Best of Bollywood in 2012

I know I am late but there is never a wrong time to discuss films… here is my list of the best of Hindi cinema in 2012. It was an average year for Bollywood with most big films ending up as major disappointments but there were some innovative films that put script, great acting and technical talent in focus. From Sneha Khanwalkar to Juhi Chaturvedi to Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bollywood had a lot to cheer in 2012 along with some embarrassing films churned out by major stars and filmmakers. So, here it is… My Bollywood Top 10 from 2012, in this order:

Parma and Zoya’s violent love story

10. Ishaqzaade: When are we ever tired of the Romeo-Juliet saga? This one is set in a trigger-happy small town in Northern India and director, Habib Faisal gets the small-town details right. Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor are confident new-comers who make the same old doomed lovers’ story refreshing and entertaining. Yes, there is too much violence and sexist remarks in the film but a lot of it is reality. Shalmali Kholgade sings “Main Pareshaan” beautifully and Amit Trivedi’s album has some more good tracks. Gauhar Khan is another highlight of the film (she needs a bigger, meatier role now). Read my full review here.

A refreshing rom-com

9. Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu: I have often complained about Bollywood not getting it right with romantic comedies but I was pleasantly surprised with Shakun Batra’s Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. It is a refreshingly different rom-com from Bollywood standards and I quite enjoyed it. Boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy falls in love but… that’s where the writer wins by redefining what happens in a Bolly romance. Kareena Kapoor is a good actor when she wants to be and in this one she did well but I was surprised by Imran Khan who was not his usual lost self here by playing a lost guy. Read my full review here.

A better study of grief than a suspense thriller

8. Talaash: With all its flaws, Talaash is an interesting film for Indian cinema. There is an interesting plot and an unexpected ending from Bollywood standards. While the whole thriller bit did not work for me, the film tackles the emotions of grief and guilt very well. Aamir Khan and Rani Mukerji are brilliant as grieving parents and director, Reema Kagti presents their story sensitively. Kareena Kapoor and Nawazuddin Siddiqui make the film even more interesting despite a different yet disappointing climax. Read my full review here.

A taut political thriller with great performances

7. Shanghai: Since Prakash Jha stopped making good political films, I had given up hope on the genre but Dibakar Banerjee brought us Shanghai. It is a brave film that exposes the murky politics, scams and crimes that take place in the name of development. We can be proud of all the progress we have made as a country but at what cost? Emraan Hashmi and Abhay Deol have winning roles, with an excellent supporting cast. Read my full review here.

Cheeky, bold and fun

6. Vicky Donor: This one clearly belongs to the writer, Juhi Chaturvedi. Who would have thought that Bollywood will deliver a crowd-pleasing entertainer about a sperm donor? Director, Shoojit Sircar gave us a light-hearted comedy with two promising new actors – Ayushmann Khurana and Yami Gautam. The best scene in the film: Vicky’s mother, Dolly (Dolly Ahluwalia) and grand-mother, Biji (Kamlesh Gill) enjoying whiskey and discussing the disappointments in their lives, including each other. Despite a dull ending, it is one of the most enjoyable films Bollywood has produced in the recent times. Read my full review here.

Smile, you’re designed to do so

5. Barfi!: Leave all the plagiarism debates and enjoy the sweetness in this film. Yes, there are scenes that remind you of Charlie Chaplin films or the more recent The Notebook, but it is a different film that will bring out the child in you. Director, Anurag Basu creates a special mood with the film that takes you back in time when life was simpler, childhood meant chasing fireflies and playing with soap bubbles. Ranbir Kapoor once again proves why he is the ultimate combination of an actor and a star; Priyanka Chopra and Ileana D’Cruz also do not disappoint and what lovely music by Pritam… Read my full review here.

Sridevi’s on-screen triumph after 16-years

4. English Vinglish: What a beautiful film and what a wonderful come back for 80s and 90s reigning diva, Sridevi. Gauri Shinde made a brilliant directorial debut with this sensitive film that hits the bulls-eye on most parameters. A regular Indian housewife whose kids make fun of her broken English decides to learn the language in Manhattan of all the places! A refreshing new concept and the simple narration make the film enjoyable and make you aware of all the times you have not valued your parents. Sridevi makes it look so easy on screen after a long hiatus and you want to see more of her. It is definitely the heart-warming film of the year from Bollywood.

This is Irrfan Khan, not the one in The Amazing Spiderman

3. Paan Singh Tomar: An army man, an athlete, a father, a husband, a dacoit… Director, Tigmanshu Dhulia tells us everything about Paan Singh Tomar’s life and his relationships in this brilliantly made biographical film. Irrfan Khan is first rate in this compelling real life drama. It is a tragic film that does not glorify the lead character but portrays him as a regular man with needs, desires and hopes like everyone else.

And that’s how you make a thriller

2. Kahaani: You don’t need to blow up cars and have complicated stunts to make a good thriller. You can make it with a heavily pregnant woman as the lead character. Director, Sujoy Ghosh hit gold with this Vidya Balan starrer that presents Kolkata as one of the lead characters. Nawazuddin Siddiqui delivers a powerful performance and Saswata Chatterjee’s Bob Biswas, an LIC agent who is also a contract killer, is probably one of the best written characters in recent times. Read my full review here.

