2018 Mid Year Checkpoint – Bangla Films

Continuing with the mid year analysis on films, we look at what worked and what did not for Bangla films so far

Again – has been relatively a good year for Bangla films so far with Haami, Uma, Drishtikone, Guptodhan-er sandhane and Ghare & Baire all seeing commercial success and Ahare Mon and Shonar Pahar opening to excellent reviews. Hoping for the trend to continue for the rest of the year, if anything, bangla films does need to make good money so that better projects can be funded..

Continue reading “2018 Mid Year Checkpoint – Bangla Films”

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2018 Mid Year Checkpoint – Hindi Films

2018 has been overall good for Indian cinema.. For the two industries that I primarily follow (Hindi and Bengali), there were multiple commercially successful films, and quite a few of that came from good films as well even beyond the likes of Baaghi2 or Race3. Commercial success is always important for the health of the industry, because more money would always mean better movies being made. And now there is even better opportunity for smaller films to shine with the popularity of digital channels like Netflix and Prime and successful filmmakers accepting it with open arms to launch their films directly.

Continue reading “2018 Mid Year Checkpoint – Hindi Films”

Movies Roundup 2017 – Best Films

After having looked at music, acting performances by male and female actors and the most disappointing films of the year, here is now looking at the movies that were the most impressive of the lot and stood up from the rest for what they honestly intended to say! For me, these were certainly the best films of the year, in a year which was rather lackluster otherwise!

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Before we look at the #Top10MoviesOf2017, here are some #SpecialMentions:

Neeraj Ghaywan‘s short film #Juice was a very powerful take on patriarchy with a tight script and a brilliant performance by Shefali Shah that left many deeply impacted.

James Erskine took us on a nostalgic trip with #SachinABillionDreams, and some of the candid family moments shared through the film stood out in the overall film.

Rahul Bose showed the courage to tell the story of the very young #Poorna Malavat who scaled the peak of Mt. Everest fighting all odds, the film also finding feet through stellar performances from Aditi Inamdar and S Maria as Poorna and her friend.

And now, here is what I thought were the best films of 2017 ranked, films that stood out like shining stars from the rest of the pack truly differentiating themselves!

10.) The Hungry – I caught up with this shocker from Bornila Chatterjee a couple of days back, and I am still deeply affected. Perhaps the darkest film that I have watched this year, this modern day adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus is gruesomely uncomfortable and disturbingly violent. But the film rests on a terrific screenplay banking heavily on atmospherics, and has the outstanding Tisca Chopra even trumping the brilliant as always Naseeruddin Shah through a class act!

9.) Ribbon – One of the most underrated films in this list, Ribbon should have been watched and discussed so much more. Debutant director Rakhee Sandilya tells a very powerful story of an urban couple, and their day to day struggles of playing the balancing act in their lives. It skillfully merges a dark twist in its screenplay that comes midway through the film, rather disturbing but frequently in news all over, and hence Rakhee needs to be applauded to bring the issues to the front. Aided with spot on performances by Kalki Koechlin, Sumeet Vyas and the little Kierra Soni, Ribbon leaves a lasting impression and numbing effect with its on your face treatment, great production design and no nonsense storytelling.

8.) Qarib Qarib Singlle – Tanuja Chandra successfully presents one of the most refreshingly charming and matured love stories of recent times to us through this lovely non pretentious journey of self-discovery. It takes some amazing writing to take a paper thin plot and get an engaging story out of it about two real characters very different from each other, who have seen enough in life through broken relationships, are way past the candy floss romance and hence often find reasoning and compassion at loggerheads in their soul searching trip. Qarib Qarib Singlle would have benefited immensely had the third act of the film been completely edited out, but stellar performances from Irrfan and Parvathy makes it one of the most fun watches of the year, with a lot of repeat viewing potential.

7.) Jagga Jasoos – The visually spectacular Jagga Jasoos is Anurag Basu‘s true labor of love! It takes a lot of imagination to envision the world of Jagga, and skills of another level to create that vibrancy to transport the audience to that realm of magic and innocent childhood nostalgia! Kudos to Basu for wowing everyone with such cinematic opulence and visual delight! Jagga Jasoos thrives on the terrific father son chemistry beautifully enacted by Shaswata Chatterjee and Ranbir Kapoor (who nailed Jagga to perfection), an excellent soundtrack by Pritam, and breathtaking cinematography by Ravi Verman! The film does get bogged down by its ambition at places, but in spite of some of these minor flaws, Jagga Jasoos was certainly one of the most memorable theatrical experiences of the year! It deserved so much more love from the audience.

6.) Meri Pyaari Bindu – Debutant director Akshay Roy creates an out and out charmer with Meri Pyaari Bindu, and hence this film from my most favorite genre of feel good easily slips in as one of the most memorable ones of the year! Meri Pyaari Bindu, like it leads, does not claim to be perfect, it is messy at places, but it has its heart in the right place and remains achingly poignant, just like its charming lead brilliantly played by Ayushmann Khurrana. The film benefits tremendously from a brilliant climax, which is able to make up for the slack that builds up in between due to an uneven screenplay and a faltering Parineeti Chopra. As it sparkles because of the best soundtrack of the year composed by Sachin Jigar, who not only give us some lovely original songs, but also beautifully blend in various retro hits through the screenplay each of which become characters by themselves. This heartfelt beauty should have found so many more takers and better support even from the learned critics!

