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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Talaash

 

There are no mysteries in the age of social media…

Pic source: Wikipedia

Pic source: Wikipedia

Before you read any further: I have tried to keep this post spoiler-free and basic plot points mentioned here are already shown in the film’s trailers. However, if you are going to watch the film regardless of the reviews, I recommend reading this or any other review after you’ve seen it.

Talaash may not be the best thriller we have seen this year (my vote goes to Kahaani) but I am glad the makers (Excel Entertainment, Aamir Khan Productions and Reliance Entertainment) tried to attempt something different with the movie. It has an interesting story, great performances by the cast and an unexpected ending, which thanks to loud-mouths on social media got ruined for many including me. I feel bad for everyone who could have enjoyed the film more if they did not know about the big twist in the end. In the age of Twitter and BBM, it is a challenge for filmmakers also to make suspense thrillers that can stay strong despite the spoiler getting leaked out.

Coming back to Talaash, it is decent film that gets many things right but does not keep you at the edge of your seat. People have been complaining about its slow pace, but it worked for me; writer-director, Reema Kagti (screenplay with Zoya Akhtar) creates a mood that brings together the eeriness of a murder mystery with the personal grief that her main protagonists are going through. Inspector Surjan Singh Shekhawat (Aamir Khan) and his wife, Roshni (Rani Mukerji) are unable to cope with their 8-year-old son’s accidental death, which strains their marriage. Surjan’s investigation of a high-profile death case contributes to his personal troubles as he finds himself drawn to an unlikely friend, a prostitute named Rosie (Kareena Kapoor). Surjan and Roshni’s story is probably the strongest part of the film; their grief is portrayed sensitively by the two actors, especially Rani who has got a role that exploits her talent after very long. Kareena is also good in the film and I hope she continues to choose interesting characters like this, rather than insignificant roles in mega-blockbuster masala films. Regarding Aamir, he is excellent as a cop tormented by his own demons – on one hand he is a tough police officer and on the other a hapless father. Kudos to the casting director (Nandini Shrikent) for also getting a talented supporting cast on board including Shernaz Patel and Nawazuddin Siddiqui – now this man is a chameleon – from a revenge seeking gangster in Gangs of Wasseypur 2 to a pimp’s right-hand man in Talaash, he is a delight to watch.

With superlative performances by all the actors and an interesting plot, Talaash starts on a promising note but does not confuse the audience enough to make it an exciting affair. Surjan keeps finding clue after clue and the film moves in a straight line till the ‘unexpected’ climax. Now, I had a rough idea about the final twist but I was able to piece things together within the first ten minutes of the film. The makers relied too much on the twist, which also is not entirely a fresh idea. Because I had a clue to the end, I may not be completely fair to the film but it is a lukewarm thriller and the murder mystery unfolds in a dull manner, except the surprise element in the end.

Music by Ram Sampath goes well with the mood of the film but is not outstanding (why do most big releases this year have just about average music?) Cinematography by Mohanan is nice and he uses a dull color tone to give a dark and gloomy feel to Mumbai in the film.

Talaash is certainly a one-time watch for the actors’ performances and you may enjoy it more if you don’t know the spoiler. So, go for it before someone tells it to you.

PS: I got my spoiler from a well-known journalist, Kushan Mitra (@KushanMitra) who inadvertently revealed similarities to a Hollywood film on Twitter. So-called actor, producer, Kamaal R Khan (@KamaalRKhan) also tweeted spoilers to the film.