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My Bollywood’s Best of 2018

My yearly review season has arrived to inform the readers what Hindi-language Indian films do I find the best in different categories. This is my 5th annual review work on the Indian cinema and to read my previous works, kindly follow the links:

2014 2015 2016 2017

So how do I do all this? I select some three dozen potential films of the calendar year after watching the trailers and reading the minor narrations at the year-end. Then I spent a few months watching the films I selected. It takes me roughly 5-6 months to watch three dozen films because I have some other things to do in life. For the music department, I consider the selected films and explore further on the internet because the discovery of good music is vast and unlimited.

I am glad to see that watching and observing culture in India is changing. Year by year, some good stories are making rounds and getting recognition. Moving towards the new decade, this change may become a blessing. With so many production companies and heavy money involved, some very good talent is polished from any platform. Then the streaming service has developed and improved the viewing quality.

Following films grabbed my attention and I watched these in the past few months:

Andhadhun, Padman, Hichki, Sanju, Karwaan, Raid, Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz, Halkaa, Bioscopewala, Manmarziyaan, Mulk, Batti Gul Meter Chalu, Union Leader, Gold, Sui Dhaaga, Badhaai Ho, Beyond The Clouds, Raazi, Tikli And Laxmi Bomb, Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain, Manto, Mukkabaaz, October, Veere Di Wedding, Pari, Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, Blackmail, Pihu, Helicopter Eela, Pataakha, Hope Aur Hum, Tumbbad, Lust Stories, Love Sonia, and Gali Guleiyan.

Besides the abovementioned 35 Hindi films, I was not able to watch the other selected films, Omerta and 3 Storeys due to lack of availability or availability in extremely low video/audio quality.

Now before I present my winners, let me tell you how this works. After watching the above mentioned 35 Hindi films, I will segregate the categories into three different sections i.e., musical (5), technical (10), and major section (6). In most of the categories, I will brief a small explanation where I find necessary. In most of the categories, I will also make some unranked honorable mentions under “Other Notable Works” which are the individuals or the films deserve to be counted among the best.

Now I present you my picks from Bollywood’s Best of 2018. The readers can share their opinions below the blog.


MUSICAL SECTION

BEST BACKGROUND SCORE

ANDREA GUERRA (SUI DHAAGA)

Andrea Guerra’s music matches nowhere to Sui Dhaaga’s screenplay but the best thing about it is that the applied score helps us build a fresh perception towards the film. The same thing happened with Darren Fung’s score on Union Leader but Guerra’s score was better. Let us assume if a stereotype Indian music was played in the background on these screenplays, these films may not have built in our observation.

Other Notable Works:

Shashwat Srivastava (Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz)

Sandesh Shandilya (Bioscopewala)

Amit Trivedi (Manmarziyaan)

A. R. Rahman (Beyond The Clouds)

Darren Fung (Union Leader)

BEST MALE PLAYBACK SINGER

ARIJIT SINGH (BINTE DIL – PADMAAVAT)

There is no way anyone can sing better than Arijit Singh nowadays and Binte Dil is an example. The score of this track is middle-eastern and Arijit has worked on his vocal cords as per the style of the track demanded. This was not the same ‘Tum Hi Ho’ voice we listened to. Listen to him when he sings Aatish Kada Adaoon Se until the drop at deeda-e-tar ka hijaab, brilliant. Because the lyrics are not easy, the singer has sung pretty vibrant and unfamiliar Urdu and on a few occasions sang in one breath.

Other Notable Work:

Shahid Mallya (Daryaa – Manmarziyaan)

BEST FEMALE PLAYBACK SINGER

DEVESHI SEHGAL (DARYAA UNPLUGGED – MANMARZIYAAN)

Daryaa is a heart-wrenching track speaking about one’s love being distanced from the others with beautiful Punjabi lyrics and Deveshi’s voice offers a blend of urbanized rural melancholy and agony especially when she shouts Beh Gaya Hanjuaan Da Dariya. What we listen here is a raw voice and is used in the film at some critical junctures. A wonderful vocal rendition here.

Other Notable Works:

Neeti Mohan (Nainowale Ne – Padmaavat)

Sunidhi Chauhan (Manwaa – October)

BEST SONG & LYRICS

KADAM (PRATEEK KUHAD – KARWAAN)

Thumbs up to Prateek for both the lyrics and the music, very deep words and honest translation of human path of miseries and agitation.

Other Notable Works:

Daryaa (Ammy Virk, Shahid Mallya, Shellee, Amit Trivedi)

Qasam Kha Li (Papon, Amitabh Bhattacharya, Amit Trivedi)

Binte Dil (Arijit Singh, A. M. Turaz, Sanjay Leela Bhansali)

Tune Kaha (Prateek Kuhad – Lust Stories)

BEST MUSIC

AMIT TRIVEDI (MANMARZIYAAN)

It is hard to believe that Amit is yet to win the Best Music award from Filmfare. This could be his year but I have to admit that the competition with Bhansali for Padmaavat was really strong despite average reviews. For me, Manmarziyaan will be remembered one of Amit’s finest works to date. The compositions of all his soundtracks were magnificent. Daryaa was indeed the best track.

Other Notable Works:

Prateek Kuhad, Anurag Saikia, SlowCheetah and Shwetang Shankar & Imaad Shah (Karwaan)

Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Padmaavat)


TECHNICAL SECTION

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

SHEETAL IQBAL SHARMA (MANTO)

Other Notable Works:

Eka Lakhani (Sanju)

Aparna Shah (Bioscopewala)

Payal Saluja (Gold)

Karishma Sharma (Pataakha)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

NITIN ZIHANI CHOUDHARY & RAKESH YADAV (TUMBBAD)

Other Notable Works:

Priya Suhass (Bioscopewala)

Satish Chauhan (Union Leader)

Mansi Dhruv Mehta (Beyond The Clouds)

Rita Ghosh (Manto)

 

BEST SOUND DESIGN

RESUL POOKUTTY & AMRIT PRITAM (BIOSCOPEWALA)

Other Notable Works:

Madhu Apsara (Andhadhun)

Arun Nambiar (Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz)

 

BEST EDITING

HASSAN HASSANDOOST (BEYOND THE CLOUDS)

Other Notable Works:

A. Sreekar Prasad (Manto)

Dipika Kalra (Bioscopewala)

Ajay Sharma (Karwaan)

Pooja Ladha Surti (Andhadhun)

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

KARTIK VIJAY (MANTO)

Other Notable Works:

Avinash Arun (Karwaan)

Rafey Mahmood (Bioscopewala)

Sylvester Fonseca (Manmarziyaan)

Ewan Mulligan (Mulk)

Anil Mehta (Beyond The Clouds)

Pankaj Kumar (Tumbbad) 

 

BEST ACTION

VYRIL RAFFAELLI, SEBASTIEN SEVEAU & VIKRAM DAHIYA (BHAVESH JOSHI SUPERHERO)

I think this is pretty agreeable to everyone that Bhavesh Joshi Superhero offers excellent action sequences to seek our attention. There are no silly nonsense out-of-the-world fights and ridiculous visual effects to give up between the film. Because the plot is built in the honesty of depicting the birth of a superhero and the reasons behind wearing the mask. Even in the most possible exaggeration of any sequence, the scenes are acceptable and enough to pass a compliment like Siku’s lengthy attempt of escaping on the bike towards the railway station.  

Other Notable Work:

Vikram Dahiya & Sunil Rodrigues (Mukkabaaz)

 

BEST STORY

SRIRAM RAGHAVAN, ARIJIT BISWAS, POOJA LADHA SURTI, YOGESH CHANDEKAR & HEMANTH RAO (ANDHADHUN)

Andhadhun offers the freshness in presenting a crime thriller in dark humor. Two different stories connect to each other when the man pretending to be blind witnesses the dead body at an apartment and trying to give justice to the dead becomes a huge regret. The continuity is crazy and unpredictable. A story like Andhadhun is some kind of accomplishment and hope that some great stories can be told in the Hindi-language cinema.

