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Netflix-1: The works of Korean director JOON-HO BONG

July 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Over the years, I have grown into treating NETFLIX as my window to World Cinema…a place where I can retreat and get exposed to cultures outside of what Hollywood or Bollywood have to offer. NETFLIX is the ultimate place to go for any and every serious movie lover who is open to trying “film cuisines” from countries outside of their own. A place where one can witness the immeasurable movie talent that exists outside the one that we have gotten used to. A place which you can laugh and cry and get melancholic…and that too, despite the Subtitles!!

On the eve of the release of OKJA, Netflix’s latest movie offering, I am kicking off a series of short posts where I will recommend films from around the world that are presently available on Netflix and which you, as serious moviegoers can plan to watch, in case you are looking for a respite from the cacophony of the usual blockbusters.

And what better way to start than with the world of director Joon-ho Bong. Yes, Bong is the director of OKJA and one of the most stunning directors ever to come out of Korea, after Chan-wook Park. Bong started his career with the dark comedy BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE back in 2000 and followed it up with his so-called masterpiece MEMORIES OF MURDER (a film that I would highly recommend renting from your local library, as it is not available on Netflix).

BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE has a zany sense of humor that will have you squirming and screaming with delight, often at the same time….all owing to its funnily humane characters. It’s a small film and the low-budget is visible in the average production values. But it’s a quirky satire and one that I would urge you all to not miss.

It was his next film, the monster dramedy THE HOST that put Joon-ho Bong on the map of Korean directors to really watch out for. THE HOST is a horror film with a sharp human touch and creature special effects that make your jaw drop. It’s funny, it’s scary, it’s emotional and it’s a top-notch thriller that puts a sad smile on your face at the end. This is easily one of the best horror films with a heart that you will ever see. And it’s on Netflix.

The repertoire of Bong’s illustrious career would, however, not be complete without the absolutely unmissable and stunning MOTHER, a film that knocks your socks off and makes you feel like rewinding and watching it all over again. This is a modern classic of world cinema, in my opinion, and one of the must-see films on Netflix at present. Without giving away any spoilers, MOTHER is a staggering and heartbreaking piece of cinema which truly showcases the immense directorial talent of Joon-ho Bong.

Bong has also directed the underrated and misunderstood but highly enjoyable SNOWPIERCER. That film is presently not available on Netflix but it has been in the past and I would recommend adding it to your list, in case it shows up again at some time in the future. The film, set in a dystopian future, boasts of an ensemble cast that is drool-worthy and marked Bong’s debut in Hollywood as his first English language film.

So, sit back, relax and savor the works of a master director over the next few days by watching these four films of Joon-ho Bong on Netflix in the following order:

  1. MOTHER
  2. OKJA
  3. THE HOST
  4. BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE

I will be back soon with my next post soon, where I will try to recommend 2-3 films from different countries that you might find interesting for a rainy summer afternoon. Until then…keep (Net)Flixing!

Categories: Bollywood, Hollywood, Movies

ALIEN: COVENANT And the Joy of Prequels

May 27, 2017 Leave a comment

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I have always found prequels to be more fascinating than sequels. Primarily because of the fact that they give a better glimpse into a writer/director’s mind than a sequel does. And prequels, I feel, are a bigger testament to a filmmaker’s vision and his/her film making prowess. Its harder to trace the origins of a story and tie the origins seamlessly into what we have come to love over the years, than to take a story further from where you left off the last time we talked about it.

Both have seen their fair share of successes and failures over the years. STAR WARS Episodes 1-3 are a classic case of prequels that went strangely wrong (Only in my humble opinion, Force Fans!) while the recent sequels of the same have shown considerable strength. Similarly, BATMAN BEGINS, CASINO ROYALE and MONSTERS UNIVERSITY did an exemplary job with helping us see where some of our beloved characters came from. SPIDERMAN 2, TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, BEFORE SUNSET and their likes, on the other hand, not only enhanced the original stories but added further nuance to the characters.

