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:
- 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)