Other Notable Works:

Bejoy Nambiar (Karwaan)

Nitin Dixit & Nila Madhab Panda (Halkaa)

Anubhav Sinha (Mulk)

Sanjay Patel (Union Leader)

 

BEST SCREENPLAY

MAJID MAJIDI & MEHRAN KASHANI (BEYOND THE CLOUDS)

I believe Beyond The Clouds had the most powerful screenwriting than any other films of 2018. The biggest reason lies in the happening of the plot. The intros of the leading characters and that cat-and-mouse run of Amir from the police. Then his emotional attachment with Tara and the given agonized circumstances between them in the plot is all splendid writing. Plus the development of mental growth of both Amir and Tara after her imprisonment carries the film. Amir’s changes in attitude with the relatives of Akshi (Tara’s husband) and Tara’s fondness towards the child are some impressive aspects of the writing. Due to the fact that this screenplay was written by the foreigners, they set the new standards of screenwriting in the Indian cinema.

Other Notable Works:

Nandita Das (Manto)

Anubhav Sinha (Mulk)

R. Balki & Swanand Kirkire (Padman)

Sriram Raghavan, Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti, Yogesh Chandekar, Hemanth Rao (Andhadhun)

 

BEST DIALOGUES

ABHISHEK CHATTERJEE (KUCHH BHEEGE ALFAAZ)

What is important about dialogues-writing for me? It must fit the screenplay and the entire plotline. A light-heart musical like Onir’s Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz is a feel-good romantic whistler and the main reason is dialogues. So natural that it grows on you. There is decency, there is literature, the conversation between Alfaaz and Archana has a polite affection. Another factor doubling the significance of dialogues is Zain Khan Durrani‘s voice. When he speaks, you just close your eyes and listen to what he speaks. Summing in short, Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz has the most real and natural piece of dialogues-writing in the film.

Other Notable Works:

Hussain Dalal (Karwaan)

Kanika Dhillon (Manmarziyaan)

Anubhav Sinha (Mulk)

Sharat Katariya (Sui Dhaaga)

Nandita Das (Manto)

 

BEST SCENE

CRIME SCENE (ANDHADHUN)

Sold. Diabolical and sold. I was losing my interest in the film and wasn’t believing how Sriram Raghavan can disappoint me after waiting for his next project for years until those blind eyes spotted a dead body in an apartment. His fingers were bought by that dead man to play his wife the piano on their wedding ceremony, the woman who killed her husband with the help of her boyfriend,  masterpiece!

This was just the beginning. The best part was the continuity when both the deceased’s wife and her boyfriend silently try to clean the crime scene on the blind’s piano notes in one take. It was like I was watching good old silent-comedy stunt of the golden age. This is the beauty of the director’s artistic mind dropping the significance of presenting simple scenes in extraordinary ways.

I wish this particular scene is not a copy of any. I am not able to share the video because unfortunately, this is not available on YouTube.

Other Notable Scenes:

Murad Ali’s response to prove if he is a Muslim or not (Mulk)

Shravan lecturing his father about his boxing passion (Mukkabaaz)

Amir escaping from police-chase (Beyond The Clouds)


MAJOR SECTION

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

IRRFAN KHAN (KARWAAN)

The best aspect of Irrfan’s acting is his absorbing the given role. He executes so well that he is no more Irrfan in the film, he is the character watched by millions of viewers. In Karwaan, we didn’t see Irrfan acting, we saw Shaukat helping his friend find his father’s dead body. Irrfan brings a tremendous balance between the two new faces in the film, Dulquer and Mithila, and beautifully completes the trinity of three extremely different characters. His supporting role was well supported by the dialogues and Shaukat’s innocence throughout the journey.

Other Notable Works:

Manav Vij (Andhadhun)

Vicky Kaushal (Manmarziyaan)

Manoj Pahwa (Mulk)

Arunoday Singh (Blackmail)

Raghubir Yadav (Sui Dhaaga)

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

SUREKHA SIKRI (BADHAAI HO)

Thank God, Filmfare didn’t make the mistake of handing Best Supporting Actress to any other actress than Surekha Sikri. Because if not this, then I wonder what further would take her to get the recognition. At her age, she justified her presence and the significance of her being the matriarch. Her series of scolding to his son and later in her daughter-in-law’s defense is magnificently hilarious.

Other Notable Works:

Tabu (Andhadhun)

Shikha Talsania (Veere Di Wedding)

Swara Bhaskar (Veere Di Wedding)

Freida Pinto (Love Sonia)

 

BEST ACTOR

ISHAAN KHATTER (BEYOND THE CLOUDS)

This is one stunning performance I am lost at and cannot believe that a 23yo can bring such maturity and versatility in his given role. A fresh start as an actor, Ishaan is Amir, a drug dealer whose sister is imprisoned in an attempt of killing her husband. Desperate brother is stuck of ill-fate with her husband to care in the hospital but the responsibility doubles when the husband’s relatives arrive and there is no other way than refuge them at home until the admitted patient is fit to stand on his feet.

Amir’s attitude changes from rudeness to friendliness when he is more involved with his relatives. And during all this period, Amir grows Ishaan grows, in his acting on our nerves. The director plays a significant part in growing his character but Ishaan’s mental timing and body language are pretty flawless everywhere. His bursting out of anger and voice pitch control is excellent. That rage in the pigeon room was the summary of Ishaan’s hard work of Amir’s ridiculous tolerance giving up on seeing his sister mad. Between this sequence, it was so natural to make an unnatural response towards the relatives and speak in English in agony. This Ishaan Khatter is pure promise if he moves his acting career in the future in the right direction.

Other Notable Works:

Ayushmann Khurana (Andhadhun)

Danny Denzongpa (Bioscopewala)

Rishi Kapoor (Mulk)

Rahul Bhat (Union Leader)

Varun Dhawan (Sui Dhaaga)

Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Manto)

Vineet Kumar Singh (Mukkabaaz)

 

BEST ACTRESS

TAAPSEE PANNU (MANMARZIYAAN)

I thought a lot about this. Even while deciding to pick this, I reconsidered. But I have made my mind to say that this was Taapsee’s year. And it is utter shame to see her not even getting nominated for Manmarziyaan, forget about winning a Filmfare. Many may not agree with me on Taapsee as far as the choice of film is concerned, why Manmarziyaan? Why not Mulk?

See, despite a spectacular performance in Mulk, her body language is limited to the screenplay. Half of the film is a courtroom drama and her role, her facial and mental performance is one dimensional. Manmarziyaan? She is a complete woman. Emotion-wise, Taapsee has pulled all the strings. There is so much emotional fluctuation in her given character.

Then her chemistry with Vicky plays a significant part because her scenes with Vicky are where she stands to her episodic collapses from pride, emotion, and respect throughout the film repeatedly giving a gem of performances.

Other Notable Works:

Rani Mukherji (Hichki)

Malavika Mohanan (Beyond The Clouds)

Anushka Sharma (Pari)

Mrunal Thakur (Love Sonia)

Sanya Malhotra (Pataakha)

Radhika Madan (Pataakha)

 

BEST DIRECTOR

NANDITA DAS (MANTO)

I must not be taken aback to a slingshot theory that the professional actors cannot become the directors of the quality they were enriched with. The brains behind the camera, a cinematic vision thought on the director’s chair needs the required artistry to craft a story and the camera techniques for shooting which waits for the approval of the applause and compliments. Nandita Das is one exceptional name making me stop thinking about the Bollywood stereotypes for once and watch her Manto work with scrutiny.

Thanks to Das, Manto disconnects you. You are in a different timeline and parallel. You are in an undivided India sitting with your friends in a tea shop describing your work, speaking poetries, narrating a woman’s beauty and criticizing the government and the workers involved in it. You are a rebel to this world which is collapsing near you. You are drinking, you are smoking, you are watching some lights turned on in some flats at midnight. It is time to sleep but some streets aren’t and the lights are on for the women to work and sell their body. It is red, dark and hammer on your head.

The point is that the direction of the film is such a force that you become Manto and your world falls apart. The excellence of Nandita’s direction also lies in balancing so many things about Manto within two hours. Even the Lahore days of Manto were shot well and broke the stereotypical Pakistani portrayal in Hindi cinema.

I never felt I was watching a 2018 film. It was like the excellent golden age of the 50s back or if Guru Dutt’s directional artistry was temporarily inherited by Nandita.

