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10 Best Hindi Suspense Movies of the 21st Century

January 16, 2018
9 min read

In an age where our lives are enmeshed in the mundane routine, every person needs some blood pumping adrenaline. Well, what better way to push the limits than a brilliant suspense or mystery movie? The “suspense mystery” genre hasn’t been ventured to quite an extent. Although murder mysteries have continually seen the artistic adaptation, Bollywood still has to speculate a classic suspense or mystery thriller. For this list, I have taken in account suspense and mystery movies which have breathed a fresh air into our wonderful world of Hindi cinema. I have not considered “murder mysteries”, as they have a list of their own.

These films have the capability to make us calculate, scheme and guess the next move of the story. With a crisp direction and taut screenplay, combined with the performances of actors and musicians, these films have seeped in through the nerves of our critical thinking mind. So, here’s the list of top Hindi suspense thriller and mystery movies.

10. Being Cyrus (2006)

Helmed on by debutant director Homi Adajania, ‘Being Cyrus’ is subtle analysis on the concept of a dysfunctional family. A classic black comedy, the film employs suspense and mystery from the clever narrative and use of characters. Set around a dysfunctional Pasri family, viewers are introduced to the protagonist Cyrus Mistry, essayed by Saif Ali Khan. Used as a device to carry out horrible deeds on fellow family members, Khan’s character is employed to provide a peek view into the dark corners of a disturbed mind. While the flick is not an archetypical suspense thriller or a mystery thriller, ‘Being Cyrus’ uses these two genres quite subtly. A Collaboration between Kersi Khambatta, who came up with the story and director/writer Homi Adajania, the film brilliantly takes a leap into the deep junctions of the human mind.

9. NH10 (2015)

Creating a nightmarish experience for viewers, ‘NH10’ portrays the rising crimes of honour killing in India.  A Navdeep Singh directorial venture, the film builds up nerve tingling suspense. Almost a survival thriller, the flick introduces us to the lovely couple, Meera and Arjun, who plan a weekend retreat. However, things turn from merry-adoration to head-banging horror when they run into a dangerous gang with perilous intentions. Considered as one of the most violent films of this decade, ‘NH10’ created an essence of helplessness and hopelessness. Singh’s second project after the brilliant ‘Manorama Six Feet Under’ (2007), the film is comprehensively crafted which is spearheaded by the performance of leads Anushka Sharma, Neil Bhoopalam and Darshan Kumar. ‘NH10’ creates mystery through involving the audience with its horror, a horror of being defenceless.

8. Apaharan (2005)

Set in the booming kidnapping industry of Bihar, the film follows the challenging and complex father-son relationship between Professor Raghuvansh Shastri and Ajay Shastri. Directed by Prakash Jha, the narrative is knit through the murky Bihar politics and the hegemony of the mafia structure.

Starring Ajay Devgn, Bipasha Basu, Nana Patekar and Mohan Agashe; the film boasts of an adroit screenplay, written by Manoj Tyagi and Shridhar Raghavan. The writing sets the pace of the film, which slowly develops themes of family, trust, loyalty and deception. However, what forms the themes is the gradual progress of suspense and mystery. With a strong performance by henchman Tabrez Alam, essayed by Nana Patekar, and a winning performance by Ajay Shastri’s Ajay Devgn, the film is a well-crafted product of Prakash Jha.

7. Aamir (2008)

‘Aamir’ put a frightening scrutiny on every single individual with its story of a doctor, played by Rajeev Khandelwal, who upon returning to Mumbai from London is forced to participate in a terrorist coup by Islamic extremists who want to carry out a bombing in the city. Directed by Raj Kumar Gupta, the idea was adapted from a Filipino-American thriller film, ‘Cavite’ (2005), and used it as pedestal to pen a gripping script with a kernel of gritty realism and psychological symbolism.

It portrayed the terrifying reach of terrorism and the helplessness it can sprout inside every soul, which won over the audience and critics.  Amalgamating the genre of “terrorism” and “suspense thriller”, we see the titular character caught up in the murkiness of the terror underworld of Mumbai.  The director took an intricate look at the psychological drain of Aamir and played on this phenomenon. Engaging the viewers with a realistic experience, ‘Aaamr’ is certainly a must watch for all suspense and thriller fanatics.

6. Shaitan (2011)

‘Shaitan’, as the title suggests, is a look into the inner demon which engulfs the society in its own dark reality. Bringing a tinge Kashyap’s cinematic style, director Bejoy Nambiar weaves a story of five friends, entangled in substance abuse, who decide to fake a kidnapping in order to bribe a police constable for covering-up a hit-and-run accident.

The 2011 crime thriller builds up a framework on grotesqueness which creates uncomfortable experience. Kicking off the new age of cinema, ‘Shaitan’ employs innovative directorial and camera techniques. ‘Shaitan’ has gone unnoticed by quite a many cinema lovers, but it is surely a piece of work which has propelled the concealed world of dark comedies.