When director Ridley Scott mentioned a few years ago then he was planning on a series of prequels for his horror masterpiece, ALIEN, I was skeptical. Did I really care about the origin of the Xenomorph? Was I really curious about what really brought the crew member of the spacecraft Nostromo to the planetoid LV-426 and where those mysterious transmissions they received came from? I knew that Ripley was dead and the last attempt to “resurrect” her onscreen in ALIEN: RESURRECTION had resulted in something that was nothing short of a catastrophe!

Hell, I didn’t even clearly remember the original ALIEN movie, which came out back in 1979 when I was a small kid. I did have faint memories of jumping up in my theater seat, while watching James Cameron’s sequel ALIENS years ago, without understanding the cultural impact the Alien films would end up having on moviegoers in the decades to come. I am among the very few people who actually admired the third movie in the series – ALIEN3, due to its frenetic style of film making and started liking it even more when I found out that it was directed by the masterful David Fincher (who incidentally doesn’t want to ever talk about it!).

So when Ridley Scott unleashed PROMETHEUS on us in 2012, I was zapped! It fascinated me, it scared me, it left me bewildered, breathless and desperately clamoring for more. (Check out my post on Prometheus that I wrote after watching the film five years ago.)

ALIEN: COVENANT is the next installment in the Alien saga, directed again by Ridley Scott, which carries the story of PROMETHEUS further and closer to where the original ALIEN started. This is a smart, clever prequel which is a must-watch for all ALIEN fans…young and old…new and existing….horror-lovers and thrill seekers alike. The film is a wonderful example of how you use the DNA of something that the audience has come to love over generations and embellish it with something that once again gets fans talking and thinking.

The movie has plenty of R-rated gore, as the trailers clearly suggested, but the linkage from PROMETHEUS is so seamless that one can’t help admire the devious mind of Ridley Scott. Of course there are hiccups and there are questions that remain unanswered. The critics and audience have been understandingly frustrated and have hence been split on their verdict. But what I personally found worthy of my time and money, apart from those breathtaking visuals, the monumental artwork and the sizzling special effects, was Michael Fassbender’s superb acting and the way Scott and his writing team chose to carefully but assuredly expand on what they started with PROMETHEUS and lay it upon the audience in just the right amount of dosage.

Sure, there are hiccups galore. The story of the crew follows a familiar trajectory (Come on, it’s an ALIEN movie after all…so no surprises there!). People continue to act stupid, take unwise decisions and make mistakes that we have all come to treat as part of the package for all movies in this genre. And Katherine Waterston’s DANIELS is probably no match for Sigourney Weaver’s RIPLEY or maybe even Noomi Rapace’s ELIZABETH SHAW.

But is it even fair to compare Daniels or Shaw to Ripley? I strongly don’t believe so. Ripley’s strength as a character grew from film to film, in the face of an increasingly familiar threat. Whilst for both Shaw and Daniels, this is completely new and unchartered territory. The big and fearful unknown.  And given how the importance of their characters gets diminished along the way, compared to Fassbender’s synthetic DAVID, both characters (and actresses) just about deliver(ed) what is expected of them.

ALIEN: COVENANT is a film that is meant to be seen on the big screen and may not appeal to a lot of viewers in its first seeing. But this is a film that one is surely to start admiring upon second (and possibly even further repeated) viewings. As mentioned earlier, there are things that are left unaddressed and characters who are not dealt with. Ridley Scott has said that he has material for at least two more films before he is finally able to connect things to ALIEN. But my fear is that, given the tepid response to the two prequels, 20TH Century Fox (or some other studio) may either not want to agree to finance another installment, or Scott may decide not to direct it and it may end up in the hands of an unaccomplished director.

