The Best of Bollywood In 2018

Listing the ten best films I have seen emerge from Bollywood last year could be a little deficient as I could not get around to watch a few generally acclaimed films like 3 Storeys and Love Sonia in time. Nevertheless, here’s my list of 10 best films that were made in Bollywood in the year gone by.

Honorable mention goes to Rajkumar Gupta’s Raid for an engaging account of a…raid and Hichki where Rani Mukherjee overcomes a clichéd script to deliver a watchable movie.

                                                                10. Kuch Bheege Alfaz
I am not a big fan of coincidences as a plot point, and the entire premise of KBA rests on coincidence. But if you are willing to look beyond that, this is a nice, gentle romance. Bollywood specializes in this genre, but rarely do you feel the romance yourself. A combination of good writing, direction and acting achieve this rare feat.
(Disclosure: The writer of this movie Abhishek Chatterjee also contributes to this website)

9. Stree
Horror and comedy often go together by in most cases, the end result is a spoof of the horror genre. Rarely do they complement each other. The horror in Stree follows the standard tropes expected in a film like this, but it’s the funny bits in between that make the movie. The film features good performances by everyone, including Shraddha Kapoor. A confident feature debut by director Amar Kaushik.

8. Raazi
The one flaw that I thought Raazi had was that the husband’s character wasn’t developed strongly enough. With a capable counterpart, Alia Bhatt’s spy would have seemed more credible. But this minor quibble apart, Raazi is a good watch with an apt balance of drama and thrills. Surely, Alia Bhatt can do not wrong from this point on in her career.

7. Sui Dhaaga
Having sort of honed his skills paying a small town bumpkin in the Dulhania duology, Varun Dhawan lends a humane touch and some maturity to his character here.  He is ably supported by Anushka Sharma. The story of the triumph of the underdog may have been done many times in the past, yet Sharat Katariya’s take on it makes for an interesting watch. If nothing else, I hope it puts Raghuvir Yadav back in the reckoning as a sought out actor.

6. Karwaan
While watching this movie, I was constantly reminded of Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying where three individuals carry a dead body across a road trip. The more showy role here is played with aplomb by Irfan Khan. Dulquer Salman, in his Hindi debut, is the under playing anchor of the ship and Mithila Palkar is the loose cannon who makes the age gap seem obvious. This is a nice feel-good black comedy. 

5. Veere Di Wedding
Four friends at different stages of matrimonial life is a premise for some witty writing. Add to that good performances by the four leading ladies (Swara Bhaskar steals most scenes) under Shashank Ghosh’s able direction and there isn’t a dull moment in this film.

4. Manmarziyan
The story of the woman settling for an arranged marriage despite a passionate affair is a template already covered by the Woh Saat Dins, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanams and Dhadkans of the world. Yet writer Kanika Dhillon and director Anurag Kashyap find ways of adding complications to the story. Not all of it made sense to me but then I don’t suppose it was meant to. Superb acting by Taapsee Pannu, Vicky Kaushal and Abhishek Bachchan; in fact this must be Bachchan’s best role in years. He is more suited to these ‘serious types’ than comedy.  

3. Badhaai Ho 
This is a perfect example of choosing the right actor for the right role. What an ensemble cast this is! A late and unexpected pregnancy puts everyone in the household in an embarrassing situation leading to much mirth. Is this the same Amit Sharma  who directed Tevar a few years ago? You don’t say!

2. Kaalakaandi
I laughed so much with this movie my sides hurt. Three stories run parallel over the span of one fateful night. It’s a no brainer that they will come together at some point. This union is completely forced but by the time it comes, you are beyond the point of caring. Akshat Verma, who wrote the no-holds barred Delhi Belly, makes his directorial debut with even an even more ribald comedy. Sad it barely got noticed at the time of its release.

1. Mukkabaaz
By now it may seem that I am an Anurag Kashyap fan boy. But really, what’s not to like about this story about a boxer who has to rise above caste politics to claim his right to fight. As always, the dialogues in Kashyap’s films are peerless. No one gets these North Indian landscapes right better than him. Vineet Kumar puts in a performance that should make all filmmakers sit up and take notice of his raw talent.

 

Mamarziyaan Movie Review: Unchained Melody!

