Bollywood’s Best Twenty Twelve – Part 1

Forgive me for such a drab title, but I have an explanation. See, most of the trash Bollywood dishes year after year is similar. It’s repetitive (even alliterative), ‘punny’ (not in a good way), stereotypical and just plain boring. And I am a Bollywood film addict, so the title had to be Bollywood-y. Understood?

Fortunately, the films I am going to speak of don’t fall under this category. Well, most of them anyway. Jaise koyle ki khaan mein heere mil jaate hai, waise hi har saal Bollywood ke sagar mein kuch motiyaan mil jaate hain. (Like how diamonds are found in coal mines, we do get pearls in this vast ocean of Bollywood).

See what I did there? Bollywood-style dialogue. Clever, no?

Okay now. Time to move on to the real thing. The Top 5 Bollywood movies of 2012.

 

Number Five – Barfi

One of the two best feel-good movies of this year. Forget the fact that some of its scenes have been ripped off scene-by-scene from the best in foreign cinema. It’s the final product that matters, and that’s where Barfi delivers – a warm, endearing love story between a deaf-mute boy and an autistic girl. Throw in a gorgeous woman and you have one of the most unusual love triangles in the history of Bollywood.

Anurag Basu deftly handles the chemistry between all 3 characters, which forms the crux of the story. Saurabh Shukla gives a fantastic supporting act, acting as the bumbling, yet serious policeman who is always on Barfi’s case.

If this movie followed typical Bollywood stereotype, we would have seen two differently abled characters going through a struggle, quite depressingly, while the third, a righteous, beautiful woman, would have tried to help them all the way through. Fortunately, Anurag saw it differently and we got Bollywood’s most lovable leading man. The opening sequence describes this movie best – even something as serious as the death of a mother is handled so lightly, but not frivolously. Pritam’s music adds oodles of charm to an already charming film. I felt a song in my heart and the movie stayed with me long after I left the cinema hall.

The only blip it suffered was being nominated as India’s entry to the Oscars. True, it was good, but not Oscar material.

 

Number Four – Talaash

Aamir Khan delivers once again. Honestly, that’s all you need to know about this movie. The problem here is with people’s ‘expectations’ of this movie – everyone expected this movie to be a ‘racy’ thriller. It wasn’t. What it was, though, is an examination of human character and the Talaash (search) for closure. Brilliant all the way through. Kareena Kapoor (although I don’t like her in MOST movies) does a pretty good job as the enigmatic hooker. Rani is mellow, restrained and outstanding as the wife trying to deal with the death of her son. To know how Aamir fares, go back to the first line of this review. Power-packed performances take this movie from being merely ‘average-to-good’ to ‘very good-to-excellent’. One of my friends (who did not like the movie) remarked that you could put Emraan Hashmi (who is a half-decent actor, actually), Bipasha Basu and Esha Gupta in a similar script and you’ll get a Raaz 3. Not really. They won’t be able to handle the deep character examination that the script demands. That requires proper acting. And we get more of that from Temur, played by possibly the finest actor to come out of Bollywood this year, Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

I would definitely watch Talaash many times. One for the DVD shelf, this.

 

Number Three – Shanghai

Dibakar Banerjee has a knack of coming up with ‘different’ movies. Right from the quirky, fantastic Khosla Ka Ghosla to the riveting Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and his highly polarising ‘experimental’ venture LSD (Love, Sex aur Dhokha), he’s not been afraid to push the envelope. With Shanghai, he takes us to Bharat Nagar (a city that ‘incidentally’ resembles Mumbai) – a bustling, developing city with a seedy underbelly. This movie is a roster of some fine actors – Abhay Deol, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Supriya Pathak, Kiran Karmakar etc. And they all play their parts to a tee. But the most ‘pleasantly surprising’ good performance comes from Emraan Hashmi – the way he looks like in this movie, nobody would want to kiss him, let alone be seen alongside him. Yet, he makes us smile. The porn-watching, pot-bellied Joginder Parmar is the best thing about the movie, and this role is the best thing to have happened to Emraan Hashmi – he’s finally shown us that he can do the serious stuff. He’s stripped off all his sex appeal and charm, rolled up his sleeves and done the dirty work.

The movie is a damning indictment on society. And that’s how it should be, sometimes.

 

Number Two – Kahaani/Paan Singh Tomar

AH! I hate doing this, but these two movies have forced me to do it. It’s a tie for second place, and what a close tie it is too. Almost like Kahaani needed 7 runs to win off the last ball, and thanks to the climax, managed to hit it for six. (KAHAANI YOU BEAUTY – if Ravi Shastri was writing this review).

Let’s talk about Paan Singh Tomar first. This, for me, should have been India’s official entry to the Oscars. A film that has Irrfan Khan, Vipin Sharma (the khadoos dad from Taare Zameen Par) and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the cast is not a film to be taken lightly. Also, Mahie Gill in the form of a rustic village belle (extra points to Tigmanshu Dhulia there). Outstanding performances are a given, but what really makes this movie click is the watertight screenplay, not boring you for even a second, and the actual story – the life of Paan Singh Tomar. Irrfan Khan has done SUCH a magnificent job that if someone were to ask him for his autograph, he might sign Paan Singh’s name instead of his own. That’s how much he gets into character. Hard-hitting, gritty and a MUST watch for every Indian.