If any of that happens, if the questions remain unanswered, if the connection remains broken, then the vision of yet another master storyteller, director and the Alien “ENGINEER” will remain unfulfilled. And that will be something that neither a synthetic like DAVID or a human like myself would be able to come to terms with.

Categories: Hollywood, Movies

My Favorite Hindi Films of 2016

December 27, 2016 Leave a comment

In 2016, Bollywood got a January AIRLIFT  that ended with a “Dhaakad” December DANGAL. What happened in between was a topsy-turvy ride of classic ups and downs!

As an audience, we were taken for fools (WAZIR, TE3N, AZHAR) and our sensibilities were tested (HOUSEFULL 3, DISHOOM, KI & KA). We were subjected to some sleep-inducing experiences (FITOOR, BAAR BAAR DEKHO, MOHENJO DARO), had our eardrums assaulted (BAAGHI, FORCE 2, SHIVAAY) and even saw our hearts broken, thanks to some colossal disappointments (MIRZYA, BEFIKRE, ROCK ON!2).

But all was not lost! Redemption found its way through some exemplary films and into our hearts.  My personal belief in good cinema came out unscathed and as per the annual tradition, I am presenting the list of my Top 15 Bollywood films of 2016.

I laughed and I cried. I was thrilled and I was moved. I was shaken and I was excited. I experienced a gamut of emotions through these fifteen offerings and I hope that you experienced similar feelings while watching at least a few of them.

15.) PINK

Essential. Relevant. Topical. Superbly Acted.

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14.) MADAARI

Irrfan. Irrfan. Irrfan.

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13.) PHOBIA

Smart. Clever. Terror-ific horror, minus the gore, mayhem or ghosts/spirits. Oh…and that superlative actor named Radhika Apte.

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12.) AIRLIFT

Motivational. Tight script. Commendable translation from the real-life to the big screen. A restrained Akshay Kumar, minus his usual buffoonery.

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11.) NEERJA

Riveting. Edge-of-the-seat re-enactment of a tragic episode. The claustrophobic atmosphere, aptly captured. And of course, a huge surprise called Sonam Kapoor.

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10.) FAN

Ah, the return of King Khan. Tightly shot. Thrilling. Taut screenplay. Great chase sequences.

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9.) DHANAK

Heart-warming. Warm. Lovable. Excellent kids film, for adults alike. Wonderfully acted by the child actors. One for the entire family.

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8.) RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0

Look at the screen. No…look away. No, look again. Spine-tingling. Bone-chilling. Cringe-inducing. Vintage Anurag Kashyap. Stunning acting by Vicky Kaushal and that chameleon, Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

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7.) KAPOOR & SONS

Entertaining. Touching. Emotional. Brave. Great ensemble casting.

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6.) AE DIL HAI MUSHKIL

Finally, the return of Karan Johar. The year’s best music. Great acting (naturally!) by the lead couple. Bittersweet.

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5.) ALIGARH

Poignant. Tragic. Absolutely essential viewing. Brilliantly acted by Manoj Bajpayee.

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4.) DANGAL

Rousing. Motivating. Inspiring. Clapworthy. And memorable performances by the four girls!

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3.) WAITING

Absolutely wonderful story. Humane. Moving. Truly one of the year’s best.

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2.) NIL BATTEY SANNATA

Humane. Humorous. Sweet. Emotional. Pulls at your heartstrings. Highly inspirational. Endearing. Must-see for everyone.

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1.) UDTA PUNJAB

Hard-hitting. Relevant. Brutal. Honest. In-your-face. Haunting music. And what a superlative cast! Quite easily the Best of the Year 2016.

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(Honorable Mentions: SULTAN, DEAR ZINDAGI, KAHAANI 2, MS DHONI: THE UNTOLD STORY, JUGNI.)

Categories: Bollywood, Movies

House Of Cards:S4 – Breathe…Breathe…Breathe.

