1. HAIDER (Hindi)
Director: Vishal Bharadwaj
Music: Vishal Bharadwaj
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Tabu, Kay Kay Menon, Shradda Kapoor, Irrfan Khan.
A Shakespearean adaptation of epic proportions. Vishal, who so successfully adapted Macbeth and Othello into rough Indian terrains in the backdrop of local conflicts to make two classic movies in the past decade, returns with his third adaptation of a Shakespeare work, in Hamlet.
Haider is set in Kashmir in 1995, at the height of the insurgency among the Indian army and the pro-independence and separatists movement. People are captured by the army, and taken away without a trace, and Haider (Shahid Kapoor) suffers a similar fate as his father is taken away by the army for giving shelter to a rebel leader.
As Haider searches low and high for his missing father, he is disturbed by the courtship between his uncle Khurram (Kay Kay Menon) and his half-widowed mother Ghazala (Tabu). When he is told that Khurram is the one who betrayed his father, Haider pledges revenge, an intention that would set a cycle of constant destruction in the lives of everyone involved in Haider’s life.
Never before has the bloodshed and the destruction of revenge been brought out in such an emotional, haunting manner. Vishal proves once again that he is a filmmaker of a generation as he plays around with semantics to pay ode to the original Hamlet, and also how he kept Roohdar (Irrfan Khan)’s character mysterious throughout the movie (as in Hamlet, Hamlet is told by a spirit (Roh) that his father was killed by his own uncle).
The scene before the gory final act when three old men dig their graves with a haunting rendition of “Aao Na” indicating how tired they are of life explains Haider’s state of mind brilliantly.
Haider betters even Maqbool and Omkara as it is a movie in which Vishal expresses his whole range as an auteur and not just a filmmaker. 2014 was filled with some really good movies, but none better than this.
2. JIGARTHANDA (Tamil)
Director: Karthik Subburaj
Music: Santosh Narayanan
Cast: Siddharth, Bobby Simha, Lakshmi Menon, Vijay Sethupath
Jigarthanda is probably the coolest gangster movie you would see in 2014. But the movie is not only about gangsters- it is also about filmmakers, filmmaking, and the challenges that comes in making films. In only his second directorial venture (after the hugely impressive low budget horror movie Pizza), Karthik returns to helm Jigarthanda with such finesse that leaves you spellbound for a couple of hours.
Karthik (Siddhartha) is an aspiring filmmaker who has been told by his producer to make a film on gangsters. He decides that his subject of research would be Assault Sethu (Bobby Simha) regarded as the most dangerous man in Madurai.
He first observes the gang from far, but not having enough information means that he tries to reach the gang through a mole. When his cover is blown, all hell breaks loose as Karthik is now forced to make the movie using Sethu himself as the hero.
At times, the movie borders on slapstick comedy, but never without potraying the hardship of a filmmaker and also contrasting it with the growth of a local gangster.
Simha’s performance is easily the best performance of the year, while Siddharth carries his part ably. Santosh Narayanan’s music is also brilliant.
3. PK (Hindi)
Director: Rajkumar Hirani
Music: Shantanu Moitra
Cast: Aamir Khan, Anushka Sharma, Sushant Singh Rajput, Boman Irani, Saurabh Shula
I probably didn’t laugh and thoroughly enjoy a movie as much as this one this year. The only reason PK in this list is because of Vishal and Karthik’s filmmaking geniuses which left me spellbound, beyond merely impressed.
PK came with huge expectations, and fulfilled every one of them and even took it to the next level. Rajkumar Hirani and Aamir teamed up to deliver a movie that was even more thought-provoking, and even funnier, than the timeless 3 Idiots, and this too will go down as a movie of a generation.
Amir was simply wonderful as the alien PK, carrying the entire film on his shoulders. While 3 Idiots was laced with many supporting actors sharing equal weight and even lending to comic timing, 3 Idiots was almost entirely about Aamir’s whole range of bravura. The details that went into his performance means that this easily could be the best performance of his career.
PK chronicles the story of PK (Aamir), an alien stuck on earth, who is told that God will help him retrieve the amulet that he had lost- an amulet that would allow him to return to his planet. His whole range of search for God, and discovering the many religions and cultures in India made this movie an exceptional parody and satire of God and Godmen.
