It’s been a year of some small surprises and more than a few big disappointments. Each year when I’m picking my best and worst films, I jog my memory back to the ones I felt most strongly about. These are personal choices, and you’re welcome to disagree with them.
(5) Phas Gaye Re Obama: A refreshingly smart comedy about the repercussions of recession on the kidnapping industry in central India, this delightful film directed by Subhash Kapoor made it clear that all humor needn’t be derived from pratfalls and slapstick gags. Consistently well acted and brimming with original ideas, Phas Gaye Re Obama was one of the year’s surprise treats.
(5) Do Dooni Chaar: This heartwarming Dilli middle-class story gave us a dose of reality, cushioned with humor. A slice-of-life tale about a school teacher trying his best to buy a car on his modest salary, Do Dooni Chaar was perceptively written and directed by Habib Faisal. But the performances of its lead actors, Rishi and Neetu Kapoor, gave it its soul.
(4) Peepli Live: The poor farmer sucked into a media circus when he pledges suicide. It’s a story we’re familiar with. Yet, director Anusha Rizvi made us care for the mostly forgotten rural class. A biting satire on farmer suicides, a bureaucratic system and a hungry media, Peepli Live is a smartly-written and realistically portrayed film that engaged us on every level.
(3) Ishqiya: Everyone in this film was in love, but in such deliciously different ways. Two petty criminals find themselves mooning over their beautiful widowed landlady, only to realize that she has a mysterious agenda of her own. Directed by Abhishek Chaubey, Ishqiya was a cracker of a film: unpredictable and untamed, but all heart.
(2) Love Sex aur Dhokha: Dibakar Banerjee’s riveting film placed a voyeuristic camera in three separate situations and captured human behavior at its most basic. A young couple elope and marry, but there’s no happily-ever-after-ending for them. A supermarket salesgirl succumbs to the affection of a sly co-worker who betrays her. And a disillusioned item-girl gets her revenge on a slimy pop-star. The film made a lasting impression with its hard-hitting comment on society, and its seductive narrative. Featuring no stars, each of the three stories in LSD was presented in the found-footage format.
(1) Udaan: A warm coming-of-age film that touched your heart. You could feel the desperation of the film’s teenage protagonist as he struggled to break free of his controlling father. Into this story, director Vikramaditya Motwane wove the boy’s hesitant bond with his six-year-old half-brother. Udaan stands apart because it’s fearless, uncompromised filmmaking that catches you at the gut.
(5) Raavan: This major misfire by one of the country’s most well regarded filmmakers felt like a string of disjointed scenes had been slapped together. You could blame the loose script for most of the problem, but Abhishek Bachchan’s disappointing central performance as the outlaw who kidnaps a police officer’s wife did little to help. Mani Ratnam failed to turn an interesting idea into an engaging film, and every minute watching Raavan felt like an opportunity wasted.
(4) Teen Patti: Possibly the most incoherent film of the year. This Amitabh Bachchan starrer about a maths professor who takes his students gambling as research for a new theory was pretentious to the point of being offensive, and came packed with the silliest dialogue you’ve ever heard. Directed by Leena Yadav, Teen Patti was badly scripted, badly directed and badly acted. One of those rare films that had no redeemable quality whatsoever!
(3) Action Replayy: Mind-numbingly dull and excruciatingly boring, this shameless Back To The Future rip-off had none of the energy or the euphoria you expect from a time-travel film. Instead, director Vipul Shah focused on a predictable romantic track between a geek and a spunky girl, and practically blinded us with tacky retro bling. Action Replayy was the least fun I had in a film that promised a rollicking good time.
(2) No Problem: How anyone could come up with this title for a film containing so many tasteless jokes is beyond me! Director Anees Bazmee’s spectacularly stupid comedy about a bank heist gone wrong featured an assembly line of neurotic characters played by actors delivering their worst-ever performances. Between Anil Kapoor molesting Akshaye Khanna in drag, and a gorilla farting in Anil Kapoor’s face, it’s hard to decide which scene was more embarrassing in No Problem.
(1) Anjaana Anjaani: Constructed from a script that was more than likely scribbled together on bits of toilet paper, this romantic-comedy about a boy and girl who meet when they try to commit suicide was arrogant and cynical in equal measure. Director Siddharth Anand delivered a cold, soulless film that featured pretentious characters that only spoke in cliché. Anjaana Anjaani squandered the talents of its promising stars and for me, was the year’s most frustrating film to sit through.