Friday, January 29, 2010


This blog has a new address. Moving to Wordpress from today. Catch me at:
Update your bookmarks please (yes, I do live in a la-la land where I think someone out there has bookmarked my blog....).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dus Saal Pehele - Chapter 2


2002 was a lackluster year in comparison to 2001. This year would be remembered for the debut of a wonderful actress who would eventually carve a place for herself by the end of the decade (so much so that writers would write roles with her in mind) – Konkona Sen Sharma. A young girl, with unusual looks who really got her break only because of her celebrated mother – Aparna Sen. It is ironical that Konkona would play a role of a struggling actress in a 2009 film who is unable to find success in Hindi movies as a result of her not being “heroine material”. More on that in 2009. Her debut film Mr and Mrs Iyer was directed by Aparna Sen and touched upon the subject of communal riots. As soon as you saw Konkona appear on the screen with those burning dark saucer eyes, you knew she was here for a long run.

Other notable movies of the year:

Devdas - Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s rendition of this classic tragedy had an excess of everything: color, opulence and melodrama. To its credit the movie is all that it claimed it would be. SRK goes ballistic (complete with quivering lips and intensely arched eyebrows), Aishwarya Rai as Paro looked sufficiently coy and demure and Madhuri Dixit illuminated the screen with her portrayal of Chandramukhi . If you walked in expecting all this, you got your money’s worth. The movie was a colossal hit locally and worldwide. Personally, I am not a fan of this version of Devdas, but that’s my taste. But I do get the point Bhansali makes with his movies and for his vision alone I admire him - the man is true to HIS convictions. This would also be the last time we would see Madhuri Dixit for a long time. 2009 would see another director do his own version of the Devdas saga by giving it a here-and-now twist. (This is exactly why I love movies, you cannot get tired of the same plot given there is honesty and novelty in the presentation).

Makdee – Vishal Bharadwaj’s debut feature film was targeted for the younger audience. Shabana Aazmi goes to town in her portrayal of a witch while the young actress, Shweta Prasad, who plays the twin role was a rare treat to watch. She would eventually prove to that she is not a one film wonder in another movie about a deaf and dumb cricketer. Vishal showed a lot of promise with his first film and would prove to be an important filmmaker in the coming years. So much talent in one guy: Director, Music Composer, Singer, Producer, Dialogue writer, Scriptwriter.(It’s over-achievers like him that makes me look like a Neanderthal.)

Company – Ram Gopal Verma does Bombay underworld like no one else (Satya in my opinion is the best in this genre). Company was a fictional narration of the gangwar between Dawood Ibrahim and Chotaa Rajan. The movie had all the stylized elements of a mafia caper with slick camerawork, intense chase sequences through immensely cramped spaces and lot of unexpected violence. Ajay Devgan turned in a spirited performance as Malik the leader of one of the underworld companies.

The Legend of Bhagat Singh – In my honest opinion this is the best biopic of the decade. Raj Kumar Santoshi does a fine job in the direction department and Ajay Devgan as the ultimate martyr of the Indian freedom struggle gives a spirited performance. A soaring score by A R Rehman only assists in stirring the patriot inside you.

Bend it Like Beckham – Not exactly a bollywood movie, but this Gurinder Chadha movie from the UK about a second generation Indian girl’s struggles to balance between her ambitions in football and her Indian family values became a sleeper hit around the world.

Movie of the year: Devdas

Actor of the year: Ajay Devgan (Company, The Legend of Bhagat Singh)

Actress of the year: Konkona Sen Sharma (Mr. and Mrs. Iyer)

Director of the year: Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Devdas)

Music director of the year: Ismail Darbar (Devdas)


After a disappointing 2002, 2003 saw three big movies score big at the at the Box Office. Dharma Productions' Kal Ho Naa Ho, Rakesh Roshan’s Koi Mil Gaya and Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Munna Bhai MBBS. While Kal ho naa ho in my opinion was an intensely manipulative movie (in the sense that you are forced into sympathizing and pitying the deified SRK character), Koi Mil Gaya was a formulaic entertainer loosely inspired by E.T. and adapted to the Indian palate (complete with a typical filmy Maa – a hammy Rekha). Kal Ho Naa Ho can be credited with the first open display of homosexuality by mainstream actors in Hindi cinema (albeit, used in a comedic perspective). Munnabhai MBBS was a largely original idea and Vidhu Vinod Chopra must be lauded for trusting his fortunes with this novel material in the hands of a first time director – Rajkumar Hirani. Munna and Circuit became the poster boys of the new millenium’s idea of bromance and Jadu Ki Jhappi became a phrase heard in Nanded and Nagaland. Sanjay Dutt’s portrayal of the lovable don is one of the iconic characterizations in Hindi Cinema. It becomes even more fascinating to watch him play Munna knowing his own personal ups and downs and trysts with the law. (Is it me or does everyone see that flawed heroes are more loved than the perfect god-like characters: i.e. most Aamir Khan characters?) Having Sunil Dutt play his father in the movie was a cause of much "warm-fuzzy" in the audiences.