Rajukumar Hirani never fails to deliver a heart-warming story in the most entertaining way possible- and after Munnabhai MBBS, Lage Raho Munnabhai, and 3 Idiots, he replicates the magic again here. This was well worth waiting until the end of the year.
4. QUEEN (Hindi)
Director: Vikas Bahl
Music: Amit Trivedi
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Rajkummar Rao, Lisa Haydon
No movie in 2014 would have probably put a smile on your face as big as the charming, effervescent, lovely Queen had done. Directed by Vikas Bahl, Queen tells the story of Rani Mehra (Kangana Ranaut), who is dumped by her fiancee on the eve of their wedding day.
Heartbroken and yet clueless, the village Punjabi lass decides to travel to Paris and Amsterdam, her pre-determined honeymoon spots, on her own, without a partner. The movie becomes a journey of self discovery and she makes friends with a whole array of different individuals and becomes accepting of different cultures and grows her own confidence in herself.
Queen was poignantly made, carved out beautifully, and brought to the screen with an exceptional performance by Kangana, who charmed her way into our hearts. The movie had plenty of heart, and plenty of love to offer.
Amit Trivedi’s music was soothing and constantly uplifting, in tune with the mood of the whole movie. Unlike many other Bollywood flicks, Queen actually gets its foreign casting right. Instead of forcing European actors to mouth Hindi dialogues awkwardly, Queen had European characters being completely themselves and contrasting themselves with Rani’s Punjabi jokes and traditions.
5. HIGHWAY (Hindi)
Director: Imtiaz Ali
Music: AR Rahman
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Randeep Hooda.
Highway was heavy, emotional yet absolutely poignant. It portrays the unlikely love bond between a kidnapped rich girl (Alia) and her kidnapper (Randeep). The contrast in their characters is huge, but the way the screenplay was woven to make get gradually drawn closer to each other, and how they found solace in each other from their tormented daily lives.
The musical journey that came with it- in the form of AR Rahman’s most soulful music in recent times, was a magical experience, just like Imtiaz-AR’s previous combo Rockstar.
Alia Bhatt’s performance was easily the best performance by a female actor this year. It was majestic, and Randeep matched her all the way towards the end.
6. MARDAANI (Hindi)
Director: Pradeep Sarkar
Cast: Rani Mukherji, Tahir Raj Basin
Rani Mukerji’s performance alone is worth putting Mardaani in this list. The film hardly had any other stars and she carried the weight of the film entirely to ensure it was traveling at a breakneck speed.
The film chronicles a female cop’s foray into the word of child trafficking after a slum kid whom she was guarding goes missing from her home, apparently being abducted by a rigorous child trafficking ring in the city- which pits her against a heartless young man at the centre of it all.
With no help offered by her superiors due to jurisdiction problems, she goes out of her way, at times jeopardising her own husband’s medical practice and her children’s safety, to nab the kidnapper.
Rani was to Mardaani what Liam Neeson was to Taken, and she simply marvelled with her performance.
7. FINDING FANNY (Hindi)
Director: Homi Adajania
Cast: Deepika Padukone, Naseruddin Shah, Dimple Kapadia, Arjun Kapoor, Pankaj Kapur
It is difficult to describe how important of a film Homi Adajania’s Finding Fanny was this year. The movie had a stunning star cast- Dimple Kapadia, Pankaj Kapur, Arjun Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, and Naseruddin Shah. But these five characters are not in a thriller. Instead, they are together here in a slowly-paced road movie, set in a remote village in Goa.
Everything about Finding Fanny screamed of the touches of an independent filmmaker, and movies like this are often done in India using a lesser known star cast. But Fanny stands out as five able actors, especially the three veteran ones, provide us with performances of epic proportions to move a still story along until the very end.
For me, Fanny was probably our own Little Miss Sunshine, a movie about dysfunctional people on a journey together and how they try to adjust to each other, in an effort to find Fanny, the long-lost lover of Naseruddin’s character.
