Dangal- Movie Review by Ram Anand

But when the curtains draw, Aamir’s dedication in preparing for this role and actually ensure his character does not overshadow the narration is the mark of craftsman par excellence. And just like in Rang de Basanti, Dangal is so much about what Khan underplayed as opposed to what he overplayed.

“AND finally, after 10 years, we all hear what we have been waiting to hear from him,” Dangal’s self parodying narrator, Mahavir Singh Phogat (Aamir Khan)’s nephew, says towards the end of the movie. Continue reading “Dangal- Movie Review by Ram Anand”

Top 10 Indian films of 2014- by Ram Anand

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.

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.

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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

Music: Salim-Sulaiman

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

Music: Sachin-Jigar

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)

Director: Velraj

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.

Ends.

P.K (PK)- Movie Review by Ram Anand

But for those who have appreciated Aamir’s body of work, movies like this happens once in a lifetime. This, very well, could be the biggest feather on his rather colourful hat.

Hollywood often assumes that New York is a favourite landing strip for extraterrestrial beings who are visiting earth. More often than not, aliens do not land here with friendly intentions. But what if one day, the aliens land not in New York or Washington, but in a desert in Rajasthan, India?

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And what if the fundamental difference between the alien race and humans is not the advent of technology or the hunt for Earth’s resources, but instead the very concept of religion itself? How would that alien race perceive a world filled with different customs, religions and rituals?

P.K., as a film and in retrospect the character, asks very pertinent questions about our belief system. There is no need to divulge the plot of the film- in fact it’s a simple, charming idea that is developed into an absolute beauty of 2 hours 30 minutes of running time.

P.K. has everything you would expect from a Rajkumar Hirani film- a social message without being condescending, plenty of good humour, and a colourful portrayal of all its characters. P.K, like all other Hirani films, is full of life, simmering with a potpourri of references that you could relate to in real life.

It is difficult for any combination to try and top the beauty that was 3 Idiots, which, literally, was a movie for an entire generation. Four years on, we have not really swept 3 Idiots and its running jokes off our memories, and here comes PK, with plenty more take-aways that you will enjoy for years to come. PK is different league to 3 Idiots- it gives you the same cinematic satisfaction that the former did, but at the same time satiates more inquisitive minds than 3 Idiots did. PK targets, and parodies, a much larger problem than education- this time, it is the institution of religion, and it does so without ever insulting anyone’s belief system.

You can understand why this film took so long to make and to apply finishing touches. Because every frame is thought out carefully, humour so elegantly added into every facet, and charming you at every nook and cranny. Of course, standing tall in all of this is the inimitable Aamir Khan, who once again gives us a performance to remember. This one, fair to say, carried more weight than the work he put in 3 Idiots or Rang De Basanti for the matter.

If the previous films became cults, it was also thanks to laden supporting cast that played their part, but PK’s charm is all about Aamir here- he carries the film on his shoulders with such impeccable passion for art that you cannot help but to admire and applaud. The way he dances to Rajasthani tunes while maintaining a stoic facial expression is a perfect example of how detailed was his performance as a complete stranger who is learning the good and bad about humanity.

This, easy to say- is probably the best work of his career. And for an actor who has been part of so many memorable films in Indian cinema history- that’s quite a compliment, one that is fully deserved. Any length that PK works for you, whatever the scale is, much of it is down to Aamir’s dedication and effort.

Anushka Sharma is lively as Jagat Janani, full of endeavour and charm. Sanjay Dutt however steals the show in the short cameo he comes in, and even manages to leave a deep emotional impact for the rest of the narrative. Equally good was Saurabh Shukla as the pompous religious guru, while Boman Irani played his part well. Sushant Singh Rajput’s short role was appealing though not outstanding.

Shantanu Moitra’s music is as usual, charming, simple, and sweet to the ears. Songs such as Chaar Kadam and Bhagawan Kaha Rei Tu are memorable without being too outstanding. They all fit seamlessly with the narration.

There’s very few things that needs to be said about Hirani’s work as editor and director. The movie hardly has a boring moment, the pace of it is so exquisite it holds your attention throughout, and every scene is directed with such passion and liveliness that you’d be left clapping at the brilliant dialogues, and laughing hysterically during the others.