Read More: Best Bollywood Thrillers of All Time

5. Ek Hasina Thi (2004)

A project helmed by the masterful duo Ram Gopal Varma and Sriram Raghavan, ‘Ek Hasina Thi’ is about Sarika Vartak, a woman who falls for a charming young businessman, Karan Singh Rathod. However, the romance quickly turns into stomach churning revenge when Sarika realizes that the relationship was an adroit set-up to frame for her for Karan’s underworld crimes.

Premiering at the New York Film Festival; ‘Ek Hasina Thi’ boasts of a gripping screenplay written by the director, which is spearheaded by the wonderful performances by Urmila Matondkar and Saif Ali Khan. The flick is tenacious, realistic, gripping and moulds the style of Ram Gopal Varma’s articulate film-making. Developing a tense pace, the film continually grows as an enthralling suspense frame by frame.

4. Drishyam (2015)

Remakes have garnered an infamous reputation for being a disturbing experience. However, ‘Drishyam’ – a remake of one the best films ever to be produced in Indian cinema, blew viewers away with its seat clinching suspense. Directed by Nishikant Kamat, the film is about Vijay Salgaonkar essayed by Ajay Devgn, a simple cable TV network operator who has to take violent measures in order to protect his family. ‘Drishyam’ uses law and imagination to craft the gripping mystery. Written by Upendra Sidhaye, the screenplay formulates a particulate structure which helped the audience to follow the story, just before completely detouring them from the primary aim. While Devgn did a great job as the caring father, Tavu completely stole the critical applause with her predatorily performance. Even though one knew the particular events of the film’s narrative, it creates an intermingling of a never ending cat-mouse chase which establishes the uncertainty.

3. Kahaani (2012)

Sweeping off nearly every top award, ‘Kahaani’ enthralled audience with a solid direction spearheaded by the performance of Vidya Balan. Directed by Sujoy Ghosh, this 2012 flick follows the story of Vidya Bagchi, a pregnant woman searching for her missing husband in Kolkata. Ghosh’s fourth directorial venture, succeeding the forgettable ‘Aladin’ (2009), the film is brilliantly crafted. The director brought in allegorical references to the celebrated works of Satyajit Ray, ‘Charulata’ (1964) and ‘Aranyer Dinratri’ (1970), and sketched out thematic allusions of feminism and motherhood. The film deftly employed the essence of Kolkata and its dark wonders. Employing “guerrilla-filmmaking” techniques, ‘Kahaani’ effectively engaged the viewers with a realistic aura.

The visually artistic direction and the articulate writing is led by the remarkable Vidya Balan. With ‘Kahaani’ being the fourth “woman-centric” film, after her equally successful ‘Ishqiya’ (2010), ‘No One Killed Jessica’ (2011) and ‘The Dirty Picture’ (2011); the actress who had built up a reputation, lived up to it, and quite marvellously. As if all these weren’t unique enough, the marketing prove to be an important element in the film’s triumph. Balan, at the time of promotions, appeared in public with a prosthetic belly, and socialized with the people in railway stations, bus stands and markets. Carrying a “missing-sketch” of her on-screen missing husband, the marketing was cerebrally brilliant. With a memorable set of character, a winning performance by the actors, and the coherent screenplay and direction; ‘Kahaani’ took critics and the box-office by storm. The film went on to win 5 Filmfare Awards and 3 National Film Awards to name of few.

2. A Wednesday! (2008)

Amalgamating the genres of “terrorism” and “mystery”, ‘A Wednesday!’ follows a retiring police officer, who reminisces about the most astounding day of his career. The movie uses the title as a metaphor and portrays it through eyes of a common man. Directed by Neeraj Pandey, the movie employed voice, time and geography which essentially structured the entire film. While the primary leads, Anupam Kher and Naseeruddin Shah moulded the objective of the screenplay, the supporting cast acted as a sold frame for them. Set between 2 pm and 6 pm on a Wednesday, the film wisely restricts the plot to detour and completely focuses on building the plot frame by frame.

1. Ugly (2013)

Directed by the cerebral Anurag Kashyap, ‘Ugly’ follows the case of a missing girl. Embroiled in the darkness of human greed, enmity and voracity, the missing case slowly intertwines with dark realities. Setting up the narrative with dark humour and sketches a visually dark piece, which has its own artistic essence to it. The film brings out a certain unsettling intoxicating experience, with the screenplay by Anurag Kashyap, cinematography by Nikos Andritsakis and the background score by Brian Oncomber contributing tithe dark intemperance. While the acting performances are commendable, the film’s screenplay established a solid foundation. The screenplay provided a narrative essence to it, framing a rigid structure.  Premiering in couple of film festivals such as the Cannes Film Festival and the New York Indian Film Festival, ‘Ugly’ gained quite the critical praise. The film received some flak though, with critics annoyingly comparing it to Kashyap’s previous venture, ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ (2012). However, ‘Ugly’ is undoubtedly one of the finest thrillers ever to be directed in Indian cinema.

Read More: Best Bollywood Murder Mysteries of All Time

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