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.

 

OK Jaanu Movie Review: Ok Remake

There is always a sense of trepidation when one hears about an upcoming Bollywood remake of a successful South Indian film. After watching filmmakers slaughter their movies with indifferently made remakes (AR Murugadoss being the chief offender here with the godawful Holiday, with Prabhu Deva, Krishna Vamsi, Gautham Menon, etc. propping up the list from the bottom), one didn’t know what to make of the announcement that Shaad Ali planned to remake Mani Ratnam’s sublime OK Kanmani. While Ali’s remake of the brilliant Alaipayuthey made for a solid directorial debut in Saathiya, his last two directorial efforts, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom and Kill Dil ended up being examples of interesting ideas that somehow fizzled out on the big screen. So, will the audience say Jaanu or stick to Kanmani after watching this?Continue reading “OK Jaanu Movie Review: Ok Remake”

ABCD 2 (3D) Movie Review: Bigger, Better and Spectacular at Places

Remo D’souza is a brave man. He mostly resists the temptation of going for ‘typical Bollywood’ choreography and dishes out some lovely psychedelic, hip-hop, Broadway and other western dance forms in ABCD 2, sequel to his 2013 hit ABCD (Any Body Can Dance). I am not an authority to comment on the quality and level of dancing, but as an average movie lover seated in the theater, much of the choreography in ABCD 2 gives you goosebumps. Your limbs twirl a little and a bit of shiver runs down your spine during several dance sequences in the film – especially during Prabhu Deva’s stunning introductory dance number and the exhilarating Ganesha formation towards the climax. More on that later.Continue reading “ABCD 2 (3D) Movie Review: Bigger, Better and Spectacular at Places”

Breaking Bard: Vishal Bhardwaj’s Shakespearean Trilogy

In early 2000s, when a music director, known mostly for his work in niche Hindi films, began travelling to festivals for his exposure to international cinema, he chanced upon his nephew reading a “children’s version” of Shakespeare’s works. Little did he know that what began as a leisurely reading exercise, would, almost a decade and a half later, culminate into one of the most accomplished trilogies on Shakespearean literature ever.

What is interesting to note here is that what the world saw as a master stroke, with the Kingdom of Scotland being replaced by Mumbai’s underworld and the witches by corrupt policemen, to contemporarize Macbeth, was born largely out of ignorance. Had the creator felt intimidated by Shakespeare’s standing in world literature then perhaps we wouldn’t have witnessed this ‘chutzpah’ in his adaptations.

Today when we see Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool, Omkara & Haider, unless told otherwise, we might not even think of them as adaptations of Macbeth, Othelo and Hamlet respectively. As his frequent collaborator, Gulzaar, points out “Vishal simply uses the name of Shakespeare for marketing gimmick. They are all but original works” This remark garbed with sarcasm is perhaps the best compliment one can give to his trilogy. 

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

 

“Shakti ka santulan”

Like most trilogies, it is very easy to notice a similarity in the screen-writing pattern in all the 3 movies. We are already familiar with the names of his characters sounding similar to the ones in the play (Gertrude becomes Ghazala, Iago becomes Ishwar ‘Langda’ Tyagi). The supernatural elements get conveniently replaced with their contemporary avatars (King Hamlet’s “ghost”  becomes a man carrying Ghost IDs – aptly named Roohdaar). The major plot points in the play always make way into the final adaptation (Desdemona’s handkerchief makes way for Dolly Mishra’s Kamarbandh but nevertheless remains pivotal to the final doom)

The "grave-digger" scene from the play & the film
The “grave-digger” scene from the play & the film

However, the similarity does extend to minor character peculiarities as well. The central character always gets a closely cropped haircut (while Irrfan & Saif got a Caesar cut, we saw Shahid’s head getting a complete shave-off). There is slight touch of an english song or a phrase to add the quirk to a narrative rolling out mostly in local dialect (much before the wordplay between Chutzpah & AFSPA we saw Kareena’s hindi medium educated Dolly learning to sing ‘I just called to say’ for Omkara always addressed as ‘My dear O’ in her love-letters).

And if you thought we had exhausted all the points, take note of how every romantic ballad, between the lead pair, paves way for the first in the series of events that would finally culminate into the tragic climax. (Nimmi lays the germ of killing Abbaji in Maqbool’s mind after ‘Rone Do’ | Indu steals the cummerbund towards the end of ‘O Saathi Re’ | Haider discloses his plan of avenging his father’s death to Arshia after ‘Khul Kabhi To’)

There might be many more similarities. We just need to keep looking!