All of Hirani’s work has followed the same theme- entertainment without dumbing you down. You don’t have to be dumb in a presentation to make something funny, and you don’t need to employ slapstick to make something funny.

All it takes is plenty of meticulous script revisions, and even an innovative idea can be presented with charm and humour, effortlessly. Every facet of PK exudes charm and certain “feel good” factor that you probably won’t find in another film- Indian or otherwise- this year.

This was an honest attempt at making a good movie that both is inquisitive and humorous in nature. And, this is one of those rare moments, where that attempt is passed with flying colours.

This is first class entertainment. PK is a movie for everyone, and this movie has a little something to offer for everyone, whether you seek pure entertainment or you seek intellect. By the time it ends, you are craving for a second watch.

Movies like these happens once every four years (going by Hirani’s frequency). Treasure it. But for those who have appreciated Aamir’s body of work, movies like this happens once in a lifetime. This, very well, could be the biggest feather on his rather colourful hat.

The wait was worth it. The hype was worth it.

Rating: 9.5/10

Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries)- Movie Review

I am pretty sure there will be many Aamir Khan fans who will wrestle for tickets of this movie when it got released a couple of days ago in Malaysia, but many of them will return home not feeling any kind of satisfaction of watching it. But the unique thing about Dhobi Ghat is that Kiran Rao (yes, the director) knows this fact too.

“I know this film won’t appeal to the general audience,” this was what she bluntly put forth when interviewed recently. She already knew the target audience would be connoisseurs of art-house cinema, and that’s why the film has been doing rounds in film festivals ever since its debut in the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) back in September.

Running at less than 2 hours, Dhobi Ghat is like a chapter from a thick, epic observatory novel called Mumbai Diaries (the film’s alternate English title). Dhobi Ghat isn’t about the entirety of those diaries, but instead just showcases a chapter of the lives of individuals involved in it.

The film is the story of four people: Arun, Shai, Munna, and Yasmin.

Arun (Aamir Khan) is a divorced, lonely introvert painter who had just shifted apartments. At his art exhibition he meets Shai (Monica Dogra), an American investment banker who is on a sabbatical in Mumbai, and has a one-night stand with her. He subsequently explains to her that he has no intention to take the relationship further, and though she concurs, she is smitten by his charm and begins stalking him.

At the same time Shai meets Munna (Prateik Babbar), a dhobi cleaner who does odd jobs to make his ends meet while at the same time aspiring to be an actor. Munna requests Shai to do a portfolio photo shoot for him and she does. He begins to get attracted to her.

At the same time, Arun, in his new apartment, finds some random tapes of a young woman named Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra), a Muslim woman who has just arrived in Mumbai after her marriage to her city-dwelling husband, who was also the previous tenant in the apartment Arun currently rents. Arun watches every tape that she records in her videocam and later starts to attempt finding her whereabouts.

So, as you can see, this is not a love triangle, instead it’s a square. But here there no rejected proposals, every character has there own fears, their own hesitancy and so on. This is probably the subtlest film you will ever see in the history of Bollywood.

There is also the character of the neighboring aunt of Arun’s , who simply observes and says absolutely nothing- just like Mumbai. To add to that, the story starts when Arun shifts into his new apartment and ends when he shifts out of the apartment to a new place. That’s the thread of the story. It simply tells you what happens in between his shifting from one place to another.

Prateik Babbar, almost a Siddharth look-alike, is brilliant as Munna. He debuted as Genelia’s brother in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, and with this performance, he proves beyond doubt that he is an actor for the future. It’s almost a certainty that producers will line up at his door having been exposed to both his good looks and considerable emoting skills as a slum dweller.

Monica Dogra and Kriti Malhotra are both great finds by Kiran Rao, as they fit their characters seamlessly. Aamir Khan, the ever-reliable actor, once again shows his selection prowess. He hardly speaks in the film (due to his introvert nature), but he leaves behind a telling impact and the only point that triggers you to shed tears in the film is also due to his brilliant emoting when he finds out about Yasmin.

Do not expect to be immersed too much in the film, as the film is as detached as it could get. It simply observes without interfering into the characters, more like documentary. And the only engaging moment arrives when Arun finds out about Yasmin, and the film ends soon after. Kiran Rao has written a script specifically for that purpose and she does exactly that.

