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…


5 thoughts on “Bollywood’s Best Twenty Twelve – Part 1

  1. Very well written. Matches my list, though I still havent seen Paan Singh Tomar. But is there a need to watch any other kind of movie when you are smitten over by the classic Gangs of Wasseypur? I doubt it. One can only comprehend how deep the movie is and what it has to offer. For me, Wasseypur is not just a movie but is storytelling at its phenomenal best. This is cinema in its purest form.

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