Other Notable Works:

Sriram Raghavan (Andhadhun)

R. Balki (Padman)

Akarsh Khurana (Karwaan)

Onir (Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz)

Anubhav Sinha (Mulk)

Sanjay Patel (Union Leader)

Majid Majidi (Beyond The Clouds)

 

BEST FILM

MULK

The most important category to conclude this blog needs very careful judgment. What needs a film to be the best of the year? A lot of things count. First the story and the message, the brains behind the continuity of the screenplay. The screen time if it justifies the story. The whole body of the film most importantly the final few minutes which need some technical conclusion to convince the viewers. The selection of actors is not an issue because I always believe it is a performance which sells the plot. And that is why I believe that Mulk is 2018’s best film of the year.

Because Mulk opens a very sensitive subject which compels the audience to think about the future of the country. The social portrayal and acceptance towards the minorities in India have not been focused in the Indian cinema because this doesn’t profit the cinemas and the film producers, and there is every certainty that the majority of viewers may not like the idea.

Because most of the films focus on how the terrorism was committed or what role did the police or anti-terror squad play in defending the country or stopping/fighting against the event. But I don’t remember right now if any director tried to focus on the families whose member goes on to become a terrorist and made them regret.

Anubhav Sinha’s Mulk offers such a story about a diverse Muslim family who has been living in the same mohalla for decades. Advocate Murad Ali (Rishi Kapoor) says this is his home and he keeps no grudge with the people of any faith. Hindus and Muslims come together and sit with him, share happiness with him and his family until he nephew Shahid (Prateik Babbar) commits a terror attack.

Anubhav Sinha gives the viewers an intense feeling about such family being surrendered/surrounded by the religious insecurity and social tightness in the society. The behavioral attitude and breaking some ties further makes the family seek an antidote.

Mulk is a very sensitive drama touching a very sensitive subject of the protection and importance of the communities. Half of the film is the intense courtroom drama where Murad’s Hindu daughter-in-law Aarti tries to defend the case against the public prosecutor Santosh Anand (Ashutosh Rana) who tries to convince the court that the Muslim community orchestrates the terrorism.

Anubhav’s powerful writing and direction heavily focuses on the fact that people can be either good or bad whether they are of any faith. There is every chance that the follower of God and evil may be living in the same house under the same roof. The insecurity of being a Muslim is also highlighted well.

Technical aspects have done the talking. Dialogues, screenplay, story, cinematography, and direction are magnificent. These aspects are well supported by the splendid performances of Rishi Kapoor, Taapsee Pannu, Manoj Pahwa and Ashutosh Rana.

Mulk is an agonized cry for love and peace in the cynical times of crossing guns over other shoulders among the communities and even the neighboring countries. It is one of the most important films produced in India with a cinematic masterpiece.

Other Notable Films:

Andhadhun

Padman

Bioscopewala

Union Leader

Beyond The Clouds

Manto

Pihu


Thank you for reading my annual picks and will write next year about Hindi films which are produced in 2019. Share your opinion below.

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Film Review: Sanju (2018)

It is my firm believe that when the producers and the director decides to make a film based on an individual, your account your narration your presentation should be precise especially in a case when the individual has a disturbed life blended with the personal violence, shattered image, serious accusations, drug abuse and complicated relations with the family and friends.

The Indian cinema with many unforgettable celebrities offer scores of background stories which has the required material to translate their lives in the reels. Sanjay Dutt is one such story and when the project was announced, I was excited. But when the news broke that Rajkumar Hirani would be directing this, my court of judgments objected the announcement with a question mark bigger than the one in the headline of the cropped newspaper from the scene.

Because Raju Hirani is known to present the subjects and messages to the viewers with a screenplay which can adjust a well equipped rib-tickling comedy. Munnabhai duology, 3 Idiots and PK worked well with the humor because the stories of all the four films were fictional and flexible enough to bend with a typical Hirani humor.

But Baba’s story is dark, real, serious, traumatic, painful and disturbing. Will Raju Hirani make his first serious film or will his directional artistry of presenting sensitive subjects in a cleverly humorous way, this time on the real subject, will work again?

When the teaser and trailer were released, the presentations didn’t buy me at all. Because the seriousness of the content was glorified and looked entertaining instead of thought-provoking. So I said to myself, let me watch the film first and decide if the biopic justifies.

Now that I have watched on Netflix, I am much convinced to conclude that Sanju is easily one of the worst biographic films I have ever watched. This work is easily Raju’s worst. Raju making Sanju is like Taika Waititi making Thor: Ragnarok.

Sanju is bad, really bad, on many counts. One major reason is that when you watch the film and if you are a good observer, you realize that the motive of this film is to give a visual presentation of Sanjay Dutt by his close friend Raju Hirani concluding “Look guys! he was a bad boy, now he is a good boy, so please forgive him”. Baba doesn’t need to earn his name, people love him, people adore him. He has one of the biggest fan-following among the South Asians on a global stage. So stop being naive and focus on the most sensitive incidents of his life because this film is extremely sympathetic to the actor.

And that is where Sanju disappoints me. The screenplay dreadfully emphasizes on his drug usage and relation with his father than anything. You make a lengthy 160-minute film avoiding many important moments and touching a couple of topics is not a smart move. A director can do a lot of things in a screen time of 160 minutes.

MISSTAKES

Fine! Sanju has to be a miniseries to focus and touch all the vital portions of his disturbed timeline. Fine! everything cannot be presented in a very limited screen length. The director may have to divide the film into two like Gangs of Wasseypur, or consider sequel or trilogy, or overtake Tamas, LOC Kargil, and Mera Naam Joker to make the longest Hindi-language film ever to justify Baba’s life story. But I am not asking or expecting to somehow show a complete Sanjay Dutt story. At least mention or give the reference of the missing parts.

How disappointing is it to watch only the current wife, Manyata Dutt, but completely ignoring his other two wives? Especially the first one, Richa Sharma, who died of the brain tumor and was mentally disturbed by the rumors of her husband getting married to Madhuri Dixit. Speaking of the latter, Sanjay-Madhuri affair being once the most famous talk of the town got no space in the screenwriting of the film. With this effect, Baba’s eldest daughter Trishala is automatically out of the frame and shows only two young kids from the current wife, Manyata.

It is strange that Baba admits to the biographer to have slept with at least 300 women including the harlots but the director is scared of speaking a few close ones in his life. Neither his off-screen affair with Tina Munim comes to exist nor Madhuri in the film. But a character Ruby is perhaps intermingled to many of his relationships. Ruby is portrayed by Sonam Kapoor in a short role but gives an impressive performance.

Another strange application is Baba’s friendship with a Gujarati New Yorker (based on his real best friend, Paresh Ghelani) to an extent of his being a major supporting role bigger than his father’s in the film but ignoring the popular jigarship with Kumar Gaurav, the actor and friend who risked his acting career and fame requesting his actor-father Rajendra Kumar to give his friend Sanjay Dutt the role of his brother in Mahesh Bhatt‘s Naam. Result? Sanjay Dutt’s good time in acting career began from this film. This Kumar Gaurav is someone about whom Baba once admitted to shedding his blood for him if required. A friend who is even the husband of his sister Namrata has no mention at all.

And Jim Sarbh‘s Borat look-alike character. It was an important role but I wonder if the director forgets to bring him back in the frame after he speaks to the biographer to check Kamlesh. His role ends pretty prematurely.

DUTTS

Only Baba’s father, Sunil Dutt, is the center of attraction from the entire Dutt parivar. Paresh Rawal plays the senior Dutt’s role which is quite an odd choice. Neither the personality nor the voice of Sunil Dutt reminds you of Paresh Rawal. Paresh Rawal’s role wasn’t close to the senior Dutt but was similar to what he did in Paa. Aamir Khan was offered Sunil Dutt’s role which he refused because of Dangal’s shooting. Paresh and Aamir both were bad choices. In fact, it is hard to find someone like Sunil Dutt to play that role. Surendra Pal perhaps. Unfortunately, there are no heart-melting scenes of the onscreen father-son to take back, neither the seaport scene nor the magic-hug scene.

Baba’s sisters hardly spoke any dialogues in the film. The mother-son onscreen chemistry is shockingly overlooked. Manisha Koirala playing his famous actress-mother Nargis has to be the only satisfying selection in the entire casting. Not only Manisha does resemble but even acts like Nargis so well and alas, she is there for only a few minutes.