 

Moving on to the Mother of a Story. Taking a cue from one of her own movies, Vidya Balan is indeed entertainment, entertainment and entertainment personified. And not of the item number, dumb blonde variety. Who thought that a pregnant woman could carry an entire movie, let alone a baby? Sujoy Ghosh has redeemed himself after mega failures like Home Delivery (the days when people thought Vivek… no, it’s Viveik… damn it, Suresh Oberoi’s son was cool) and Aladdin (fortunately we have the Disney cartoons to fall back upon). THIS is definitely the man who gave us Jhankaar Beats.

However, it wasn’t ALL up to ‘Bidya’ – there was an eclectic and sometimes eccentric Bengali supporting cast. We have the obsequious Satyuki (his ‘bhalo naam’ – his ‘daak naam’ was Rana) played by Parambrata Chatterjee, ready to help ‘Bidya’ at any cost. At the other end of the spectrum we have the introverted, bumbling, not-so-confident insurance agent Bob Biswas – when he gets a ‘special message’ on his mobile phone, though, he turns into a calm, calculated and cold-blooded serial killer. Let’s be honest and say that this man has changed the definition of serial killing. He has broken the stereotype and emerged as possibly the best supporting act of this year. The other crackerjack performance came from… who else, Nawazuddin Siddiqui. He played the acerbic and often downright rude IB Deputy Chief Khan. The look on his face at the end of the movie is, well, priceless (I know half the world has seen the movie, but why spoil it anyway?)

Seeing this movie reminded me of a Hollywood cult classic – The Usual Suspects. And a line from that movie holds true for Kahaani as well – The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

 

Number One – Gangs of Wasseypur

How do you take a theme like familial revenge over 5 hours and 30 minutes? Even Francis Ford Coppola had to do it over 3 movies, EACH almost 3 hours long.

That brings me to the first point I want to make about this movie. It feels a lot like The Godfather. And yet, it is different. Similar because of the theme, different because of the cultural idiosyncrasies. The Italian Mafia had unwritten rules of conduct, a code – there’s nothing like that in Wasseypur. Here, it is live by the sword and die by it – the last one alive, survives.

And that makes Anurag Kashyap’s murderous revenge saga the movie of the year. Even without any rules or laws, the movie follows a beautifully set path. Right from Shahid Khan (Jaideep Ahlawat), to the lecherous yet lovable Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpai), and the fantastic Faizal Khan (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), the men from each generation have just one point of focus – to tear Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia, in a new avatar as villain) limb from limb.

I cannot talk about all the performances individually – that would take another 50 years – but what I can say is that everyone is so brilliant that it’s hard to believe that this is a movie. This feels like a real-life running reel of Wasseypur (Dhanbad, actually). Looking at the names above, you might think that this is a male-dominated film, driven by misogynistic stereotypes. Wrong. The women, namely Nagma Khatoon the firecracker (Sardar Khan’s first wife, played by Richa Chaddha), Durga the seductress (Sardar Khan’s second wife, played by Reema Sen) and the gorgeous Mohsina (Faizal Khan’s only wife, played by the beautiful Huma Qureshi) hold their own against the men. In fact, they DOMINATE the men in the movie. Still, the men are the focal point of this film. Anurag Kashyap balances this chemistry and the focal plot point wonderfully.

I won’t say anything further, but the whole movie is best summed up by this line – Teri keh ke loonga (I’ll tell you and take away your dignity).

PS: I haven’t classified this movie as Part 1 and 2. I see Gangs of Wasseypur as a single entity.

And, I salute you, Mr. Anurag Kashyap.

That concludes Part 1 of Bollywood’s Best Twenty Twelve. In my next post, I will be covering a few movies that deserve honourable mentions and the biggest turkeys of the year. As they say in the movies, to be continued…

Bollywoods Best Twenty Twelve – Part 2 – Honourable Mentions and Turkeys

Honourable mentions 

Sometimes, when there are only 2 prizes in a fancy dress competition, the third-best dressed participant gets a ‘consolation’ prize. This is something of the sort. These were movies that were good, no doubt, but didn’t have enough in them to make the top five. They are –

Agneepath

Edge-of-the-seat action drove this one. But it wasn’t Hrithik Roshan or Sanjay Dutt who stole the show. The man who had eye-popping screen presence and delivered a devilishly delicious performance was none other than Rishi Kapoor. Yes, the cherubic, lovable chocolate boy from the 70s through to the 90s was now a lecherous, menacing and unforgiving Don. Evil dripped like oil from the very pores of his skin. If you want to watch this movie, just watch it for Rishi Kapoor. His performance alone is worth the price of your ticket. Or DVD.

