Saturday, February 18, 2012


Release date:
February 17, 2012
Gautham Vasudev Menon
Prateik Babbar, Amy Jackson, Manu Rishi

Truth be told, I’m so tense about my book deadline that I was planning to skip reviewing Ekk Deewana Tha. But writer-director Gautham Vasudev Menon has created such a silly myth about Malayali Christians in this film, and in the past 24 hours I’ve read so many conversations on Twitter by authorities of half-baked knowledge, that I couldn’t resist.
Stereotyping apart, Ekk Deewana Tha is an excellent case study for the worst way to remake a lovely film. Quite literally, it is a carbon copy of Menon’s own hit 2010 Tamil film Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (VTV / Will You Cross The Skies With Me). But you cannot Xerox a story, transport it to a completely different setting, and make no adjustments for the new milieu!
VTV was the story of the love between a Tamil Hindu boy and a Malayali Christian girl in Chennai, his unwavering feelings, her confusion and indecisiveness especially in the face of her family’s opposition, and an impetuous decision she takes in a fit of anger/irritation that changes their lives. It was a very poignant, very mellow film about two very real people whose longing for each other gave me an ache in my own heart. When Karthik is burning with desire for Jessie, you see it in the way his fingers surreptitiously brush against her feet as they sit chatting on a train. When he tells her their chemistry is undeniable, you see him seated across a table from her, locked in an argument, while in his mind’s eye he’s with her on her chair locked in a passionate embrace. Jessie was not a girl I entirely liked or respected, but of course such muddled-up, dithering women do exist. VTV was excellently acted by Silambarasan and Trisha Krishnan, impeccably written and directed by Gautham Menon, complemented by a top-class technical team, featured one of A.R. Rahman’s best ever soundtracks … and I loved every bit of it!
The Hindi remake Ekk Deewana Tha, on the other hand, works in places, but is filled with so many incongruities and strikes so many discordant notes that it is hard to get entirely drawn into the story.
The problems begin with the casting. British actress Amy Jackson plays Ekk Deewana Tha’s heroine Jessie, a Malayali Christian girl based in Mumbai. Is it just me or are there others out there who agree that Jackson does not look Indian? Dark hair doth not a desi beauty make! Her features are a tad too European to be convincing. While that may be debatable, what’s not debatable is that the poor girl has been bestowed with the worst make-up you’ve ever seen on a Bollywood heroine! Through parts of the film her face looks orange, elsewhere she has a light chin with dark cheeks and forehead, in one close-up it seems as though no effort was made to mask the dark circles around her eyes, and she looks oily faced almost throughout! It’s as if the entire technical team (make-up, lighting, camera) conspired against her in the film!
Prateik Babbar in Ekk Deewana Tha is Sachin, a Marathi Hindu unemployed engineer who wants to work in films. Playing a man who falls irrationally in love with Jessie, Babbar makes up somewhat for his shockingly bad performances in last year’s Aarakshan and My Friend Pinto. There’s a spark somewhere in there no doubt, so let’s not write him off just yet.
Those who’ve seen VTV may agree that Rahman’s lovely music is not used one-tenth as effectively here as it was in the original film. But the biggest issue with Ekk Deewana Tha is the writing. Menon is credited with the story and screenplay, while Manu Rishi has written the dialogues. Both of them seem strangely disconnected from the setting of their film, and that disconnect is exemplified by their portrayal of Jessie’s people. In VTV, the heroine’s Chennai-based family with their roots in Alappuzha seemed true-to-life … Malayali Christians tend to be conservative, and it’s quite believable that her family would frown upon love marriages and consider filmmaking a useless profession. Why just Malayali Christians? A large percentage of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs share these views too. But in the Hindi Ekk Deewana Tha, Messrs Menon and Rishi have a rather weird way of showcasing Jessie’s family’s orthodoxy. When she meets Sachin for the first time, Jessie explains that she was born and brought up in Mumbai. Since she’s 23, I guess I can safely assume that her entire family was based in Mumbai for at least 23 years? Yet an earlier conversation reveals that Jessie’s father does not know who Amitabh Bachchan is! And when Sachin asks Jessie about Malayalam megastar Mohanlal, she has not heard of him either! Her explanation: among us, watching films is considered “a sin”! She does not say “in my family”, she says “among us”. The implication being that Malayali Christians consider film-viewing a sinful pastime! Huh? That’s not true! Besides, how stupid and insular is this family that has lived in Mumbai for over two decades (in Juhu which is Bachchan’s neighbourhood) but is clueless about the Big B?!! And how lousy is this girl’s general knowledge that, despite being a Malayali, she is not aware of Mohanlal’s existence?!! Perhaps Gautham Menon would also like us to believe that Malayali Christians (even software firm employees like Jessie) don’t read newspapers, don’t watch TV, don’t notice hoardings, don’t talk to neighbours and colleagues, and in fact live in isolated settlements of the sort conceived by Manoj Night Shyamalan in The Village!
Sadly, because Menon is a south Indian himself and because he reportedly claims that Ekk Deewana Tha is his own story, there are Hindi film viewers out there who will assume that the picture he’s painted is correct. Sadder still, because south Indians (a.k.a. “Madrasis”) and Christians are still considered exotica by many people in the northern part of our country, this silliness too will be filed away in folklore. Though as @jojitjoseph wrote to me on Twitter, tongue firmly planted in cheek: “At least I am glad (that because of Ekk Deewana Tha) Bollywood now knows that there are Christians in Kerala. They believed that Christians are indigenous people only found in Goa.”
On the plus side, in Ekk Deewana Tha, Kerala as seen through cinematographer M.S. Prabhu’s lens is beautiful. And with all its flaws, the film does throw up scenes that tug at the heart strings, and others that are funny. I particularly enjoyed the one in which Sachin, seated in church during a wedding, guesses the bride’s next move based on the church weddings he’s seen in films. Some people may consider Jessie’s garrulous uncle in Alappuzha a stereotype, but I didn’t mind the bald little man’s enthusiasm for Hindi and “lenj” (lunch). Occasional caricatures can be amusing. Let’s focus our energies instead on ignorance, insidious stereotypes and disjointed film making.
Rating (out of five): **
CBFC Rating:                       U/A
Language:                              Hindi