Other highlights of the year:

3 Deewarein: Nagesh Kukunoor’s small yet powerful movie based on the life of three prisoners on death row and documentary filmmaker was a wonderful experiment with some fine performances by Naseeruddin Shah, Juhi Chawla, Jackie Shroff and Gulshan Grover. (Did anyone else see a mild Rashomon inspiration here?)

Ek Hasina Thi: Sriram Raghavan’s stylish revenge drama of a girl wronged in love was an under-rated debut. Urmila and Saif pitched in decent performances to this taut psychological thriller and has one of the most riveting climax sequences in recent years. (The poster art of the movie in itself stands out as piece of art in itself)

Pinjar: Chandra Prakash Dwivedi (he of the classic Chanakya) directed this tale of a girl trapped in a wrong relationship on the wrong side of the border during the partition years of India. Based on a novel written by Amrita Pritam the film had fine performances by Urmila Matondkar and Manoj Bajpai. Awaiting Dwivedi's next movie supposed to be based on the life of Emperor Ashoka's son, Kunal.

Baghban: Ravi Chopra’s social (melo)drama about sons and daughters neglecting their older parents became a rage in the senior citizen circles. Every 50 something was apparently throwing venomous judgmental looks at the younger generation for months to come after this movie was released, so I am told.

Other newsmakers included:

- the many kissing scenes of a certain Ms Sherawat in Khwahish,

- a fairly passable romantic comedy Rules: Pyaar Ka Superhit Formula by newcomer Parvati Balagopalan (wonder why hasn’t she made anything after this movie)

- a completely forgettable movie by the name “Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon” - just noted here to further underscore the popularity of this last female superstar – they made a movie with her name in the title (no other movie actor can claim that).

- Following the Ameesha Patel footsteps, Gracy Singh who featured in the two box office smash hits of recent years – Lagaan and Munna Bhai MBBS will be forgotten in the coming years.

Movie of the year: Munnabhai MBBS

Actor of the year: Sanjay Dutt (Munnabhai MBBS)

Actress of the year: Urmila Matondkar (Ek Hasina Thi, Pinjar)

Director of the year: Rajkumar Hirani (Munnabhai MBBS)

Music director of the year: Shankar Ehsaan Loy (Kal Ho Naa Ho)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dus Saal Pehele - Chapter 1

In the last 10 years, Hindi cinema (and in general Indian cinema) has undergone some significant changes so much so that this decade can be termed as both evolutionary and revolutionary- new subjects were tackled, new technology was used, collaboration between studios and the corporate world took place, Hollywood studios entered the Indian market, digital film distribution was introduced, full length animation feature films were produced, overseas markets became an influential factor, independent movies saw a wider acceptance, mainstream actors and producers took leaps of faith in the kind of movies they associated themselves with etc. All healthy signs of growth and progress. However, all was not well (no matter how much Hirani and Co would like us to believe) - quality films targeted for the younger audiences were conspicuous with their absence (although sporadic juvenile attempts were made, but nearly not enough for such a huge and demanding audience), women were still largely treated as disposable objects of desire in a majority of the scripts and the low rung workers in the industry still remain an unorganized bunch with no formal forum to voice their needs and concerns.

On a personal front, I can say that I rediscovered my love for Indian cinema. As a child growing up in the 80s I grew up on the Amitabh “angry young man” movies and the NFDC movies showed on Doordarshan. Although I did not quite comprehend most of the movies (let alone the art of making movies), I did feel a deep connection with them. My love affair with the movies experienced some rough weather in the early 90s and towards the last few years of the millennium I had given up on the relationship –we were officially on a break. The new millennium reinstated my love for these movies all over again and I can now say that I understand these movies and their purpose a lot better. I have a new affection towards all those who work in this dream-factory - the title sequence of Luck By Chance gets me a little emotional , for this reason.