March 12, 2016 Leave a comment

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In one of the Season 4 episodes of HOUSE OF CARDS, Frank Underwood breaks the Fourth Wall (as he loves doing…) and informs us that “When a dog is bitten, either you put it so sleep or put a muzzle on it. I’ve chosen the muzzle – for now.” It is one of the many classic and clap-worthy moments jam-packed into the latest season of the Netflix political drama that one can’t help marveling at.

After a lousy Season 3, where I almost gave up on the show, HoC is back. And how!

First and foremost is the fact that there is no longer any pretense. It is clear that the proceedings are far removed from reality. They are more incredulous than ever. Brash and uncompromising. And yet, they also feel oh so familiar. It is almost uncanny that, being in the Election Year ourselves, we are seeing headlines play right in front of us…in real-life as well as on the small screen.

This is a Season that is so relentless that you long for respite. There are so many things the show talks about, so many characters it plays with, so many scenarios it plays out and so many times makes your jaw drop that it almost leaves you gasping for breath. And yet the high drama and entertainment quotient is never compromised.

Its all there in this Season. Promises are broken…remade…and re-broken. Loyalties are tested. Betrayals are witnessed. Shocks are delivered. And yet they hardly give the impression of a gimmick.

All because of an impeccable cast, some amazing story-writing and deft direction. Beau Wilimon’s script is taut and tense while the direction, especially the four episodes, directed by Robin Wright, are gut-wrenching.

And the characters!

People may find Frank Underwood as hammy at times, but here is a character who reminds me all the time of BREAKING BAD’s Walter White. The difference, of course, is that, unlike Walter, Underwood does not (d)evolve into something over time but remains true to his nature from the beginning. Underwood’s Machiavellian tendencies of a scheming politician work wonders for his character and play around with the audience’s gut feelings…more so in Season 4 than any of the previous ones.

Claire Underwood continues to surprise us throughout the season and the strength and resolve of her character is nothing short of being remarkable. She was…and remains…Frank’s backbone….both in good and bad times. What a trajectory she has been given in this season to traverse!

And what can one say of the remaining folks. From Remy Dalton to Jackie Sharp. From Seth Grayson to Cathy Durant. From Freddy to Meechum. And from Tom Yates to Heather Dunbar. They are all here. And then some! The ghosts from the past show up too. And will continue to do so, as the Underwoods march on, in pursuit of their quest.

But it is Doug Stamper who stands above everyone else as Frank’s flawed yet resolute Chief of Staff. What a wonderfully conceived character! And his fierce loyalty is something that makes us shake our heads in amazement. We all know that he has his own skeletons to hide but here is someone who is an absolute pleasure to watch, regardless of the miscalculated steps he takes and the mistakes he continues to make.

Season 4 of House of Cards has so many hidden pleasures that you will find yourself smiling and rooting for the wrong people, then scolding yourself for doing so…only to smile yet again. And the Season Finale has one of the most stunning endings I have seen in a long time!

When I started watching this season last weekend, I was hoping that I would not miss the show during the long break between now and the next season. Season 3 had almost pushed me into saying that the show had already reached its end of life. But this season has proven me wrong. The 12-month break is already beginning to feel as being too long. And it’s been only a few hours since I finished binge-watching the entire season. Here’s looking forward to meeting the Underwoods very soon again.

During one of the episodes, Frank uses the words “We are going to destroy them”. Well, House of Cards has almost destroyed the competition anyway as far as one of the “Most Riveting Dramas on TV/Cable” is concerned. And this is easily the best season of the entire series…thus far.

Mission Accomplished, President Underwood! Now let’s continue work on building that “collection” of yours.

Categories: Hollywood, Movies

The Best Hindi Songs of 2015

December 25, 2015 Leave a comment

As the year draws to a close, it is time for us to look back towards the best music that Bollywood offered us in 2015 and had us all humming. It was yet another stellar year for good music, which shone, despite the cacophony and club-based remixes that seem to have become the flavor of the month.