 

manmar1Very rarely do one get to witness a stand out climax in our romantic dramas like the one we see in Manmarziyaan. One that is sans the melodrama or the cliché settings (say like an airport or a railway station). It is something wonderfully set up by director Anurag Kashyap, who for a change grapples here with something more mainstream.

But the ending is only part of the tale. For first, you must reach there. And unfortunately, for that you need to tread a path that is familiar – as familiar as the Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam template, or the Rab Ne Banadi Jodi ones. Or for those familiar with South movies, as back as the Mani Rathnam classic Mouna Raagam or an Antha Ezhu Naatkal (remade in Hindi as Woh Saat Din).  Here too, we watch as a young woman fall in and out of love, leaving the men in her life to helplessly sit back and watch as she sorts out the messy affairs of her heart.

The lady is none other than Rumi (Taapsee Pannu). She is a happy go lucky, free spirited young woman who likes to live life on her terms. Rumi has no qualms in sneaking in over her boyfriend Vicky and indulging in some ‘f-yaar’ away from the eyes of her family members. But when her folks do find out, she immediately takes control of the situation stating that she wants to marry her Tinder find. She even promises that if her boyfriend fails to show up with his parents formally with an alliance, she is willing to be the sacrificial ‘donkey’ and shall be up for an arranged marriage with any idiot who her family deems right.

That is the confidence she shows in her lover. But little does she know him. Vicky Sandhu (a terrific Vicky Kaushal) is a hopeless irresponsible bloke, a DJ by profession, is so in love with Rumi that he can leap rooftops for his love but the first to run away from any talk of commitment and marriage. He is the kind who is all set to elope with his girl, but without a penny in his pocket. And most of the first half is spent with Rumi trying to get some sense into the guy’s head and get him to be serious about their relationship in a more responsible manner for once.

Enter Rajbir aka Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan) , a investment banker from London, in town looking for prospective brides. But when the marriage broker shows him a pic of Rumi, he is immediately fixated on the woman. Despite being aware of her torrid affair with the Dj dude, Robbie still decides to risk things on an alliance with Rumi.

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Anurag Kashyap thus brings these three diverse characters into the setting of middle -class Punjab to give you this bold take on the above-mentioned template. The loud Bhansali style Gujarati setting of Hum Dil De…,makes way for a subtler Punjabi one.

It is important to note how Kashyap and writer Kannika opts to keep the script free of any villains. Therefore you do not see the usual scheming family members or the screaming babu-jis in this one. In fact, all of Rumi’s family appear to be supportive of any decision that Rumi makes, that is she if makes up her mind. Having lost her parents at an earlier age, she cleverly manipulates things to her advantage with her aunts, uncles and grandfather to get whatever she desires. And as much as reckless and rebellious, she is also shown someone to be attached to things that she holds dear and near. Notice how she wears her father’s shirt when she goes to ask Vicky to propose to her.

But Rumi is as complex a character that can be, volatile and affectionate in equal measures and Taapsee Pannu has absolutely nailed this one. In what is easily her career best performance, Taapsee is in full control over her multi-faceted character. She is undoubtedly the life of the movie. But she gets wonderful support from the rest of the cast. Vicky Kaushal absolutely rocks as the irresponsible man-child and despite all the flaws of the character, Vicky still makes the character so endearing, without putting a foot wrong.  Abhishek Bachchan, returning after a gap of two years, unfortunately is still playing the bland Ramji types- the kind he played in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna,.  However, the writing fails to do justice to this third wheel and even performance wise- Abhishek despite his calming assured presence, fail to really bring anything new to his portrayal.

Despite its predictability , Anurag Kashyap and writer Kanika ‘s treatment keep things interesting.  The characters here are not boxed into any stereotypes and each have enough shades of grey to keep the viewers hooked. In fact, there is this constant motif of duality that is the center-stage of this script whichKashyap keeps exploring with these characters. And to drive home the point, he deliberately keeps throwing the visual cues like the dancing twins (Poonam and Priyanka Shah) or the twin guys we see in the Kashmir episode.

