For the third straight year in a row, streaming platforms continued to provide alternatives for viewers wanting to watch films from the comfort of their homes. We look at some of this year’s Hindi digital releases that were the best of the bunch, taking us from the chawls of Mumbai to the colourful lanes of Goa. (Also read: Best movie songs of 2022: Brahmastra’s Kesariya to RRR’s Naacho Naacho and Gangubai Kathiawadi’s Shikayat)
Monica, O My Darling (Netflix)
Ambition and murder clash in an entertaining manner in Vasan Bala’s Monica, O My Darling. Adapted from Keigo Higashino’s novel Burutasu No Shinzou, the Hindi film revolves around the employees of a robotics company involved in nefarious schemes. Jayant Arkhedkar (Rajkummar Rao) has the most to lose, balancing an affair with secretary Monica (Huma Qureshi), while romancing the owner’s daughter on the side. He somehow gets roped in a simple murder proposal that leads to his fellow schemers being offed one by one. The film’s soundtrack by Achint Thakkar is an absolute pleasure, complete with a cabaret song to kick off the feature. But it’s the film’s neo noir tone, complete with homages to the past of Indian cinema, that elevates Monica, O My Darling into a pulpy watch that you’ll want to recommend to friends and family.
Layered into the story of Darlings is the fable of the frog and the scorpion, a lesson on trust and inherent wickedness. It is also the story of an abusive marriage between Badru (Alia Bhatt) and Hamza (Vijay Varma) in which the power rests in the hands of the husband. Until it doesn’t. A reinvigorated Badru, with help from her mother Shamshu (Shefali Shah), teaches her husband a lesson. The exchanges between mother and daughter, thanks to its witty dialogues, are the highlight of the film. Jasmeet K Reen’s directorial debut, which also marks Alia’s debut as producer, is both dark and delightful, especially with its karmic ending.
Gehraiyaan (Prime Video)
Infidelity and family secrets surface lead to unsettling revelations in Shakun Batra’s Gehraiyaan. Cousins Alisha (Deepika Padukone) and Tia (Ananya Panday) reunite after eight years, reconnecting with each other’s partners as well. Tia’s fiancé Zain (Siddhant Chaturvedi) and Alisha embark on an ill-advised affair which has long-term effects on them all. The Hindi drama both shocks and awes with its emotional depth, even as it immerses viewers into the lives of the rich and fancy. But the heart of Gehraiyaan is Deepika’s Alisha who is scrubbed raw and emerged healed at the end of it, hopefully. Naseeruddin Shah especially stands out with his understated portrayal of Alisha’s estranged father.
Jalsa (Prime Video)
A hit-and-run accident has lasting consequences on two women whose lives are already entwined. Suresh Triveni’s thriller, Jalsa, follows a journalist Maya (Vidya Balan) who has to wrestle with her own conscience after a sudden lapse. Jalsa explores the lives of two different mothers, of opposite classes, who want nothing more than to see their children happy. Money and guilt go hand-in-hand as police try to discover the culprit behind the incident. With intense performances from its leads, Vidya and Shefali Shah as Maya’s maid Ruksana, Jalsa keeps you on tenterhooks throughout. Veteran actor Rohini Hattangadi also shines as Maya’s supportive mother.
Looop Lapeta (Netflix)
The time-travel saga, Looop Lapeta, is the official remake of the 1998 German film Run Lola Run, but has deviated from the original to blend into its Indian surroundings, now in Goa. Bending time over and over again, the film features Taapsee Pannu as a former athlete Savi, trying to save the life of her hapless boyfriend Satyajeet (Tahir Raj Bhasin) after he squanders ₹50 lakh belonging to his mobster boss. With additional sub-plots of an unhappy bride-to-be, Savi’s father, and an unsuspecting jeweller about to be robbed by his own sons, Aakash Bhatia’s film debut is both inventive and engaging.