So pour yourself a cup of tea/coffee, huddle around with your family, create this playlist and celebrate the holidays with these songs playing in the background. Trust me…you won’t be disappointed.

1.) Tu Kisi Rail Si Guzarti Hai – MASAAN

The best song of the year also comes from the best movie of the year. And sung with a heart by Indian Ocean. You can catch glimpses of the fantastic film, along with the flavor of small-town India, in the video.

2.) Agar Tum Saath Ho – TAMASHA

Deepika Padukone killed all competition for possibly years to come with this song playing in the backdrop. This is the stuff that turns actors into potential legends. And Irshad Kamil’s lyrics capture heartbreak just appropriately, with AR Rahman composing and Arijit Singh giving company to…yes…Alka Yagnik!!

3.) Judaai – BADLAPUR

One of the most poignant and heartbreaking songs I have ever heard, this one is sung with equal anguish and pain by Arijit Singh and Rekha Bharadwaj. It gives me the goosebumps every time I hear it. What a lovely composition about loss of loved ones.

4.) Jaanam – DETECTIVE BYOMKESH BAKSHY

A killer soundtrack to a film which eventually turned into a lost opportunity. The songs are mostly eclectic but this one, which plays as the opening credits roll, is sung with just the right amount of gusto needed to announce what Byomkesh is about to experience. Check out the lyrics and you will get immersed into it…

5.) Moh Moh Ke Dhaage – DUM LAGA KE HAISHA

Varun Grover is magical here with words and dialogues in this feel-good movie of the year. But one cannot help giving credit to the one and only Anu Malik, who proves that he still has a spark…or two…left in him. Monali Thakur’s rendition is also absolutely gorgeous. Feel the song. Don’t just hear it.

6.) Dhadaam Dhadaam – BOMBAY VELVET

Ah, the heartbreak that Bombay Velvet caused upon its release. There was universal disappointment across the board, especially when such big names were associated with the film. The lyricist/composer duo of Amitabh Bhattacharya / Amit Trivedi however still didn’t disappoint. This was an epic soundtrack, seeped in Jazz, capturing the early era of music. But this song itself was a total blast. And usage of the words “Malaal mein”…simply delicious!

7.) Lamhe Guzar Gaye – PIKU

Forget the “motion” discussions. Piku was a winner all the way, led by a phenomenal acting turn by Deepika Padukone (yet again!) and an unforgettable musical score by Anupam Roy, where every song was a total keeper! It was hard to pick a favorite. I simply decided on this one because it also happens to be liked by my 12-year old son.

8.) Ho Gaya Hai Pyar Tumse – TANU WEDS MANU RETURNS

Sigh! If only the film was even remotely close to how beautiful the soundtrack was, this would have been a different story altogether. Tanu and Manu’s return was turned into a slapstick comedy, instead of retaining some of the sensitive and emotional elements of the original. The songs, however, were a hoot and this one captures feelings for a loved one, with just the right amount of TLC.

9.) Pehli Baar – DIL DHADAKNE DO

What a rollicking song, composed by those masters Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy! And it is not an easy song to give music to, if one carefully listens to Javed Akhtar’s twisted lyrics. Zoya Akhtar, however, brought it to life on the screen with the just the right amount of spunk. Of course, with the help of that wonderful pair of Ranveer Singh and Anushka Sharma, who hardly disappoint together.

10.) Chhil Gaye Naina – NH10

A song that captures anger through its raw energy and superb lyrics, this was an outstanding piece from an ultra-violent film…one that gets elevated by a brave performance from Anushka Sharma. Hard to believe that it is sung by the Babydoll-singer, Kanika Kapoor. Bravo indeed!

11.) Hasi – HAMAARI ADHURI KAHAANI

This was a surprisingly lousy film from Emraan Hashmi-Vidya Balan, who had given us the eccentric GHANCHAKKAR and THE DIRTY PICTURE earlier. The songs were also in the same generic vein as anything and everything being composed by Ankit Tiwari-Jeet Ganguly these days. This one, however, had a strange magical feel to it and with the help of some excellent lyrics, turned out to be winner on an otherwise average soundtrack.

