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Friday, December 28, 2007

2007: Turning Point for Bollywood

2007 was a move in the right direction for Bollywood. Although 2006 had some better movies, 2007 comprised of films that had great performances, better scripts, and no random shots to Switzerland. The films I chose were based on what I believed were incredibly entertaining, to films that were intellectually wonderful, to films that were healthy and necessary for Bollywood, and pushed the envelope. So, here are a list of my 2007 top favorites (in no particular order):
  • Dharm-- This movie, although almost impossible to find, has been very much in the news. From being screened at Cannes Film Festival, filmed in superior quality, and the controversial court case issued by director Bhavna Talwar when it wasn't entered into The Academy Awards, this film was able to keep its own in the news, a rare feat for such art films. Maybe it wasn't widely watched in India, but it has garnered some press, which is a start. From the script to the cinematography to performances, from reaching the depths of understanding religion and humanity-- this film was one of the best Bollywood films in the last few years. I only hope I see a film as brilliant as this one in the future.
  • Taare Zameen Par-- This movie was able to appeal to the masses, and was touching and real. The performances (Darsheel, Tisca Chopra) were incredible. The story was unique and definitely one that told the tale of many households. But another reason is why I added this movie to this list is because of Aamir Khan's involvement. One of the highest paid actors in Bollywood (neck to neck with Shahrukh Khan), Aamir's directorial venture didn't use the typical masala ingredients. It was an attempt to make a completely different, smart, "intellectual" film. So all those who look down on "intellectual" films because of their lack of appeal or profit-- Taare Zameen Par proves them completely wrong.
  • Chak de India-- The reason this movie is on this list is not because I was completely bowled over or because I was incredibly entertained, but because of the script's originality, the themes of feminism in India, a woman's role in society, and the gap between language and cultures in India. I also loved that this movie, like TZP, did so well, despite the lack of synchronized dance sequences, lip syncing, or a love story. Even if the story was predictable-- the overall themes and the fact that it was a success should also prove to critics that commercial isn't what it used to mean in Bollywood.
  • Life in a Metro-- This is the most "Bollywood" out of any movie on this list, but still no synchronized dance sequences or lip syncing. It was sincere, real-- yes over-the-top at times, but with some great performances and stories. I think Bollywood can do better, and some stories were better than others (the Konkona-- Irfan story was brilliant), but this smart, emotional story made me like Anurag Basu, love Irfan even more, and regain faith in Bollywood love stories.
  • Gandhi My Father-- This film was risky, in that it was pointing fingers at Gandhi. But, it was a risk worth taking. Although the film unfolded like a play (after all, it was based off of a play), the overall production was a gem of 2007. The best performance was not Akshay Khanna, I believe, but Shefali Shah, who proved yet again that good acting is everything.
  • Black Friday-- So tragically real, and yet, so entertaining. All those Anurag Kashyup haters (I'm not one of them, because I admire his bluntness) may use "No Smoking" as an example of a failure, but not Black Friday. It was true, yet not racist- real, but not offensive. What more could one ask for from a movie about the horrible 1993 Mumbai Bombings?
  • Johnny Gaddaar-- Neil Mukesh is hot, but that's not why I liked the movie. It was a thriller done well, with an amazing script and great performances from all. I also applaud Neil Mukesh for his choice of debut to Bollywood. He himself said that he wanted a film that would show his acting ability, not his profitability. Lucky for him this film definitely proved both!
  • Bheja Fry-- Although it's a copy of a French film, this movie is on the list because it was a low budget alternative film-- yet highly entertaining, and it actually made some money. Great performances and fun movie, I hope to see more of these in the future.
  • Honeymoon Travels-- A comedy, yet one that was gutsy enough to include themes of feminism, homosexuality, and typecasting. It was silly at some points, but incredibly touching at others. This film touched on topics which were usually stereotypical and derogatory (interracial marriage, homosexuality) in mainstream Bollywood, and for that-- I applaud Farhan Akhtar for stepping away from typical masala and taking a risk to produce something much, much better.