For a debutant, she shows abstract maturity that is not seen in many present day directors, and although the financial cinema world would expect her to be more engaging and aggressive with her next attempt, being passive and detached in the way she arranges her sequences requires a craft, a talent of its own, and that is something she definitely has.

Sometimes it’s easier to make a film aggressively and have the characters laugh, smile, shout and cry to tell their emotions rather than making a film using a character’s long stare into an empty space, their hopes, their dismay, their loneliness, their insecurity, their selfishness, the tragedy of being wretched from the inside.

Kiran Rao captures loneliness in a way no-one has ever done prior to her.

If you accept Dhobi Ghat for what it offers, then it is indeed a masterpiece.

For those who could not comprehend these genres of films, there is no disappointment to be taken home with this film.

As confessed by the filmmakers themselves, the film was made on a puny budget by the filmmakers themselves. They did not run the financial risk either. The film was shot entirely in Mumbai- there are no stunt scenes, no song sequences, no expensive studio sets- just Mumbai- and all about it.

The film did not even use huge tripods set up to shoot on location, as it was shot using the guerilla technique (real time, support-off, hands-on shooting on the go).

The question is- what have you got to lose? Open your minds towards a different cinema experience, watch it at least once, and if you don’t like it, just accept that this particular genre is not yours.

There’s nothing to like or dislike about the film, just whether you accept or don’t accept.

As for me, all I would say is I would go to Kiran Rao’s next movie.

Rating: 7.5/10

Top 10 Bollywood films of the last decade- Part 3

5. Omkara (2006)

Cast: Ajay Devgan, Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Konkona Sen Sharma

Writer: William Shakespeare (Othello), Vishal Bharadwaj

Director: Vishal Bharadwaj

Brief Synopsis:

Omkara is a local lawmaker in a dusty terrain in North India. When a minister passes away and his mentor subsequently takes up a ministerial position, Omkara gets promoted to the role of the new don of the area. But the problem is he needs to choose a new lawmaker to suceed him, and he has two candidates. One is Langda Tyagi, a long-time, slightly-crippled right-hand man of Omi, and another is the young charming Kesu.

On the day, Omi opts for Kesu to be his successor, trigerring jealousy and hatred from Langda, who starts planting seeds of vengeance by making up a story about an affair between Omi’s lover and soon-to-be-wife Dolly with the ever charming Kesu.

When Omkara finally buys the story, all hell breaks loose.

Vishal Bharadwaj made two adaptations of Shakespearean tragedies in the past decade, of which Omkara is the second one. Vishal’s Maqbool, which is an adaptation of the more popular Macbeth, is an equally good picture, but Omkara personally takes the cake for me as the technical qualities in this film have gone up a notch.

Omkara is as good an adaptation of Othello that you will see anywhere, as Vishal brings the British tragedy to the dusty terrains of Uttar Pradesh, and fills them with foul-mouthed, gun-wielding people. Omkara’s mood and tempo is one of the best you would ever see for a dark film. And Vishal takes it up even a level higher with his music. The haunting ‘Naina’ track especially stands out.

Omkara was filled with a stellar cast and everyone gave their best. Saif obviously delivered the best single man performance of the whole decade as the jealousy-infused Langda Tyagi, while Ajay and Kareena both look their parts. Even in small roles, Naseeruddin Shah and Konkona both left their marks on the film.

Omkara is the best tragedy movie to have been made in the last decade. And that proves only one thing- that Shakespeare is still the master of tragedy. And Vishal’s affinition to adapting the legend’s works can only mean one thing- even better films in the future.

IMDb rating: 7.9/10 (after 3,000 votes)

4. 3 Idiots (2009)

Cast: Aaamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Sharman Joshi, R Madhavan

Writer: Chetan Bhagat (Five Point Someone)

Director: Rajkumar Hirani


Brief synopsis:

Farhan, Raju and Rancho are all roomates in the hostels of the country’s premier engineering university, IIT. But all three of them are not exactly the apple of the eye for their lecturers nor the dean due to their philandering ways of going about things. Rancho, though eccentric, and bizzarely creative, manages to score top marks in every exam while his two friends languish in the bottom of the mark sheets.

They all clash with their obsessive dean, Viru, mainly due to Rancho’s affection towards the dean’s daughter Pia. What follows is a series of quirky, comedic events that lead up to the end of their college life.

