The hits & pits of 2014

Really great films were few, and hard to come by this year. Think about it. How many films made you feel good about the 200 bucks you spent on buying the ticket? How many films made you think, how many challenged you, how many delivered an experience that felt original and rewarding? How many were just fun to watch?

Arriving at a list of my favorite films this year wasn’t particularly difficult, given the paucity of enough choices. What was tough was ranking them between 1 and 5, picking which film I preferred over another – these were after all the smartest, the most original or simply the most enjoyable films I discovered at the cinema this year. So here they are, the HITS of 2014, or my five favorite films of the year. Remember these are personal choices each, not determined by their box office performance.

THE HITS

#5 PK

Rajkumar Hirani’s pointed stabs at organized religion and its self-appointed gatekeepers makes for a film that is equal parts amusing and emotional. Aamir Khan, as an alien puzzled by our hypocrisies and prejudices when it comes to faith and worship, delivers one of his strongest, most earnest performances in this brave film. Subtlety’s never been one of Hirani’s strengths; nevertheless he effectively delivers a message that compels you to ponder

#4 HAIDER
Brave, unflinching, political, and filled with dark humour, Haider is among the year’s most intriguing films. Yes, it draws you in as an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Yet it’s director Vishal Bhardwaj’s setting that grabs attention…a Kashmir like we’ve never seen before. Populated with a palette of interesting characters, including a terrific Shahid Kapur as Haider and Tabu playing his vulnerable mother, the film forces you to think long after you left the theatre. That is the power of good cinema.

#3 UGLY
Cold, cynical, and yet deeply affecting, this Anurag Kashyap-directed procedural about the search for a missing 8-year-old reveals the despicable depths that ordinary people will go to. Embedded with dark humor and littered with desperate characters, Ugly is a brutal and unsympathetic look at their miserable lives. Powered by inspired performances from Ronit Roy as a despotic cop, Tejaswini Kohlapure as a alcoholic housewife, and Rahul Bhatt as a struggling actor, the sordid reality of this film creeps up on you slowly and stays with you for days.

 
#2 AANKHON DEKHI
Once in a while comes a film that makes you question how you live life. Are you just going through the motions or do you savor each experience? In the story of Bauji, who decides all of a sudden one day that he will only believe what he sees, writer-director Rajat Kapoor makes a deliciously whimsical case for living life meaningfully. Sanjay Mishra superbly plays the 55-year-old protagonist, surrounded by family and friends who at first view him as an oddity, and then, an enlightened soul. Aankhon Dekhi makes a strong case for the incomparable bonds within the middle-class joint family using an ensemble of terrific actors, particularly the feisty Seema Pahwa. If you listen closely, you can’t help but be moved.

#1 QUEEN

Easily the year’s most disarming film, Queen celebrates the journey of self-discovery undertaken by a Rajouri Gardens girl who travels across oceans and continents to get over being ditched at the altar. Tucked away beneath that seemingly innocuous plot is a message about empowerment, about not depending on a man for happiness, and about carving out one’s own destiny. Through the film’s many lighthearted scenes, director Vikas Bahl reveals a surefooted touch and comic flair, and leading lady Kangana Ranaut delivers a pitch-perfect performance that doesn’t just come from the heart, but also straight from the gut. Queen is that rare film that made you want to go back and watch it all over again, literally moments after you’d left the cinema.

So there you have it – my top five films of 2014. There are other honorable mentions too that’ll find a place in the Hall of Fame — good films that didn’t make the Top 5 list. A big shoutout to Dedh Ishqiya, Hasee Toh Phasee, Mardaani, Filmistaan, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, Bhoothnath Returns, Hawaa Hawaai, Manjunath and Khoobsurat. I enjoyed every one of these films to a great degree.

But now let’s move on to the list of my worst films of the year. This is always a relatively tougher list to arrive at given that one’s spoilt for choice. So many awful movies,  only five slots to fill. I jogged my memory back to just how much I hated these films, and picked the ones that were offensive, insulting, plain boring or insufferable to sit through. Here then are the Pits of 2014, my worst films this year, again personal choices each, not determined by the box-office performance.

THE PITS

#5 BANG BANG!
This Hrithik Roshan starrer is so dumb, you can’t help wonder just how much the actor was paid to sacrifice his dignity and participate in this drivel. A thriller, in which Hrithik steals the Kohinoor diamond no less and together with Katrina Kaif leads the cops and the bad guys on a globetrotting chase, Bang Bang! is oozing with the beauty of its leads and the stunning locations it’s shot at. Even the action is occasionally cool. But director Sidharth Anand’s pedestrian filmmaking and the sheer banality of the script makes this the most good-looking film that one can’t bear to watch!

#4 ONE BY TWO
Abhay Deol turned producer with this spectacularly stupid romantic comedy between a couple that doesn’t meet until the last scene of the film. Starring the actor himself and his real-life girlfriend, the pretty but sadly talentless Preeti Desai, One By Two has a sitcom feel to it, except without the laugh track – which, to be honest, may have served well here, by at least waking up the bored audience and cuing them to applaud the lame jokes. Writer-director Devika Bhagat borrows generously from Hollywood hits, but delivers a film that is satisfying neither in the ‘rom’ nor ‘com’ departments.

#3 ENTERTAINMENT
This presumptuously titled ‘comedy’ about Akshay Kumar and a dog that inherits his father’s fortune is awful and moronic in so many ways you’ll contemplate calling the SPCA to investigate how working in the film may have scarred the poor mutt for life. Writer-directors Sajid-Farhad trade in lazy puns and infantile gags, and in the film’s cheesiest scene, the pooch throws itself in harm’s way to save Akshay from drowning to his death. Entertainment..? Oh the irony of that title!

#2 HUMSHAKALS
Nawab of Pataudi Saif Ali Khan plumbs the lowest depths of comic bankruptcy in Sajid Khan’s singularly unfunny multi-starrer that left us with the scarring image of Ram Kapoor attempting to rape Ram Kapoor in drag. Or Saif and Ritesh Deshmukh going into full canine mode, barking, sniffing, growling at helpless bystanders. Tasteless, homophobic, sexist, and racist, Humshakals isn’t just an equal opportunity offender, it’s also a plodding bore.

#1 ACTION JACKSON
Two-time National Award-winner Ajay Devgan slums it out in this crude, sexist potboiler that assaults one’s senses with its harebrained plot, low-brow humor, and sadistic violence. In the film’s most bizarre subplot, Sonakshi Sinha stars an educated young woman obsessed with seeing Devgan’s…umm…privates because she’s convinced it’ll bring her good luck. Directed by Prabhudheva, Action Jackson isn’t just exhausting, it’s also offensive on so many levels it’s hard to keep count.

So those were the five films I least enjoyed this year, but it’s only fair to list the other dishonorable mentions that will find their place in the Hall of Shame. Here are the other films — each varying degrees of awful — that I also hated this year: Gulaab Gang, Fugly, Lekar Hum Deewana Dil, Pizza, Raja Natwarlal, O Teri, Super Nani and Happy Ending. Stay far far away from them if you don’t want your evening ruined.

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1 Comment

  1. Ram Thakur

    December 30, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    A well balanced, fair and accurate rating of good movies released in 2014. ‘Queen’ is a landmark movie in the history of Indian cinema.

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