Having said that, I felt compelled to write about the highlights of the last 10 years and got to task. This is not a “best of the decade” list, but a cinematic journey into the last 10 years to highlight some key movies and the people behind them. So in the next five chapters I have tried to highlight the important moments in the Hindi film world – two years at a time.

(The title of this series is a homage to an oft used way of narrating past incidents in many Hindi movies of the 50s through the 90s)


The new millennium dawned and the world had survived the Y2K devil. Although, Mumbai was still surprised by the shocking success of the low budget independent Hyderabad Blues in the closing years of the millennium, not many people showed interest in producing independent movies just yet (the seeds were sown though ). 2000 will primarily be remembered for the launch of a new superstar - Hrithik Roshan with the smash hit Kaho Naa Pyar Hain. Papa Roshan’s production and direction was a perfect launch vehicle for this star. The entire nation was enamored by his physique, his dancing skills and his light eyes - he was a complete package (apparently, many newborns were named Hrithik that year).

Other notable movies of the year :

- Kamal Hassan’s under-appreciated Hey Ram which had some fine performances by Kamal, Rani Mukherjee, Shahrukh Khan and Atul Kulkarni

- Mahesh Manjrekar’s Astitva which portrayed Tabu as an adulterous woman defending her actions

- Aditya Chopra’s Mohabbatein saw him return to direction after a 5 years break. The movie offered nothing new and was a huge letdown (creativity wise) in comparison to Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge

- Another star son-daughter Jodi that debuted this year who would make

a big name for themselves in the coming years was Abhishek Bachchan and Kareena Kapoor in the JP Dutta opus “Refugee”.

Movie of the year: Hey Ram

Actor of the year: Hrithik Roshan (Kaho Naa Pyaar Hain)

Actress of the year: Kareena Kapoor (Refugee)

Director of the year: Kamal Hassan (Hey Ram)

Music director of the year: Anu Malik (Josh, Refugee)


2001 was a defining year for the rest of the decade and was also a stellar year at the cash

registers. People flocked to the cinemas in hordes to watch Aamir Khan's Bhuvan and his underdog team beat the crap out of the Angrez on the cricket pitch and Sunny Deol's Sardar Tara Singh beat a Pakistani army single-handedly to get his wife and child back into India . With the massive success of Lagaan and Gadar the industry found confidence

in big budget cinema and a lot to cheer about. Lagaan also brought “Bollywood” (I still hate this term, but will have to make my peace with it eventually) to the red carpet at the Kodak theater in Hollywood, however it was Dil Chahta Hain which would set the tone for the rest of the decade. More on that later.

Other significant movies from 2001:

- Mira Nair’s “Monsoon Wedding” displayed a slice of the various social strata of Indian urban society effectively, also Delhi looked sumptuous through Declan Quinn's camera

- Karan Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham preached the “love thy parents” mantra and Dharma Productions got richer by millions.

- Another director who would eventually make some important films in the decade debuted in 2001 - Rakeysh OmPrakash Mehra. His psychological thriller “Aks” was an inspired attempt but failed to grab the attention of the audience.

- Madhur Bhandarkar of the pseudo-socially-relevant-expose` genre, hit the limelight with a movie about the life of a bar girl (portrayed by a phenomenal Tabu) in Chandni Bar.

2001 will be remembered for Dil Chahta Hain, a turning point in Hindi Cinema. Farhan Akhtar’s style, his characters and their on screen interactions were something to which the person on the other side of the screen could relate to. The urban Indian youth found a new voice in Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s music and the trio will continue to dominate the rest of the decade along with A R Rehman. Aamir Khan was a key in both Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hain, and the end of the decade will only prove this star’s consistency and staying power. He will emerge as the star of the decade. On the flip side, Ameesha Patel who was the leading lady of two of the biggest movies of 2000 and 2001, would be a forgotten name by the end of the decade. Another proof that the hit movies don’t stars make.

2001 also permanently altered the civilized world after the tragic events of 9/11. These events and the aftermath would become plot points for a number of movies towards the end of the decade.

Movie of the year: Dil Chahta Hain
Actor of the year: Aamir Khan (Lagaan, Dil Chahta Hain)
Actress of the year: Tabu (Chandni Bar)
Director of the year: Farhan Akhtar (Dil Chahta Hain)
Music director of the year: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy (Dil Chahta Hain)