Monday, March 30, 2009

A Year in Review



Ok, so I got behind and Filmfare already happened, but IIFA is yet to come! Lo and behold, my Top 10 Films of 2008, IN ORDER OF RELEASE, i.e. NOT RANKED IN ANY ORDER.

Jodhaa Akbar

Ashutosh Gowarikar may have tried to recreate a Lagaan period piece, but it’s no epic, this. Instead, the easily irritable (Star Screen Awards, anyone?) but talented director served up an homage to Akbar the Great vis-à-vis a nearly four-hour enterprise that must at least be lauded for its technical achievements, as well as extracting surprisingly confident performances from Hrithik Roshan and a more expressive-than-usual Aishwarya Rai. Said lead pair’s chemistry picked up from where Dhoom 2 left off, and Rahman’s music also was suitable enough.

Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na
Every now and then a film comes along that redefines a generation, and Jaane Tu… achieved the rare feat of reigniting the sort of post-college fervor that only Dil Chahta Hai managed in the recent past. No prizes for guessing then that Aamir Khan was at the producer’s helm, launching his affable nephew Imran opposite the ever-likable Genelia D’Souza. Fun, frivolous and all the while insightful, who would have thought so much fun could be had in a film where a certain Pappu just can’t seem to dance.

Mumbai Meri Jaan
I said these are not ranked, but if I were to award the ‘Best Picture’ to any one Hindi film of 2008, this would be it. A heartbreaking, thought-provoking account of Mumbai’s train attacks in 2006, it’s rare that you see such an intriguing narrative structure laced with fine acting and crisp editing all in the space of a 2.5 hour Hindi film. If you haven’t seen it, you are doing a huge injustice to meaningful cinema.

A Wednesday
Interestingly tackling a subject very similar to Mumbai Meri Jaan and releasing all of a week or two later, A Wednesday was more of a critics/crowd/award favorite. This is not to say that it is undeserving of the recognition, but this gritty take on domestic terrorism played between two central characters was only marred by the fact that it read more like a sermon than a script. Thus while Anupam Kher and Naseeruddin Shah served up the goods, at times it felt more like a documentary than an actual film, and the characters became borderline caricatures. But having said that, it remains superior to 99% of the films that release nowadays.

Rock On!!
If there was a Slumdog Millionaire of Indian cinema, it would probably be in the form of this low-budget film centered around a wannabe Indian rock band by a debutante director and starring no real big names (save for Arjun Rampal who, while incredibly underrated, has never been a crowd puller). The result was somewhat of a cult phenomenon that catapulted Farhan Akhtar into a new kind of super stardom; and, much like the aforementioned Slumdog, it swept the award season by storm, while people either loved it or they hated it.

Welcome to Sajjanpur
No one does it like Shyam Benegal. After a hiatus of several years, it’s almost uncanny how one of India’s all-time great directors can come back, cast two young and underused stars in the form of Shreyas Talpade and Amrita Rao, and make it work in a small village by the name of Sajjanpur. It’s a comedy of nuances and subtlety, a far cry from the Singh Is Kinng (Read: overrated, self-indulgent absurdity), and entirely worthy of far more accolades than it actually received.

Fashion
This was a tough one. While Fashion did receive a generally favorable review by Yours Truly, in retrospect it was not nearly as good as people have made it out to be. But women-centric films are like diamonds in the rough, and only Madhur Bhandarkar has really been open to exploiting the superficiality of several high-power industries (Corporate, Page 3…). Priyanka Chopra may largely be playing herself, but then few of the younger lot can act half as convincingly (point in case her ever-shrieking co-star, Kangana Ranaut), and it also came at a time when films like God Tussi Great Ho, Drona and Love Story 2050 almost indefinitely ruined her career.

Dostana
Until now, no film on this list has been truly ‘commercial’. Jaane Tu... is about as close as it’s gotten to safe, song-and-dance territory, but no one would call it an out-and-out entertainer. Dostana, on the other hand, is the stuff NRI dreams are made of. Foreign locales, designer clothing, flippant music, three A-list stars and plenty of skin show, of course Karan Johar would be an integral part of the proceedings. Debutante director Tarjun Mansukhani looks like the new protégé Yashraj Films was looking for, and Abhishek Bachchan – like his good old friend Piggy Chops – breathed some remarkable (and much-needed) new life into his also sinking career. Drona really was kind to no one.

Dil Kabaddi
It went a little unnoticed, but if you are an art house junkie like myself, the ensemble cast was simply too delicious to ignore: Konkona Sen Sharma, Irfan Khan, Rahul Bose, Soha Ali Khan and Rahul Khanna all in one film? So the film is entirely awkward, embarrassing and inappropriate (i.e. NOT one to watch with the parents, younger siblings, unsuspecting cousins…hi guys!), but it is also hilarious and well-acted, albeit a little too inspired by Woody Allen.

Oye Lucky Lucky Oye
Before the more hyped up Delhi 6 came to fruition at the start of 2009, another film that tried to and admirably captured the culture of Delhi was this small, unassuming film starring Abhay Deol, the leading candidate to join the aforementioned art house brigade. It’s light and simple, sometimes slow but also charming and, well, just about ‘lucky’ enough.

