2012 was a refreshingly strong year for mainstream Hindi cinema. Unconventional, exciting themes were explored in popular, big-budget movies, and so many smaller films with not-so-big stars took impressive leaps. Of course there was no running away from the mindless and plain lazy films that were delivered by the dozen. In a year of many terrific films and just as many disappointing ones, here’s presenting my best and worst films of 2012, the Hits & the Pits of the year.
Remember, these are personal choices each, not determined by the box-office performance of these films.
One of those rare years when it’s hard to pick just 5 of the best films, 2012 is also the year that mainstream Hindi cinema truly pushed the envelope in terms of both content and treatment. That many of these films also made respectable money at the box-office is heartening.
At #5 Paan Singh Tomar: If you needed a reminder of Irrfan Khan’s versatility, it was delivered on a platter in this amazing true story of a champion athlete who turned into a notorious outlaw. Moving and amusing in equal measure, Tigmanshu Dhulia’s film painted a realistic portrait of an India few of us can claim to know. Rich in little details, this was a film that stayed with you long after you left the cinema.
At #4 English Vinglish: First-time director Gauri Shinde delivered the year’s most pleasing film in the story of an underappreciated wife and mother who finds her identity when she conquers the English language. This charming comedy may have tread a safe path, but it still had something important to say. What made it shine, however, was an extraordinary performance by Sridevi, making her acting comeback after 15 years.
At #3 Vicky Donor: Smartly written and bursting with inspired performances, this cheeky comedy about a sperm-donor hero drew you in from the very word go. Filled with quirky characters like the protagonist’s mother Dolly and her feisty mother-in-law beeji, the film, directed with a light hand by Shoojit Sircar, gave us some of the most memorable moments of the year.
At #2 Gangs of Wasseypur: Anurag Kashyap’s epic two-parter set in the badlands of India was a tableau of vengeance between generations of gangsters. A heady cocktail, tinged with humor and heightened by a pulsating score, this bullet-ridden saga boasted the strongest ensemble cast in years.
At #1 Kahaani: Deliciously taut, Sujoy Ghosh’s unpredictable thriller about a pregnant woman’s search for her missing husband kept us on our toes as it traversed its many twists and turns through the streets of Kolkata. Anchored by a powerhouse performance from Vidya Balan, the film sparkled on account of its solid storytelling.
So there you have it, my top five Hindi films of 2012. There are other honorable mentions too, good films that didn’t make the Top 5 cut. They do, however, find a place in the Hall of Fame. A big shout-out to Talaash, Barfi, Gattu, Delhi Safari, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, and the dubbed film Makhi.
Shortlising the worst films of the year is inevitably a more difficult list to compile, given that there are so many options to choose from. What I settled on eventually are 5 films that were disappointing for different reasons.
Here are the 5 films I hated most this year, the films that tested my patience, the films that were a punishment to endure.
At #5 Teri Meri Kahaani: Two star-crossed lovers, their romance thwarted across three different time periods, this exhausting film saw lead pair Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra compete in a championship of overacting. Director Kunal Kohli relied on elaborate period sets and costumes to differentiate each track, but alas, a bouffant here, a pathani suit there couldn’t take away the sense of sameness that plagued this soulless, superficial film.
At #4 Rowdy Rathore: Unbearably long, unforgivably loud, and unapologetically stupid, this film had to have been made by people with a cash register in place of their brain. A small-time crook redeems himself by taking the place of an honest lookalike cop in this old-fashioned action film packed with regressive humor. That the movie had such impressive pedigree – it was produced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, directed by Prabhudeva, and starred Akshay Kumar – was both baffling and shameful.
At #3 Department: Some films leave you confused. This one went a step further – it left you nauseous with its dizzying camerawork. A singularly pointless tale of the relationships and the betrayals between cops, gangsters and politicians, Ramgopal Varma’s lazy film presented a gallery of repulsive rogues. My favorite of the lot was the female gangster who constantly licked her lips suggestively or sucked on kulfis. Clearly she was having more fun than us!
At #2 Jism 2: Sometimes a script is ridden with holes; occasionally there comes a film that is itself a big black hole. This laughable erotic-thriller saw an Intelligence office hire a porn star to seduce a terrorist. A body bag of bad dialogues and awful acting, Pooja Bhatt’s spectacularly silly film contained my favorite lines of 2012. In one scene, porn star Sunny Leone says: "Apni mulk ki madat main kar rahi hoon kapde utaar ke." In reply, the officer tells her: "Lekin har jism ki expiry date hoti hai." How do you not fall off the chair laughing?
At #1 Chaar Din Ki Chandni: This appalling comedy directed by Samir Karnik gets my vote for Worst Film of 2012. Tusshar Kapoor, playing a Rajput royal, returns home to his strict father, passing off his girlfriend as a journalist, only to have his sleazy brothers hit on her. Racist, sexist, homophobic and just plain offensive, this exhausting, unfunny film left you numb, and sapped you of the desire to visit the cinemas anytime soon. It was about as much fun as plucking your nostril hair one by one.
Arriving at a list of just 5 of the worst films of the year was’t easy. Here are some of the other titles that were considered, pondered over but didn’t make it to the final shortlist because they were bad but not as bad as the ones just mentioned. These do, however, go into the Hall of Shame. Let’s hear it for Jodi Breakers, Housefull 2, Dangerous Ishq, Kya Superkool Hai Hum, Heroine, Joker, KLPD, Son of Sardaar, and Khiladi 786.