CE Year in Review 2022: Best Films from Hindi Cinema

Here, in no particular order, are the memorable Bollywood films from 2022
CE Year in Review 2022: Best Films from Hindi Cinema

Hindi cinema had a few bright spots in a largely underwhelming movie year. The same was true of 2021. Indeed, with each passing year, it’s becoming harder and harder to make these lists. They’ve become an exercise in optimism and clemency. They really shouldn’t be – movies should be celebrated; not tolerated and excused like an underperforming school child.

There were three to four legitimate blockbusters this year – none of which have made this list. If you liked those movies, we respect your opinions while reserving our right to subjective assessment. The following list has been arranged out of order and does not represent rankings.


"Do you want maal, ganja?" someone asks Amitabh Bachchan. This delightfully inappropriate scene kicks off the party in Nagraj Manjule's propulsive and irreverent Hindi feature debut. A story of slum kids who find a purpose around the field, Jhund surprises with how much entertainment value it packs under the hood. Nagraj, who directed the acclaimed Marathi films Fandry and Sairat, is known for his urgent narratives examining caste prejudice. But his real signature is a cheeky deconstruction of genre rules. And this, naturally, extends to his star. Take the scene where the kids ask coach Bachchan if he drinks. "I've quit," he replies, as in real life. Jhund doesn't just ride the Bachchan name tag. It gets him to loosen up and be open and honest on screen. 

Badhaai Do

‘Lavender weddings’ - that is, the concept that a gay man and a lesbian woman marry each other, while keeping their actual orientations secret - are a sticking point in contemporary queer discourse. In this age of pride and rightful self-assertion, they don't exactly hoist the rainbow at full mast. They are, at best, a convenience, a compromise. Which is why people had doubts about Badhaai Do, a Bollywood comedy that appeared, at first glance, to push and popularize the idea of lavender marriages. Not quite - if you've actually seen the film. Harshavardhan Kulkarni's film is marvelously aware of the minute indignities of leading a dual life. It's a witty, observant and ultimately uplifting film about identity and acceptance. And Shardul (Rajkummar Rao) is a sweet subversion of the macho Indian movie cop. 


Darlings is how all movies should be: technically sound, emotionally resonant, driven by language and flavour and great characters. It’s the bare minimum one can expect out of a modern cinematic enterprise, and it’s embarrassing how many films struggle to make the grade. First-time producer Alia Bhatt stars as Badrunissa Shaikh, a Muslim housewife who snaps out of an abusive marriage and visits giddy revenge on her husband (Vijay Varma). Both leads are great, but it’s the supporting actors who really make the show: Shefali Shah, Roshan Mathew, Rajesh Tiwari, Vijay Maurya, Kiran Karmakar. Darlings offers evidence that, though Hindi cinema is going through a dry spell, it’s not for a lack of human resource.

Monica, O My Darling

Vasan Bala makes movies about the love of movies. It is an old tradition, and it’s got many names: tribute, pastiche, spoof, postmodernism. Bala’s brilliance is in how nonchalantly he occupies a humble middle ground, simultaneously sincere, sardonic and smart-alecky. Monica, O My Darling — equal parts murder mystery and an entertaining romp through 60s Bollywood thriller staples — further advances his brand. When his characters need to plot a murder, for example, they obviously meet at Hotel 'Prince Amar' in Khandala—for that’s the name of Dev Anand’s elusive double in Jewel Thief. And the scene then unexpectedly plunges to darkness, since it accentuates the menace in Sikandar Kher’s falcon eyes.

Love Hostel

What keeps a film from becoming truly great? It’s a question most of us have pondered throughout the year. Shanker Raman’s Love Hostel — about a sadistic hitman on the hunt for a runaway interreligious couple — has all the makings of a noir classic. It's got Bobby Deol at his feral best, bridging the difference between Robert Mitchum and a heavily Haryanvi Anton Chigurh. It has an excellent shootout sequence featuring Vikrant Massey in a hotel room. Yet the film sputters and stalls. The rush fades off. I blame the simplistic writing and a very Bollywood need to explain its monsters.

Chup: Revenge of the Artist

I was impatient after a while with the endless satirizing in Chup: Revenge of the Artist. R Balki’s film — on a serial killer bumping off film critics in Mumbai — seemed to want it both ways: sympathizing with the obscure artist while extolling the virtues of brave and unbiased criticism. What kept me watching, regardless, was the performance of Sunny Deol. Known for playing angsty hotheads on screen, Sunny sustains his general explosiveness on a slow simmer. Stroking his chin, scratching his beard, he solved crimes diligently instead of grabbing people by the neck. It’s a fun teasing act — and it pays off wonderfully towards the climax.

Sharmaji Namkeen

The last film to feature the actor, Sharmaji Namkeen was a hearty, foodie send-off to Rishi Kapoor. Along with Habib Faisal’s Do Dooni Chaar, it’s the film to watch to really appreciate late-career Kapoor. The late actor tinkers and toys in a tiny Delhi kitchen, smiling and shaking his hips. The veteran performer looks adorable as he — like a knowing parent stuffing lauki in bread pakodas — sneaks in the pathos. Just watch his Brij Gopal Sharma as he nods off in the middle of the day, in an empty house. His phone pings as he wakes up abruptly, rubbing his eyes. He’s an old man coming to terms with retirement, with loneliness and a lack of activity and enterprise. Beautiful stuff from an actor who kept working through his cancer years.

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