Saturday, December 24, 2011

2011 Was a Damn Good Year!

I don't usually do the end of year lists (not because I have anything against them, but mostly because if I like something I will blog about it right there and then), but this year seemed to deserve a special pat on the back for giving us so much good stuff. So even if I have talked at length about most of these movies, this is the end of year wrap-up and my top 5 (or 6?) most awesome movies of the year.

Dhobi Ghat

This is technically a 2010 movie for me since that's when I saw it, so I debated whether to include it or not, but heck, it's always a good idea to give it another shout-out. It didn't do too well at the box office, and there are a couple of things that upon rewatch bothered me about it (the main one being Monica Dogra's acting skills or lack thereof), but I still consider Dhobi Ghat one of the most touching Indian films I've ever seen (yes, emotion works best for me when it's subtle and tender). Maybe because I was following it so closely pre-release, or maybe because I saw Kiran Rao on stage at TIFF talking about it, but this is one of those rare films where I can feel the love of the director for everything to do with filmmaking in every frame. It's a movie I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone who wants to give Bollywood a shot, because yes, I do consider it Bollywood (the new Bollywood that I am loving more and more) even if right now it seems like it's ahead of its time.

7 Khoon Maaf

Vishal Bhardwaj's sometimes humorous, sometimes unbearably dark drama about a woman and her 7 husbands who all end up dead. Another movie that didn't do very well with the audiences, and in a way it's easy to see why. Not only does it have a woman as the central character, but it's a very complex, wicked and confounding woman who makes it very hard to read her fragile heart through the layers of the film. Give it to Bhardwaj to attempt something as bold as this film and to almost get away with it. Priyanka Chopra's performance was the highlight of the year for me and that alone makes the movie worth while. But when we add to that the fabulous soundtrack, the Vishal trademarked camera-work and the story itself with its million interpretations, it's more than enough to shoot a movie to the very top of my favourites. Frankly I did not think another one would surpass it this year. And only one did, but more on that later since this list is in chronological order.

Shor in the City

This was one of the surprises of the year for me because while I was expecting it to be fun (based on how much I loved "99" from the same director duo), I didn't expect it to be so good. It's sometimes tongue-in-cheek and other times dead serious (emphasis on dead), and sometimes you're not even sure which one it is, but it's a damn good watch, that's for certain. Setting up a business in Mumbai, working the traffic lights and a peek into the lives of small time crooks, innocence lost and found again, all these themes get explored through the 3 story-lines of the movie and most come to a very satisfying end, even if not all believable. This is a movie I can't recommend enough.

Saheb Biwi aur Gangster and Delhi Belly

I cannot for the life of me decide between these two. I went to see Delhi Belly in the theatres 3 times and laughed my head off every single tine, while I only watched SBAG once but that was enough to know I was in love with it. What makes it even harder to choose is that SBAG is not a comedy by any stretch of the imagination, while Delhi Belly will only work if you find it funny, otherwise it will bomb. Delhi Belly is not very heavy on story-line, and yet somehow it kept me engaged every time. SBAG on the other hand has quite the plot and quite the surprising finale, so if story is what you're after, this is definitely the one to see. Delhi Belly then wins on the soundtrack side while SBAG wins on the visuals side.

Tell me this image alone doesn't steal your heart!
Both films have excellent performances and both have strong characters that make an impact. So you see... I can't choose. I'll have to leave this one to you.


I'm sure by now everyone knows this was THE movie of the year for me, so I'll keep it nice and short. Not many movies (and only a handful of Bollywood ones) grab me emotionally. I care for the characters, sure, sometimes they piss me off, sometimes I feel bad for them, but I'm never living every second of the film with them. So when a movie manages to remove me from reality and soak me into the story to the point where I forget myself completely, it's shocking. And wonderful at the same time. Rockstar did exactly that to me. Not once, not twice, but all three times when I watched it in the theatres. There is something so powerful about Imtiaz Ali's storytelling mixed with AR Rahman's music, that I simply lose myself in it every time.

I loved this movie so much that every person who did not feel the way I did about it made me sad. Not for the movie (which did well enough) but sad for them, because I felt like they were missing out on something powerful, magical and out-of-this-world special. But... then again, maybe other movies give them the same feeling, maybe movies that will never even gain my benevolence let alone my love, so I can't weep for them for too long.