5.) Anarkali Of Arrah – It’s a welcome change for hindi cinema that films like Anarkali of Arrah are being made and being talked about as great cinema, in spite of director Avinash Das showing us a world of Anarkali that the urban cinegoer is alien to and uncomfortable with. It takes the topic of sexual consent head on, and tells us that irrespective of the profession, social or economic status of a woman, she has as much right to fight for her honor as the urban girls of Pink, and its absolutely not okay to assume that her profession provides easier access to her! The brilliant performances by Swara Bhasker and Sanjay Mishra along with the rest of the supporting cast helps establishing strong connect for the film and is such a welcome change away from the other sexist blockbusters of the year!

4.) Bareilly Ki BarfiAshwini Iyer Tiwari’s Barfi from Bareilly is easiest the sweetest and most heartwarming film of 2017 that had made me laugh the most this year! The film takes us back to the lovely feel good origins of Basu Chatterjee and Sai Paranjape house of film making, telling us simple stories about simple people, punched with clean humor and wittiest of dialogs! All the characters of Bareilly Ki Barfi feel flesh and blood real right from Bitti and her family to both her suitors and give enough glimpses of the immortal characters of Katha, Chhoti si Baat and Baaton Baaton Me through themselves! And they are all brought to life by outstanding performances by the entire ensemble cast (with Rajkumar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi and Seema Pahwa especially standing out), and some terrific writing by Nitesh Tiwari. The world needs more and more of such light hearted clean entertainment, and I hope that the success of BKB will actually inspire many more such refreshingly humorous films in the future too.

3.) Newton – The brilliance of Newton lies in the fact that there are no pronounced protagonists or antagonists in the film in spite of its name, the characters are in different shades of right vs. wrong, t in different stages of cynicism due to their experiences of life, and there is no forced closure or a pretentious attempt to find solutions to all questions that they raise in the film. Rather, it’s a stark satirical commentary on India’s socio-political realities and the circus of democracy. And just like the previous film, this film gets us stellar performances by all the characters irrespective of the length of their roles right from Sanjay Mishra, Anjali Patil, Raghubeer Yadav to the absolutely terrific Pankaj Tripathi & Rajkumar Rao. Director Amit V Masurkar made a very important film relevant to the times we live in, and drives home his point effortlessly as a winner all the way.

2.) Mukti Bhawan – A film that traces the journey of seeking salvation post death through the colorful lens of life has to be very special, more so when such a dark subject at death is dealt with such tenderness and positivity. Director Shubhashish Bhutiani uses the powerful levers of subtle emotions and sublime humor to create this brilliant slice of life film, and triumphs in remaining completely non-judgmental in everything he shows and nothing that he forcefully tells. A story about death eventually ends up being a wonderful celebration of life, of its futile anxieties and of deep human bonds rediscovered in the process. Adil Hussain delivers a career best flawless understated performance and finds solid support in Lalit Behl, Navninda Behl and rest of the cast. Benaras is presented in most gorgeously and truly disturbing self, while the haunting background score leaves a definitive mark on the very strong narrative all along. Cinema like Mukti Bhawan needs to be celebrated by one and all and easily could be swapped with the top film on the list.

1.) A Death In The Gunj – Konkona Sen Sharma‘s directorial debut is easily the most sure-footed and self-assured film of the year. With storytelling at its finest, the film leaves one completely unsettled through its stellar atmospherics and intriguing screenplay where one is expecting the unexpected to happen at every point. There is a very strong sense of nostalgia, drama, disgust, pain, solitude and a deep sense of loss sprinkled across all the complex and layered characters wonderfully etched out in the film through its very engaging screenplay. We also see a very vibrant set of performances by every single actor of the strongest of ensembles right from the little Arya Sharma to the legendary Om Puri, but it is the absolutely stunning act of Shutu by Vikrant Massey that will outlive everyone else for years to come. With a completely earnest exposure of his vulnerabilities, Shutu’s brooding silence screams in defiance to the obnoxious masculinity surrounding him, and Vikrant plays that to perfection. Konkona truly creates the masterpiece of the year with A Death in the Gunj and delivers a cinematic experience that leaves one introspecting and moved long after the party of the Gunj is over!

So that is what made the best of cinematic 2017. Hoping that 2018 is much more spectacular and comes with a bouquet of some brilliant films to celebrate – the lineup looks promising, hope that it does not disappoint.

Till then, keep watching good films. And don’t forget to share your views on your best films of the year!

#HitsAndMisses2017

Movies Roundup 2017 – Most Disappointing Films

This is one of my final articles of the movies round up series for the year, which focuses on the most disappointing films of the year, and maybe it’s the ideal to recall them on a day when potentially the year’s biggest commercial blockbuster has released but does not excite the movie buff in me. The disappointing trend continues that mindless masala films like Tiger Zinda Hai, or Judwa 2 or Golmaal Again continue to remain the biggest money spinners at box-office, even in a year when a lot of small content driven films shined like stars.

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We are not discussing the worst films of the year here. I actually might not have seen any of them. We will talk about films that had a lot of expectations around them either due to a positive pre-release buzz, credentials of the filmmaker or the actors, good reviews, or strong word of mouth, but ended up being real disappointments in what they offered. Here, I rank them based on how disappointed I felt overall watching them, and not necessarily on their absolute watch-ability.

