J Hurtado's 14 Favorite Indian Films of 2018
Another year of amazing cinema has just wrapped up and as we look forward to whatever greatness 2019 will undoubtedly bring, it's nice ot recognize those films that made 2018 stand out as one of the most interesting and fruitful years in a long time.
I already submitted my overall list of favorite films from 2018, a list which included a couple of Indian films, but this time around I'm focusing on my home away from home to shed a little light on an often ignored corner of the cinematic world. This year I made another journey to India to attend the fabulous MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, and that trip yieldeda handful of the favorites on this list. The rest were selected from regular cinema trips to see films released in the US as well as festival screenings. It's an eclectic list comprised of plenty of genre faves alongside more serious festival films with a few mainstream blockbusters thrown in for good measure.
This year sees four languages represented, a bit fewer than usual, but the representation was strong in these industries in 2018. Enough of the vamping, let's get down to my top thirteen Indian films of the year!
Dir: Lijo Jose Pellissery
This film marks three in a row for Malayalam director Lijo Jose Pellissery, whose Double Barrel (2015) and Angamaly Diaries (2017) previously made it to my favorites lists in their respective years. Those films were more action and crime oriented, but both showed a mastery of controlled chaos that has become Pellissery's trademark. Ee.Ma.Yau. is a pitch black comedy that explores the lives of a rural Christian family in coastal Kerala as they attempt to put on the grandest funeral anyone has ever seen. There to see the ceremony through to its end is Eeshi (Chemban Vinod Jose, writer of Angamaly Diaries), his friend Ayyappan (Vinayakan, star of Kammatipaadam), and Fr. Zachariah Parappurath (Dileesh Pothan, director of Thonidmuthalam Driksakshiyum), each of whom is embroiled in his own private whirlwind of chaos attempting to make this funeral the event to end all funerals.
Reminiscent of the great ensemble madness of Robert Altman, Pellissery's direction and staging of this magnificent beast of a funeral is impeccable. I tend not to rank films on lists like these, but if I had to, Ee.Ma.Yau would be number one with a bullet. This is one of those masterpieces that is likely to go almost entirely unappreciated by the world outside of the Indian subcontinent and various diasporic communities simply because it had no publicity and no distribution outside of a captive audience of ex-pats. Hell, I don't even know if or when it'll make its way to home video or streaming services, but it is most definitely the kind of film that deserved more exposure than it got.