Movies or feature films came into existence highly for the purpose of entertainment. Movies can be considered as a technical adaptation of theater plays breathing new air into this ancient form of entertainment. However, in addition to a great mode of entertainment, the movies also evolved as an art with filmmakers experimenting with new themes. One such theme is Neo-Noir.
Well, the true form of art should depict every single emotion experienced by the humans. Even, the expertise of an artist is counted by the number of emotions that he or she can imitate art. As films developed into an art, the new themes including the dark themes such as neo-noir evolved in the world of cinema.
I agree to the fact that films must entertain and make us happy. However, I also agree to the fact that films are a medium that could take us into a fictional world delivering different experiences that actually is derived from the real world. Yet, in a country like India, where people enjoy dance and music or action in the films, audiences have hardly accepted neo-noir theme. It could also be the reason why neo-noir films are hardly made in India, despite having so many different film industries within our culturally blessed country.
Being said that, there were a few filmmakers, who stepped out of the line and tried to change the trend with some of the best neo-noir films. But, before we get on to the list, I believe that many of you would want to understand the meaning of neo-noir theme.
So, What is a Neo-Noir theme?
Neo-Noir is actually a modern adaptation of the film noir genre with new upgraded themes in terms of content, visual elements, style or media. Hence, the name Neo- Noir, that’s new Noir. The real translation is the New Black.
Noir films were basically dark-themed films produced during the 1940s to the late 1950s. The major themes used in this genre were female Fatales, doomed heroes, or anti-heroes, and tough, cynical detectives.
To understand it better, these films revolved around a plot that’s completely opposite to what conventional cinema offered. Basically, a film qualifies as a film noir genre, if the film contains these five elements; oneiric, strange, erotic, ambivalent, and cruel. The happy ending is what you would hardly find in this genre film.
Well, now that you are clear about the neo-noir theme, let’s check out the some of the top Indian neo-noir films.
Best Indian Neo-Noir Films of All Time
Manorama Six Feet Under
Manorama Six Feet Under is the first on our list. The film stars Abhay Deol in the lead role, along with Gul Panag and Raima Sen in supporting roles. Directed and co-written by Navdeep Singh, the film revolves around an interesting, but brutally confusing story about Manorama and her mysterious death. The rest of the film is about the investigation by Satyaveer, a failed writer, regarding the overall incident.
Aaranya Kaandam is an Indian Tamil film based on the neo-noir theme. Directed by Thiagarajan Kumararaja, the film also becomes the first neo-noir of the Tamil film industry. Aaranya Kaandam tells the story of a day in the lives of the six characters, played by Jackie Shroff, Ravi Krishna, Sampath Raj, Yasmin Ponnappa, Somasundaram, and Master Vasanth. The film involves a wild chase for a stash of cocaine that would change the lives of everyone involved either willingly or accidentally in the middle of the deal.
Munnariyuppu is an Indian Malayalam Language film starring Mammootty in the lead role. It’s an interesting film as you can see how tough it is to read people in real life. The film follows the life of a convict C.K. Raghavan, played by Mammootty, who is adamant that he was accused of false pretense. A journalist believes him and gets interested in C.K. Raghavan mainly because of his writing and view on the world. She decides to get him free and encourage him to write an autobiography with his unique take on the world. However, by the time, the autobiography is finished, there comes another twist in the tale.
Directed by Sriram Raghavan, Johnny Gaddar is a Hindi feature film starring Dharmendra, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Zakir Hussain, Rimi Sen, Vinay Pathak, Dayanand Shetty, and others. The film qualifies as a neo-noir Indian film because of its storyline that’s full of betrayal, plotting, and scheming throughout the film by a pseudonym Johnny G used by one of the central characters played by Neil Nitin Mukesh. It depicts a story involving greed and how it can end up in a disastrous scenario.
Loosely based on the short story Quitters, Inc. by the legendary Stephen King, No Smoking is an Indian neo-noir film starring John Abraham, Paresh Rawal, Ayesha Takia, and Ranvir Shorey in the important roles. As the title of the movie suggests, the film is about chain smoking and ailments related to it. This film also in the list of Mind Fucking Movies of all the time. Directed by Anurag Kashyap, the film narrates a story about a rehabilitation center called Prayogshala that plays with the minds of the addicts and uses fear to help them get rid of the addiction.