8.) Simran – A classic example of a film with a great director and a good actor trapped in their own creativity of a poor script that loses its complete rhyme and reason in the 2nd half. One expects magic when national award winners Hansal Mehta and Kangana Ranaut come together, but this one did not have a spark at all and even loses out on logic at places! A series of uncalled for controversies just prior to the film’s release did not help it either, and created negative vibes all over.

7.) The Ghazi Attack – The overall word of mouth on this film was very strong and I was expecting a stylish high octane entertainer, but I felt completely underwhelmed watching this war thriller. Poor visuals, some over the top hamming and rather repetitive narrative frankly stripped all the thrill out of the thriller. Other than Rana Daggubati, frankly no one stood out as well from a strong ensemble of actors. Tapasee was wasted, and actors like Kay Kay Menon & Atul Kulkarni also left so much to be wanted.

6.) Tumhari Sulu – My issue with Tumhari Sulu is not that it is a bad film, it clearly is not. My problem is that one has such high expectations from a Vidya Balan film, and then when you get something as predictable and at times clichéd like Sulu, it is hard not to be so disappointed. Vidya cannot be choosing scripts that has only her and hardly anything else, so much so that a stale script actually overshadows her good work in the film. We don’t just want to remember her character in the film, we want to remember her entire film and Tumhari Sulu is a missed opportunity on that one.

5.) Jab Harry Met Sejal – So here was a project where the director who tells the best love stories in hindi cinema today was casting the king of romance as his lead, so the expectation was really sky high for all fans of Imtiaz Ali and Shahrukh Khan, or even for someone like me whose most favorite genre of cinema is romance. But other than a European tour in lovely locales, this film did not achieve anything much! Imtiaz writes a very interesting Harry, casts a super-sexy Shahrukh in the same, but develops the premise of his standard template of self-discovery through a very poorly written Sejal. Sadly, the entire journey hence loses its plot even before it takes off. Add to that a great musical score that gets lost in a bad film.

4.) Mom – I don’t think anyone was expecting Mom to be path breaking cinema. But there was lot of buzz surrounding the film because Sridevi was coming back to the screen after an absolutely fabulous English Vinglish from 5 years back, and she had the mighty Nawazuddin for company! Sad enough for me personally, I was left mighty cold and disappointed! The film went into such hero worship mode of the stellar actor from the word go, that the entire humane angle of her screen daughter’s trauma was completely ignored in the narrative! Sridevi was lovely in many scenes, outright bad in a few others. Even Nawaz faltered after a very long time and was more caricaturish than anything else. A sassy and dapper Akshaye Khanna and the lovely Sajal Ali were well noticed though, but could not save the film for me.

3.) Secret Superstar – A film backed by Aamir Khan and projected as the next big thing after 10 years of Taare Zameen Par, raised an amazing amount of expectations! Add to it the fact that Zaira Wasim was coming out from a real strong performance in Dangal, and Aamir himself was letting himself loose after years in a completely unapologetic over the top character. But Secret Superstar let me down at the very core that it wanted to project as the high point of the film – the mother-daughter drama and the music! This was designed as the emotionally manipulative tear-jerker where the characters are stuck in a poor overdramatic narrative, and fail to evoke raw emotions. The climax was outright cringy! Tirth Sharma and Raj Arjun shine in their relative parts, but the overall film was a big letdown.

2.) Badrinath Ki Dulhania – The backstory here is that I really loved Shashank Khaitan’s first movie of the franchise – Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania. It was a refreshing ode to DDLJ and was wonderfully executed by Varun, Alia and the rest of the cast. So I was naturally expecting this one to match up to that in entertainment. Unfortunately, BKD turned out to be the most regressive film of the year! The hero here stalks the girl like a pest for a good part of the film, and together they almost glorify the exact stereotypes around patriarchy, unequal gender paradigms and even dowry that the film pretends to break and address! A specific scene in the 2nd half where Varun literally gets molested by a bunch of goons is projected as a comical scene even through the eyes of his lady-love! I haven’t cringed on my theatre seat for a long time like I did on that one! A huge disappointment!

1.) Lipstick Under My Burkha – Clearly on a relative scale, Lipstick may be a better film than many other films that have featured in this list. But clearly, this is also a film that has disappointed me the most! I had sky rocket expectations from Alankrita Srivastava’s film given all the buzz that it created before its release and the subject that it was supposed to revolutionize! But alas, it resorts to a standard set of stereotypes throughout the film and in a very clunky end to depict liberation and modern urban women! It takes a pseudo feminist stand across many places of an uneven script that loses grip to become jarring at its subtlest moments. It seems like a film tailor made to impress the festival circuits, and other than an outstanding Ratna Pathak Shah, and a very good Konkona Sen Sharma, nothing stays with you! It’s a clear opportunity lost – it could have been a bold benchmark film to refer to for years, it just stays satisfied being a bold film posturing for greatness!

Next, I will look at the best films of the year. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, do share which films disappointed you the most this year.