12.) Tu Jo Mila – BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN

KK’s version of this song was the most moving, in a strangely entertaining film from Salman Khan. Maybe it was the cuteness of Harshali Malhotra that did the trick but this song, composed by Pritam, was amongst the best on an overall decent soundtrack. (The link here is for the Javed Ali version.)

13.) Chori Chori Teri Meri – HUNTERR

A complete die-hard romantic song from one of the raunchiest and funniest movies of the year. However, for those who pay close attention to the lyrics, this song is not just about love but about forbidden love…and was perfect for a movie that was about nothing but exactly that! :-))

14.) Move On – TANU WEDS MANU RETURNS

I would have picked “Banno” here simply due to the usage of the word “Swagger” in those wonderful lyrics…but what won me over for “Move On” was the attitude with which Sunidhi Chauhan has sung the song. Add to that Kangana’s priceless reactions and you suddenly see a whole new meaning to “O Re Pyaare Khiske Saare Dard Bhare Naghme….Ab Rap-Vap Sa, Rock-Vock sa…Bajtaa rag-rag Mein..” What a song indeed about actually moving on.

15.) Heer To Badi Sad Hai – TAMASHA

And I end here with the most positive take on sadness/loneliness, written to a mesmerizing effect by Irshad Kamil and sung with gusto by Mika Singh. (Rahman no longer requires a mention here for the fabulous music…it is a given!). Imtiaz Ali said in an interview how he had the choice of showing Tara’s state of mind through a sad song but decided to put a folksy and upbeat spin to it. And the effect is nothing short of magical. Amazing indeed!

Categories: Bollywood, Movies

The Best Hindi Films of 2015

December 24, 2015 Leave a comment

Ever been in a situation when you sit down to make a Top 10 list and, while you breeze through numbers Ten to Six, the real fun starts once you reach number Five? You are unable to decide which one to pick over the other as all five are equally applause-worthy! That is the precise dilemma I ran into when selecting my list of ten best movies of 2015.

And what a year it has been for Bollywood yet again! While Salman Khan cracked the so-called 300-crore club to join Aamir Khan, the last I heard, Shah Rukh Khan was struggling to even make it to 100 Crores at the box-office with his latest release. For me, however, what matters is not how much money a film made but how long it stayed with me after the credits rolled. And based upon that criteria, here is a list of the best ten films that I saw this year….in no particular order. Let me know if any of your favorites made (or didn’t make) the cut too!!

DIL DHADAKNE DO

As much pretentious as its story sounded at times, Zoya Akhtar’s Cruising-With-the-Mehras won my heart simply because of the sibling camaraderie wonderfully portrayed on screen by Priyanka Chopra and Ranveer Singh. The two carried the entire film on their shoulders and turned it into an overall entertaining outing for the entire family. Farhan Akhtar’s  short but highly relevant speech on feminism was another highlight of the film.

HUNTERR

Not too many people either heard about or even saw this underrated sex-comedy that boasted of witty dialogues and terrific performances by Gulshan Devaiah, Sai Tamhankar and the ever-delightful Radhika Apte. The movie remains focused throughout, seldom losing its track and was one of the best guilty pleasures one could get to watch this year.

TALVAR

Overall I found Talvar to be a bit manipulative, considering the fact that of the three police investigations shown in the film, only one of them had a known actor (Irrfan Khan) playing an investigation officer, thus clearly showing the director Meghna Gulzar’s bias and the team she wanted us all to root for. However, this was an excellent depiction of a clinical investigative process adopted by the law enforcement agencies in India…one that kept me hooked on, despite its obvious twists and turns and a story that still finds a place in the Indian media today, after so many years.