Ferrari Ki Sawaari

Remember I said Barfi was ‘one of the two feel-good movies of the year’? Well, this is the other one. Sharman Joshi once again stands out as the ultra-honest do-gooder Rusy, who loves his son Kayo (played very well by Ritvik Sahore) more than anything else in the world. To add to it, cricket plays a central role in the movie (in more ways than one). Boman Irani plays the cricket-hating, caustic grandfather who has seen the worst of life. Only Vidya Balan’s ‘item’ number was a wee-bit off-putting. Even the support cast, especially the driver of a ‘particular’ gentleman and the watchman of a ‘particular’ building, were hilarious and ensured we had a smile on our faces almost throughout.

The Loveable Turkey 

Sometimes, movies are so silly, they’re actually quite funny. Bol Bachchan falls in this category. To quote a cliché, this is a ‘leave-your-brains-behind’ type of movie. Seeing that it’s been ‘inspired’ by a comedy classic ‘Golmaal’, you wonder how that can be true. But it is. Ajay Devgn’s (yes, not Devegan or Devagan any more) Hindi-to-English translations are alone enough to keep you going. Also, Krishna (from Comedy Circus) pulls off a nice comic side-act, while the women (Asin and Prachi Desai) are nothing more than eye candy in this movie. However, it did make me laugh, and I guess that’s what matters in the end. Also, to quote a line I overheard in an interview (I forget who said this) “these movies are important, because they make enough money, which allows the ‘experimental’ filmmakers to make their kind of movies, the good kind”. There must be a better business model in Bollywood, but until we discover that, these movies will flourish. And so they should, it seems!

The ‘Gone-Bad’ Turkeys 

Heroine

Not heroines in general, but the stereotypical, over-long and totally ambiguous farce of a movie that was made by Madhur Bhandarkar. I’m not going to even discuss it much, but will tell one thing – there is no saving grace, but a shining light in this movie is Kareena Kapoor. She’s the only one who put her heart and soul into this… movie (for lack of a better word). You can’t blame the other actors too much, though – they’ve been given poorly written, over-the-top and blatantly stereotyped roles. This is a candidate for the five worst movies of 2012.

Agent Vinod

A director like Sriram Raghavan had the opportunity to give India its very own super spy. However, Agent Vinod turned out to be like the poorly conceived child of James Bond and Jason Bourne (don’t ask me how THAT came to my mind). It’s only saving grace? It was MILES ahead of Heroine as a movie.

That’s Part 2 done. Part 3 will showcase the best actors, actresses, music directors and the movies I missed. And oh, also what I’m looking forward to in 2013.  To be continued… (again)

Bollywood’s Best Twenty Twelve – Part 3 – The Cast and Crew of the Year

Actor of the year

I think I have repeated his name a LOT, but I’ll say it once again – Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Just scroll up and look at the movies he’s done this year – Gangs of Wasseypur, Kahaani, Paan Singh Tomar and Talaash.

Second and third places go to Irrfan Khan and Manoj Bajpai, for obvious reasons.

A consolation 4th place goes to Ranbir Kapoor for a brilliant performance as the lovable Barfi.

His dad, Rishi Kapoor, comes in at 5th place for Agneepath.

Actress of the year

Vidya Balan, by the narrowest of margins.

Coming in at a close second place is Priyanka Chopra, for her portrayal of an autistic girl in Barfi.

Third place goes to the entire female cast of Gangs of Wasseypur – Richa Chaddha, Reema Sen and Huma Qureshi.

At 4th place we have Rani Mukherjee for playing a distressed wife and mother in Talaash. Although her role was limited, she was excellent.

Kareena Kapoor just squeezes in at No. 5 for doing a good job in Talaash and Heroine. But Agent Vinod was painful, and so was she to some extent.

Director of the Year
Director of the Year

Director of the year: Simple. Look at the list of the top 5 movies, and you have your directors of the year – Anurag Kashyap (undisputed No. 1), Tigmanshu Dhulia, Sujoy Ghosh, Dibakar Banerjee, Reema Kagti and Anurag Basu.

Music Director of the Year
Music Director of the Year

Music Director of the year: Tough call, but I would go for 3 names – Sneha Khanwalkar (Gangs of Wasseypur), Ram Sampath (Talaash) and Pritam (Barfi). Vishal and Shekhar too make the list for Kahaani.

I am thoroughly distraught that I cannot add AR Rahman to this year’s list. He is generally an automatic selection almost every year. Not this time. Jab Tak Hai Jaan was disappointing in terms of music. And from the reviews I hear from other people, even the movie was not that great. It is sad that most people’s final memory of Yash Chopra had to be this. But it’s okay, the greatest are allowed their mistakes.

 

What did I miss? Ah, a lot actually. I haven’t seen English Vinglish, Oh My God (OMG), Vicky Donor and some others. I know, I know, a couple of these MIGHT have made my list. But no problem, I will watch them on TV whenever they’re aired.

 

Looking forward to in 2013: Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, Special 26, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Besharam, from the trailers and posters I have seen so far. I hope there are more such gems in the coming year. Till 2013, then, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!