#HitsAndMisses2017

Movies Roundup 2017 – Performances by Male Actors

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After looking at the best and most disappointing work by female actors last week, I will zoom in to summarize the same for the male actors for the year! 2017 has been exceptional for bringing together many brilliant performances by some extremely talented actors both for lead and supporting roles. This was also the year where the mighty Khans did not create a buzz – Salman Khan faced box-office failure after a very long time for a different genre that he showed courage to try with Tubelight; Shahrukh Khan could not manage to ring in the cash registers either with Raees or with ‘Jab Harry Met Sejal’, and Aamir Khan only had a cameo in ‘Secret Superstar’ that was refreshingly different, but got wasted in an underwhelming film! On the other hand, this was the year where we saw a lot of ‘small’ actors making it really big because of the sheer good work that they did across lead and supporting roles in some wonderful content driven films. Here is looking at the absolute remarkable ones from the lot:

#PerformerOfTheYear

There were two outstanding actors to whom 2017 absolutely belonged to. They ruled like kings and turned everything they touched to gold!

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And for me, the crown jewel for all round performer was taken away by Pankaj Tripathi – He was in his own class nailing down every role to perfection! At the top end of this spectrum is #Newton, where his complex, cynical, and ideologically compromised Atmaram emerged as the real soul of the film stealing the spotlight away from Newton Kumar since there wasn’t one single false note or air of pretense in his performance! At the same time, he was absolutely adorable as Narottam Mishra from #BareillyKiBarfi playing the dotting dad to Bitti Mishra with all the heart that you will completely fall in love with his endearing charm! He also made himself well noticed with a small but significant role as Swara’s companion in the mighty strong #AnarkarliOfArrah! And I hear that he was outstanding as the lead in Gurgaon as well, that I unfortunately missed. I hope to see so much more of Pankaj in 2018 and beyond..

2017 was also the year of Rajkumar Rao in its truest sense! From the brilliant title role of #Newton as the idealistic election officer, to the completely contrasting but an outstanding and lovable Pritam Vidrohi from #BareillyKiBarfi (which is easily his best role of the year), Rajkumar Rao was a force to reckon with throughout the year. It was not easy to pull off almost a solo survival drama of #Trapped unless there was an actor of Rao’s caliber to get that done, and he did not disappoint! It was disappointing then that the release of #Omerta got pushed out to next year, but I am hopeful that his partnership with Hansal Mehta after Shahid will add another jewel to Rao’s growing body of work.

#PerformanceOfTheYear

The year’s best performance in a single role however came from the house of Konkona Sen Sharma when she directed the highly underrated Vikrant Massey to deliver an outstanding Shutu for #ADeathInTheGunj. It was an extremely nuanced and sensitive performance portraying a very complex character and Vikrant breathed life into every glance and every emotion of Shutu, so much so that he will come back and haunt the world around him for years to come.

#MostUnderratedAct

In the year of such strong performances, there were some hidden gems that practically went unnoticed. One such act was from the terrific Adil Hussain for his extremely subtle and practical portrayal of the dutiful son from #MuktiBhawan who is on a journey with his father and help him attain salvation! It is one of the finest performances for the year, on par with what we have seen from Pankaj Tripathi or Rajkumar Rao but went completely unnoticed since very few people watched the film.

A similarly subtle and understated act by Sumeet Vyas in #Ribbon was also not much talked about, but he shone like a star along with Kalki in the film, in spite of her having the more author backed role of the two in the film.

A special shout out to Raj Arjun as the menacing father in #SecretSuperstar, and Manav Kaul as Sulu’s spouse from #TumhariSulu who were both excellent in their supporting roles but did not get as much noticed as they deserved to, with their performances getting impacted in two underwhelming films. And then there was Raghubir Yadav in Newton again, who was excellent in his short role with some of the best lines of the film, but his performance possibly got overshadowed by the two other brilliant acts from the same film that we already talked about!

#TheEternalCharmer

Ayushmann Khurrana has mastered the act of playing the eternally charming boy next door to perfection and this year wasn’t any different. His selfless, restrained, imperfect and yet earnest Abhimanyu or Bubla in #MeriPyaariBindu was certainly one of the best performances of the year, that he delivered to perfection. At the same time, he was fascinating as the small town lover-boy Chirag Dubey in #BareillyKiBarfi with distinct shades of grey trying to garb an enchanting core! May be its time for Khurana to try out more diversified roles, because a good actor like him should be fearless to experiment!

And he has a lot of inspiration in the form of the most gifted leading actor of today in Ranbir Kapoor who again aced it with another flawless act as #JaggaJasoos in Anurag Basu’s underrated experimental gem! More power to Kapoor to continuing to choose such different and interesting characters and always making them memorable without worrying too much about box office success only!

A special shout-out goes to Irrfan for an absolutely adorable Yogi from #QaribQaribSinglle who has the power to elevate any project that he takes up to a fine experience. Personally I want to see him more in such light hearted roles in years to come.

#TheBestBadGuys

There was enough to celebrate even in the best negative characters of the year! Topping the list is the terrific Sanjay Mishra in the superlative act of a creepy vice chancellor of Arrah from the rustic midlands of India ogling for the talented dance artist Anarkali with unabashed dirty intent!

Giving him company in a similar malicious con act is the school teacher Shyam from #Haraamkhor played convincingly by the supremely talented Nawazuddin Siddiqui who has no qualms about any moral indexes in life!

