The “pan-Indian film” refers to non-Hindi movies that are dubbed into Hindi. This reductive term ignores the subtitled film that has been crossing over languages and regions for several years.

Subtitles have made it possible for Indian viewers to watch films outside their own languages in cinemas or choose them on streaming platforms. This year, there were enough crossover productions to remind us of the immense talent across various language industries.

Here, in alphabetical order, are’s selection 2022’s most memorable releases in cinemas and on streaming platforms. Some of these movies showed us fresh ways to approach established genres, such as the romance or the legal drama. Others skilfully used the very tools of cinema to craft narratives that could not have experienced through any other medium.

Ariyippu (Malayalam)
Where to watch: Netflix
Mahesh Narayanan’s Ariyippu landed on Netflix after a festival run. Narayanan’s most independent-minded feature intelligently uses the coronavirus pandemic to explore the challenges faced by employees at a glove manufacturing factory.

Ariyippu (2022).

A leaked sex video is falsely attributed to a glove-maker, disrupting her marriage and her workplace equilibrium. Starring Kunchako Boban and Divya Prabha in the lead roles and backed by an eclectic ensemble cast, Ariyippu elevates a domestic drama into a larger examination of punishing labour practices.

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Darlings (Hindi)
Where to watch: Netflix
The year saw Alia Bhatt at her professional and personal peak. She starred in four of 2022’s most buzz-worthy films, got married and gave birth, co-produced her first film and appeared in her first international movie, all apparently without breaking into a sweat.

In Darlings, Bhatt is a good fit as a battered wife who teams up with her mother and her mother’s helper to teach her husband a lesson. Jasmeet K Reen’s assured directorial debut, co-written with Parveez Sheikh, brings a darkly comic touch to the hot-button issue of domestic abuse.

Darlings (2022).

The performances are excellent across the board (Vijay Varma is especially impressive as the odious husband), while Reen’s cinematic chops are evident from her pacing and staging.

Dostojee (Bengali)
Where to watch: Betaseries
Prasun Chatterjee’s sensitive directorial debut is about the fast friendship between Hindu and Muslim boys in a village near the Indo-Bangladesh border. The bond is damaged by communal violence and then gutted by a tragedy.

Dostojee (2022).

Tuhin Biswas’s cinematography is sharply attuned to the beauty of the countryside and the expressive performances by two first-time actors. Arif Shaikh, who plays Safikul, is especially affecting as the boy who struggles to wrap his young heart around his friend’s absence.

Gangubai Kathiawadi (Hindi)
Where to watch: Netflix
Before Darlings, Alia Bhatt commanded the screen in the February release Gangubai Kathiawadi. Bhatt is in top form as a brassy brothel madam in Mumbai’s red-light district. The film’s romanticised depiction of prostitution, while ignoring some of the more exploitative aspects of this industry, gave Bhatt arguably one of the best roles of her still-evolving career.

Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022).

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s period drama was one of the few films in the year that deserved a big-screen outing. Gangubai Kathiawadi is filmed with a precision that is increasingly missing from movies released in cinemas. For a change, the fabulous sets and eye-watering costumes don’t overwhelm. The music is seamlessly woven into the narrative. Every frame demands, and commands, concentration.

Gargi (Tamil)
Where to watch: SonyLIV
One of Indian cinema’s most talented actors is the chief draw of Gargi, written by Hariharan Raju and Gautham Ramachandran and directed by Ramachandran. The astonishing Sai Pallavi plays a school teacher who tumbles into a nightmare when her father is accused of rape.

Gargi (2022).

Faced with ostracism, Gargi teams up with a lawyer (Kaali Venkat) to save her father. Gargi overcomes its plotting drawbacks to craft a gripping account of a terrible crime. It always helps that the remarkably expressive Sai Pallavi is in nearly every scene.