However, Rancho goes missing after that, and after several years, Raju and Farhan, who have both pursued their dreams, go on a journey searching their lost friend, who was also an inspiration for them.

When Aamir Khan is involved, the potential is always there for a film to become a cult hit. And that was exactly what happened with 3 Idiots. Perfect entertainment. Loosely based upon Chetan Bhagat’s novel, Aamir and Rajkumar Hirani combine to deliver a film that totally rapes the Indian education system and asks quentessential questions in relation to academic achievements and success in life.

The song ‘Give me some Sunshine’ stands out as it perfectly narrates the travails many students face as they sacrifice their dreams and potential for what the world perceive to be real ‘success’. Having personally been a victim of such situations, 3 Idiots was more of an eye-opening film that boldly takes upon a hiherto untouched subject with entertaining bravado.

Aamir takes the cake as he charms his way through the whole film with his Rancho avatar, while R Madhavan and Sharman Joshi both perfectly fit the bills as individuals who are striving to be different but are forced to follow the flock due to their circumstances.

Shantanu Moitra’s carefree music added with the catchy, funny song lyrics, made everyone step out of the theater truly believing that all is going to be well.

And that is great cinematic achievement.

IMDb rating: 8.3/10 (after 12,000 votes)

3. Rang De Basanti (2005)- Paint it Saffron

Cast: Aamir Khan, Sharman Joshi, Siddharth, R Madhavan, Soha Ali Khan

Writers: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Rensil D’Silva

Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra


Brief Synopsis:

Sue is a young British documentary film-maker who comes to India in order to make a documentary film about India’s freedom fighters, based on the memoir of her grandfather, who served as a prison guard under the British Indian empire. With the help of her friend Sonia, she auditions several people for the roles but decide that Sonia’s close group of friends fit the characters best.

The youths, who mock the freedom fighters, agree half heartedly, and start shooting for the documentary. They find it hard to relate to the freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the country until their dear friend Ajay, who is also Sonia’s boyfriend, a flight lieutenant for the Indian army dies in one of his flights. They get enraged when the corrupt Defence Minister blames Ajay’s pilot skills as the reason for the crash, and sense injustice in the air, wanting his name to be cleared, and his contribution honored. This is when they realize the extent of corruption in the country and take drastic steps against them, inspired by the very characters they were playing in the documentary.

The movie of a generation. When Rang de was released, no other film had the kind of social influence that this film managed to have. A realistic, heart-wrenching climax at the tail end of a fun and frolic looking film which depicted India’s youth with such great flavor makes this film one kind of an emotional ride.

R Madhavan delivers the best cameo ever delivered since cameos were invented in his brief appearance, while Siddharth’s performance tailed up so fantastically that he overshadowed Aamir Khan. With a star cast that was inch-perfect, and AR Rahman’s re-defining music, from the rebelious ‘Khalbali’ to the soulful ‘Tu Bin Bataye’, RdB attained cult status, and gave patriotism a new glossy look, away from its previously melodramatic, hyped look. Even the audience could feel the patriotic angst of the characters in this film- that was how well it was etched out.

IMDb rating: 8.3/10 (after 13,000 votes)

Top 10 Bollywood films in the last decade- Part 2

Continued from Part 1

7. A Wednesday (2008)

Cast: Nasseruddin Shah, Anupam Kher

Director: Neeraj Pandey

Writer: Neeraj Pandey

Brief synopsis:

It was a seemingly normal Wednesday when a common man walks into a police station, wanting to file a complaint, and at the same time plants a bomb in the toilet of the station. He proceeds to call Commissioner Prakash Rathod and threatens him to release four terrorists in exchange of the lives of millions in the city (he had planted four bombs across the city’s key areas).

As Prakash desperately tried to psyche and figure out the man’s profile and whereabouts, two of his trusted police officer board a van along with the four terrorists and escort them to the location named by the common man, only to have a surprise waiting there.

On face value, A Wednesday seems like a very regular movie with a very regular, Hollywood-inspired story. But the film offers a great surprise in the way it was narrated and presented, and even the issue it tackles on. Without trying to be preachy, the film effectively plays across the gallery a question so essential for the modern community.

Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher both deliver inch-perfect performances in a film which takes place in a single day, and happens sans any duet, romance, songs, or any form of melodrama. An intense thriller requires great writing, and that was what Neeraj Pandey manages to do. His direction is equally impressive, as he ensures that tension runs high throughout.