And then we also have the extremely cunning and literally disgusting bully act powerfully portrayed by Ranvir Shorey in #ADeathInTheGunj with a lot of finesse! Very fine acts, all of them throwing powerful challenges back to the good guys of the game!

#MostPromisingDebut

The most promising debut of the year came in the form the young and vibrant Tirth Sharma from #SecretSuperstar whose Chintan was the best thing about the movie and by miles. He brought in the much needed subtlety and freshness in the otherwise over the top stale drama, and easily worked his ways into the hearts of many!

#BestLesserRoles

A special mention for a couple of performances whom I would have loved to see get a much longer screen time in the film – Shaswata Chatterjee as the adorable Tooti Footi from #JaggaJasoos who practically gave us the best scenes of the film, and the very subdued but perfectly balanced cop from Mom played to perfection by Akshaye Khanna. We need to see them in meatier roles in many more films

#BiggestDisappointments

And that brings me down to talk about the biggest disappointments of the year. This will undoubtedly have to go to Varun Dhawan for a below average performance in a very poorly written role in #BadrinathKiDulhania, especially because it came after such a spunky performance in his previous outing of the franchise as Humpty Sharma!

We also had to endure a rather underwhelming and more caricaturist performance from Nawazuddin Siddiqui in #Mom which will easily be one of the weakest of his illustrious career.

I also wanted to express my frustration on Imtiaz Ali who wasted a rather layered and complex Harry performed pretty well by Shah Rukh Khan in a terrible film. Wish Harry was in a different film and had never met Sejal!

There were many other underwhelming performances spread across the year, but there were anyway not too many expectations from them, so they just came and went away.

All in all, other than some of these misfires, 2017 was a brilliant year in terms of performances from many leading actors and we need this trend to continue for 2018 and onwards..

So, what were your favorite performances of the year? Happy to hear back and discuss…

#HitsAndMisses2017

Movies Roundup 2017 – Performances of Female Actors

We continue with our journey of movies roundup of 2017. Today, we will look at the hits and misses of the most memorable performances by female actors in supporting roles and special categories amongst what I watched this year. Do note that this is not influenced by box office performances and strictly on what appealed to me and what did not.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

#DebutOfTheYear – Aditi Inamdar as Poorna Malavath in Poorna – 13 year old Aditi along S Maria (as Priya, another fresh face playing Poorna’s best friend) were absolutely brilliant in this warm and hopeful real life tale of Poorna becoming the youngest climber of Mt. Everest through her determination and grit, but germinating from a need to escape an early child marriage! Yes their rough edges show, but even that is lovely. The warm and heartfelt bonding between Poorna and Priya is beautifully portrayed by these young girls. I would like to see them more in years to come..
A special shout out to the little girl Kierra Soni from Ribbon as well! At all of 5 years, she was a revelation!

#SurpriseOfTheYear – Kriti Sanon as Bitti Sharma in Bareilly Ki Barfi – Kriti was the only reason I was skeptical to watch this film even after the excellent trailer, but the girl surprised me big time in this fun roller coaster watch! Kriti was a complete natural as bindaas Bitti and sprinkled her with an unassuming charm all throughout. But when you are cast in such a strong ensemble, you just possibly have no other option but to match up to them, and she did!

SUPPORTING ROLES

2017 will be best remembered for some of the strongest supporting roles, possibly because the content rich movies did so well in terms of getting noted. There are films where the supporting characters even outplayed the lead characters by a distance. My favorite actors who were brilliant in such supporting characters are:

Seema Pahwa – She was just exceptional as the doting mother to Bitti or to Sugandha both in Bareilly Ki Barfi and Shubh Mangal Savdhan, myself loving the former a tad more than the later. Seema’s brilliance of Aankhon Dekhi came back in both the films, and she was so wonderfully endearing. A special shout out for her cute little dance to ‘Sweety tera drama’ too! You rock Seema’ji!

Konkona Sen Sharma – The film was a letdown for me, but Konkona’s Shireen Aslam in Lipstick Under My Burkha was a winner all the way! Her ambition and her frustration, her joy and her pain, Alankrita Shrivastava could not have banked on a better actor to carry out that role so convincingly!

Anjali Patil Newton would not have been Newton without Rajkumar Rao and Pankaj Tripathi. But it needed a very strong and real Malko Netam as well. And Anjali Patil gave us just that. It was a simple, honest and upright act – things that defined Malko to the core!

Sajal Ali – Mom was a story about the horror that Sajal’s Arya goes through and what happens post that, but it was just a disappointment that the pain and suffering of Arya was relegated as a neglected backstory in the entire screenplay. Even in the limited scope and screen time that Sajal got, this lovely girl portrayed a sensitive and struggling Arya with the right finesse that the role needed.

The McCluskieGunj Family – I tried hard to pick the best actress from that ensemble to come into the list and failed. Right from the little Arya Sharma, to the beautiful Tilottama Shome, to the sensational Kalki Koechlin to the ever lovely Tanuja, they were all pitch perfect in their roles, and added so much of layered texture to the narrative, just like the men on that outing did! They are all special, just like the film is!