Now let me tell you this was not an easy list to make. I left out the gorgeous Zindagi Na Milego Dobara, the hilarious Bbudda Hoga Tera Baap, the tragic Bol (this one would have been in my top 5 but it's not technically Bollywood, so it got disqualified), the adorable FALTU, and the quirky Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji, all movies that I really enjoyed this year. And I also left out the two glittery fluff-balls of the year, but that's because they're coming in a separate post.

So all in all... damn, it's been a great year for the Bollywood lover!


Swati Sapna said...

I have my own personal list of my Top 10 picks of the year, and ZNMD, Dirty Picture (only for Vidya's performance & dialogues, NOT the story) and Ra.One (my guilty pleasure!) win over some of your choices...
But overall i have to agree with you. Its been a great year for Bollywood with all kinds of entertaining movies! Lets hope the next year proves to be as good, if not better :)

Swati Sapna said...

Oh, and 2 other films that I totally enjoyed - Shaitan and No One Killed Jessica. And I'm told Pyaar ka Punchnama is a contender too, though I missed out on that one.

Anonymous said...

Nice top 5 D_N, I need to see Shor In The City (why do Balaji never show in a cinema near me!) and SBAG too, am mortified BBuddah + Dil To Baccha..made it to the shortlist as I felt neither utilized their leading men properly (personal gripe!). But generally I agree, 2011 was a good year for Hindi cinema! :-)

Dolce and Namak said...

I read good reviews of Pyaar Punchnama too, Swati, but never did get to see it either. But I did watch Shaitan recently precisely to make sure I don't miss it for this list and was mainly unimpressed. One of the reasons why I stopped watching Hollywood was exactly this kind of movie. And to be honest, I hate it when people say this but in the case of druggie movies it's true: Hollywood and Europe just do this so much better. So no points for Shaitan from me.

And yes, certainly if I had made a top 10, Dirty Picture would have been there despite my own little issues with the story. Maybe even NOKJ, even if that one didn't grip me like it was meant to, so I always tend to overlook it.

Thanks for coming by and hope you have a lovely end of the year!!

Dolce and Namak said...

Heya Bogey, yes you do need to see Shor! :)

And don't be mortified about BHTB, I didn't go see it for Amitabh Bachchan who I don't really care for, I went to see it to get Sonu Sood in a hero role and I got just what I wanted! :) So in this fangirl's opinion, the leading man was PERFECTLY utilized. :)

As for DTBHJ, two reasons why it stood out for me: Ajay Devgan doing comedy, which he should do more ofetn because he was hysterical and I adored him in that role. And the second: the ending. You know my personal gripe with mopey love stories, and this was one of the few movies that had a perfectly satisfying ending.

So you see, my points may not have been awarded entirely fairly or rationally, but there is an internal logic there. ;-)

See you in the new year, hope the mortification goes away until then! :)

Mette said...

Love your list, though I've only seen Dhobi Ghat and 7 Khoon Maaf.
Don't watch Pyaar Ka Punchnama, though, it's kinda... meh.

Okay, so the only thing we still disagree about it DTBHJ, but it was all right...
I hope I'll be able to catch up with a lot of the 2011 films soon.
Happy New Year!

Mette said...

Oh and I'm sad you didn't like Shaitan - remember I recommended it to you?
Well, you did say it doesn't sound like something you'd like...

me said...

Very interesting list. I was VERY impressed with Shor, and could recognise it as an outstanding work of cinema, but wouldn't say I liked it. I have no desire at all to see any of the others on your list except possible SBAG, which might be interesting. I am grateful for the skill and clarity with which you review these films, helping me to know which ones are worth the effort of my tracking down up here in the filmi wilderness. Thanks!

Dolce and Namak said...

@ Mette, definitely watch Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster, I think it would totally be your kind of movie!

And don't feel bad about Shaitan, I would have watched it anyway. :) But sadly, I watched it in the same week as Basketball Diaries and going from a movie that feels so incredibly real to a Shaitan, it just never stood a chance. India still has a long way to go (and a lot of research to do) before they can compete in this genre. A good effort, but it's like action movies: why would I watch a barely decent Indian movie when I can watch a really good non-Indian one? :)

Nice to see you here, and I must make my way over to yours soon! Haven't been around since December!

@ maxqnz: Glad to have been of assistance!

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