The film is thought provoking and at the same time has a screenplay that doesn’t allow you to breath. Talk about a well-carved entertainer.

IMDb rating: 8.2/10 (after 4,000 odd votes)

6. PEEPLI (Live)

Cast: Omkar Das Manikpuri, Raghubir Yadav, Malaika Shenoy

Writer: Anusha Rizvi

Director: Anusha Rizvi

Brief synopsis:

Natha and Budhia are sibling farmers in the dry region of Peepli who are going broke due to their unproductive land. The brothers plot to commit suicide so that their family could receive the luxurious compensation that the government affords to the families of farmers who commit suicide due to overwhelming debt.

Natha decides to be the one who commits the act, and the pair unwittingly talks to a local newspaper reporter regarding their intentions. This sparks off a media frenzy and soon Natha becomes an overnight celebrity and struggles with the nation’s eye on him, asking questions as to when he will die. His statement also creates political tension between rival factions as election looms by in the region, causing chaos to reign in the otherwise silent dry land.

Peepli Live is another never-seen-before attempt in Hindi cinema. It is a dark satire that spoofs and mocks and ridicules all the practices in the world of journalism and politics, and also paints a damning picture of how the current day India is in the rural areas.

Peepli doesn’t try to become an emotional film at any point, and thus it works big time for simply observes of foolhardy way many people conduct themselves when they are pushed to certain limits.

Anusha Rizvi deserves plaudit for such an uncompromising view of India.

It’s bitter, but it’s the truth.

IMDb rating: 7.9/10 (after 2,000 votes)


To be continued in Part 3

Top 10 Bollywood films in the last decade- Part 1

As 2010 reaches a crescendo, I am doing this compilation:

10. Taare Zameen Par (Stars on earth)- 2007

Cast: Aamir Khan, Darsheel Safary

Writer: Amole Gupte

Director: Aamir Khan

Brief synopsis:

Ishaan is the 8-year-old son of a regular, excellence-chasing middle-class urban family in Mumbai. Often overshadowed by his elder brother who excels in his studies, Ishaan struggles to reach similar academic heights but instead indulges himself in his own world of imagination. He paints, he creates scrapbooks, and he has fondness for small creatures.

Disillusioned by what they perceive to be Ishaan’s lack of discipline, the parents send him off to a boarding school, where a newly instated art teacher Ram recognizes that Ishaan suffers from dyslexia.

The subsequent story centers on how Ram tries to help cure Ishaan and at the same time raise awareness among his ever-demanding parents and teachers.

This film was definitely the flavor of the year as it was sent as India’s official entry for the Academy Awards. Backed by Amole Gupte’s taut script and Aamir’s assured commandeering in what was the popular actor’s directorial debut, the film works mainly because of child artist Darsheel’s excellent performance and also Aamir’s willingness to take a back seat while allowing Darsheel’s character remain the focus.

Great lyrics and also a very good score by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy back up the film, where most of the songs manage to heighten the emotional experience of watching the film.

The film gives the viewer a fulfilling cinematic experience, and was also the first film in Bollywood to touch upon the topic of dyslexia. The film also explores another important element, which is the demanding nature of the current Indian education system, and how art is being ignored and often considered to be not important.

IMDb rating: 8.3/10 (after 10,000 odd votes)


9. Dev D (2009)

Cast: Abhay Deol, Kalki Koechlin, Mahi Gill

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Writer: Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, and Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay (the author of Devdas, upon which the film was based on)

Brief synopsis:

The film is a modern day adaptation of Sharat Chandra’s famous 1917 Bengali novel Devdas.

Dev is the spoilt son of rich man from Punjab. He has a childhood sweetheart named Paro, whom he uses at his own will. He flirts with other girls, and yet chides her hesitancy to engage in sexual activities with him.

When Dev hears rumors about Paro two-timing him, he believes them and ditches Paro within the blink of an eye. Enraged, Paro opts to marry an elderly man chosen by her family. It begins to dawn on Dev that the rumors are false, and it turns him into an alcoholic while trying to live with the fact that she is now married.

At the same time he runs into Chanda, who is a young prostitute who ended up in the profession after a MMS scandal with her boyfriend drove her to the cities.