At least 1993 Bombay bombings made it into the script among the traumatic incidents of Dutt’s life but even here, Raju Hirani was not interested to go deeper in details and tell us about Sanjay Dutt’s connection with Abu Salem or any terrorist involved in the tragic incident.

BAD USE OF WOMANIZING HUMOR

It is quite bizarre to observe how womanizing is taken so light because it is a sympathetic script based on Baba to clean his image. If this film was based on a notorious criminal, the confession of completing a triple century on the bed would have dropped a nuclear weapon on the viewers. On the contrary, when Baba confesses, Manyata chuckles and the biographer is impressed and it looks way odd for entertainment. Not only this, Baba’s one-night stand with his best friend’s girlfriend hardly makes any sense. This incident is true as per Paresh Ghelani but the portrayal of a well-cultured Gujarati girl shy of wearing a nightie for her man at Baba’s house suddenly turning into Venus bold enough to shamelessly expose her skin to Baba and show a willingness to make out with him looked overdramatic. From Sita to Monroe in 40 seconds, a typical Bollywood u-turn for the viewers! And what is this five-minute sequence even doing in the film in the first place? Was this sequence relevant?

These 160 minutes could have been better utilized or reduced if Raju Hirani would not have pulled a Taika Waititi. Needless and forced humor damaged the screenplay. Not only Gujarati girl scene, many irrelevant scenes like a sleepy politician, over exaggerating Tripathi’s Bapu-Sanju comparison, hospital scene with the death of Ruby’s father, Ruby’s change of heart over her favorite animal, Sanju’s scenes with Bandu Dada also made it in the cut.

RANBIR KAPOOR AS SANJAY DUTT

Now about Ranbir Kapoor as Sanjay Dutt. See, the first matter of fact is to admit that if there is anyone who can play Baba’s role is Baba himself because finding an actor to play him is most likely unworkable. So the selection of Ranbir for the role is by far the closest a director can think of because Ranbir naturally carries two exceptional qualities of Baba. One is height and the other is the voice.

No offense but sometimes I feel if Ranbir is Baba’s son more than Chintu‘s. Ali Asgar has to be Chintu’s son. Anyway, the struggle over being Baba has to be tougher because on the screen we do see Ranbir giving his best Sanjay Dutt impression as much as he can. Height and voice naturally helped Ranbir. The rest was the bravura of the makeup and styling artist whoever he/she was.

Let’s not say if this is Ranbir’s best performance to date because I believe his performance in Rockstar and Barfi was far superior to this. Because it is all about the execution of the role. Ranbir’s presentation of pain and grief in Rockstar is more compliant than in Sanju. His role in Barfi was more challenging and handicapped.

Ranbir with the gifted height and voice had strong assistance of makeup, styling and costume designing helping further to assume him Baba. But after all the tools and despite carefully adopting Baba’s mannerism, Ranbir reminds Ranbir.

There is one really intense scene in the jail when the pot overflows. Baba loses patience and gets emotionally disturbed. He repeatedly knocks the door while the water touches his feet. This is the time when I wait to see how Ranbir as Baba loses his patience and go maniac. But then the scene ends and moves two months later?!?!


It is not that the film is completely nil. Being a biopic, it do has some accuracies like Baba ticking all the drugs while filling the form, trying to commit suicide, the judge clearing him from terrorism, hiding heroin in his shoes while traveling with his sisters, Nargis dying a few days before Rocky‘s premiere, Tabu giving Filmfare Award for Munnabhai MBBS etc. Makeup, styling and costume designing are also top notch.

But then so many technical mistakes like chronological inconsistencies over most of the vehicles used in different timelines. Look at the KFC chain behind Baba during his struggle to reach New York. That is the current branding philosophy of the chain applied. That scene is from the 80s and KFC branding philosophy was extremely different back then.

Unnecessary tracks stretch the length and the background score is extremely ordinary. Leaves me towards Raju’s direction which I believe is the weakest of all the films he has directed. The story and the screenplay don’t buy me at all.

The filmmakers have to decide if the Indian cinema is ready for biopics. And when I say biopics, that means an honest and accurate biopics. Another point which comes to my mind is that the director must believe that a biopic can win the audience even without being concerned to entertain and box-office results.

I must appreciate that Ranbir did his best being Baba. He is a very talented actor. I am sure if project Sanju would have gone to the right man, may have pulled the right strings.

Ratings: 3/10

SRIDEVI – The Art, The Charisma (First Part)

The clock struck 12 and it was the 25th of February when I was driving the street and returning back to home after a dinner with my friend when my 19yo brother on Facebook questioned who Sridevi is. I obviously got the clue but for a couple of minutes, I just couldn’t believe that Sridevi, the queen of hearts, is no more.

Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit were the top-billed heroines of the Hindi cinema of the 80s and 90s. Both dominated the film industry, achieved marvellous success and numerous awards, and occupied the hearts of millions of fans around the world. Both were fabulous dancers and both had the quality and ability to compete with the leading male actors on box office by running the film on their own. The reason for stating this is because of the cinematic culture of India where the business of the film heavily depends on the leading male actor. These two unchallenged queens of divas never starred in a film together which speaks of an obvious professional rivalry.

My earliest memory of Sridevi is watching her in ChaalBaaz which I happened to watch on VHS. ChaalBaaz was the remake of Ramesh Sippy‘s Seeta Aur Geeta and Sridevi played a spectacular double-role. Later on, I watched dozens of films in which Sridevi starred like Mr. India, Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja, Janbaaz, Aakhree Raasta, Himmatwala, Joshilaay, Khuda Gawah, Laadlaa and many more.

It is hard for today’s generation to understand the hype of Sridevi’s demise and what she meant to the Indian cinema. Her contribution is stupendous. In honour of her memory and dedication to the Indian cinema, I began writing this eulogy for Sridevi, to whose beauty I am deeply gratified, after knowing about her demise. Let me try to highlight a few segments of her career.

16 VAYATHINILE

It has been forty years to P.Bharathiraja‘s classic 16 Vayathinile which starred Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, and 13-year-old Sridevi. The film was about a 16-year-old village girl who wishes to become a teacher but her life is stuck between the two lovers.

The emotional performance in 16 Vayanthinile was incredible. The scenes when her character Mayil is spotted by the rich doctor, or when the doctor takes his chance on her, and a few more scenes. It is very tough at 13 to play such emotional roles. Such a sensitive scene like Rajini’s rape attempt on her showed that the actress was daring and courageous enough to grab any given role.

MOONDRAM PIRAI/SADMA

It is surprisingly strange that in the Indian cinema, we hardly see the leading ladies taking a challenge of playing the character of a mentally or physically challenged woman. Tell at least three such roles in the next 10 seconds! Tough isn’t it? The best to our memory is Rani Mukerji/Ayesha Kapur in Black, Priyanka Chopra in Barfi, or Jaya Bachchan in Koshish.

Sridevi is among the very few leading actresses to have played such a tougher role and the obvious evidence is Balu Mahendra‘s Tamil film, Moondram Pirai and its Hindi version, Sadma (released a year later). Sridevi took months in the preparation for the role of a young girl who suffered retrograde amnesia after a car accident. It was her versatility at such a young age that she displayed a stunning performance straight from the scene when she opens her eyes and widens her big eyes to see two strange people standing in front of them who are actually her parents. While the parents try to comfort her, she is unable to recognize them.

From that scene until she recovers, her mental performance and body language were unbelievable. The way she observes the puppy dog and plays with it, the funny fight scene and saree scene with Somu (Kamal Haasan). Sadma was only her 2nd Hindi film but at 20, she already had established her name in Indian film industries of other languages.

Here, I must mention the name of Kamal Haasan, and praise and thank him for his contribution to the film. Because the characters of Kamal and Sridevi in the films were one of the most unusual pairings and their extraordinary performances helped the films to be remembered for decades. Balu’s direction and their onscreen presence aided the film to conclude at one of the most dramatic and emotional ends. I recommend the readers to read Subhash K. Jha’s excellent film review for the Indian Express. In my opinion, Moondram Pirai/Sadma were Sridevi’s best performances of her prestigious career.