Hunter, Womaniya, Perpendicular and Tangent… superb writing wins

1. Gangs of Wasseypur 1 & 2: Over five hours of violent revenge drama with a lot of style and humour… Director, Anurag Kashyap’s Tarantino style pair of films not only entertained but brought to light a number of talented actors and technicians. From Richa Chaddha to Huma Qureshi and of course the brilliant, Nawazzudin Siddiqui, GoW made stars of these actors. Sneha Khanwalkar’s music combined folk, Bollywood and even Chutney music from the Caribbean to deliver a fantastic album. We re-discovered the talent powerhouse called, Manoj Bajpai and the acting prowess of filmmaker, Tigmanshu Dhulia. The real winners however are the writers, Zeishan Quadri, Akhilesh, Sachin Ladia and Kashyap himself, who wrote the films without any inhibitions. Read my full reviews here and here.

Disappointments of the Year

While these are my favourite films of 2012, I was disappointed by biggies like Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Agent Vinod, Agneepath, Cocktail and Dabangg 2. I never expected much from films like Rowdy Rathore, Student of the Year, Housefull 2 and Heroine but they managed to go further below my expectations. Thankfully, I did not watch films like Players, Raaz 3D, Jism 2, Bhoot Returns, Khiladi 786, Tezz and Chakravyuh among others… I understand and relate to your pain if you have watched any of these films and so do the folks at the third annual Ghanta Awards. Vote for the worst film and other categories for the Ghantas here and watch the show live/online on February 15, 2013.

Ishaqzaade

New stars are born in this old-fashioned love story

Pic source: Wikipedia

Habib Faisal’s Ishaqzaade is an old fashioned love story that we have seen many times on-screen. It is not exactly an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet but the basic premise of lovers from warring clans is the same. Faisal (director and co-writer with Aditya Chopra) has set the story in a fictitious small town, Almore in Uttar Pradesh where only the law of the gun works. His characters are violent with the background of political and religious conflict. There are other twists and turns but you largely know where the film is headed, especially after the interval.

So is Ishaqzaade worth a watch? For me, yes! Newcomer, Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra are compelling as Parma Chauhan and Zoya Qureshi respectively, who inherit the legacy of hatred but later fall in love. Kapoor makes a confident debut and has good screen presence; he is not perfect as an actor yet but for his first film he does justice to the character. After winning accolades for her small role in Ladies vs Ricky Behl, Parineeti Chopra confirms with this film that she is here for the long run. She is simply brilliant as a firebrand, small town girl who dreams of following her father’s footsteps in politics. She looks good, emotes well and owns the screen whenever she is there in the scene. Surely after this film, she will not be known as the cousin of another B-town actress. The director’s decision of having an all new supporting cast works as they all are believable – from helpless mothers to loathsome head of the families for whom political ambitions are more important than anyone’s life, including their own children. Gauhar Khan is the only known face in the supporting cast and is likeable in her clichéd role of a courtesan with a golden heart.

Faisal gets the details right of small town northern India, from the language to the clothes to the locations. There are the mandatory dance numbers but they do not take away from the feel of the film. Amit Trivedi’s music is outstanding with ‘Main Pareshan…’ and the title track, ‘Ishaqzaade…’ being the best songs. Cinematography by Hemant Chaturvedi is nice but the film could do with some brutal editing (Aarti Bajaj).

Ishaqzaade has nothing new to offer but for me a love story wins if you find yourself empathizing with both, and I repeat both the lead characters. The film works for me on that parameter and is a one-time watch.

Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year

 

Yash Raj Ke Pocket Mein Rocket Hai!

Pic: Yash Raj Films

 

Remember the wonderful films of the 70s about the hopes and struggles of the middle class man, often played by Amol Palekar? Basu Chatterjee’s ‘Chhoti Si Baat’, ‘Baaton Baaton Mein’ or Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s ‘Golmaal’? The beauty of these films lies in their simplicity and the relatable situations, away from the glitz and glamour that Bollywood often piles on to its films. Yash Raj Films’ latest offering may not be in the league of the classics I just mentioned above but it does have its heart in place. ‘Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year’ is an entertainer which shows that simple can be special and it pays to be good. Congratulations to the team of Shimit Amin (director) and Jaideep Sahni (screenplay, dialogues, lyrics) for welcoming the simple salesman into our imagination.

The film is about Harpreet Singh (Ranbir Kapoor), an aspiring salesman who is aware of his abilities as well as his limits; he is confident of his persuasion skills and does not let his not so good mark-sheets affect his dream of earning Rs 40,000 a month. He joins as a sales trainee in a computer firm called AYS (At Your Service) and hopes to reach the top through dedication and hard work. He soon realizes that life is not that simple and is mocked, ridiculed, insulted and threatened for being honest. After a point, he decides to get even in his own unique, ‘good’ way.

With Rocket Singh, Ranbir once again proves how watchable he is on-screen and puts a lot of sincerity in Harpreet’s character. The other key characters are also very well defined and the actors do full justice to them; Mukesh Bhatt as the peon and Naveen Kaushik as the go-getter salesman are both good. D Santosh as the download obsessed, IT support guy is brilliant and Gauhar Khan shines in a stellar performance as a firebrand receptionist. Debutante, Shahzahn Padamsee, sadly has nothing much to do except to cook Maggi for an unknown salesman (see, good people are still out there). Prem Chopra makes a rare on-screen appearance and adds authenticity to the Sikh/Punjabi household setting. Overall, it is a character driven film and full marks for Jaideep for writing it, except the climax which is a little disappointing.

It is an offbeat film that attempts to showcase a slice of life – life of a salesman and other regular employees in a regular office. It is not a laugh riot as I expected it to be but is not a let down either; the humour is subtle, the performances sincere and the situations close to real. It is definitely worth a watch.

Question for the makers: Why is the ‘Pocket Mein Rocket Hai’ song NOT in the film?

My Rating: * * * ½ Three and a half stars (on five)

Shrey Khetarpal