And while she didn’t make it to my list of the best supporting characters of the year, Meher Vij gets a special mention for Secret Superstar. I was not fully bought in to the writing of the mother daughter relationship in the film and found it rather emotionally manipulative, but Meher did a good job with what she got. She was miles away from Swara’s Chanda of Nil Battey Sannata, but she had the potential to give a better written role a better shape, that she did not get.

So those were my thoughts on the best supporting roles and special recognition for the year. In the continuing next part of this series, we will take a look at the lead characters diving deep into what clicked there and what did not!

Part 2

We continue from the last post and revisit the best performances and the biggest disappointments from female actors in leading roles from the year going by. I do recognize that I might have missed one of the outstanding performances of the year from Sushama Deshpande as Ajji based on all the critical acclaim it got, so I will have to talk about performances based on what I experienced. I have to also say this that in 2017, I was left quite disappointed with a number of lead performances and we will recount them here – they may not be very bad in absolute terms, but these are more about performances where much more was expected and I struggled having those expectations met on the screen.

#BEST_PERFORMANCES

We will talk about the good things first, and recall the top performances of the year:

1. Swara Bhasker – This #AnarkaliOfArrah sizzled on screen with a complete top notch act portraying a small town dance artist, one who performs on the stage to raunchy double meaning songs, and yet is strong and bold enough to ensure that irrespective of her profession, she cannot be forced to anything against her wishes. The film takes forward the strong message of No Means No from Pink in a more earthier, rustic setting and the makers could not have gotten a better actress than Swara to portray that journey with Elan. She captures the dreams, the passion, the vulnerability and the struggle of Anarkali with unabashed passion, just what the role needed, and with an extremely strong supporting cast drives home the point like a rockstar! For me, hers is The Performance of the Year for 2017 in this category.

2. Ratna Pathak Shah – Ratna Pathak Shah is a natural charmer. She aces almost everything she touches, and was not an exception as the lovable Usha Parmar (embodying Rosy) who was the heart and soul of an otherwise underwhelming #LipstickUnderMyBurkha from Alankrita Srivastava. Shah’s terrific acting prowess ensures that Bua’ji (as she is called by everyone in the film) becomes a distinctly adorable character not seen on Indian screen before, and she delivers it with all the sensitivity and grace, showing a face of pain and solitude completely ignored otherwise on Indian screen.

3. Parvathy – This was the first film I saw of the immensely natural Parvathy and she knocked #QaribQaribSinglle’s Jaya out of the park completely! It is not easy to match up to the understated subtlety of Irrfan Khan, and Parvathy achieves that effortlessly and even betters it in some scenes. It was not easy to portray the clumsy, reserved and ‘running away from life’ Jaya who rediscovers herself and her need to feel happy through the journey she embarks on, but Parvathy gets it right for the most part, other than one sequence where she went overboard. It was creepy to identify with someone like this on screen, which shows how perfect she got it.

4. Vidya Balan – Overall, I was underwhelmed by #TumhariSulu, but Vidya Balan as Sulu was a rockstar as usual! It can only take an extraordinary Vidya Balan to lift an otherwise predictable and at places clichéd writing to make Sulu such an endearing and lovable character on screen! She is an eternal optimist, a dreamer who wants to live her life king size whatever may the situation be, and in the process she laughs and she cries, she fights and she makes mistakes, but she never gives up! And just because she holds on like a champion, we hold on to the film as well in spite of its inherent flaws and gaps.

5. Kalki Koechlin – Kalki has almost made it a routine to find a place in the best performances of the year even when she does selective small niche films. Her Sahana from #Ribbon is the reason she is here this year. Kalki delivers yet another nuanced and well-rounded performance as one half of the urban couple who struggle to balance out their family time, love for each other and flourishing careers. Sahana is a fully author backed character and it needed the terrific Kalki to project her effortlessly, a lot of times just through the eyes that is like a huge canvas of emotions. We need Kalki to do more films, cinema needs more of her goodness.

Other than these feisty performances, we did have Kriti Sanon as Bitti in #BareillyKiBarfi and Bhoomi Pednekar as Sugandha in #ShubhMangalSavdhan, both playing the girl next door with some enchanting freshness, and hence delivering two of the best clean rom-coms of the year. More power to these girls for making good entertaining cinema.

#BIGGEST_DISAPPOINTMENTS

And now, let us also look at some of those performances that disappointed me the most this year.

1. Sridevi – It pains me the most to have one of my most favorite actresses to make it to this list. Devaki as #Mom is not a bad performance at all, in fact Sri aces it in many scenes, but it is nowhere near what Shashi was in English Vinglish as an example. The film perhaps also spoilt the experience for me, it should have had far more focus on Arya and her struggle, but it went on a screen worship mode for Sridevi! There was just too much of her, and all of that was not subtle and restrained too. She was capable of doing so much more with the film by underplaying it. Painfully disappointed, I am hopeful for a stronger return from the diva in her next film!

2. Alia Bhatt – Another favorite makes it to a not favorite list sadly! Alia is the powerhouse performer of this generation, but Vaidehi from #BadrinathKiDulhania missed the bus this time! It was a rather regressive script that exactly glorified the same points that it wanted to protest, and made Vaidehi a poorly written vehicle to do that. Alia also fumbled especially in the horrible second half, and may be that was natural because it wouldn’t have been easy for her to identify with that character at all.

