J Hurtado's 12 Favorite Indian Films of 2016

Associate Editor; Dallas, Texas (@HatefulJosh)
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2016 was a great year at the movies.

The world of cinema has provided a tremendous amount of joy for which we should feel grateful. While that could apply to the world at large, it especially applies to the cinema of India, for whom 2016 was a banner year for tremendous cinema. Unfortunately for most, these films have largely gone unnoticed outside of the subcontinent, but if you're wondering what exactly you have to look forward to in catching up with this year, I'm here to help.

Not only was this the most remarkable year for Indian cinema since 2012 (Gangs of Wasseypur, Miss Lovely, Aadukalam, Eega), but it's also the year that the world was brought a bit closer to Indian cinema through worldwide online streaming portals, especially Netflix. In fact, many of the top films on my list became available on Netflix in 2016, and I'll mention those as they appear. But enough wrap-up, let's get on with the specifics, my 12 favorite Indian films of 2016.

While the rest of the films on my list are in no particular order, Sairat is a clear number one for me. Director Nagraj Manjule appeared on my 2014 list with his last film, Fandry, he's back again and this time with an even stronger effort. This incredibly bold film is a masterpiece from start to finish. A story of caste politics and star-crossed lovers, Sairat transcends the boundary between popular and art house film in a way that is bound to leave you gasping for breath by the end.

I reviewed the film as it toured the US back in June:

Everything about Sairat is exceptional. In fact, if I didn't know better, I would say that Manjule only made this film to show Bollywood what a piss poor job they've been doing all of these years. Manjule challenges the audience at every turn to accept his demands of them. Follow me here, deal with this abrupt tone change, look into the life you wished for, is it everything you wanted?

At every turn, Manjule takes the audience's expectations and demands and gives them what they want without caring about how they want it. It's amazingly bold and confident filmmaking that should make every other filmmaker nervous and inspired at the same time. Manjule knows what the audience wants and he knows exactly how to deliver it, but he also knows what the audience needs, and that's what he's determined to deliver.

Sairat is astonishing filmmaking, from the joyous opening frames all the way through to the breathtaking conclusion. You will never see it coming, but you'll also never forget it, and that's the sign of a true classic.

Both Fandry and Sairat are available on Netflix worldwide

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ZetobeltJanuary 2, 2017 1:08 PM

Thank you for making this list, Josh. We need more non-US-centered lists.

J HurtadoJanuary 2, 2017 3:41 PM

Thanks! Pretty sure we have another couple of regional lists coming up

Aditya KripalaniJanuary 24, 2017 2:31 AM

Beautiful list and beautiful descriptions of the films therein. Thanks to commercial media in India one doesn't even sometimes realize that it's been a great year in general for genuinely good filmmaking. 🙏🏻