Baazi is a 1951 classic film starring Dev Anand in the lead role. The film is about a gambler, who falls into the trap of a cunning businessman and gets involved in a murder incident. Directed by Guru Dutt, the film tells us about the story of a young man and how he gets into the world of gambling owing to the hardships he faces in life.
Woh Kaun Thi
Are you afraid of ghosts? If yes, then imagine you have to live with one. Yes, that’s the concept of Woh Kaun Thi, starring Manoj Kumar and Sadhana in the lead roles. The film revolves around Dr. Anand, played by Manoj Kumar, who believes that his wife, played by Sadhana, is a ghost. The rest of the film is about how the mystery is solved eventually at the end with a surprising twist.
Well, not so popular in terms of success, yet 99 truly deserves to be on the list, owing to its plot. The film stars Kunal Khemu, Soha Ali Khan, Boman Irani, and Vinod Khanna in the lead roles. 99 is based on original facts and is set around the India-South Africa Cricket betting scandal in 1999. The film follows the story of two men from different cities, who feel that they always get stuck at 99 and couldn’t score a century. In short, they believe that all their hard work and efforts go in vain right when they are about to reach the target.
Another film on our list is Ishqiya. The movie is best known for its dark theme apart from the brilliant performance by Vidya Balan, Naseeruddin Shah, and Arshad Warsi. Directed by Abhishek Chaubey, the film is a black comedy that revolves around a revenge plot by the character portrayed by Vidya Balan with the help of Khalujan and Babban, two criminals played by Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi respectively.
Directed by Vishal Bharadwaj, Kaminey is a thriller film that tells us the story about two twin brothers, one with a stutter and the other with a lisp, both played by Shahid Kapoor. The film basically shows the rivalry between the two brothers involved directly or indirectly with the Mumbai Underworld. The film also stars Priyanka Chopra and Amol Gupte in important roles. The film received accolades from all over the country and it enjoys a cult status even today.
Raman Raghav 2.0
Based on the real-life notorious serial killer Raman Raghav, the film Raman Raghav 2.0 stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the psycho serial killer Raman, while Vicky Kaushal plays the cop Raghav. Directed by Anurag Kashyap, the film displays cruelty in the wild form with brutal killings by Nawaz’s character to show the mental state of the antagonist.
Well, there have been hundreds of revenge-themed films made in Bollywood but none could come close to the brutality or cruelty of Badlapur. Varun Dhawan is seen coming out of his shell with this film, portraying a mature but aggressive and violent role as Raghu. The film follows the story of Raghu’s violent rage against Liak, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who is responsible for the death of Raghu’s wife Misha and his son Robin. While on his violent rampage, Raghu doesn’t follow any moral compass, but becomes more brutal, which makes us wonder whether who’s the real antagonist in the film.
Based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Maqbool is directed by Vishal Bharadwaj. The film stars Irrfan Khan and Tabu in the lead roles, whereas the supporting cast includes a talent pool of Pankaj Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah, and Om Puri. The storyline of the film is same as the play with some changes to suit the Indian audiences. It’s a must watch film for some of the best performances and brilliant direction.
Being Cyrus is an English language Indian film starring Saif Ali Khan, Naseeruddin Shah and Dimple Kapadia in the lead roles. The film follows the story of Sethna family, a Parsi family living in Panchgani as well as Cyrus Mistry, played by Saif Ali Khan, who visits their house to become the apprentice of Dinshaw, the retired sculptor and the elder son of the Sethna family. However, there’s a dark twist about Cyrus that unveils as you watch the film.
Ek Haseena Thi
Here’s another revenge story that fits rightly into our list of best Indian neo-noir films. Directed by Sriram Raghavan, Ek Haseena Thi is a revenge film starring Urmila Matondkar and Saif Ali Khan in the lead roles. The film follows the life of Sarika Mathur, played by Urmila Matondkar, who ends up on the wrong side of the crime when she is caught with illegal arms. She ends up in the brutal jail life and becomes a completely different person whose only aim in life is to get revenge against her boyfriend Karan, who was the real mastermind behind the arms deal and the main culprit who betrays her to save himself. The rest of the film shows the way she gets her final revenge.
Upendra is a Kannada film that will keep you glued on to your seats throughout the film. Well, it may not attract the modern day youth, but you should watch the film for the way it narrates the story as well as tries to give an important life lesson for all.