NH10

Another case of a performance-based film, where the basic plot somehow got lost amidst excessive violence, gore and shock-quotient. But what still prevented Navdeep Singh’s second directorial venture (after “Manorama Six Feet Under”) from falling apart was a crackling performance by Anushka Sharma. Her remorseless facial expressions towards the end of the film when she wreaks havoc on her wrongdoers was itself worth the price of admission. A brave and gut-wrenching performance that warrants a viewing by all cinemagoers.

DUM LAGA KE HAISHA

Ah, the ultra-sweet, ultra-genuine and ultra-delightful romantic dramedy, which moves you to tears on multiple occasions and you cannot help cheering for every single character in the movie. Varun Grover’s ethereal dialogues, seeped in the rustic small-town language, are worthy of multiple “seetis” and elevate the film to even higher levels. This was THE feel-good movie of the year, with chapters and situations taken straight out of our lives. And the odd pairing of Bhumi PednekarAyushman Khurrana did not disappoint either.

TITLI

One of the hardest films to watch this year, Titli is a film that stays with you for a long time and you cannot help admiring its bitter sadness and the bleak reality that it introduces us all to, through its five characters. Much has been said about Ranvir Shorey’s performance as the eldest brother of the family but every single actor, despite this being the first film for some of them, shines equally. This is a film for serious moviegoers and has a plot that simply sucks you in…one that has to be seen to be believed.

PIKU

Aww come on!! How could one criticize the discussions about Amitabh Bachchan’s bowel movements and not take any notice of the absolute simplicity of the story, the mesmerizing music, the wonderful camerawork, the superb ensemble acting and the stunning performance by the inimitable Deepika Padukone? Piku was a pure delight to watch once…and then again…and again throughout the year. Yet another memorable directorial effort by Shoojit Sircar.

TAMASHA

Few films force me to introspect. And Imtiaz Ali’s underappreciated and often misunderstood Tamasha was one of them this year. Imtiaz is now officially one of my favorite directors and while his thoughts may sometime confuse us as an audience, the journeys that he takes us on, through his characters, are what great films are all about. In addition, when one has Irshad Kamil to give lyrics to your thoughts, the magical AR Rahman to add melody to them, the impeccable Ranbir Kapoor as your lead actor and that seriously outstanding Deepika Padukone as your lead actress, the end product can be expected to be nothing short of memorable.

BADLAPUR

If Tamasha forced me to think, Badlapur disturbed me the most this year. A raw, brutal, unflinchingly violent and yet poetic film about loss of loved ones, revenge and remorse, Sriram Raghavan’s adaptation of Massimo Carlotto’s original story blew my mind when it first came out back in February. And I still haven’t stopped thinking about it since. It is hard to say who gave a better performance out of the two – Varun Dhawan or Nawazuddin Siddiqui. But the pain and anguish brought out by both characters made this film a mesmerizing and yet harrowing watch. Truly one of the very best of the year.

MASAAN

And finally we have a gem called Masaan, with a simplistic story that restores your faith in life and the true meaning of love, despite the trials and tribulations that every one of us has to go through. This beautiful film was filmed primarily in Banaras and introduces us to some genuinely heartwarming and yet true-to-life characters from one of the rather smaller but fairly significant towns of India. A film that one wishes never ends and which engulfs you with its bitterly harsh yet genuinely moving setting, Masaan was hands down the Best Film of the Year and an absolute must-see for everyone. Thank you, Varun Grover (once again!) and Neeraj Ghaywan for a genuinely unforgettable experience!

(Honorable mentions go to Salman Khan’s BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN, Akshay Kumar’s BABY, Kalki Koechlin’s MARGARITA WITH A STRAW and Sushant Singh’s DETECTIVE BYOMKESH BAKSHY, which tried hard but couldn’t quite make it to my final list.)

