If you’re obsessed with murder, mysteries and thriller dramas that keep you on the edge of your seats, you’ve probably exhausted the best watches from Hollywood. If the language barrier doesn’t play a role in cinema that you enjoy, here are some of the best Indian films in this genre that I bet you’d definitely love.
1. Andhadhun : Language – Hindi
When it comes to crime and thrillers in Bollywood, there is no one better than Sriram Raghavan. From “Johnny Gaddar” to “Ek Hasina Thi” the filmmaker has managed to perfect the Indian thriller genre by borrowing stylistic elements from Alfred Hitchcock and the Coen brothers.
In his latest, “Andhadhun” (Reckless), Raghavan pulls off this tricky combination once again by giving us a slick mystery that lets the audience in on all the secrets and still keeps them at the edge of their seats. What is kept hidden are traits – foibles that make the characters who they are and what drive them towards their actions. As the film peels the layers of these actions, the story comes alive.
An official adaption of the French short film “The Piano Tuner”, “Andhadhun” is set in Pune, much like several of the director’s earlier films. Raghavan (who co-wrote the film with Pooja Ladha Surti, Arijit Biswas, Yogesh Chandekar and Hemanth Rao) gives us a protagonist who is blind, or at least appears to be. Akash (Ayushmann Khurrana) is a piano player who lost his sight as a teenager, but his handicap doesn’t hinder his music. One day, he meets restaurateur Sophie (Radhika Apte), who offers him a gig playing the piano for her patrons.
Akash takes it up, and one evening at the restaurant, he runs into Pramod Sinha (Anil Dhawan) a yesteryear Bollywood star who now runs a real estate business. Impressed by Akash’s skill with the piano, Sinha invites the musician to his residence for a private concert as a surprise for his much younger wife Simi (Tabu).
It’s difficult to say more without giving away spoilers, but suffice to say that from this point on, “Andhadhun” doesn’t let up. At times, especially as it hurtles towards the end, it seems to get too complicated, with more plot points and convolutions than necessary. It’s almost as if, having set up a great set-piece, Raghavan doesn’t know what to do with it. There are chase sequences, a disingenuous doctor, organ transplants and a rabbit eating cabbages – all of which form part of the story.
It might be complicated, but it’s great fun. And the cast seems to know it. Both Khurrana and Tabu are top-notch. Tabu seems to play the femme fatale better than anyone else in this industry – she is at once coy, then vulnerable and then ruthless, making this one of her most memorable roles. Khurrana is pitch perfect as Akash, playing him with the deadpan expression required for the film’s most inscrutable character. Even smaller players have space in this film. Ashwini Kalsekar as the fiery wife of the policeman investigating a murder is wonderful, as is Manav Vij, who plays her husband.
“Andhadhun” ticks all the right boxes. This one should be savoured.
You can watch this on Netflix and Jio Cinema .
2. Ratsasan : Language – Tamil
(This is one of my favourites)
It is about a serial killer who is on a killing spree, as school kids are his target. A smart young cop who has just joined the police force has to track him down, as his family becomes the killer’s target.
Raatchasan begins with a room full of such paper clippings, but the intention of its occupant, Arun (Vishnu Vishal), is not to find the dots between the different murders or something like that. He’s researching all these cases to make a crime film as authentically as possible, and selling the story idea to many prospective producers who turn it down citing various reasons. In a short while, he’s forced to forsake his tinseltown dreams and take up the job of a sub-inspector on compassionate grounds.
He’s at a low rank, one that sees him teaming up very often with his brother-in-law, who is also a policeman (Munishkanth, who is utilised well). But Arun is soon to jump into the thick of things — a spate of murders of schoolgirls rock the city, and he is right in the middle of them. Of course, he’ll also fall for Viji (Amala Paul) in some labourious romance sequences in the first half. We get a professor who is interested in things other than teaching, a senior cop who seems jealous of Arun’s progress in the case. There’s not much here to dig into, but director Ramkumar skillfully places clues to who we think might be behind the murders.
And then, in the second half, he turns what could have potentially ended up as your average thriller into a riveting one. Another death happens. Till now, the deaths were just “an important case” for Arun. Now, it has become personal.
There are a few logical loopholes in Raatchasan, but that is primarily because the director wants us to buy into the several coincidences in the film. That’s one of the primary issues — everything that happens mysteriously seems to have a connection with the hero. There’s little explanation to that, but if you do look beyond that, the film provides you some thrilling moments. Check out the last half hour or so that involves an intense cat-and-mouse game and a well-staged fight. Ramkumar gets most of it right, but he could have trimmed the film a little further to make it more gripping. But what he does get right is the characterisation of the mystery killer and the backstories. And that will be enough to keep you at the edge of your seat, glued to the big screen.
You can watch this on Sunnxt and MX Player.
3. Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru (D-16): Language – Tamil
It’s night. It’s raining. A mystery man steps out of a car. He’s outside a house. Inside, we see a man, a woman. They’re in an embrace. The man enters the house. A lifetime of movie-watching tells us that he is a psycho killer, that he’s going to leave behind a couple of corpses, and that the rest of the film – Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru – will detail the hunt for this man and the twisted reason for his crimes.