MR. INDIA

Shekhar Kapur‘s Mr India was memorable for not one but many reasons. Count Amrish Puri‘s unforgettable villainous role of Mogambo, and Anil Kapoor‘s title role, but Sridevi was also a major factor in the film’s outstanding success for not one but at least three reasons.

One was her comic performance in the film at numerous occasion most memorably in that Charlie Chaplin sequence.

Then her performance in the song Hawa Hawaii, her slapsticks and moves. The song made singer Kavita Krishnamurthy a stellar.

Then another song, “I Love You“. Sridevi in a blue saree for me is still more sensual than nowadays skin shows. Although both Hawa Hawaii and I Love You were one of Sridevi’s biggest hit numbers of her career but the significance of the latter is the solo show in the entire six and a half minutes of the song. Sridevi here proved that the choreography of the song can run solely on a woman with the masculine voice in the background. Sridevi’s sex appeal in the song is still considered one of the hottest choreographies in the Hindi cinema. She was just out of the world.

CHANDNI/LAMHE

There had to be something in Yash Chopra‘s mind that after a series of back to back failures and below average performances of his films starting from Kaala Patthar to Vijay that he chose to cast Sridevi for the first time as the leading cast to play the title role of Chandni. Yash Chopra wanted to change the action era of the 80s by making a romantic film and announced Chandni.

Being a female-centric film, Sridevi proved to be the perfect girl to play Chandni one can imagine. If the blue saree in Mr India wasn’t enough to melt our hearts, comes white churidar and kurta with a leheriya dupatta which looked incredibly simple and beautiful on Sridevi.

Sridevi made Chandni a cult classic. The legacy is that the film inspired the women to buy the Chandni white dress in Chandni Chowk. Two famous numbers from Chandni graced Sridevi’s career.

One was ‘Mere Haathon Mein’ which became India’s most famous chooriyan (bangles) song.

And then the classical tandav dance number where she turned into some mythical Goddess again in the white dress. Sridevi looked some Venus in that dance sequence but then, when did she never looked Venus?

The moment in the song Mitwa when the flute begins to play Tere Mere Honton Pe and Sridevi releases herself from Rishi Kapoor‘s arms and begins stepping to dance slowly, it is so mesmerizing! It is like an angel of love has descended down to comfort our souls.

Two years later, when the action era in Bollywood continued to race furthermore years, Lamhe happened. Yash Chopra again cast Sridevi and this time for a double role. In my opinion, Lamhe wasn’t Sridevi’s finest works. Coming from a journey where she did Nagina, Mr.India, ChaalBaaz, and Chandni, Lamhe wasn’t that wow. Considering that she had done double roles before and if double-role has to be the criteria, then the forthcoming film Khuda Gawah was a way better double performance. Sridevi did win the Filmfare award for the Best Actress but she may have won that for many films she was nominated before and later. 

Versatile actress Manisha Koirala once stated in the interview that both Lamhe and Chandni were her dream roles.

GUMRAH

In the 90s, if there was any director who really worked and improvised on Sridevi’s acting, it was Mahesh Bhatt. Gumrah‘s Sridevi was pretty different from her previous works like her reaction to her ailing mother’s death. And when she is wrongly caught for cocaine in the airport, she has a powerful facial performance of dropping into a sudden ill fate. The way she loses herself in shock after the drugs are produced from the handbag and begin screaming her boyfriend’s name in confusion is a remarkable shot. Her prison fight scene for a key with a female prison ward shows how the innocent character can bring rage and go violent. Her emotional personification, complexity to the character, her timing were top notch. Gumrah was indeed one of Sridevi’s finest works.

ENGLISH VINGLISH

Gauri Shinde‘s debut film, English Vinglish, marked Sridevi’s first grand comeback in the Indian film cinema after 15 years. And the role she played was her testimonial to her dedication towards constructing her phenomena. Just like she entered the Hindi cinema with no fluency in the language, she played the character of a small entrepreneur who learns to speak English to gain self-respect among her family.

This film set a base for Sridevi as an introduction of yesteryear’s heroin in the second innings of her age. Playing a real character role in her late 40s and giving competition to the new faces. Sridevi became an institution to the new generation and taught the fluctuation of confidence. That test of her spiral benevolence was her attribute.

How dynamic is that restaurant scene when she levels up her confidence and courage to place her order in English resulting in the cashier losing her patience in unsuccessfully cooperating with her. Dropping of coins from shaking hands in tension, and accidentally hitting the other customer were very rich scenes. It was a flawless timing where Sridevi displayed some embarrassing moments of millions around the globe.

But Sridevi summarized her entire brilliance and translated her legacy in the final speech making the viewers think if Sridevi really had English issues in real life. The way she began the speech, tried to set the tone with some words, pushed herself to built confidence and gave tips to the bride in the most simplest English was so human and natural.

MOM

Her final leading performance and confirmed to be her 300th film by many sources. Mom is one of the most vibrant and unforgettable performances by Sridevi. She plays a stepmother who wants to win her stepdaughter, Arya. Arya is gang-raped, the family is broken and loses the case in the court against the culprits. So she musters her courage and wills to get her daughter justice.

The film will annoy the viewers with the fact that if the angel of death had not followed her for a while, Sridevi in her 50s would have done wonders and gracefully stretched her already 50-year acting career. Because many leading actresses, who earned their name and reputation in the cinema, either get married and retires or sparingly shows up in their 40s and 50s.

Besides the above picks, I imagine Sridevi’s domination would have been unmatchable if she would have worked in Beta, Darr, Baazigar, Mohabbatein, Baghban, and Baahubali when/if offered. Beta was a huge miss and her rival Madhuri took the centre stage with that Dhak Dhak number. Yash’s original choice for Darr was Sridevi but she refused. Abbas-Mastan planned to have Sridevi in a double role of twin sisters in Baazigar but then opted for Kajol/Shilpa to play those roles.

Sridevi’s lack of interest scrapped her character in Mohabbatein who was supposed to be Amitabh‘s love interest. Baahubali’s character of Sivagami played by Ramya Krishnan was first offered to Sridevi which she declined due to her commitment to the other project. But the mother of all misses is declining Steven Spielberg‘s offer to play a character in Jurassic Park. And her reason was that the role was small and unworthy of her star stature. Oh, my.

Thank you for reading. This is the conclusion of the first part of the tribute to Sridevi. Please wait for the second and final part. Will be posted soon.

My Bollywood’s Best of 2016

The thing is that I am indulged in presenting the very best of Hindi-language cinema every year and I enjoy investing my precious time for the sensible readers and filmgoers who would like to know what honestly have been the best films under different categories. It is a common understanding that the film awards in India have lost its credibility by handing the awards mostly to the wrong hands from a very list of nominations. It exasperates me when the deserving individual or a film is not recognized on the stage in any given function.

For the past two years, I am making such a specific blog to recognize the contributions from the Indian films released in India in that specific calendar year. You may read my previous selections here in 2014 and 2015.

This blog will focus on the year 2016. Like before, I will segregate the categories in three different sections i.e., musical (5), technical (10), and major section (6). In most of the categories, I will brief a small explanation where I find necessary. In most of the categories, I will also make some honorable mentions which are the individuals or the films deserve to be counted among the best.

This is to inform you that the list of 21 categories from the 3 sections is created and presented from my selection and observing the following films released in India in 2016: Chauranga, Wazir, Chalk N Duster, Airlift, Saala Khadoos, Neerja, The Blueberry Hunt, Fan, Nil Battey Sannata, Traffic, Buddha in a Traffic Jam, Sarbjit, Veerappan, Waiting, Dhanak, Te3n, Raman Raghav 2.0, Madaari, M Cream, Pink, Parched, Dear Zindagi, Dangal, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Baar Baar Dekho, Udta Punjab, Kapoor & Sons, Fitoor, Mirzya, and Aligarh.

The above-mentioned films which miss all the recognitions below are to be believed that those films didn’t live up to my expectations. Also for your reading, let me clear that the films are not ranked in ‘Other Notable Works’.


MUSICAL SECTION

BEST BACKGROUND SCORE

TAPAS RELIA (DHANAK)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Mikey McCleary (Waiting)
  2. Studio Fuzz (M Cream)

BEST PLAYBACK SINGERS

There wasn’t a decent vocal competition in the year 2016. I have listened to a lot of tracks from the 4-5 successful music albums of the films and I found only a couple of male tracks from the same film and a few good female singing in the other films but still not good enough.

