazing stories unfold on the silver screen. Thank you for reading. Wish everyone a Happy New Year. What do you think of it? What are your favourite films from 2021?