Kadaisi Vivasayi (Tamil)
Where to watch: SonyLIV
Recent films about farming tend to be lachrymose affairs, focusing on rural debt and the spate of suicides among cultivators. Kaakka Muttai director M Manikandan’s Kadaisi Vivasayi goes beyond the typical depictions of subsistence farming.

Manikandan’s film, which he wrote, edited and shot, also reveals the native knowledge of cultivators, the community networks that sustain agriculture, and the social responsibility owed by government officials towards their rural constituents.

Kadaisi Vivasayi (2022).

The octogenarian farmer Mayandi is the only farmer left in his village. An unlettered man and hard of hearing, Mayandi gets embroiled in a Kafkaesque nightmare when he innocently buries three dead peacocks he finds in his field. Since the peacock is India’s national bird, the police file a case against Mayandi, which lands up in the courtroom of an empathetic magistrate.

Leisurely paced and filled with authentic details about rural life, Kadaisi Vivasayi is beautifully performed by non-professionals. Vijay Sethupathi, who distributed the film, and Yogi Babu are welcome additions to the cast.

Love Today (Tamil)
Where to watch: Netflix
Comali director Pradeep Ranganathan’s second feature is aimed at the generation that lives inside its smartphone. What might happen if lovers were forced to swap their phones for a day? Might they learn uncomfortable truths about each other by parsing their social media behaviour? Might they still be together at the end of the experiment?

Love Today (2022).

While the self-declared anti-Boomer comedy is suffused with Boomer-era values, Love Today inventively upgrades the romcom. Ranganathan, who stars alongside Ivana, finds inventive visual ways to express virtual moments. It’s nicely performed too, with an array of young actors playing relatable millennials alongside the more seasoned Radhika Sarathkumar and Sathyaraj.

Monica, O My Darling (Hindi)
Where to watch: Netflix
Vasan Bala’s third feature, adapted from an untranslated novel by Japanese trickster Keigo Higashino, is an enjoyably pulpy romp. Written by Yogesh Chandekar, Monica, O My Darling begins with a murder involving a robot and then moves onto sexual entanglements at the workplace, blackmail and more murders.

Monica, O My Darling (2022).

Who knew that moral malfeasance could be such fun? The twisted thriller boasts of a retro soundtrack, winning performances and one of 2022’s best lines: who on earth would want to sleep with somebody from the accounts department?

Natchathiram Nagargiradhu (Tamil)
Where to watch: Netflix
Pa Ranjith’s latest film boldly ventures into the treacherous zone where love, political ideology and art intersect. Natchathiram Nagargiradhu begins with a break-up over a caste slur. The lovers are members of a theatre group in Pondicherry. Their mutual tensions spill out during rehearsals, with the man’s commitment to artistic expression severely tested by his unacknowledged prejudice.

Natchathiram Nagargiradhu (2022).

The film has terrific turns by Dushana Vijayan in the lead role and Kalaiyarasan as an actor whose attitudes are challenged by the theatre group’s freewheeling members. When the outside world shatters this refuge of creativity, Ranjith’s skill at putting polemics on the screen are at their sharpest.

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Nna Thaan Case Kodu (Malayalam)
Where to watch: Disney+ Hotstar
So sue me, says the title of writer-director Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval’s delightful satire. Nna Thaan Case Kodu stars Kunchako Boban as a thief who has mended his ways. A mix-up lands Rajeevan in the cross-hairs of the police and the judicial system.

Rajeevan’s Quixotic quest to clear his name could have been the stuff of rip-roaring comedy. Instead, Poduval opts for a low-key drama that is stacked with quotidian details of small-town life and beautifully observed characters.

Nna Thaan Case Kodu (2022).

As Rajeevan’s battle goes all the way up to the highest levels of governance, every major and minor actor makes a mark. The scene-stealer is PP Kunhikrishnan as the magistrate who presides over a never-ending case. Kunhikrishnan’s death stares and mutterings to himself are a class act in a film with no shortage of rib-tickling scenes.

