Films 2009 – Part II

The Best Film Starring Ranbir Kapoor: Wake Up Sid

Okay, so maybe Ranbir Kapoor didn’t actually have that many releases in 2009, but the boy certainly hasn’t been anything less than ubiquitous – in TV and print ads, on magazine covers, in gossip columns with the endless are-they-or-aren’t-they speculation surrounding him and girlfriend (or is she?) Deepika Padukone, as well as the subsequent ‘we’re just good friends’ routine with Ajab Prem Ki Gazab Kahani co-star Katrina Kaif. So relentless has been the onslaught of the RK media machine, in fact, that it’s been a helluva task to keep sight of the fact that young Mr. Kapoor is really quite the talented and charismatic dynamo, pretty much inarguably Bollywood’s next superstar. He single-handedly made a hit out of otherwise-absolute-pap APKGK, but also demonstrated that he can sometimes pick ‘em, with Wake Up Sid. Some called the coming-of-age tale Dil Chahta Hai-lite, and indeed it did have that ‘new urban youth’ hangover, but at the same time it had a refreshing, unhurriedly paced, indie flavour as well. Kapoor and Konkona Sen Sharma (it’s strictly strength-to-strength for this gal) made for an unlikely but charmingly quirky couple, and the film’s wake-up call to find one’s own place in life has surely resonated with many a real-life Sid. Kudos!

The Biggest Head-Scratcher of a Hit: Blue

When oh when will the Mumbaiyyas get it? If we wanted to watch a slick, big-budget, Hollywood action flick, we’d watch, oh I don’t know, A SLICK BIG-BUDGET HOLLYWOOD ACTION FLICK! That is not what we look to Bollywood for (see also Kidnap and Luck – or actually, don’t). We look to Bollywood for its trademark earthy desiness, not for some misguided aspiration towards being pseudo angrez and sophisticated – perhaps the reason why a lot of us just didn’t feel the remake of Don three years ago, and why even more of us just couldn’t find it in our hearts (or our backsides) to chiggy wiggy with the muddled mess called Blue. It had all the supposed hot ingredients alright: pots of moolah spent on snazzy cinematography, international location shooting, underwater sequences, Kylie Minogue’s cameo and Lara Dutta’s bikini bod. But in the midst of it all, someone clean forgot to order up a decent script or credible plot. Some hogwash about a treasure buried at sea, Sunjay Dutt as some kind of oceanographic expert (that big gut would certainly make him buoyant if nothing else) along with a ho-hum score by A.R. Rahman, and from an artistic perspective, Blue, despite earning pieces o’ eight at the box-office, pretty much dog-paddled its way to a watery grave.

The Best Film Not Starring Ranbir Kapoor: Kaminey/ Dev.D

The vote is split on this one; not only did both films garner critical praise and box-office adulation, they also shared the same heady, untethered sensibility and dark view of the world. Director Vishal Bhardwaj’s follow-up to Omkara, Kaminey boasted a gritty, visceral edge that didn’t flinch from the required rough ‘n tumble of its underworld setting, and also reveled in dirtying up the cuddly, chocolatey image of star Shahid Kapoor who clearly had fun playing twin brothers – lisping Charlie and stuttering Guddu – as alike as chalk and cheese. Anurag Kashyap’s haunting Dev. D was a supremely ballsy updating – and re-imagining – of the classical tale of loser in love Devdas (Abhay Deol – surely set for a very interesting filmi career). The lyricism of the original Bengali setting was replaced with the more earthy swagger of Punjab, and both Paro (Mahie Gill) and Chanda (Kalki Koechlin) broke through the confines of their traditional roles. Do both films signal the way of the future for Hindi filmdom? It’s probably too soon to tell, but for now, it is exciting to see the emergence of an alternative cinema in la-la-land.

The One That Flew Under The Radar: Luck By Chance

Sometimes Hindi movie audiences can leave you astounded and asking the question: where’s your head at?! They’ll lap up drivel like Ghajini (the cinematic equivalent of being clapped round the ear hole with a big, dead fish) but blissfully ignore gems such as Luck By Chance, which certainly deserved a bigger, better reception at the box-office than it got. Zoya Akhtar’s directorial debut was both tart satire and unabashed valentine to Bollywood, chock-a-bloc with all those familiar Bollywood-isms that we all know and love: podgy producers, jittery financiers, frustrated writers, pretentious directors, self-involved and insecure superstars, struggling starlets, opportunistic star aspirants, and pushy star-moms orchestrating the careers of their air-head ‘babies’. It was also a handsomely crafted film, with the lush cinematography capturing the myriad moods and colours of a Hindi move extravaganza, the fantastical dance number ‘Baawre’ leaving one agape with its stunning Moulin Rouge-esque camerawork and choreography and near-psychedelic art direction, not to mention its role in establishing Farhan Akhtar and Konkona Sen Sharma as the thinking people’s sex symbols. Take heart Zoya, the day will come when you’ll kick Murugadoss’s butt.

Most Unintentionally Unfunny: Kambakhtt Ishq

Hey! Want to hear a really funny joke? No, I mean a seriously funny joke? It’s guaranteed all the way to Swaziland to crack you up! Ready? Okay, here goes:

“You bitch!”

“You bastard!”

Oh man, wasn’t that positively jam-a-shovel-in-my-head-and-call-me-Doug funny? No?! Well that’s odd because the writers of Kambakhtt Ishq certainly thought that having their lead characters lob antiquated insults back and forth at each other was a real knee-slapper. Come to think of it, ironically enough the only things even remotely funny in this *cringe* ‘comedy’, were the parts that were supposed to be dead serious: surgeon-in-residence Kareena Kapoor being a part-time supermodel to make ends meet (which apparently means being able to prance about in designer togs whose cost amounts to only slightly more than the annual GDP of a former Soviet state), Kareena dropping her pendulous watch-bracelet into Akshay Kumar’s abdominal cavity while performing surgery (why was she wearing it during surgery? Perhaps it’s required of all surgeon-cum-supermodels in-training), Kareena’s sob story about her errant father, Akshay Kumar’s various pairs of pants… the list goes on. At the end of it all one was left with but two burning unanswered questions: a) does Kumar possess super aural powers that he hears the chimes of the watch in his tummy as the gongs of St. Paul’s? And b) did they really splurge so much money on this so-called comedy just to give me indigestion?

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