Before You Complain: Ghajini would have made the cut if it were not so over-the-top, full of plot loopholes and had Aamir not been surrounded by a plethora of idiots; Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi would also have come close had Aditya Chopra not missed the boat this time by casting the next Gracy Singh in the form of Anushka Sharma, on one hand making Shahrukh Khan irresistibly sympathetic as Suri but then simultaneously insufferable as Raj and had the film just been better than the equivalent of a Hollywood rom-com with a little more heart and plenty more Shiamak Davar routines.

10 comments:

Gamesmaster G9 said...

Hmm. You left out the two best movies of the year - Dasvidaniya and Mithya, as well Aamir and Ek Chalis Ki Last Local. Of the ones you selected, I have not (and will never) watch Jodhaa Akbar, and also missed Mumbai Meri Jaan.

Dostana was fun in parts, but quite stupid. Fashion was yawn-inducing stuff from the Bhandarkar factory of subtlety. Dil Kabbaddi was irritating and Welcome to Sajjanpur proved that Benegal has lost it completely.

OLLO definitely makes my list, though, as would JTYJN and Rock On. Even A Wednesday, though I was not entirely happy with it. I'd round off my list by picking Shaurya and Maharathi, though honestly neither was all that good. It just shows you how atrocious Bollywood is these days.

Debojit Ghatak said...

Oye Lucky Oye is the only deserving film of the year. Rest were all bull crap.

S.K.S. said...

Dasvidaniya and Mithya were good but I think Vinay Pathak has done better and I really was not impressed with Aamir. As for Ek Chalis, I cannot like anything with Neha Dhupia in it. Maharathi was God awful, I hope you are kidding (and I repeat the Dhupia comment). Shaurya is a poor remake of A Few Good Men, a film best left untouched.

Films like Dostana and Fashion are about as 'commercial' as the list gets (although Fashion is by no means commercial), but I wanted to balance this list a little, because at the end of the day the star-studded, 'fun' films are what most people (and readers) do look forward to every year and what makes 'Bollywood' (as much as I hate that term) what it is.

All in all, I agree with your final comment - the industry is rather atrocious these days, and good films are really hard to come across.

Reema said...

LoL I've only seen 4 of those movies. I have some catching up to do.

And aww, you think Anushka won't amount to anything? I really like her, so I hope things go her way.

Illusions01 said...

what did you think of Dev D. I have it at home, haven't seen it yet, but looks interesting

Roopam said...

I liked Sajjanpur. havent seen dil kabaddi, dasvidaniya, mithya, amir, ek chalis etc. i am afraid to watch jodha as well as its too long for me. dostana was funny. i thought abhishek was really funny. OLLO was definitely one of the best last year. amazing dialogues...

Sana Anwar said...

Okay the movies that I saw from this list I completely agree with your reviews, as usual. I mean honestly, I'm still waiting for the review that I completely disagree for.

Jodha Akbar. good gyad. My whole day was gone when I watched it. And it could have shortened. That scene when Hrithik is like, fighting the elephant? It was cool for the first 30 seconds. 10 minutes later, I was over it.

Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. I watched that for my birthday. My mom asked what I wanted to do for my birthday and i said I want to watch Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. Just thought I'd throw that in. Definitely cute. The annoying girl in the beginning that they were telling the story too?! I was ready to walk out of the theater after the first 5 minutes. Those characters were ANNNOOYYYYINNNGGG. But yeah I don't understand the Dil Chahta Hai connection. I don't think this movie is even remotely close to being in the same league as Dil Chahta Hai. Honestly, if Imran Khan wasn't in it, I don't think I would have really cared for this. Definitely in my favorite movies of this year but it wouldn't make my list for top 20 movies in the last 5 years.

I haven't seen Rock On. DON'T HIT ME!

Fashion. Okay, I reallllly liked this movie. Kangana getting best supporting actress (critic's choice? i don't remember) filmfare was uncalled for. This was my first Kangana movie but she's always getting awards so I was excited to see her in this and I was like, wth. I was cringing. I guess I'm in the minority. The only thing she did well was snort that cocaine. And maybe she's had some practice. Nom sayin? But yeah, Priyanka was amazing and gorgeous. The whole time I was watching her in this I couldn't stop thinking, "what the freak was she doing in Krrish?!" because her acting in that was disastrous. I'm pretty sure I got teary eyed I was so embarrassed. I don't even know why I got embarrassed. She was just so bad that I was embarrassed for her I guess.

Dostana. Pleasantly surprised. REally cute. John Abraham could have kept his clothes on and it would have been better. Again, I'm in the minority. But seriously, they could have calmed down with the nanga-ness.

I shall watch Rock On first. Then Oye Lucky.

Again, your blog = amazing partaayyyy

Arjun said...

A crisp blog on the major movies of the year! Good! I loved Jodha Akbar, Rock On and Welcome to Sajjanpur

Rajesh said...

Nice summary of the films of 2008.
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