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
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)
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
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.