3. Parineeti Chopra – #MeriPyaariBindu is one of my favorite films of the year, but not Bindu and hence Parineeti. A film that celebrates a selfless journey of Abhimanyu and her nostalgic bond with Bindu, falters in developing the character arch of Bindu well. In place of making Bindu whimsical and confused, the writers make Bindu shallow and inconsistent. And Parineeti does not have so much of shine in her that she would be able to cover up for the flawed writing of the character. She looked like a dream, and that was a problem too, because Bindu needed to feel far more real than what Parineeti made us feel. Sad!

4. Anushka Sharma – I will never understand why Anushka would have agreed to play the terribly written Sejal from #JabHarryMetSejal. There is no rhyme and reason that can explain Imtiaz Ali’s Sejal, and no actress could have saved that role. The sadness though lies in the fact that Shahrukh’s Harry needed a much better script and a much better companion in his journey of self-discovery. Anushka and Sejal did not provide him that, and hence they all fizzled away!

5. Kangana Ranaut – Hansal Mehta of Shahid or Aligarh is a master craftsman, but he was nowhere to be seen in his this year’s outing #Simran. As was the great performance missing from Kangana in yet another poorly written character of the year! Simran defied logic in the name of being different, it fell flat on basic aspects of good film making, and its depressing that such things come from the house of Kangana Ranaut and Hansal Mehta. I am hopeful that she bounces back with Manikarnika. Herself and a historical period film – both need desperate success in today’s times.

I was also not too impressed by Zaira Wasim in #SecretSuperstar in spite of all the rave reviews she got. But I was not expecting much from her, so won’t call her a disappointment as such.

We need more powerful performances in 2018 from the brilliant women of the industry, and I am hopeful that the wheels will turn for the brighter and better.

Tell me what were your favorite and not so favorite performances of the year. We all have our views, and its only fun to exchange them.

#HitsAndMisses2017

 

 

Movies Roundup 2017 – Music

I start the overall movies roundup for 2017 with the category of Music, which is such an integral part of our cinema but unfortunately 2017 has been a rather disappointing year for hindi film music. There wasn’t any single album that had All breathtaking songs, like we have had from some of the previous years, and I am eagerly awaiting the next magical ‘Lootera’ to come and wow me completely!

From what we had then, the #BestComprehensiveAlbum for the year was Meri Pyaari Bindu, not just because it brought back some of the golden retro songs beautifully embedded as characters within the story, but that it also had some of the best original songs of the year! To me, ‘Maana ki hum yaar nahin’ remained the song of the year by miles, and leaves a lovely after taste every time I go back to it. Sachin Jigar need to get better opportunities to create music like this.

A special shout-out to Pritam for his #StandoutExperimentation lending so much strength and variation to the spectacular musical named Jagga Jasoos. This one had quite a few nice hummable tracks, and sounded fresh and youthful just what the film needed. ‘Dil ullu ka pattha hain’ from the film was also the best choreographed song for me with lovely colors and vibrancy all over. Pritam was also more than decent in the soundtrack of Jab Harry Met Sejal, a film I decided not to watch though, but perhaps did not match up to the music of earlier outings of Imtiaz Ali!

The year made a great mark with #BackgroundScore though, a trend that will only grow as we see more and more content enriched small films being made that has limited scope for full length songs rightfully. Many films excelled with background score whether it was ‘Tumhari Sulu’, ‘Secret Superstar’, ‘Jagga Jasoos’ or ‘Newton’; but the two outstanding credits in this category have to be for Tajdar Junaid for ‘Mukti Bhawan’ and Sagar Desai for ‘Death in the Gunj’. The background music carried forward the narrative in both these films and left a definitive mark in enhancing the overall impact of the films.

The #BiggestMusicalDisappointment for me? Has to be ‘Padmaavati’ from the couple of songs that I heard. Sanjay Leela Bhansali the composer had created some wonderful songs in ‘Bajirao Mastani’, but the Padmaavati songs all sounded flat, they just seemed to have zero elements of Rajasthani folk weaved into them including ‘Ghoomar’.

With that, let us come to some of the #BestPlayback singing that I heard this year. Here are my top picks individually for female and male playback singers and some of the lovely standout numbers from specific films:

#FemalePlayback:

1. Parineeti Chopra – Maana ki hum yaar nahin – #MeriPyaariBindu (Sachin Jigar)

 

2. Nikita Gandhi – Main woh ghar hoon tera – #JabHarryMetSejal (Pritam)

 

3. Shashaa Tirupati – Kanha maane na – #ShubhMangalSavdhan (Tanishk Vayu)

 

4. Ronkini Gupta Kuchh tune si hain maine ki hain rafu – #TumhariSulu (Santanu Ghatak)

 

5. Meghna Mishra – Main nachdi phira – #SecretSuperstar (Amit Trivedi)

 

6. Madhushree Bhattacharya – Kanha so ja zara – #Baahubali2 (MM Kreem)

 

#MalePlayback:

1. Sonu Nigam – Maana ki hum yaar nahin – #MeriPyaariBindu (Sachin Jigar)

 

2. Ayushmann Khurrana – Tu nazm nazm sa mere – #BareillyKiBarfi (Arko)

 

3. Tushar Joshi – Main musafir banoon – #JaggaJasoos (Pritam)

 