Pada (Malayalam)
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video
I.D. director Kamal KM’s drama powerfully subverts what the movies tell us about violent protest. In Pada, based on an actual incident, the heroes are the men who take a district collector hostage in order to force a repeal of a land bill that adversely affects Adivasis.

Pada (2022).

One-thirds of the gripping narrative is dedicated to the preparations for the raid on the collector. Another section is dedicated to the negotiations that follow the hostage-taking. By telling us what actually happened to the rebels, Pada reveals the strengths and limitations of extreme actions against an ultimately unassailable state machinery.

Ponniyin Selvan: I (Tamil)
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video
When Mani Ratnam pays attention, so do you. The first of Ratnam’s two-part adaptation of the Kalki Krishnamurthy novel Ponniyin Selvan is an epic drama that is grand in scale and intimate in its depiction of a simmering palace coup.

Ponniyin Selvan: I (2022).

Ratnam assembles an estimable cast for his gold-flecked portrait of the Chola empire in the tenth century. Ratnam dispenses with the swaggering machismo that has come to characterise such period dramas, instead focusing on delicate moments of beauty, bravado and thwarted love.

Every one of the actors and every member of the technical crew brings their A-game to the production. But this is indisputably a Mani Ratnam show all the way. The film flows smoothly from one scene to the next, rolling out sumptuous visuals, imperious nobles, cheeky courtiers and beautifully filmed songs along the way.

Also read:

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‘Ponniyin Selvan: I’ and beyond: When jewellery plays a starring role in the movies

‘A magic that touches you inside’: The ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ book that has inspired Mani Ratnam’s film

Puzhu (Malayalam)
Where to watch: SonyLIV
The venerable (and tireless) Mammootty rarely disappoints. Still, let’s take a moment to appreciate the rigour that this thespian brings to a character who is proudly casteist and deeply controlling of his only son.

Puzhu (2022).

Ratheena PT’s film has other strong performances too, including by Parvathy Thiruvothu and Appunni Sasi as an inter-caste couple. The movie dexterously reveals the manner in which caste underpins social behaviour and family ties in supposedly progressive Kerala. Mammootty depicts this reality with just the right mix of righteousness and malevolence.

Where to watch: Sun NXT.
Mithran R Jawahar’s Thiruchitrambalam is an object lesson in taking familiar elements – a dysfunctional family, a confused man, a woman who patiently waits for the man she desires – and presenting them as piping-hot fresh.

A food delivery worker lives with his widowed father and wise-cracking grandfather. Thiruchitrambalam, who shares his name with his grandfather, is in search of The One. Meanwhile, his childhood friend is the one he turns to at all times.

Thaai Kelavi, Thiruchitrambalam (2022).

The joy is in Jawahar’s layered script, the captivating performances by the leads as well as Prakash Raj and Bharathiraja, and the heartfelt exploration of the knotted feelings that family members have for each other. The exchanges between Thiruchitrambalam and his kin movingly demonstrate the importance of holding on and letting go.

Vikram (Tamil)
Where to watch: Disney+ Hotstar
Lokesh Kanagaraj’s second film in his “Lokesh Cinematic Universe” follows events in Kaithi (2019). Vikram also harks back to the 1986 film of the same name starring Kamal Haasan.

The new Vikram has a sensational cast, an adrenaline-fuelled narrative, and a pulsating score by Anirudh Ravichander. Kanagaraj brings vim and vigour to the routine story of a government officer chasing an unexplained death that is linked to a missing drug stash.

Vikram (2022).

Beautifully edited by Philomin Raj, Vikram is one long montage of cool. The film also has one of the most effective wedding sequences in the movies in 2022 (who needs a buffet when you have take-out pizza?)

Kamal Haasan, Fahadh Faasil and Vijay Sethupathi are the main players, but there are chunky moments too for the other actors, including Santhana Bharathi, Chemban Vinod Jose and Gayathrie Shankar. An action sequence performed by Vasanthi has a separate fan base.

Also read:

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