It is a welcome return for Kashyap to the romantic genre after a series of crime dramas since tasting success with Dev D. But Kashyap being Kashyap, gets into his fair share of indulgence that makes the movie appear a slog at 155 minutes. As we grapple with Rumi’s indecisiveness, Vicky and Rumi’s antics get a little too repetitive and brings down the energy at a lot of instances. You would find yourself wishing that these two would for once make up their minds and move on.

Glad to find Kashyap and writer Kannika truly liberating Rumi and unchaining her from the Bollywood rulebook that defines how a leading protagonist should act and behave onscreen. Virginity and sex is never brought up as a hindrance to anything as the big issue over a small tissue is outright thrown out of the window in this unflinching take on love, lust and marriage. In fact, right at the beginning, in the scene when the family members discover Vicky in her bedroom Rumi’s immediate reaction is  ‘ So what?’

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Successfully aiding Kashyap’s return to the romantic genre is partner from Dev D days – Amit Trivedi.  Together with lyricist Shelly, the team has come up once again with a scintillating soundtrack that really works wonder and is effectively used to keep the narration stay afloat , capturing the various moods as required.

Cinematographer Sylvester Fonseca does full justice in capturing the hustle bustle of the small-town Punjab.  Kashyap also cleverly uses food as one of the crutch points. Lassi, pakoras and such mouthwatering delicacies are served aplenty and all the food talk could whet up an appetite in you. So it is best advised not to watch it on an empty stomach.

Manmarziyaan, like its title, seem to be content doing its own thing as it pleases. Refusing to cater to the tried and tested, it constantly pushes and rebels its way out of the labels. Kashyap and team may not have exactly hit it out of the park but has managed to carve out something distinctly bolder from the usual bunch of glossy rom-coms and romantic dramas that Bollywood churns out. And much like its characters, Manmarziyaan is a movie that needs to be accepted with all its imperfections.

 

MANMARZIYAAN  (2018)

cast:  Taapsee Pannu, Abhishek Bachchan, Vicky Kaushal

Music:  Amit Trivedi

Directed by Anurag Kashyap

Housefull 3 Movie Review : Jaundice Better Or Typhoid?

Housefull-31-2016-Official-HD-PosterWhat do you really expect when you walk in to a theater to watch a film like Housefull 3? If you have been aware of the previous two films of the franchise, then obviously, you will expect the silly and the dumb to play out in equal proportions, right? If you have not, then it might be nightmarish. But then Housefull is a genre film, created by Sajid Khan, who helmed the reins of previous two films as well. However, in this one, producer Sajid Nadiadwala has handed over the command to Sajid – Farhad, who have written many films for Rohit Shetty and directed the 2014 disaster, Entertainment. No big hopes, there! In my honest opinion, Housefull was a decent watch but Housefull 2 got excruciating. That apart, when the franchise is sort of successful and into its third film, one cannot continue complaining about the genre of it all. Yes, Housefull films rest on wafer-thin plots, lot of exaggerations, silly jokes, under-written female characters, cheap potshots on sensitive issues and a hell lot of caricature. But can they entertain? Because if they can, without crossing the line of humor of course, then the purpose is fulfilled. Intelligence may be insulted but the ticket price cannot be considered to have been completely wasted, no matter what you choose to believe.Continue reading “Housefull 3 Movie Review : Jaundice Better Or Typhoid?”

Shamitabh (2015) Movie Review: Shhh… It’s Always Amitabh.

Language: Hindi | Running Time: 150 Minutes | Director: R Balki

Amitabh Bachchan attired in a suit that has seen better days and a voice that sounds like scotch married marmalade, comes out with a philosophical outburst claiming whiskey runs without water but water cannot work without whiskey. You could close your eyes at this moment and have him tell his dialogues in the manner that he does, regal and disarmingly egoistic and it would be difficult not to worship the owner of this majestic baritone. It is this voice that Balki worships and his God gives it to him liberally, too easily and too liberally that he makes it both the strength and the weakness of his third venture, Shamitabh.Continue reading “Shamitabh (2015) Movie Review: Shhh… It’s Always Amitabh.”

