Since the origin of feature films, filmmakers tend to adapt new style of filmmaking with most modern themes and visual elements. Neo-noir is such a new style seen in modern motion pictures and other forms that use elements of film noir, but with updated content and themes, along with new style and visual elements. In fact, the term ‘film noir’ that means “black film” was coined by critic Nino Frank in 1946. However, it was rarely used by film makers and critics. 1940s and the late 1950s were considered as the classic era of film noir. In short, Neo-noir" can be described as a contemporary film that integrates features of the original film noir movies of the 1940s and 1950s.
With common themes and plots, film noir once made impact in American movies, especially as crime dramas or psychological thrillers. The presentation of such films will be in such a way that characters, trapped in a hard situation make choices out of desperation or challenge the so called moral values in the society. Though lot of movies were made in the classic film noir genre, all of them had zero impact on other genres as they integrated both thematic and visual elements reminiscent of film noir.
Though coined and executed in West, India also has produced several neo-noir films, most them were appreciated well by the audience and critics. Among such films, some of them are considered best. Some are mentioned below.
Woh Kaun Thi is a 1964 black-and-white psychological mystery film directed by Raj Khosla, starring Sadhana, Manoj Kumar and Prem Chopra. A doctor offers a ride to a ghostly woman one stormy night after he meets her on the side of the road. He later realizes that his would be is identical in appearance to the ghost and rest is the film. Sounds interesting? Do watch it.
Baazi is a 1951 Indian Hindi film directed by Guru Dutt. The movie stars Dev Anand with Geeta Bali and Kalpana Kartik. Baazi is in fact a tribute to the Forties' Film Noir Hollywood with the morally ambiguous hero, the transgressing siren, and shadow lighting. The film dealt with a theme of crime and was very successful at the box-office.
A1998 film, Satya is the first film to introduction of a new genre of film making. It was a variation of film noir that has been called Mumbai noir. A young man named Satya (J.D Chakravarthy) comes to Mumbai from South India in search of a job and the trouble he faces there makes the story.
Gangs of Wasseypur
Directed by Anurag Kashyap, Gngs of Wasseypur was centered on the coal mafia of Dhanbad, Jharkhand, and the underlying power struggles, politics and vengeance between three crime families. With ensemble cast, including Manoj Bajpai, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Huma Qureshi and Richa Chadda, the film is considered a modern cult film.
Manorama Six Feet Under (2007)
Inspired by Polanski’s 1984 film, Chinatown, Manorama Six Feet Under was directed by Navdeep Singh, featuring Abhay Deol, Gul Panag and Raima Sen in the lead roles. A neo-noir attempt, the movie features an amateur detective in a small sleepy town from Rajasthan who finds himself caught in a web of lies, deceit and murder.
Directed by Biren Nag, Kohra is a 1964 Indian thriller horror film, starring Waheeda Rehman, Biswajeet and Lalita Pawar. The film was an adapted version of Daphne du Maurier's 1938 novel, Rebecca. It was one of the earliest films to add supernatural elements. This film is noted for its twist ending which alters significantly from the original novel.
A 2003 Indian crime drama, Maqbool has been directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, starring Pankaj Kapoor, Irfan Khan, Tabu and Masumeh Makhija. The film was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and was loosely based on the play with regard to events and characterisation. Though the film didn’t do well at the box office, it won director Vishal Bhardwaj international acclaim.
One of the best performances from Shahid Kapoor was in Kaminey, which tells the story of desperate lives of two estranged twin brothers. They converge over missing drugs, politics, racial prejudice, corrupt cops and an unplanned pregnancy. Directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, the film also had Priyanka Chopra, Deb Mukherjee and Shivkumar Subramaniam.
Johnny Gaddaar, literally meaning ‘Johnny the Traitor’ is a 2007 neo-noir thriller film written and directed by Sriram Raghavan, starring Neil Nitin Mukesh in the lead. He debuted with this film. It also stars Dharmendra, Zakir Hussain, Rimi Sen, Vinay Pathak, Govind Namdeo, Dayanand Shetty and Ashwini Kalsekar. The film received critical acclaim and went on to be 'sleeper hit' of the year.
With terrific performances from the lead cast, Ishqiya is a 2010 Indian black comedy thriller film starring Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi, Naseeruddin Shah, and Salman Shahid in the lead roles. It was directed by Abhishek Chaubey. The film, which was declared as an average performer at the box office, was selected for screening at the 34th Cairo International Film Festival.
99 is a 2009 film starring Kunal Khemu, Boman Irani, Soha Ali Khan and Cyrus Broacha. The film tells the story of a gangster, who deputes two of his men to recover money from an out of town compulsive gambler. The film is directed by Krishna D.K., Raj Nidimoru
Gandu is a Bengali language film released in the year 2010. The film which portrayed a very complicated theme was selected at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival. Gandu is a frustrated teenager, who hates his life and his mother. His state of mind has been well described in the film. Director is Qaushiq Mukherjee. Stars include Anubrata Basu, Joyraj Bhattacharya, Rii, and Kamalika Banerjee
Upendra is a 1999 psychological drama Kannada film written and directed by actor Upendra. It starred Upendra, Raveena Tandon, Prema and Damini in the lead roles. A story of three human emotions, Upendra explores the relationship between the main character and the three heroines. Amid mass-masala Kannada films, this was a different attempt, which became successful at the box-office.
Aaranya Kandam is considered as the first neo-noir movie in Tamil and it had an international appeal, prompting many movie goers to compare it with Tarantino and Innarritu films. The casting, presentation, background score, performances and the climax portion of this film was too good. The film was directed by Thiagarajan Kumararaja and had Jackie Shroff, Ravi Krishna and Sampath Raj in the lead roles.
Besides there are also films like Maharathi, Mithya, No Smoking, Madhumati, Bees Saal Baad, Mahal and more..