AMIT MISHRA (BULLEYA – AE DIL HAI MUSHKIL)

Other Notable Work: Arijit Singh (Channa Mereya – Ae Dil Hai Mushkil)

NEETI MOHAN (SAU AASMAAN – BAAR BAAR DEKHO)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Qurat-Ul-Balouch (Kaari Kaari – Pink)
  2. Kanika Kapoor (Da Da Dasse – Udta Punjab)

BEST SONG & LYRICS

CHANNA MEREYA (ARIJIT SINGH/AMITABH BHATTACHARYA/PRITAM – AE DIL HAI MUSHKIL)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Tere Bin (Sonu Nigam-Shreya Ghoshal/Vidhu Vinod Chopra/Shantanu Moitra – Wazir)
  2. Pashmina (Amit Trivedi/Swanand Kirkire – Fitoor)
  3. Gehra Ishq (Shekhar Ravjiani/Prasoon Joshi/Vishal Khurana – Neerja)

BEST MUSIC

AMIT TRIVEDI (UDTA PUNJAB)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Tapas Relia (Dhanak)
  2. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy (Mirzya)

TECHNICAL SECTION

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

ASHIMA BELAPURKAR (PARCHED)

Other Notable Work: Theia Tekchandaney & Shruti Wadetiwar (Neerja)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

ANNA IPE & APARNA SUD (NEERJA)

Other Notable Work: Amardeep Behl (Parched)

BEST SOUND DESIGN

SUBHASH SAHU (NEERJA)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Boby John (Dhanak)
  2. Vinit D’Souza (Raman Raghav 2.0)

BEST SCENE

MADAARI

There have been few scenes in my mind which were quite outstanding. Like Aliya’s expressions of misery to Shahid in Udta Punjab, or Nawazuddin killing a family in Raman Raghav 2.0, or the hijacking scene in Neerja, or the final court scenes in Pink. But I decided to choose the winner between two of the best scenes of the year 2016. Shakun Batra’s marvelous direction bemused me about the selection of the best scene of the film. The plumber scene, Annu aunty in party scene, and the truths-revelation scene before the family photo all carried equal weight of remarkable sketch of a highly intense family drama. So undecided that I prefer to conclude the winning scene with Irrfan’s showstopper and a heart-melting scene from Madaari when he asks for whereabouts of his son in the hospital. Perhaps no one would bring the efforts what Irrfan did here and hence proved again why is he the most inspiring actor holding more demand in the global cinema than any other Indian. This scene really beats the others.

BEST EDITING

GAIRIK SARKAR (TE3N)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Aarti Bajaj (Raman Raghav 2.0)
  2. Monisha R Baldawa (Neerja)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

MINGJUE HU (M CREAM)

Other Notable Work:

  1. Chirantan Das (Dhanak)
  2. Priya Seth (Airlift)
  3. Jay Oza (Raman Raghav 2.0)
  4. Satyajit Pande (Dangal)

BEST ACTION

Parvez Singh (Raman Raghav 2.0)

The action is not about larger-than-life supernatural fights. My science of understanding here says to me that the action is when the reality is bound to bring intensity in the screenplay. Violence is the key, torture is a form and dismantling the brain and eyes towards the seriousness of the buildup is where the finest of action qualifies. Neerja and Raman Raghav 2.0 were the only films in my mind. Neerja’s technical aspects helped to build the intensity from hijacking till the last attempt of escaping. Whereas Raman Raghav 2.0 was a silent screamer and a gritty writing making the viewers hopeless and disconsolate of any likelihood of survival, the bloodbath is a sine qua non.  

BEST SCREENPLAY

RITESH SHAH (PINK)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Neeraj Singh, Pranjal Choudary, and Nitesh Tiwari (Nil Battey Sannata)
  2. Gauri Shinde (Dear Zindagi)

BEST DIALOGUES

SHAKUN BATRA & AYESHA DEVITRE DHILLON (KAPOOR & SONS)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Neeraj Singh, Pranjal Choudary, and Nitesh Tiwari (Nil Battey Sannata)
  2. Atika Chohan (Waiting)
  3. Agneya Singh (M Cream)
  4. Ritesh Shah (Pink)

BEST STORY

NITESH TIWARI (NIL BATTEY SANNATA)

Other Notable Works:

  1. Bikas Ranjan Mishra (Chauranga)
  2. Anu Menon, James Ruzicka, and Atika Chohan (Waiting)
  3. Agneya Singh (M Cream)
  4. Gauri Shinde (Dear Zindagi)

MAJOR SECTION

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

RATNA PATHAK (KAPOOR & SONS)

 

Parched acting trio of Tannishtha, Radhika and Surveen was highly expected to surpass the expectations but the trio of Pink was a massive surprise to me. Alia Bhatt gave her remarkable presence in Kapoor & Sons.

Well, a pause in the clause is that the Indian theater actresses will eat your skull if they outplayed the emotional character. Shabana Azmi for Neerja and Ratna Pathak for Kapoor & Sons were the most standout performances from this category. It wasn’t easy to pick and ignore the other nor do I want any joint winners. But as per the capacity of acting and appeal on the screentime, Ratna had more space to suffer Mr. Kapoor and Sons than the mother of Neerja waiting for the updates after the hijacking incidence. Ratna had more time to fight and argue with more than an individual at a time than Shabana’s emotional resistance. 

Other Notable Works:

  1. Shabana Azmi (Neerja)
  2. Kirti Kulhari (Pink)
  3. Tannishtha Chatterjee (Parched)
  4. Alia Bhatt (Kapoor & Sons)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

RISHI KAPOOR (KAPOOR & SONS)

The mad terrorist in Neerja was phenomenal as well as a highly potential debut of the singer Diljit Dosanjh in Udta Punjab. Rajkummar was decent in assisting Manoj Bajpayee in Aligarh and Vicky Kaushal is rapidly making his name with Masaan and 2.0. But the real focus was on the dadaji of the dysfunctional family in Kapoor & Sons.

Yes, the makeup has a prominent role in the building of the character which doubles the charm in the performance like how Amitabh brought the momentum in his Auro character in Paa after an extraordinary change in his stature and looks. But Rishi as a nonagenarian fittingly classified as the best dadaji whose role grew on the viewers with the growing heat in the disturbed family. Chintuji and Amitji are the only boys of the 70s badge who are regularly performing in the selective roles being recognized with the positive responses in today’s cinema. And this role again defines Rishi’s versatility in acting. The film would be incomplete if Rishi would not have been picked for this role. 

Other Notable Works:

  1. Jim Sarbh (Neerja)
  2. Vicky Kaushal (Raman Raghav 2.0)
  3. Diljit Dosanjh (Udta Punjab)
  4. Rajkummar Rao (Aligarh)

BEST ACTRESS

ALIA BHATT (UDTA PUNJAB)

If there is any category which was the most impressive, that was the performances of the leading actresses in the films released in the year 2016. There is Swara Bhaskar who is rapidly becoming of the noticeable actresses who brought a spectacular performance to her credit in Nil Battey Sannata. The body language and the emotional details of her character-play were striking. Kalki’s strong CV continues to fill more golden pages with Waiting. Ash in Sarbjit was a surprise package. Throughout her acting career, this is easily her first and best acting performance. That is the other thing that Ash doesn’t resemble or remind us Dalbir Kaur but the director has really worked with Ash on her character. People were informing me that Taapsee has done a wonderful job in Pink and I was not coming out of my visual understanding after watching her in Chashme Baddoor. Taapsee Pannu displayed a powerful role and I hope she is not a one-role wonder lady.

As far as Alia is in the wacky race, she is my girl for this category. She is at the peak of her career and easily one of the fastest growing actresses in the Indian cinema. Alia does have a lot of help at home from her mother Soni Razdan who has pulled the strings of acting and playing mentally complicated characters in many of her husband’s films in the 80s and 90s, and papa Mahesh Bhatt who has been critical in making top-notch films in the parallel cinema. But then, it is the baby who has to face the camera and has every potential to make her name with acting greats like Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Tabu, or Nandita Das in very near future.