The story centers on how Dev attempts to curb his alcoholism and also his drug addictiveness, and at the same time tries to make amends with Paro.

The film stands out because, just like above, it is an attempt never heard of in Indian cinema prior to that. Director Anurag Kashyap, already known for his outspoken and bold nature, takes his boldness to a new level by narrating the story of the Generation X and how a story like Devdas would be if it takes place in the present society.

Anurag dwells on prostitution, MMS scandals, school-time sex, lust desires, drugs and alcoholism in the current day society, all without compromising.

Abhay Deol looks the part as a lost, rich brat, as so do all the other characters. Dev D is the story of real characters that exist in our everyday life- real characters that we distance ourselves from, characters that are far from good.

Dev D is the story of people we love to hate.

Amit Trivedi’s 18 tracks and the catchy ‘Emosanal Attyachar’ remains a cult song to date.

IMDb rating: 8/10 (after 5,000 votes)

8. Chak De India (Buck up India)- 2007

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Vidya Malvade

Writer: Jaideep Sahni

Director: Shimit Amin

Brief synopsis:

Kabir Khan is a former Indian men’s hockey team captain. After missing a penalty stroke in the dying moments, allowing arch-rivals Pakistan to win a tournament back in his playing days, he retired from the sport and went back to his ancestral homeland.

Realizing that the Indian women’s hockey team is in a mess, Kabir senses the opportunity to redeem himself, by offering his services to coach the women’s team ahead of the forthcoming Commonwealth Games.

The film centers on Kabir’s struggles as he tries to find the right players and breed the right attitude among them.

The film was inspired by the true events in the 2002 Commonwealth Games, when the Indian women’s hockey team claimed gold medal against the odds.

The film’s strength is that it doesn’t stop at being a sports film and a film about national spirit. But instead, the film explores other issues such as religious bigotry, prejudice and most importantly sexist, chauvinistic mentalities in the country.

Jaideep Sahni’s script is almost immaculate, and the man Shah Rukh Khan himself proves his caliber as an actor with an excellent performance while carrying the film almost entirely on his shoulders, sans any of his renowned romancing or duets.

Shimit Amin directs without compromising nor exaggerating any of the film’s finer details, as the hockey scenes come across as the most realistic sports scenes ever shot in Indian cinema.

IMDb rating: 8/10 (after 5,000 odd votes)

To be continued in Part 2.

Peepli [LIVE]

Peepli Live is Anusha Rizvi’s way of showing us what we have become.

Aamir Khan has, over the years, developed an imitable reputation of being a name associated with quality films. Thus, expectations were high for the August release of Peepli Live, which was written and directed by debutant Anusha Rizvi, and starred a spew of small-time and theater actors- led by Omkar Das Manikpuri.

Make no mistake; Peepli Live definitely is not your typical commercial fare, or even a typical Bollywood fare. The film doesn’t have songs, nor does it follow a hero-heroine formula. The film explores the glaring issue of farmer suicides in India, where the government’s initiative of providing lucrative compensation packages to the families of farmers who throw themselves onto a dagger were exploited by the poverty-stricken farmers.

First of all, the story:

Natha Das Manikpuri and Budhia Das Manikpuri are good-for-nothing sibling farmers in a small dry village in the Peepli region of Mukhya Pradesh. The film begins with the bank announcing that their unproductive land will be up to auction as they have failed to repay loan debts. Driven out of the house my Natha’s fiery, disgruntled wife Dhaniya and having to constantly listen to the rants of their bedridden, foul-mouthed mother who keeps calling Dhaniya a ‘witch’ and a ‘slut’, the brothers start to entertain the hearsay that the government will provide Rs. 1 lakh of compensation if a farmer commits suicide.

Budhia, being the manipulative one, tacitly plays to the gallery by offering his life, only for the younger, often blurred Natha, to offer his own in retaliation. The brothers agree that Natha should give up his life, the reason being Natha is married and has three children, which means that the family would directly benefit from his suicide.

Rakesh, a local reporter from a small-time newspaper called Jan Morcha, happens to be in Peepli when he hears the brothers talking about the suicide scheme and runs a story of Natha’s suicide declaration. He unwittingly sets off the media circus, with major news channels making a beeline with their media trucks to the previously forgotten land of Peepli, and Natha becoming the topic of the day.

