Stalker's Top Ten 2008: Ramchandra Solanki: Bollywood
Ramchandra is a regular reader of Filmstalker, and has been for a very long time, and is also a damn fine guy online - I've yet to meet him in real life - and it's his turn for a Stalker's Top Ten.
His list is going to be visiting Bollywood, somewhere that the non-Indian audience don't visit enough, and in some cases at all. He's compiled a list of the best films he's seen this year, and it's definitely a list a lot of us should taste from this year.
Here's Ramchandra with his list, and if you want to visit his site for all of his reviews and blogging, which I would definitely recommend, here's the link. Over to you chum:
Okay then, as the end of year approaches, let's have a brief (sarcasm - I rarely keep it brief) look at what was memorable. As a disclaimer of sorts, these are in no particular order of preference, in fact to avoid just that I have ordered them alphabetically. 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, neither to suggest these are the best, after all, personal preference is too a factor, right? We're all allowed our guilty pleasures and I have knack for announcing mine proudly.
A factor I should point out is how I compile this list. I have a list of releases that I maintain on a weekly basis. I then pick out the films that I got the chance to see & then pick out 15-20 that I enjoyed, or rather remove all the stuff that I didn't and narrow down. At this stage it's tough, some flicks get pushed out though I enjoyed them & survival of the fittest takes cause, this said if I were to do it all over again, it would probably vary a little, so if you feel I'm doing injustice to something you loved by not having it here:
a) make your own list, I'm sure Richard would gladly publish it here,
b) know that it's possible that it made the top 20, but that you'll NEVER know for sure unless you ask! :-P
Well here goes, I've tried to go by World-class production value & keep it fairly diverse:
Dostana - A love story with a twist is how they advertised this. I wouldn't have quite put it like that. I'd call it a comedy that pushes the envelope. The plot is basically that this gorgeous girl Neha (Priyanka Chopra) is seeking two 'female' flat-mates in her apartment. Enter Kunal (John Abraham) and Sameer (Abhishek Bachchan) who seek a flat quite urgently, they manage to convince her to take them on, despite her being apprehensive that there wouldn't be any awkwardness. How?! The guys pretend to be a gay couple. Mischief & mayhem ensue. They both try & make their advances towards her, while maintaining the public façade of being a couple, but in the end the film isn't really about that, it's about the fun ride and the friendship that forms between the three of them. Shot entirely in Miami, it's a fantastic feel-good entertainer..
Golmaal Returns - The Diwali film this year. A laugh-a-minute slapstick comedy sequel to Golmaal (which wasn't that great to be honest). Luckily, this is not a straight sequel, it has much of the same cast playing similar characters in a whole new story arc & backdrop. This means you don't have to have seen the original to get into it. This story arc is about a jealous wife (Kareena Kapoor), and a husband (Ajay Devgan) who realises the extent of her jealousy. He tries to spare the agony & repercussions of an event, by creating a fictional alibi. This goes terribly wrong, when a fictitious friend at a fictitious address actually happens to actually exist. All rather silly, but sometimes that's just what you need. The main strength here is that it's nothing short of hilarious.
Halla Bol - In sharp contrast to the above, this has Ajay Devgan play a fictional Bollywood Superstar, reminiscing his journey to achieve his stardom and the things he lost along the way. Things take a turn for the worse when a certain event triggers his conscience into gear. He realises that though he's been selfishly giving a blind eye to so many wrongs around him, these things have knock-on follow-ups that affect him & his own, even if indirectly. Taking a turn to try & fix his life, as always, is no easy battle. This film raises awareness into the more darker side of the film industry, but centrally is an entertainer about a hero & his righteous journey.
Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na - To a degree, a generic-fare chick flick but there is a certain freshness in the actors & dialogue here that puts it up there as one of the most enjoyable films of the year. It's earned newcomer Imran Khan star-status practically over-night & I have to admit, though initially apprehensive, after seeing this I was pleasantly surprised to find it all the praise is well-deserved. A R Rehman's soundtrack was a definite plus too.