Deepika proves in this movie that she can stand tall beside her more celebrated co-stars, and has the makings of a long career herself with her acting skills. Arjun holds his own too in such luminous company, though his character is not given much to impress aside from being grumpy half of the time. Finding Fanny would be a defining movie for Bollywood for years to come. And the fact that so many stars came together to star in a production that they knew was not going to mint money was heartening.
8. DEDH ISHQIYA (Hindi)
Director: Abhishek Chaubey
Music: Vishal Bharadwaj
Cast: Arshad Warsi, Naseruddin Shah, Huma Qureshi, Madhuri Dixit
The rampaging duo of Naseruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi return to play foolish thieves who get conned by a femme fatale for the second time running in Dedh Ishqiya. Vishal Bharadwaj has been one of the best filmmakers of our generation and his touches are just prominent throughout the movie, from the first scene till the last.
Abhishek Chaubey, the director, executes it to the gallery of hallmark Vishal-thrillers, and to replace the voloptous Vidya Balan, Madhuri Dixit plays the femme fatale, that of a Begum, to a tilt. The presence of Hema Qureshi adds another dimension to the characters.
This dark comedy was worth the time and money invested in it, once you manage to wait it out for the final moments of madness where everything comes to a head, and the two heroes end up paying the price for crimes that they had unwittingly participated for the sake of a woman.
9. VAAYAI MOODI PESAVUM (Tamil)
Director: Balaji Mohan
Music: Santosh Narayanan
Cast: Dulquer Salman, Nazriya Nazim, Pandiarajan, Madhoo
This film saw the return of director Balaji, who shot to fame with the 2012 romantic comedy Kadhalil Sodhapavadhu Yeppadi, was pleasant, unique and presented a potpourri of characters that are normally not available in regular Tamil movies.
The various layers of human relationships are brought out beautifully by Balaji with this story about a whole town that is rendered mute due to a disease spreading among its residents. When people resort to gestures to communicate only important things, they find the value of words again.
The film is paced well- at a pedestrian pace as we grow with the characters, with doses of humour generously sprinkled in some parts. The whole setting and the mood of the movie makes you feel good, and it is an amazing feat that Balaji managed to pull off a plot featuring so many characters without a single dialogue for the entirety of the second half.
Dulquer Salman and Nazriya Nazim were both pleasant, but it is the performances of character artistes such as Madhoo which adds flavour to the performances in this film.
This film is all about Balaji’s filmmaking techniques, and despite some flaws that can be attributed to his age, Vaayai Moodi Pesavum was one of the best, most pleasant, yet meaningful efforts at filmmaking in 2014.
10. VELLAI ILLA PATTATHARI (Tamil)
Music: Anirudh Ravichander
Cast: Dhanush, Amala Paul, Saranya Ponvannan, Samuthirakani
In my years compiling top ten lists for movies in a calendar year, I probably had never listed a movie regarded as a commercial potboiler in my top 10 list. This year, I’m breaking the convention with this movie, which was known popularly as D25 (Dhanush’s 25th film) or VIP, in abbreviation.
Everything about VIP’s story was not out of the ordinary. Dhanush plays a jobless youth, with a nagging father and loving mother, and a more successful brother to boot. He gets a job, but with it comes a villain who is determined to halt his plans with all his might. The story is the template you’d follow for a commercial movie, but what makes it stand out, however, is the sheer energy of Dhanush’s performances and also the brilliant, relentless screenplay by debutant director Velraj.
I make no apologies for considering D25 as a thoroughly entertaining movie, because it was exactly that. Dhanush’s energy is above par than his usual fares, presenting plenty of emotions, style, and guile that went hand in hand with a youthful, absorbing musical composition by Anirudh Ravichander, Dhanush’s favourite musical ally nowadays.
Both Samuthirakani and Saranya Ponnvanan were exceptional in their role as parents, and brought another layer of emotion to the story instead of appearing like the regular pedestrian “parents” depicted in most Tamil movies.
My biggest disappointment is the fact that Vasanthabalan’s Kaaviyathalaivan did not make it my top 10 list, despite my initial expectations that it would be here. A lack of execution for KT means that VIP stays in this list- probably a travesty for someone like me who loves cinema that is different from the regular commercial fare.
But when something’s good, you have to give due credit.