Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Hindi Films: The Best and Worst of 2006

In my earlier post I talked about 2006 as the year of big bucks and borrowed ideas. Here I list down some of the best and the worst Hindi films I watched during the year.

As in the past, mediocrity ruled the roost in 2006 as well. But there were a few films that stood above the rest thanks to clarity of vision on the part of the directors. Many of them might not be path-breaking cinema by any stretch of imagination, but they all share among them a certain clarity of purpose - be it originality, simplicity, effective adaptations, or even sheer chutzpah.

It's a sad commentary on the quality of the films in 2006 that I really struggled to put together the list of the top-ten Hindi films released during 2006. I had no problem identifying the top 5, but after that it wasn't easy... and, yes, you won't find 15 Park Avenue or Being Cyrus in this list, even though I loved them, simply because they weren't in Hindi. They would surely find a place - at least 15 Park Avenue would - in the top-ten list of all films I saw during the year.

Best Hindi Films of 2006

  1. Lage Raho Munnabhai: This was clearly my favourite film of the year. Rajkumar Hirani gave Bapu a new avatar and demonstrated that you don't necessarily need to recycle the gags that worked so well in the original to come up with an enjoyable sequel. The second episode of Munnabhai (I prefer to call it an 'episode' rather than a 'sequel'), is strikingly original, extremely funny; and at the same time, carries an important message without being preachy at all.
  2. Omkara: Vishal's brilliant adaptation of Othello, Omkara excelled in almost every department. Vishal's commendable eye for detail, his direction, screenplay and dialogue, Gulzar's lyrics, Tassaduq Hussain's cinematography, Saif Ali Khan and Konkana Sen Sharma's performances - everything was top notch. Add to that the item number of the year - Beedi, Vishal's rambunctious interpretation of Gulzar's deliciously saucy lyrics.
  3. Rang De Basanti: After failing miserably at the box-office with Aks (which I liked, by the way), Rakeysh Mehra came up with a very original concept. Embellished with some fine performances, Rang De Basanti worked because of its unusual narrative and its ability to capture the imagination of the Indian youth, giving rise to a new brand of public activism. Few would agree with the film's exaggerated denouement, but the point was made! And of course, who can forget A R Rahman's outstanding music score, further accentuated by Prasoon Joshi's A-class non-filmi poetry?
  4. Dor: Nagesh Kukunoor proved that simplicity and subtlety still has a place in Hindi cinema. What makes the film truly remarkable is the honesty in Nagesh Kukunoor's direction and the performances of the lead actors.
  5. Khosla Ka Ghosla: Realism meets farcical comedy in a style reminiscent of Hrishikesh Mukherji. It tackles a very real problem in a light-hearted way – somewhat akin to Kundan Shah's Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. Interestingly, the premise of Khosla Ka Ghosla, with its emphasis on tit for tat, is the very anti-thesis of Lage Raho Munnabhai that propagated Gandhian values.
  6. Woh Lamhe: A sensitive and, at times, disturbing insight into the schizophrenic world of a film star - loosely based on the relationship between Mahesh Bhatt and Parveen babi. The maturity demonstrated by Mohit Suri in depicting the complex world of a schizophrenic person is worthy of applause.he exercises restraint in his direction and lends a very strong emotional quotient to the film. Kangana Ranaut performance was the highlight of the film.
  7. Gangster: A surprisingly well-made flick, with some great music by Pritam and finely etched performances by Shiney Ahuja and Kangana Ranaut. The film works despite Emran Hashmi.
  8. Don: Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, namumkin bhi hai. Remember this iconic dialogue from the original Don? Now think again, wasn't the original Don caught and killed by the police? Farhan Akhtar adds a delicious twist to the original story to make this dialogue suddenly reveberate with renewed meaning. The media went on a shocking and totally uncalled for offensive against this film, but I enjoyed this one.
  9. Dhoom-2: This one worked for me for the sheer chutzpah demonstrated by the Chopras and director Sanjay Gadhvi in packaging a plot riddled with loopholes with a clever and consistent sprinking of awe-inspiring stunts, energetically choreographed dance routines, picture-perfect scene compositions and oodles of eye candy.
  10. Jaan-e-Mann: How innovative can you get with a love triangle? Shirish Kunder shows you how! An unusual narrative structure lends the film a dash of magical, fairytale-like quality, thereby lifting it from potential mediocrity. If only Shirish the editor had not got overshadowed by Shirish the writer/director! The film is in desperate need of merciless trimming - it just seems to go on and on and on and on...

Worst Hindi Films of 2006

When I'm at it, let me also mention some of the worst movies of the year. Why is it that most of these films were meant to be comedies? Am I losing my sense of humour?

  1. Phir Hera Pheri: So what if it was a big hit? It didn't have the brilliance, spontaneity or even the fun element of Hera Pheri. All the gags seemed forced and hardly comic.
  2. Apna Sapna Money Money: Another pathetic comedy...forget laughing, I actually dozed off during this film!
  3. Bhagam Bhag: Yet another so called comedy that was hardly funny!! What went wrong Mr. Priyadarshan?
  4. 36 China Town: Now what was this film all about? A thriller that wasn't even remotely thrilling or a comedy it wasn't meant to be?
  5. Pyare Mohan: Argh!
  6. Tom, Dick & Harry: ughhhh!
  7. Chingari: Kalpana Lajmi's unbearably over-the-top film that saw the ever dependable Sushmita Sen hamming like nobody's business