Jodhaa Akbar - This historical spectacle is about the Emperor Akbar (Hrithik Roshan) and his lady-love Jodhaa (Aishwarya Rai). It in a nutshell, it follows how they became a married couple & how she made a better man of him, but its strength lies in its moments. Though it has been criticised for skipping out on a lot of interesting history of the emperor, I'd say this was a necessary opportunity cost for the sake of having a coherent & linear story. There's no denying that much detail & effort has been put into the sets & costumes. Visually it pays of, it looks fantastic, epic even.
Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi - Shah Rukh Khan's only full-feature of 2008, it was bound to rake in the money, that was a given. Whether the film delivered the quality expected with such a name attached was in question. It has been getting mixed reviews, but from my point of view (SRK fan-boy bias aside), it's a well-structured film, one of the few this year that uses its songs as a narrative progress rather than promotional tool. Worth a watch if your expectations aren't sky high due to the director's prior works. Of the lot, I'd say if you're a recent Bollywood consumer, this is a traditional slice of what it's more commercial side offers.
Roadside Romeo - Disney teams up with Yashraj Films to give us this animation flick about a stray dog finding his way in the streets in true Bollywood style. It keeps the story relatively simple, almost generalising to the point it shows a lot of reflection to Hindi films of the 60's and 70's, but the main focus is the showcase of computer graphics & though it's not quite polished enough to be mistaken for Pixar, it's not far off. A healthy team-up in Productions for sure.I look forward to what they might conjure up next.
Rock On! - Perhaps a little stereo-typical here, but it's a story of a bunch of youngsters who had a Rock Band and parted ways under not-so-nice terms. Years later when fate brings them back together, they've all evolved but still have that unquenched desire to Rock On! If it wasn't for the supreme music of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy this could have sunk lower than the Titanic. Thankfully as well as an awesome soundtrack that it hinges on, the performances & direction too are convincing & te characters are difficult not get attached to, leaving us with a happy-go-lucky flick that inspires the artiste in us.
Sarkar Raj - This is a sequel to the 2005 film Sarkar, which was a re-imagination and an official tribute to The Godfather from Ram Gopal Varma. Though it almost mirrored the story, one large change was made. The Godfather lived. The sequel is no longer attached to the Godfather franchise, it simply follows on from where the first film left off & shows how the ruling of the Nagre family holds its footing and power. There are new characters in the form of allies & enemies. What will keep you engrossed is the on-going twists & turns that unravel in one of the smartest political thrillers I've seen to date.
U, Me aur Hum - This is the love story of Ajay and Pia (real life couple Ajay & Kajol Devgan), who meet on a ship. She works as a bar-maid, he gets served & he's already fallen in love. The duration of the cruise is spent with his numerous attempts to win her over. Eventually, she caves. They marry, have a family & then she falls ill. She starts forgetting things. I found this a very sensitive and emotional film, though there are similarities here with The Notebook & even 50 First dates to some point, it's in a whole different time frame. Its focusses shift away from both those inspirations and individually raise the question of whether sending patients to an institute is actually helping or is it giving up on them. I'll admit it, it's a tear-jerker, grab your tissues, lots of them.
Okay, though that wraps up the 10, I really need to mention that there are films that released this year that I didn't see and really really still want to. These definitely would have been considered for this list had I seen them. I feel very bad about this, since they didn't make it to an area where I could catch them (legally). The films are: A Wednesday!, Dasvidaniya, Mumbai Meri Jaan, Aamir, Tahaan and Fashion. It really is a shame that these more hard-hitting and non-commercial flicks don't get the exposure that they deserve.
Something to work on for sure, but how?! Ideas most welcome. My approach currently tends to be to try & raise awareness within crowds that I feel would appreciate them but otherwise never hear of them, such as a subset of the readers here, but I really hope to find a channel to do more than just that.
Thanks to Ram for a cracking list, apologies that I can't really enter into a discussion about them since I haven't seen any Indian films this year, the closest I came was Slumdog Millionaire (Filmstalker review). I feel my first New Year's resolution coming on.
As for ideas Ram, I have a few which I will discuss with you another time. Readers, do you have any? Or more to the point have you seen any films in his top ten and agree or disagree?
It's not too late to submit your own Stalker's Top Ten though, just send your list to Stalker's Top Tens and it'll get published.
If you want to look at the other lists that have been sent in, then just head to the Stalker's Top Ten section.