Stalker's Top Ten: Ramchandra's Bollywood Films
The Filmstalker Top Ten lists for 2007 are veering off the beaten track even more today, this time with the Top Ten Bollywood films of 2007 from Ramchandra, and while you might never have heard of any of these films, you perhaps should really sit up and take notice. After all Bollywood can outsell Hollywood.
So here's the first of Ramchandra's lists, he's going to be gracing us with his non-Bollywood list next, and I might post that later in the day. Enjoy.
Okay then, as the end of year approaches, let's have a brief look at what was memorable shall we? As a disclaimer of sorts, these are in no particular order, (I lie, they are alphabetical). They are the 10 Bollywood films I most enjoyed this year & suggest you watch if you haven't already, this is not to suggest the others were crap (just crapp-er), neither to suggest these are the best, after all, personal preference is too a factor, right? We're all allowed our guilty pleasures (provided they are legal). Well here goes anyway:
Chak De! India
The first SRK flick of the year, though it lacked the initial box office takings expected from a Shah Rukh Khan starrer, word of mouth soon spread like fire that this was a film not to be missed. It's about a hockey coach training a team of misfit girls to play for the world cup. In winning only can he seek redemption from his own people. What came as a surprise was how even though he plays the central character, it is in the end the story of a team.
A bitter 60 year old perfectionist chef finds himself arguing with a 30 year old lady customer. After much banter and passing meetings/dates, a bitter-sweet romance evolves, soon escalating to the point where he must ask her hand from her father. The peculiar father who is younger than him and has a whole new set of dilemmas surrounding him, is the one he must win over at all possible costs.
Based on the true story of one of the richest Business Tycoons in India, it's the story rags to riches and the moral dilemmas he had to face along the way? It raises the question of "What would you be willing to do to become successful?" An engaging drama that shows that rules are for the masses but some that are wise enough have further options. It's the man's drive that will keep you engaged through it.
Unfortunately, I didn't catch this at the cinema, it wasn't showing anywhere, but boy oh boy was this good. A cross between Film-Noir and modern day thriller. Though not directly lifted, it's inspired in style by the novels by James Hadley Chase and the 70's flicks by Vijay Anand. It has nods to both in the film too. It's a classic crime-thriller. The story is about a gang which does shady deals. Deals that promise a lot of money, until one member makes his own plans.
It follows Johnny (Neil Mukesh), who decides to betray his team during one such large deal to elope with ample riches (and his mistress). What really works for this is, somewhat like an episode of Columbo -- we know from the very outset that it's him, but we watch the tension grow amongst all the other characters, who suspect each other, allowing their emotions and prior grudges to make rash decisions. The background score too gives a nod to the 70's thrillers of this ilk and is integrated spectacularly. Very much a treat to watch. A shame that it's theatrical release was so limited. A total must!
Life in a ... Metro
The story spanning different generations, it's about a number of people, loosely connected by degrees of separation. It's a gritty, reality story. It encompasses a number of love stories, but without the glitz and glamour that people automatically associate with Bollywood. This is aboout the old, the poor, the people that are actually out there, and that is what's engaging to watch.
Without a shred of doubt one of the best thrillers I've seen this year. Like Hansel & Gretel we find ourselves finding our way forward, clue by clue, with small twists & turns, not looking back for the big picture, but when all is revealed, you're pleasantly surprised.
This is a film that you'll either hate because it's not normal or love for its complexity and in depth view at life. It uses symbolism & philosophy to dig much deeper into your heads than the average film. It's a film that is quirky and interesting, but a lot more beyond that, it's trying to give you a much more deep message, but it's not willing to hand it to you on a plate & for that it will not apologise. One that I can say deserves multiple viewings.
Om Shanti Om
There is no disputing this is the most successful film this year. SRK hits the jackpot with his 2nd film not only beating his own box office records, but doing so by miles. What was the formula for this magic? It's a fun film. While the plot involves a man & woman dying and the man being reborn to gain justice through revenge, this was merely a backdrop. The focus of the film is that it's a film by Bollywood about Bollywood. It spoofs what the 70's had on offer in a matter of 30 seconds as the film rolls, and it simply does not stop. When the film moves onto 2007, the current day, he has no issues poking fun at the way things run now either & beyond this it embraces that it may be funny, it may even be silly to you, but this is who we are & we love that!
Integrating 12 people in 6 love stories, this probably sounds a bit like Life in a Metro mentioned above. That comparison holds but ends just there. This is the opposite end of the scale as fas as Indian Cinema goes. This which preceeded the other is an all-glitz all-glamour approach to the idea, total Bollywood ishtyle. A guaranteed fun ride along the entire way. Each story has it's own merits and holds something to bring to the overall cinematic experience. The small crosses & integration of them all is handled brilliantly with a memorable climax in which it all comes together for all of them.
Taare Zameen Par
A late entry just in time to make the list, but it certainly has struck a chord. A film that takes you back to being a kid. It's about a dyslexic child who is misunderstood as disobedient and lazy and his fight to prove them all wrong (with a little help). A definite for parents, or parents-to be, or kids, or kids-to-be ;) Okay, fine, Kids-been.
What I'd say works a charm for this flick is firstly the child actor who's done a very convincing job, secondly the way things remain in focus on the child perspective and thirdly the music. It's a refreshing soundtrack for the film, the emotions match precisely what you see on-screen, to the point where I start daydreaming of the film when I hear it on the radio.
Well that wraps it up, before I do finish I would like to say there are a few films that I didn't get to see & really hope to pick up at some point, I think I should at least mention the ones that I feel had the potential to make this list: Manorama - Six feet Under, Black Friday, Bheja Fry and The Blue Umbrella. An unfortunate case of small releases not reaching the audience that is 'me'.
Huge thanks to Ramchandra for his Top Ten Bollywood films for 2007, this is certainly interesting for a lot of us who have never really seen Bollywood, and perhaps this marks a list of films that we should have a look at and see if we might just like something outside of mainstream Hollywood, I know I'll certainly try to catch a couple of these this year.
If you'd like to have your own list up here, rather than have me rant mine at you, just drop me an email with them, what name you want to go by, and a link back, and I'll get them posted up. Be quick though, I won't be running this feature too far into 2008.