She began performing from Highway and sought attention from the sensible viewers including me. But 2016 is her best year ever with high-class performances in not one but three films (Kapoor & Sons, Dear Zindagi, and this). As far as the mental or physical challenge is the condition, it definitely is her role of Mary Jane in Udta Punjab which beats the other competitors in the wacky race. She has shown the misery of a girl stuck in the series of unfortunate events. You feel sorry for the character but when you feel apologetic, there is Alia’s success to justify the role she plays. Highway’s Veera Tripathi and Udta Punjab’s Mary Jane have suffered but their character-destruction from Alia’s visual presentation is different. Well done Alia. 

Other Notable Works:

  1. Swara Bhaskar (Nil Battey Sannata)
  2. Taapsee Pannu (Pink)
  3. Kalki Koechlin (Waiting)
  4. Sonam Kapoor (Neerja)
  5. Aishwarya Rai (Sarbjit)

BEST ACTOR

MANOJ BAJPAYEE (ALIGARH)

If you are mature enough to understand the credibility of the actor and his substance of a performance in a given screentime, you will realize that the award functions in India are commercialized which depends on revenue and care less for the individuals who deserve the award at the right time in their lives. In 2015, Filmfare omitted Sanjay Mishra for Ankhon Dekhi, who was a clear winner in the category of Best Actor. Last year, Filmfare omitted Nawazuddin for Manjhi who actually was the most deserving individual to win the category of Best Actor.  And now a hattrick of blunder is completed with Manoj Bajpayee’s turn who lost his place to get into the nominations. And most of the viewers will raise the eyebrows over the quality of decision making by the juries who repeatedly add box-office mahatmas, Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan, in the category almost every year from nowhere.

This is easily Bajpayee’s best performance ever and is the toughest character of a homosexual teacher he can play. The best part of the role is his complexity towards the sexual orientation for which he is suspended and bringing his ass to the court. He has a portion of love for the lettering and listening to Lata’s songs but overall a disturbed soul. He is a departed loner but expects people to understand him. Bajpayee has given the word ‘Tragedy’ a fresh cinematic meaning. A wonderful and very underrated performance I subject to recognize here.

Besides, Shahid enjoys another successful year with another role of a maniac, this time in Udta Punjab. Shahid is like Saif Ali Khan who is reintroduced to the viewers as a promising actor not to ignore. After a series of repeated failures, Shahid is finally off the mark from Haider. Irrfan’s Madaari is another brutal omission from the same category in Filmfare and you will be surprised to know that besides Paan Singh Tomar, he has never been nominated in this category in Filmfare.

Naseer sir in Waiting is magnificent as always in almost every film which he is part of. Amitabh had three different roles in Wazir, Pink, and Te3n, and I must say that Amitji at this age has become more choosy in his roles than ever. Since 2015, he has played some very good roles in Shamitabh, Piku, and the above-mentioned films. If I have to pick between the three, it would be Te3n.

By watching his superior performances in first Badlapur and now Raman Raghav 2.0, I am fully convinced that if in any timeline the Batman franchise happens to drop in Indian cinema, the only actor who can play the role of the Joker is Nawazuddin Siddiqui. His latest role of a psychotic killer will disturb you, by watching this performance you will never wish to meet him. What Randeep did in Sarbjit was the most dedicating among all the best performances of 2016. He lost 18 kgs in 28 days to justify his role in the prison life. Randeep presents you the pain of being an unfortunate and displays an impressive emotional drop and terrific body language. He makes the viewers feel when he groans and express his pain to Aishwarya in the prison.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Shahid Kapoor (Udta Punjab)
  2. Irrfan Khan (Madaari)
  3. Naseeruddin Shah (Waiting)
  4. Randeep Hooda (Sarbjit)
  5. Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Raman Raghav 2.0)
  6. Amitabh Bachchan (Te3n)

BEST DIRECTOR

GAURI SHINDE (DEAR ZINDAGI)

Besides the names mentioned below, the competition for this category, in my opinion, was between Shakun Batra and Gauri Shinde. Both were the masterclass in utilizing the scripts. But I picked Gauri the winner from this category. Shakun’s impressive direction has a blend of major other aspects involved like very realistic dialogues, a lot of impressive performances within a scene etc but Gauri’s direction heavily depends on Alia’s character growth in the film especially a very important first half before Shahrukh is introduced.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Shakun Batra (Kapoor & Sons)
  2. Ram Madhvani (Neerja)
  3. Anurag Kashyap (Raman Raghav 2.0)
  4. Abhishek Chaubey (Udta Punjab)
  5. Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury (Pink)

BEST FILM

KAPOOR & SONS

I mean what else? what really else can be a better film than Kapoor & Sons? A decent family drama which portrays/sketches a dysfunctional family with mix elements of humor and suspense. The film has no nonsense of silly masala, item numbers or unnecessary cameo appearances despite the fact that the film was produced under the banner of Dharma Productions. Then the film is very honest to its script and describes a shattered bond in a very distinctive way.

There are numerous amazing scenes which catch our attention swiftly because we are accustomed to our domestic life especially the plumber scene. Then the revelation of secrets and a tragic accident. The film touches your heart. The remaining plusses are left with superb performances from all the major cast. Everyone has his share and their roles carry the same depth. And that is the beauty of the film that there is no leading character. Every major character is supporting to the other.

Other Notable Works:

  1. Dhanak
  2. Nil Battey Sannata
  3. Waiting
  4. Neerja
  5. Dear Zindagi
  6. Udta Punjab
  7. M Cream
  8. Pink

(Please share your views about my selections. Write your opinions in the comments below. Let me know if you don’t agree and explain your reasons.)

Follow me on TWITTER @saminaik_asn

Book Review: The Substance and the Shadow (2014)

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 “I have consciously never oversold or overexposed myself to the audience. When I look back I feel it was quite risky to be starring in one film when other actors were busy with two or three films on the floors simultaneously. I determinedly decided to work in only one film at a time. It was simply my confidence in the subjects I chose and the hard work I was ready to put into them.”


I have always suspected and reckoned that the first half of the twentieth century has fetched more gripping and compulsive stories than the second half due to the time being disturbing and chaos in its nature. Many wars were fought and casualties were witnessed and suffered. The outcome was painful for ages. The pride of Hindustan collapsed with the partition and communal riots in the result with many tragic stories to bargain some piece of time in the future. One of the same stories met golden fortune of the Hindi film industry which was still in the development process from leapfrog. In this millennium, we are extremely fortunate and blessed that the story has finally been inked from his own hands and met a huge success after its publication.

Dilip Kumar sahab is the epitome and the real shamma-e-Bollywood. His presence is the magnitude and the real red carpet, whose footsteps to the industry brought a new attention in the golden era and produced many memorable films. In my reading experience, it is convincingly confessable that before browsing this book, I knew the legend merely by 20% through his films; but after reading his twenty-five chapters, I must declare that I know the man by 75% and with the reading section of ‘Reminiscence’ where forty-three individuals have paid respect and shared incidents attached to him, I have to avow that the percentage of knowledge I have gained has stretched to 80%. The rest stays with his personal life with his best half, Saira Banu.

Being the greatest actor of India for all ages and generations, it was highly in demand and everyone’s desire to know him in his own speech. Although it took an age to decide him to speak up, the blessed part is that the biggest promise in reading the book actually fruit our patience.

The book is easily parted into three sections. The first section is being the formality of book introduction and forward. Saira Banu, Dilip sahab‘s superlative blessing has done the honors of introduction by touching some memorable moments of her life with him and confessed that she should write a book about her life with him. Film journalist Udaya Tara Nayar has forwarded the book. She has the credit to compile and shape the book and narrate his autobiography. Ms. Nayar has explained in her pages how Dilip sahab finally made his mind write this book.

The second section is the reader’s borrowed time to enrich his understanding with the chronicles and memoirs of the legend consisting of 25 chapters. The third and last section is the tribute to Dilip sahab inked by many personalities which stretch to more than a hundred pages.

The first four chapters cover his childhood. His first years of life in the area of Qissa Khawani Bazaar, the Piccadilly of Central Asia located in Peshawar, the-then part of British India and current city of Pakistan. We must praise the author that such an individual has the sharpest memory at such an old age to describe us the toughest circumstances when he came out from the mother’s womb. Whatever the details his family explained is still stored with him and is now read to us.