The first line of dialogue we hear is “Life can be unpredictable.” So can this film. When a cop tells a father his son is dead, we brace ourselves for the inevitable reaction shot. Shock! Rage! Grief! What we get, instead, is a shot of the poor, numbed man shuffling out of the police station – in other words, we go forward in time. But the soundtrack echoes his words that were uttered earlier, when he felt shock, rage, grief – in other words, the same stretch also takes us back in time.
There’s always something happening in the background – someone unloading a truck, someone looping a garden hose. Life goes on even as the investigation goes on. Most of our filmmakers think in terms of words. Karthick Naren thinks in terms of visuals. You can almost imagine these instructions in the script. At the end of the flashback, the camera hovers on the cop, and then it swoops down on him in the present day, one close-up giving way to another.
Of course, all this would be empty showboating without a good story fleshed out into a good script – that’s exactly what we get here. A couple of revelations are underwhelming, but I was so gripped by the goings-on that I didn’t care. Plus, the film keeps pulling rugs from under your feet. You cannot afford to care, not if you want to keep up.
An understated Rahman plays Deepak, a retired cop who is pulled into his last case by a man who wants to know what happened. This isn’t just a tiresome device to get the story going, the man isn’t just the human equivalent of a PLAY button. He’s one among many devices the film uses to parcel out its plot points. Sometimes we get footage from a video camera. Sometimes we get confessions. Sometimes we even get lies. I’m not sure it all adds up – I found myself more enthralled by the dizziness of the script than interested in how each jigsaw piece locks into place. Also, this is a cold film. I wished for a bit of warmth.
But I loved how the film breathed. The slow accumulation of detail isn’t just in the way the mystery comes into focus. It’s also in a cop realising he’s forgotten his cap in the house he was conducting an investigation in. Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru is, finally, a first-rate procedural that understands that it’s not just about a hit-and-run, an apparent suicide, an instance of blackmail, but also about hatred, love, anger. These existential undertones aren’t oversold, but they remind us that the acts we consider inhuman are born from the most basic human emotions.
You can watch this on Amazon Prime Video.
4. Drishyam : Language – Malayalam
Drishyam directed by Jithu Joseph made me think. There are no specific frames that made me do so, but the point that, as a complete package it definitely sets you on a cerebral journey.The movie is a thriller. However, in this movie you know who committed the crime and how. The elegance lies in the fact that irrespective of the said spoiler, the audience is kept on the edge of their seats. A taut storyline and flawless acting wins it for Drishyam.
While the first part prompts us to believe that Drishyam is another run-of-the-mill family entertainer, story picks up pace during the second half. A study trip that Georgekutty’s elder daughter attends changes the course of the movie.
The turn of events brings in many other characters. Georgekutty is at the center of action. The script and the storyline make the audience sympathize with him and the family. The common man sees himself in Georgekutty and identifies with his family and its trauma. Though I read quite a few reviews online which talked about the climax being unpredictable, a keen observer of the events on the screen could expect the climax. And, having said that, it’s not a flaw.
Drishyam leaves you with many questions. What is right? What is wrong? The relativity of truth obliterates the absolute truth. You tend to end up with the protagonist who did what is right for his family. You nod your head unknowingly in agreement. You tell yourself that you would have also done the same in those circumstances.
You can watch this on YouTube.
5. Evaru : Language – Telugu
This is a film which pushes you to keep up with the pace of the action, drama, and the conversations between the lead characters, because the devil lies in the details.
Everything beyond what is shown in the trailer is a spoiler for this film. So, brace yourself for a no-context review.
Sameera (Regina Cassandra) is found in a hotel room in Coonoor with a gun in hand alongside a dead body of police officer Ashok (Naveen Chandra). Hassled and in shock, she is paraded to the police station where she pleads innocence on the account of self-defence, as Ashok raped her. Enter Vikram Vasudev (Adivi Sesh) a cop who meets with Sameera to find out everything there is to find out, to help her case.
For someone who watched the film, The Invisible Guest, Evaru does have striking similarities. Although the characters, their backgrounds and the nativity has been moved around, the premise is pretty intact. However, as the team insists that it isn’t the same film, Evaru feels like a game of spot the difference – looks almost the same but not quite. In their defence, the movie would have excited and thrilled me a lot more if I had not foreseen the twists – which were many. Evaru keeps you guessing to a point of resignation up until the very end. Even when you are convinced that this is the last of the lot, there is always one more little twist that changes everything.
The first half of Evaru involves quite some banter. Despite flash cuts to Sameera’s narrative, one would have to follow the chatter closely to make any sense of what is happening. As the film’s concept goes, there are many narratives to keep track of and it will be worth the attention. You will have no idea who the bad guy is and that secret is guarded thoroughly.
The flippant sarcastic notes of the token corrupt police officer however, somehow felt out of place. Nihal Kodhaty as the troubled cancer patient turns some heads, he is a kid to watch out for. Props must be given to cinematographer Vamsi Patchipulusu for holding the audience’s intrigue. Uncomfortably tight close-ups really try to bring the emotion out especially as Sameera gets hounded for evidence after her rape. Meanwhile, Music Director Sricharan Pakala who seems to be Sesh’s go-to guy for thrillers, delivered. Although I could not shake off the feeling that there was some Kshanam hangover left in his background music. Venkat Ramji, the debut director now has quite a film under his belt.
If you are in for a twisty thriller, Evaru is your pick . Load up on the popcorn and maybe carry a notebook, because you will want to scrutinise every detail as you go.
You can watch this on Amazon Prime Video.
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