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.

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Aao Award Award Khelein

Cinematic Excellence vs. Popularity – The Big Debate

Dabangg - 2010's biggest entertainer

Filmfare Awards, Star Screen Awards, Zee Cine Awards, IIFA, Stardust Awards, Apsara Awards, National Awards and many more awards are there to celebrate excellence in Hindi cinema today. However, the big question here is whether these awards actually salute excellence or reflect the popularity of the year’s blockbusters in competition. The credibility of these awards is a different matter altogether; actors and filmmakers have often accused organizers of playing favourites, selling trophies and pleasing the powerful. These days, new categories are introduced to please some stars and sponsors, all in the name of encouraging talent and public voting! Leaving aside the credibility issue, the biggest question any awards ceremony needs to address is what they stand for; are they going to felicitate the biggest hit or a technically superior film that may not have set the box office on fire.

Udaan - 2010's finest Hindi film

One school of thought is purely merit based, where big and small films compete on the same platform and the same judgment parameters apply to all. Public voting system may not work well here as whenever you try to go mass, the stars’ emotional connect and popular appeal may take over. The only possible solution is having a qualified jury based judging process like our National Awards and the Star Screen Awards; though there are always questions on the jury’s decisions. Internationally also the most prestigious awards are jury based, like the Oscars, which have a much more complicated judging process and a much larger jury. These merit based awards help smaller, well-made films gain recognition and some more business. In fact, success at Oscars have helped some small films reach blockbuster status; case in point, Slumdog Millionaire. The flipside to this process is that many popular films are overlooked and the fans are left disappointed. At last year’s Oscars, James Cameron’s magnum opus, Avatar was beaten by a much smaller film, The Hurt Locker for the Best Picture trophy. The masses who had loved Avatar had not even heard of The Hurt Locker and many had complained of it being boring. This year the same thing happened at the Star Screen Awards where the year’s biggest hit, Dabangg did not find a nomination in the Best Film shortlist and a lesser seen but much superior film, Udaan won the big prize.

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Declaration: The author of this article has grown up watching film awards and has almost always enjoyed them. He wakes up at odd hours to catch the Oscars and stays up late to watch the star-studded Bolly film awards that come with never ending commercial breaks. In the last few years, he has been disappointed with the state of Hindi film awards but has not lost faith. He is also part of the TwiFi Awards’ Film Buff Jury.

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