Wednesday, January 02, 2008

My Favourite Hindi Films in 2007 - Part II

In Part I of this post I had talked about my Top 10 favourite Hindi Films in 2007. The overall quality of films in 2007 was so good that I really have to talk beyond Number 10.

11. Guru: At the surface, Mani Ratnam’s Guru is nothing but a typical rags-to-riches tale that we have seen countless number of times on the silver screen. Its underlying message is obvious - Follow your Dream. What made it stand out was its focussed narrative, unmistakable period feel, Mani’s masterly touch that was evident in almost every frame, and, most importantly, strong acting performances. And of course, the deadly Gulzar-Rahman combo.

12. Ek Chaalis Ki Last Local: With Ek Chaalis Ki Last Local Hindi film audiences got to see the first true blue tribute to Quentin Tarantino’s brand of filmmaking. Unlike his namesake Gupta, Sanjay Khanduri seems to know the difference between inspiration and plagiarism. His film has all the elements of a QT film - stylized violence, wonderfully weird situations, loads of black humor, lot of emphasis on ‘normal’ conversations, etc. - but the entire premise of the story and the way the director chooses to unfold the story is entirely his own.

13. Jab We Met: This was one film that worked mostly because of some inspired writing. Just when you thought a DDLJ style love story was passé, Imtiaz Ali came up with his unique take on it. There’s nothing new in the story, but the film is such a pleasure to watch because its screenplay brims with interesting situations and the sheer ingenuity with which the dialogue is written – very conversational and natural. I didn’t think I would ever say this, but Kareena Kapoor’s performance is among the best female performances of the year. Interestingly, a film that relies solely on conversations has no spoken word in the first 5 minutes.

14. Bheja Fry: Plagiarism or inspiration, call it whatever you want, Bheja Fry is hilarious and thoroughly entertaining. It’s not the kind of movie where you get impressed by technical virtuosity on display or ‘cool’ directorial touches. It’s not meant to be. Most of the film takes place in the living room, giving it a stage-play kind of feel, and there’s no room for flashy cinematography or glitzy editing. It’s by sheer power of the written word that this film succeeds; and how! A lot of why the film works is due to Vinay Pathak. Who would’ve thought that by his sheer comic talent, he could carry a film entirely on his shoulders?

15. Cheeni Kum: For a film thus titled, Cheeni Kum isactually quite ‘sweet’. The quirky romance between a 64 year old man and a woman 30 years his junior was brought alive by some inspired writing from adman turned director, R. Balki, and perfect performances by Amitabh Bachchan and Tabu. Though the film succumbs to a very ‘filmy’ and melodramatic second half, the witty repartees and acerbic humour in the first half more than make up for it. And, Illaiyaraja recycles some of his delightful Tamil tunes to remind Hindi filmgoers that it was to their misfortune that the maestro never got his due in Hindi films.

16. Jhoom Barabar Jhoom: I might be one of the very few people who actually liked this film, but this one worked big time for me. The reason I liked Jhoom Barabar Jhoom was that it never takes itself too seriously. The humour, though corny at times, comes across quite effortlessly. This plotless, have-fun-while-it-lasts flick actually elevates thematic vacuousness to the level of a virtue. It was the non-existent storyline and an absence of ‘dramatic conflict’ that made Jhoom Barabar Jhoom such fun to watch.

17. Nishabd: In my opinion, Nishabd is a fairly well-made film. RGV tackled an unconventional theme - I won’t call it bold, at least not bold enough - with remarkable ease. I also felt that this was one of Amitabh Bachchan’s most under-rated performances ever. My biggest grouse with the film, however, was that, awed by his lead actor’s demigod status, RGV clearly developed cold feet and refrained from showing lust as the trigger for the unusual relationship and adding any dirty thoughts into his male protagonist’s mind; yet his unashamedly voyeuristic camera was not quite convinced and continued to explore the baser emotions.

18. Saawariya: Universally rejected by critics and audiences alike, I didn’t think this film was that bad. I look at a SLB film as a musical composition. The story that SLB chose for Saawariya did not have the breadth where he could demonstrate his virtuosity as a ‘composer’. He could have easily gone his usual way and provided multiple dramatic twists to the plot, but he resisted the temptation and created a composition that uses the most basic notes of the mandra saptak (lowest octave) and pretty much remains at the alaap all through. That was something that worked well for me. The story demanded a slow and static feel, which SLB provided it with. The film did have some great cinematography and eye-catching visual opulence. I must admit that I have changed my opinion about the seemingly bizarre art direction and think it was the most unique, stand-out feature of the film.

19. Dil, Dosti, etc.: Manish Tiwary’s debut film was an honest attempt at depicting the contrasts within the present generation of youth. Idealism vs. Aimlessness, Middle-class vs. the affluent, Conservatism vs. modernism – the film depicted these contrasts through its protagonists – a Bihari student leader, Sanjay Mishra (Shreyas Talpade) and a fresher in college, Apurv (Imaduddin Shah). Though it was difficult to digest Shreyas in the role of a Bihari, the film had its moments.

20. Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd.: It is a cute film - reasonably short in duration, populated with a plethora of characters who in their own sweet way show you (even though intermittently) something that makes you go, “yeah, that happened to someone I know”, but largely stop short of making you care for them. This was a film where you got some nice, funny moments sprinkled in an uneven fashion across duration of the film, but that was just about it. At times one longed for some further insight into a few aspects, but a few minutes into the film, the director made clear what she wanted you to expect.