 

“Ya to tu bahut badi lool hai. Ya bahut badi chudail.”

The two-faced Shakespearean lady
The two-faced Shakespearean lady

When Haider looks at his mother’s reflection on a broken mirror, split into two, he rightly points out her two-faced nature. The classic Shakespearean lady, whose desires and ambitions always leads to the crime. And it is her guilt of the same that consumes everyone at the end.

Does she really love her husband’s godson or is she simply looking for a means of escape from her sexless and hapless life? Why does she steal the cummerbund at the slightest prodding of her husband, without questioning him about it?  How can she, still a half-widow, sit and smile beside her new lover, basking in the glory of his electoral win; or are those dark glasses concealing her guilt-ridden eyes?

She is also the innocent victim, torn between her loved ones. She might scream out to push away her enemy. But mostly she weeps and surrenders – taking away her own life or letting her loved one take it away from her.

 

“Bewakoof aur ch***ye mein dhaage bhar ka fark hota hai”

Vishal really indulges himself in fleshing out the minor characters in Shakespeare’s play. The witches, the spies, the courtiers are not just mere sidekicks in larger scheme of things. They are instrumental in influencing the protagonists, taking the story forward and also providing the much needed comic relief in what everyone knows is going to end up in a tragedy.

Naseer & Om’s Pandit & Purohit in Maqbool, Deepak Dobriyal’s Rajju in Omkara and, the latest addition, Salman & Salman, played by Sumit Kaul & Rajat Bhagat, in Haider have some of the best written scenes in the film for them.

If it has been a while since you watched Omkara, we can recap one such scene for you.

And to all those raving on the performance of the two Salmans in Haider here is a small scene from the film for you.

 

“Hummara ishq to paak tha naa miyaan”

What is it in the forbidden love, that attracts us so strongly towards it? The very boundaries of relationship that one is expected to safeguard, end up getting violated first. It inebriates us with such a toxic strength that the lines of right and wrong get blurred.

The different shades of forbidden love
The different shades of forbidden love

Why else would Maqbool end up putting bullets into his Godfather when he has risked his entire life saving him from those very bullets? What came over Dolly to defy her father and elope from her own marriage for a hard-core criminal, lower to her in both caste and status? Was Ghazala actually in love with her brother-in-law or was just running away from her son lest she starts reciprocating his Oedipus complex?

The forbidden love doesn’t expect the world to understand it. It is continuously judged and condemned, but it continues to be giving till its last breath. Sometimes it is in form of a last peck to her son to salvage his years of desire before blowing oneself up to quench his thirst for vengeance. Other times it is just abject surrender to one’s beloved only to be smothered by him on your wedding night. As mentioned, it continues to be giving till its last breath.

 

“Hum hain ki hum nahin”

Last, but not the least, Vishal’s films are also about existential crisis. A half-brahmin continuously jostles with those who have been ridiculing his caste to gain power over them. His second-in-command forgets years of friendship when what rightfully belongs to him is usurped away by a greenhorn only because of differences in their social standing. His insecurities are not very different from a Mumbai gangster who continuously feels threatened by a lad much younger to him simply because he is soon going to qualify as his Godfather’s son-in-law. And in a world much more complex than theirs, millions of Kashmiris take sides in a war for reasons that are anything but ideological. Some are avenging the death of their closed ones. Others are following their lines of duty. Most of them are confused and are willing to sideline with anyone who can promise them safety and purpose in lives.

While love, greed, lust and redemption remain integral to the plot, it is the continuous struggle towards protecting one’s own existence that forms the core of all of Vishal’s stories. It propels them to do the unthinkable only to realize the truth when it’s too late. The truth that recurs in all the 3 movies. Whether it is by showing Maqbool giving up arms at the sight of his son being adopted by his enemy or by having Haider forgive his uncle to honor his mother’s last wishes. The truth- that has been articulated with great simplicity in Haider “Jab tak hum Inteqam se aazaad nahi ho jaate… koi Aazaadi humein aazaad nahi kar sakti”.