4. Atif Aslam – Kya kahein jaane de – #QareebQareebSinglle (Vishal Mehra)

 

5. A.R. Rahman – O sona tere liye – #Mom (AR Rehman)

 

6. Arijit Singh – Le jaaye jane kaha hawayein – #JabHarryMetSejal (Pritam)

 

When it comes to #BengaliCinema, my musical pick of the year is ‘Ekla ekla’ by Shreya Ghoshal from #ChhayaOChhobi’ ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-FIppDl9SQ ) as the best song, as well as the lovely background score in #SahajPatherGappo’.
And of course, heart goes out to the Late Kalikaprasad Bhattacharjee and his brilliant soundscape of #Bisorjon – that transports to a rustic world instantly…

So – that is what I crooned to this year! What were your favorites and dismissals? Please share

Movies Roundup 2017- Looking back..

Overall 2017 has been a rather different kind of year for Hindi cinema, where very little of the big star movies worked, we have not seen the huge commercial blockbusters for most part of I,t and even the movies from Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan have been disasters! While on the brighter side for the industry, this has been the year of small content driven movies shouldered by some very fine performances from the likes of Rajkumar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi, Ayushman Khurana and so on, rather than star power, that may just turn around the credibility of the industry.

But we need this trend to sustain, and this trend can only sustain if we get huge commercial hits that can make enough money so that such content driven subjects can be funded on an ongoing basis, the catch of course being that the likes of Phantom, Excel, Dharma and everyone else stand behind good cinema as well. May 2018 be that year of balance; and if wishes were stars, may the small content driven films actually become the huge commercial money churners at the box-office! That could be asking for the moon, but then that is what cinema drives us to, so why stop dreaming!

Coming back to the realities of 2017, we have already entered the last month of the year, and with the list of hindi movies that are lined up for the rest of the year, there isn’t much else I am looking forward to maybe other than the Fukrey sequel (yes no plans of watching Ek Tha Tiger). I must also mention that I did not find it worthwhile to spend my time and money on some of the other larger outings of the year as well including Judwa2, Golmaal Again, Raees, Kaabil, Toilet ek Prem Katha; while there has been an ‘Ajji’, ‘Kadwi Hawa’, ‘Gurgaon’ or ‘Ittefaq’ I missed on catching up unfortunately. Hence, my movies round up for the year will primarily be based on what I watched this year mainly from Hindi cinema, and for each of the categories that we discuss, I will focus on what I thought was the best work there, and what disappointed me the most or did not meet my expectations. So it will be nothing to do with the commercial success or overall popularity of the film or the actor or the song, but more to do with what appealed to me and what did not.

We will talk about music (an integral part of our cinema), technical brilliances across multiple facets of film making, performances in lead and supporting categories (or any other special mentions), and of course the overall movie.

So keep watching this space for more….

#HitsAndMisses2017 

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Midway roundup 2017 – Music

The first half of 2017 has been disastrous for hindi film music! Other than one brilliant album, there wasn’t a single film or song that really registered or stayed back (And yes, I am considering Zaalima from Raees, or Saahiba from Phillauri)!

It was just that one album from #MeriPyaariBindu that struck gold – whether it was the lovely recalls from yesteryears in the mix tape, or the very soulful Haareya or Afeemi, beautifully composed or rendered! But the song of the year so far certainly has to be Maana Ke HuYaar Nahi – I loved both the versions alike – Parineeti weaved magic with her solo track, while it was the picturization and fitment of the duet that made me instantly love that one when it played in the theatres!! It will be very difficult to surpass the magic of this one..

On a second thought, ‘Kanha so ja zara‘ from #Bahubali2 was a decent composition as well and was beautifully presented.. But it still does not come close to Dhivara of part 1..

The upcoming releases from the houses of Imtiaz Alis or Anurag Basus also do not offer any spark at all in the music released so far.. Looks like 2017 will go down as a pretty dry year for melody, unless there is a sudden surprise from somewhere!

Midway roundup 2017 – Movies

Mid way through 2017, its been the small bollywood films that made a BIG lasting impresssion for me…
– #ADeathInTheGunj#MuktiBhawan#AnarkaliOfArrah

These movies were so far ahead of the other commercial potboilers that it is a pity that they still don’t get the right audience support that they deserve… Films like this need to be supported far more, so that more and more film makers dare to make something different and do get backed-up with the right financial support.. More and more power to these strong films, and wish to see more of them through the rest of the year…

However, this would have also meant that other the massive success of the extravagant and overdone #Bahubali2, the business of cinema suffered for the most part of 2017, since there was no other real blockbuster! The #Raees and the #Kaabil of the world possibly made some money (not watched), as did the rather disappointing #BadrinathKiDulhaniya (the worst I watched in 2017 so far)! And quite surprisingly, the immensely warm and charming #MeriPyaariBindu turned out to be the box-office dud, while it had such a refreshing appeal! Amazing are the ways of Bollywood!

Outside bollywood, watched two fantastic films in #Bishorjon and #Lion – both of them standing very very tall in their own rights! But again, that was disappointment coming from Tallygaunge that there were no other films at all that resonated with my sensibilities, and it was pretty much a wash..

Will the rest of 2017 change the equation dramatically? Will we have films that will be solid in content and at the box office as well? We will have to see.. Hopefully yes!