Categories: Bollywood, Movies

The Best Music of 2014

December 31, 2014 Leave a comment

While melody and lyrics once again lost out to the cacophonies of “Keeda” (Action Jackson), “Alcoholic” (The Shaukeens), “Tharki Chhokro” (PK) and “G-Phaad Ke” (Happy Ending. Seriously?!) churned out by Bollywood in 2014, my resolve to keep the faith in 2015 remains intact. Albeit a bit shaken…

Movie producers and directors remained committed to subjecting listeners to the endless torture of so-called “party anthems”, wrapped around rowdy, lewd and downright disgusting lyrics. Where this trend is headed for, and whether there is any end in sight, no one can say. There is, however, a glimmer of hope that we can still survive on…and this “short” list below is a celebration of the remnants of some good music that we heard in 2014.

My hope is that some of your own year-end favorites are also here, alongside any “Chaar Bottle Vodka” (Ragini MMS 2), “The Pappi Song” (Heropanti) and “Chichora Piya” (Action Jackson) that you may have on your list. 🙂

 

5.) VISHAL-SHEKHAR (Hasee Toh Phasee, Bang Bang, Happy New Year)

No one can make rocking party songs like Vishal-Shekhar and their three releases this year are a testament to their creative abilities. From “Shake It Like Shammi” from HTP to “Tu Tu Tu Meri” in BB to “India Vaale” in HNY….everything was Bang-on. But for me, the best VS-song trophies went to “Manvaa Laage” from HNY and the absolutely heart-warming “Zehnaseeb” from HTP…both of them penned by Amitabh Bhattacharya.

 

 

 

 

4.) A.R. RAHMAN (Highway, Lekar Hum Deewana Dil)

While the film sank without a trace, Lekar Hum Deewana Dil had Rahman giving us some of his best upbeat commercial music in a long time. “Khaleefa” was an amazing party track, while “Alaahda” had Amitabh Bhattacharya once again writing some wonderful lyrics.

 

Highway – the album was a soulful listen. Like all other great Rahman albums, this one also takes time to grow on you, and when it does, you can’t have enough of it. “Maahi Ve”, “Patakha Guddi” and “Tu Kuja” were beautifully penned by Irshad Kamil but the scene stealer for me was “Kahaan Ho Tum”, a haunting melody that reminded me of “Tum Ko” from Rockstar.

 

 

 

3.) AMIT TRIVEDI (Queen)

Kangana Ranaut may have been the Queen in the film but the title of the King belonged to music director Amit Trivedi. Kudos to Vikas Bahl, the director, who masterfully juxtaposed Trivedi’s songs, written beautifully by Anvita Dutt, onto the Queen’s life situations. The best song in the film for me was “Kinare” signifying the liberation of Kangna’s character from the shackles of societal pressures.

 

 

 

2.) VISHAL BHARDWAJ (Haider, Dedh Ishqiya)

While Gulzar Saab and Vishal Bhardwaj had fun with both poetry as well as playful lyrics in Dedh Ishqiya, it was their Haider that had me mesmerized for weeks. I was not impressed with the songs initially and found them too metaphorical, but upon seeing the film (which incidentally ranks as my favorite film of 2014), the entire album stuck with me for a long time. Every song captured the emotions of the characters just perfectly but the one that remains etched in my heart till date is Vishal’s own rendition of “Jhelum”. Superb!!

 

 

1.) SHANKAR-EHSAAN-LOY (2 States, Kill/Dil)

And finally, the masters of music, in my humble opinion! SEL gave us two of the best albums of the year and every song deserves multiple listening. Whether it was with the inimitable Amitabh Bhattacharya who wrote for 2 States or Gulzar Saab who amazed us with his ultra-witty Kill/Dil (coming right off the heels of the soulful Haider), SEL knew how to make popular, catchy and memorable music. “Mast Magan” is my favorite song from 2 States while “Bol Beliya” is the best pick from Kill/Dil.

 

 

 

Categories: Bollywood, Movies