What follows is a comedic and often disturbing sequence of events that tells you the story of the real India beneath the cloaks of development, and the true failure of a democratic system that only feeds the rich.

To begin with, you won’t find better performances anywhere else than you would in Peepli. Aided by the fact that most of the characters were played by less popular actors, most of theater backgrounds, the actors pretty much live and breathe their characters throughout and do not look like actors at all.

Omkar Das Manikpuri delivers a somewhat staggering performance in the lead role, more so because he hardly speaks a word and looks his dumfounded, useless self for much of the movie and yet he creates great impact and conveys the kind of ridicule you would feel to get so much media attention over a matter so trivial.

Raghubir Yadav as Budhia and Malaika Shenoy as the TV reporter Nandita Malik back the film with great performances respectively. Not that others did any less of a job.

Peepli leaves you with a somewhat unfulfilling feel, and delivers a damning verdict of today’s India and the severe lack of intelligence that gets hold of the people when they chase for personal glories.

The film is best described through the final scenes when hoards of journalists abandon a Chief Minister’s press conference and run to a nearby barn, that too in a pitch dark situation- one man asks another man ‘where are you running?’ and they couldn’t answer.

Everyone were running around the barn without a proper direction, chaotic and without purpose, with the only aim being to get a story and boost their professional credentials. That’s what the film is all about. It is a social commentary about individuals who run around aimlessly in pursuit of what they think secures their survival in an unforgiving world.

The best part of the film is the tiny character of Hori Mahato, who amidst all the fanfare of Natha’s death, is seen digging his land fervently day till night so that he can sell the sand in order to save his land from being auctioned. The character doesn’t speak, and when it is found dead in the own pit he has been digging all the while, it paints a picture of how the important ones get ignored.

Take the scene of the chief minister announcing that he would provide Natha with a Rs.1 lakh compensation so that Natha would not commit suicide (after great political contemplation), only to retract after he gets bashed for anarchy. How often have we come across politicians who make ‘smart’ and ‘savory’ statements that obviously had very low intelligence in them?

There is also a scene where a reporter manipulates a couple of women and asks them to dance fervently as if they have been possessed by the lord, and reports about the Goddess delivering prediction through them that Natha will die. Worse still, that bit of news is flashed as breaking news. You find that dumb, but that is what happens. Even news gets dragged out like prolonged serial drama in Indian news.

Why, the police event escorts Natha whenever he attempts to answer nature’s call, fearing that he may commit suicide at any such time.

Anusha Rizvi handles the film like a veteran and proves herself to be a master storyteller when it comes to sattires, and its all the more amazing that in the ages of Farah Khan, we see the rise of a female film-maker who doesn’t get carried away with commercial elements, but rather proves to be a quality story-teller. It’s all the more amazing that Anusha did it in Bollywood- which is an industry where good, well-bred satire seems to be a bygone genre.

Peepli is an important social film, and has more impact on the issue than a documentary could have. But if you are looking for messages, then you are looking at the wrong place. You will end of with your mouth open in wonder and uncertainty if you had hoped the film would end in a way that Taare Zameen Par or 3 Idiots ended, no matter how much of quality films those two were.

Peepli doesn’t even generate empathy or sympathy with the lead character. You don’t cry for Natha, and the scene is cut short and doesn’t allow you to cry for Hori and Rakesh either. The film is not about crying or feeling pity for characters. It is a mere observation of a system’s failure to deliver, and also an observation of the individuals in relation to the system’s failure.

Peepli is categorized as a satire, and whilst you may laugh at certain scenes, it will never make you roll on your floor and laugh. There is a difference by slapstick acts of comedians getting them kicked for their stupidity, and the mass stupidity of many people that we witness in our everyday lives.

Just read the news and watch the TV. Or read our country’s Harian Metro. What makes news? It’s the kind of stupidity and feet-of-clay attitude that affects us all, that stirs laughter, but beneath that, stirs a pint of anger and dissatisfaction.

What have we become? – We ask that question with a sigh so many times.

Peepli Live is Anusha Rizvi’s way of showing us what we have become.

Anusha Rizvi is only 32 and she was a former journalist. And she had done through a film something many news channels have failed to do with their ‘news’ pieces. She told the truth, she told things as they are- Kudos to her.

Rating: 8/10