Happy New Year Movie Review: Nonsense Done Right

Farah Khan’s latest venture, Happy New Year, is out in theaters this weekend. And even if you are a plonked outcast lying in some run down part of any city in India, or a swanky tycoon flying around the world for business, you would have come across the obnoxiously omnipresent promotional wave of HNY. Much thanks to Farah’s unapologetic muse and the producer of the film, Shah Rukh Khan, and his army of men who have made sure that HNY becomes a household name, even before its release. The first promo did not create the waves SRK or Farah may have expected it to and neither did the subsequent songs, clumsily painting a lopsided picture of HNY. However, this did not stop their team to serenade all our senses with overdoses of publicity for HNY, so much so that it cooked a pretty smashing buzz for the film, whether good or bad, right before its release. Post Tees Maar Khan, has Farah been able to resurrect herself?Continue reading “Happy New Year Movie Review: Nonsense Done Right”

Happy New Year Movie Review: Steal-Deal

This movie was fun. Guys, wait. Before you start throwing oranges, and bananas, and eggs at me, let me brief it up. I did not like its occasionally serious use of clichés. I did not like its sappy melodrama, and I did not, for the life of me, liked a good part of the song and dance sequences. Parts of them were quite a spectacle, sure, but mostly songs and dances in a movie requiring dance sequences were bland and, unnecessary, at most, and hindering, at-least.Continue reading “Happy New Year Movie Review: Steal-Deal”

Happy New Year Movie Review: Get Ready for the Party Folks

That all eyes have been focusing on Farah Khan’s Happy New Year is no exaggeration by any standard. After all be it her back to back successes with Main Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om, both with Shah Rukh Khan, her first failure in the form of Tees Maar Khan, her subsequent fall out and later patch up with SRK, Farah and her movies have always been in the news. Needless to say it was but natural that people would be curious to know if Happy New Year could bring Farah Khan back to form and if her combination with SRK would turn out to be successful once again. And going by all the buzz right from the release of the first look posters, to the teaser, songs and the trailer, there was no doubt that Happy New Year (or HNY from hereon) would be closely scrutinized as the team geared up for a grand Diwali release.Continue reading “Happy New Year Movie Review: Get Ready for the Party Folks”

Dhoom 3 Movie Review: Kuch Bhi!!

Aamir Khan in Dhoom 3 with his hatWomen & Children first was the cry. People are to distance themselves from something that is a mix between Dhoom 1&2, Fast and the Furious, Prestige, Jumanji (Uday Chopra was the chimpanzee), the Road Runner and the Bugs and Daffy Show. Welcome to THE land where truth is stranger than fiction.

Despite my ranting, my ravings, my warnings and all that is good and holy in this world, my fears came true. I ended up seeing Uday Chopra in a larger than life avatar and sadly no amount of Katrina’s legs can make up for this.

For those still contemplating (and the few of you who read my reviews regularly) I always give a brief about the story and here it is:Chase Scene…Dance…Chase Scene…Katrina Kaif….Dance…Chase Scene….Katrina Kaif…Dance….(Intermission)….Dance…Katrina Kaif…Dance…Dance again….random talk…Aamir Khan kills himself. The End.

I guess you could figure out that wasn’t accurate. I wish I could say the same. Continue reading “Dhoom 3 Movie Review: Kuch Bhi!!”

Dhoom 3 Movie Review: An Inconvenient Marriage

The best shot of Dhoom 3 remains the way Aamir’s character as an adult is introduced. He wakes up perturbed from a night-mare and the camera only focuses on his bare-essentials. This is the most unheroic, uncharacteristic, but really exhilarating introduction of an arch-villain in a full-blown, frivolous ‘franchise’ of a movie. This introduction soars one’s expectations – especially of one who is an admirer of the way an artiste like Aamir places emphasis on the entire movie-making process rather than the parts of the whole sum. And then a reel later, one sees the introduction of the cop-duo, with a wonderful intro of Ali first and then Jai in a rick-shaw! What a wonderful proceeding, one thinks – Aamir all subdued running down the walls of a bank in Chicago and Abhishek’s Jai all ‘desi’ in a rickshaw in a slum-colony! This is going to be one great, multiple time-pass viewing, one thinks! Little did one realize that Aamir’s Saahir running down the bank’s building would turn out to be the one and only grand metaphorical shot in the film – of the film only going downhill!Continue reading “Dhoom 3 Movie Review: An Inconvenient Marriage”