The childhood chapters discuss his family specifically his dadi and his parents to whom he call amma and aghaji. By the fourth chapter, he mentions aghaji‘s Hindu friends in the same area; one of them was Basheswarnathji who used to bring his handsome son at their home stunning the ladies whose name was Prithviraj. Yes, Prithviraj! Father of Raj Kapoor and from here begins a childhood friendship between the upcoming iconic superstars of the golden era. Also in this chapter, Dilip sahab moves with his siblings and amma to reunite with father in Bombay where aghaji meets business opportunities in fruit-selling.

When we learn his teens, we go aggressive like him. We read his lovely bonding with his brothers, his affection and keenness with the English literature, his school and college life especially the latter life inking more pages on his restoring of friendship with Raj Kapoor as both studied in the same college. We experience his struggles and his attempt of settling alone in Poona (Pune) while running away from home after a mild disagreement with his father. His days in Poona are an interesting read with many troubling and funny incidents there.


“I had never ever seen a film studio in my life, not even in photographs. I had heard of Bombay Talkies from Raj Kapoor who spoke about it as the studio where films starring his father Prithvirajji were shot.”


The making of legacy begins in the eighth chapter when the first lady of the Indian cinema, Devika Rani, a Bombay Talkies panjandrum, proffers him to join Bombay Talkies in their first meeting and learn acting under the guidance of the company. As we have read enough of Dilip sahab till his twenties till this moment, we emotionally begin sensing a change in fate, a blow of breeze in the alfresco. Here comes the learning process in Dilip sahab‘s acting life as the amateur encounters many significant and notable film personalities.

Those filmgoers who have watched his earliest works of the 40s will observe that he was pretty a bungle ‘layman’ in acting profession in films like Jwar Bhata and Jugnu but his skills developed rapidly from Shaheed, Mela, and Andaz. The same exercise is developed in these initial pages of the career beginning chapters from a keen learner who realized his fate was written to become a film star and aid his ever-growing family financially and raise his siblings with proper life standard and reputed education after the parents’ demise.

No great celebrity in any part of the world can cross the phases of life without tragic moments. From the eleventh chapter, we read and grow commiserations for him as he begins meeting tragedies in life. Some forlorn moments, inefficacious love affairs and devastating episodes of quietus led by playing repeated sorrowful and gloomy characters produce upsets, sickness, and exhaustion in mental state enough to consult a psychiatrist in London who suggests bringing a change in the mood of character roles he plays in his career. During all this phase, there is a separate chapter on the beautiful but complicated Madhubala for obvious reasons. In this book, Dilip sahab responds the questions revolving around decades about the involvement of Madhubala in his personal/professional life.

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“I…became aware that an actor needed to strengthen his instincts because the duality between the real and unreal cannot be sorted out by the mind, which is more concerned with truth and logic in any normal situation. The mind will always tell you this is nonsense… It is only instinct that will help you to absorb what you have to absorb from the script and drive you to render a performance coated with realism and conviction despite the knowledge of it all being fiction and drama.”


 

Also, he has detailed in pages about his working relation and camaraderie with few prominent celebrities like Vyjayanthimala, Sashadhar Mukherjee, Ashok Kumar, Bimal Roy and many more. His acting pages will also annex to our knowledge the offered films he refused for some reasons but to my huge surprise, in fact, a shock, he didn’t shed light on David Lean‘s offer for the role in Lawrence of Arabia which went to Omar Sharif later. Remind me if I happen to miss but there is no precise detail of the famous offer-refusing moment. Hilariously, Dilip sahab has mentioned Lean’s Doctor Zhivago as the story inspiring his writing Kashmir Valley on his wife, a project he wanted to produce after Bairaag. Indeed it is the biggest omission in the book.

It is more than half of the book-reading when his best half, his dream girl Saira Banu shows up; a girl who madly fell in love with him when she was only twelve. From the seventeenth chapter, the reader’s most romantic portion comes to existence after all the troubles and struggles, and there is a sweet fascination of reading this golden love affair. The whole nineteenth chapter covers their high-profile wedding and the coming chapters tell you more about their marital life and the films they co-starred together.


“I do not know if it is in my genes or if it is something I have assimilated from the environment I was brought up in. It gives me great contentment and joy to espouse a good cause.”


In the last reading phase, I lose an edge when the timeline crosses like a rocket. Dilip sahab travels from birth till finishing Bairaag in 1976 after reading 238 pages and 22 chapters; but in final three chapters and 45 pages, Dilip sahab travel 38 years and reach 2014!! The biggest ‘?’ is why not fetch more details between 1976 and 2014. In the final three chapters, he did speak about his role as Sheriff of Bombay and lawsuit slapped by A.R.Kardar, he did speak about his comeback in the 80s and working in major films like Shakti, Vidhaata, Mashaal and later on Saudagar but my argument is that heavy detailing was badly missed just like he wrote few of the chronicles in first 22 chapters at length. In fact, he spoke more about Raaj Kumar than Saudagar.

Same case with his two tours of Pakistan (1988 & 1998); on both occasions, he didn’t go for lengthy details. Both tours were emotionally monumental, the first was his grand return to Peshawar after his childhood days; and the second time he visited, he was awarded Nishan-e-Imtiaz.

Due to short details in final three chapters, he didn’t speak about his friendship with filmmaker and mobster Haji Mastan. More than this, the major surprise was not mentioning about Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993. Although he has mentioned most of his films he has worked in but wrote not a single word of his final film Qila. Perhaps he realized it was a regret to retire after finishing Qila rather than Saudagar. But remarkably he did speak about his biggest regret of getting involved in the lady from Hyderabad, Asma Rehman.

The newest incident from the book was Lataji‘s visit to Dilip sahab few months before the book released in the mid of 2014 which indicates that he was active in completing the memoir in his nineties. The Substance and The Shadow easily is one of the most important books in Bollywood’s richest library and showcase. Someday in late future, I may read the book again with the same enthusiasm as I discovered a lot of treasure from his box. Many great legends and prominent celebrities of his time have left the world but he is still there and we hope he stays further long and may we witness him completing his century.

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Chapters:

Childhood (Ch#1 – Ch#4)

Younghood till Devika Rani’s Offer (Ch#5 – Ch#8)

Film Career till Marriage (Ch#9 – Ch#19)

Post Marriage Career till Present (Ch#20 – End)

 

About Personalities:

Ch#05 – Raj Kapoor

Ch#08 – Devika Rani

Ch#09 – Ashok Kumar, Sashadhar Mukherjee

Ch#10 – Ashok Kumar, Raj Kapoor

Ch#11 – Kamini Kaushal, Naushad, Mehboob Khan, Nitin Bose

Ch#12 – Madhubala, S. M. Sriramulu Naidu

Ch#13 – Madhubala

Ch#14 – Bimal Roy, Vyjayanthimala, S. S. Vasan, B.R.Chopra, Yash Chopra

Ch#17 – Saira Banu (till the end)

Ch#20 – Pran, Mukri, S.U. Sunny

Ch#24 – Subhash Ghai

Ch#25 – Lata Mangeshkar, Yash Chopra

(There are few personalities I have missed adding here who are mentioned in the book.)

 

About Films:

Ch#09 – Jwar Bhata

Ch#11 – Shaheed, Milan

Ch#12 – Azaad

Ch#14 – Devdas, Madhumati, Gunga Jumna, Paigham

Ch#16 – Gunga Jumna

Ch#22 – Gopi, Sagina

Ch#24 – Kranti, Shakti, Saudagar

Ch#25 – Mashaal

(There are few films I have missed adding here which are mentioned in the book.)

 

Important Deaths:

Ch#11 – Ayub (brother) & Amma (mother)

Ch#15 – Aghaji (father)

Ch#25 – Nasir (brother)

 

Best Reminiscences:

(I have picked 23 best tributes out of 43 chosen individuals.)

Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Moin Beg, Yash Chopra, Farida Dadi, Dharmendra, Sitara Devi, Subhash Ghai, Rishi Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Aamir Khan, Salim Khan, Manoj Kumar, Mumtaz, Lata Mangeshkar, Nanda, Nimmi, Waheeda Rehman, Harish Salve, Salim Sharifee, Ramesh Sippy, Sharmila Tagore, and Vyjayanthimala.

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