Apart from Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions, 2021 is also notable for being the year that saw the Hindi film industry struggle to hold the limelight. From cinema theatres being shut for several months in Maharashtra to smaller films going to OTT, barely any Hindi film could see the kind of success it would in pre-pandemic times.
However, it wasn’t all bad. Akshay Kumar‘s Sooryavanshi brought the audience back to cinema halls and the last two months of the year saw back-to-back releases in theatres. OTT platforms, meanwhile, churned out a lot of Hindi content through the year. From Abhishek Bachchan‘s Bob Biswas to Kartik Aaryan‘s Dhamaka, streaming platforms were filled with big stars as well as smaller ones.
Silverscreen India brings you this list of Hindi films from 2021, complied in no particular order, which stood out from the rest.
An OTT release, Kagaaz starring Pankaj Tripathi was considered one of the best works of writer-director Satish Kaushik. The biographical film tells the story of a man who spends two decades of his life trying to prove that he is not dead, on paper. While the filmmaker may not have intended to, the narrative reflected some key issues of recent times like the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC). If nothing else, Tripathi surely keeps you hooked through the film.
Kagaaz is currently streaming on ZEE5.
Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi
One of the first films to release in 2021, Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi features a behemoth of an ensemble, including Naseeruddin Shah, Vinay Pathak, Konkona Sen Sharma, Vikrant Massey, and Supriya Pathak, among others. The film debuted at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival and arrived on Netflix in March this year. While it comes off as one of those stereotypical family-centric narratives, it managed to get good reviews. The story revolves around the Bhargava family that comes together for 13 days to perform the ‘tehrvi’ function after the head of the family (Shah) passes away.
Another OTT film, Pagglait may be on similar lines as our previous choice, but Sanya Malhotra as Sandhya did a smashing job in it to demolish the narratives of the patriarchy. The film takes a deeper and more satirical look at how grief is dealt with. After Sandhya’s husband of five months dies, she finds it difficult to mourn or even cry. As the story progresses, we are introduced to what loveless relationships look like.
Pagglait is streaming on Netflix.
If there was one Hindi film that single-handedly brought audiences back to theatres in 2021, it was this Akshay Kumar-starrer. The film became the actor’s biggest opener by collecting Rs 77 crore in its first weekend. Before making its way to a streaming platform, Sooryavanshi minted over Rs 200 crore.
Be it Kumar’s massy dialogues and car-smashing fights, or the cameo of Ranveer Sigh and Ajay Devgn from director Rohit Shetty‘s cop universe, Sooryavanshi charmed the audience on several levels and became a mass favourite.
Sooryavashi is currently streaming on Netflix.
Karan Johar may not have sat on the director’s chair for a while, but the filmmaker sure knows how to pick good stories. While Shershaah may not be a brilliant film cinematically, it does justice to the life of late Kargil War veteran Captain Vikram Batra (played by Sidharth Malhotra), who was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra. Malhotra shines in the role and director Vishnuvardhan manages to keep the audience hooked with his location choices and sentimental tone.
Shershaah was released on Amazon Prime Video on August 12 and has become the highest-rated Hindi film on IMDb, where it currently holds a rating of 8.9 out of 10.
Ramin Bahrani’s The White Tiger, based on Arvind Adiga’s novel of the same name, turned out to be one of the most watched and talked about films of the year. While actor Adarsh Gourav shone in this one, Priyanka Chopra and Rajkummar Rao also played significant parts in the film. The main plot revolves around the rise of Gourav’s Balram Halwai from a poor driver of a rich family to a successful entrepreneur.
The White Tiger, which is currently streaming on Netflix, also bagged several prestigious awards globally.
In a year that saw releases from the likes of Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar, this film managed to stand out by not falling prey to the stereotypical narratives of Hindi cinema. Directed by Dibakar Banerjee, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar had a very short run at the theatres but got a lot of hype after its OTT premiere. The film features Arjun Kapoor as a suspended cop and Parineeti Chopra as a successful banker. The pair stumbles upon each other and what follows is a beautiful, non-cliched story.
Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Maybe 2021 did not start with a bang, but it sure is ending with one. The much-awaited sports film, featuring Ranveer Singh as Kapil Dev, succeeded in creating much hype and has opened to rave reviews. What better way to capture the hearts of Indians than through cricket? Although it was delayed for a long time, director Kabir Khan secured the coveted Christmas spot for his film on India’s World Cup win in 1983. If the content strikes a chord with the audience, 83 may even beat Sooryavanshi at the box office.