Here is leaving you all with the Faiz Ahmed Faiz song that is played through the movie. Set to music by Mehdi Hasan, it is the first instance of Vishal using someone else’s composition for his films. “Chale bhi aao ki gulshan ka karobaar chale……”

Haider Movie Review: Love-ed

Sometimes it is so difficult to collect all the thoughts to write a review for a movie. What do I do then? I ask myself. Us Bhakts of Bhardwaj get swept away, most of the times, in blind faith. But the truth is, there is no way you can ignore the reality, as I learnt while I was talking to Sethu. The truth, in all of its probability is, that this Vishal Bhardwaj’s masterpiece…is not aberration free.  There are things in the plot that call for an unwelcome “what a coincidence.” There are things that call for an unwelcome “really?” moment. I mean how do you respond to a thing that’d happen – even in the context of the movie—but won’t because it’s a movie, based on a play — so there are events pending to happen? How do you respond to characters that exist because…well, it’s convenient for the storyteller? And no, I am not talking about Irrfan Khan’s Roohdaar (without trying to spoil anything.) There are coincidences, and character decisions — and yes they can happen, but! — But that jarred. Because it felt like some kind of an easy make-shift solution to drive the movie forward. That makes things look superficial. It takes away the gravity from a scenario otherwise really intense. It hinders seamless involvement.Continue reading “Haider Movie Review: Love-ed”

Haider (2014) Movie Review: The Return Of The Bard

Language : Hindi | Running Time : 162 Minutes | Director : Vishal Bhardwaj 

Irrfan Khan as Roohdhar, making a special appearance, dressed in white and sporting black goggles, walks onto the screen, mist clearing and I was reminded of a heroine walking into a hero’s life in our movies from the 80s. If not the same, the scene surely brings a similar effect on us. We are left gasping at the majestic beauty of the shot, the exhilarating bass and electric guitars of “Aao Na” announcing his presence. It is right there with some of the best intros I’ve seen in Indian cinema, because it elevates a simple intro into one filled with mystery and a desire to follow the man ourselves. It is something that draws whistles, claps and heightens our frenzy and Vishal Bhardwaj’s “Haider” will ask you the question, “To be or not to be” in every scene it throws at you.Continue reading “Haider (2014) Movie Review: The Return Of The Bard”

Haider: Trailer

Haider Poster 1After adapting William Shakespeare‘s Macbeth into Maqbool and Othello into Omkara , Vishal Bhardwaj is now ready with his third film under his Shakespeare trilogy, Haider which is based on Hamlet. Produced by Vishal and UTV, the film is written by Vishal himself and Basharat Peer. Based in Kashmir the film has an ensemble star cast comprising of Shahid Kapur, Shraddha Kapoor, Tabu, Kay Kay Menon, Irrfan Khan, Aamir Bashir, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Ashish Vidyarthi etc. Of course the music is by Vishal while the lyrics are by Gulzar. Pankaj Kumar is the DOP and Aarif Sheikh the editor of the film.Continue reading “Haider: Trailer”

Ek Villain Movie Review: Bad Story About Bad People

Ek Villain PosterNow I haven’t “Seen the Devil” so it is not possible for me to compare Ek Villain with the original it rips off blatantly. From what I have read online, the original is a brilliantly made thriller that is gory but still riveting. With Ek Villain, we have a watered down (read Indianised) version sans the gore and overt sexuality. Should work, like some rip offs have in the past one would say.

Unfortunately as a stand-alone story being told to first timers in the audiences (which there are many since the Korean original is not known beyond the connoisseurs of world cinema, or pyscho gore, or both; you get the point) Mohit Suri’s love story of a Villain is a train wreck of a script that is marginally redeemed by passable performances and a memorable musical score.Continue reading “Ek Villain Movie Review: Bad Story About Bad People”

Nominations For the Best of Bollywood 2013!

Like most other years, 2013 too has been an eventful year for the Hindi film industry. And unlike other years, 2013 was also the 100th year for the Hindi film industry. However, the centenary wasn’t really a landmark in terms of quality; we didn’t have a watershed of extraordinary films. Yes, we had a few brilliant pieces of cinema but we also had a truckload of terrible movies. What has been most encouraging in this entire melee is the gradual acceptance and support rendered to smaller films. While we had Kiran Rao helping a “Ship of Theseus” to get a release, we had a Karan Johar taking “The Lunchbox” out to the masses. In this post, I enumerate my (completely) personal list of favourite films of 2013 and their different aspects. These are my nominations for the best of Bollywood in the year 2013. While I have considered six nominees for every category (most of which are non-technical), I have added one more as “Almost There”, whom / what I feel is good but not enough to be on the list. Would love to get your vote from the nominees or any additional candidate you feel like.Continue reading “Nominations For the Best of Bollywood 2013!”