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Dear Readers of my blog,
First, I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has read this blog since I started it last year. Thank you for your constructive criticism, your encouragement, your kind words and the time you’ve spent here with me. As many of you are already aware, I’ve taken a break from journalism – in particular the maniacal schedules of television – to write and teach. I’m currently working on a book on Bollywood (details of which I will share with you in the coming weeks and months), and since the idea for it came to me from the blog, I thought it would be wonderful to involve all of you in it.
So here’s what I propose ... I’m announcing a contest on this blog, inviting you to send me reviews of any Bollywood film/s of your choice released in 2011. This is an informal contest, so I’m not throwing any legalese at you. Here are some basic guidelines that I request you to follow:
1.      Each of you can send in as many reviews as you wish. Each review will be considered a separate entry.
2.      Each review can be 200 words or less, not a word more please
3.      The film you choose should have been released in 2011
4.      Please pick a film / films from among the 121 releases of 2011 that I have reviewed on this blog
5.      It goes without saying that I’m looking for original writing. However, since I am a one-woman operation without a large support staff, I can’t guarantee that I will spot instances of plagiarism. But remember that this blog is an open space and the Internet is filled with vigilant souls who will no doubt inform me if they see a post that appears to be lifted from previously published material. In fact, I request all of you to be watchful on my behalf.
6.      If you choose to send in an entry, I will assume that you have the copyright to the material you’ve sent me.
7.      Please do not feel any pressure to agree with my review/s of the film/s you choose. All I’m looking for are well-articulated views which show that the writer has a perspective on cinema.
8.      Please e-mail your entries to
9.      Please make sure you e-mail me your postal address and contact numbers along with your review
10.  The contest is open to anyone who is interested
11.  The entries must be in English
12.  Caveat: Poor grammar and spelling mistakes are frowned upon on this blog.
13.  As I said, this is an informal contest so there is no formal jury. I will pick the three best-written reviews from all the entries. The choice of winners will be solely, completely and entirely at my discretion.
14.  If I feel that any additional rules are required, I will add them here as and when the need arises along with the date on which the addition is made
15.  The three winning entries will be quoted in my book, either in full or in part
16.  The three winners will also receive a signed copy each of the book once it’s published
17.  Deadline for sending in your entries: 11.59pm on February 22, 2012 (Modified on February 24, 2012, at the request of several regular readers of this blog: The deadline for the contest has been extended to 11.59pm on Sunday, February 26. Thank you for your enthusiasm! And I really really can’t extend it beyond that because I’ve got my own deadline for the book J )
18. If the deadline is extended (solely at my discretion) I will make an announcement here on the blog and/or on Twitter
19.  I will let you know later how and when the winner will be announced
20.  “Previously published material” as mentioned in Rule 5 includes material already posted on a blog – yours or someone else’s. Please do not send me a review that you have already uploaded on your own blog or a blog being run by a third party or even a review that you earlier posted in the comments section anywhere on this blog. That won’t be much fun, now will it? (added on February 13, 2012)
Although I said this contest is open to anyone who is interested, I am particularly keen to encourage students and regular bloggers to participate. If you are a teacher please spread the word on my behalf among your students. If you have friends who are committed bloggers, please tell them about this contest too.
As Uriah Heep might have said … This is just my ’umble way of saying thank you to the social media and the blogosphere. J
Warm regards, Anna

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Release date:
February 10, 2012
Shakun Batra
Kareena Kapoor, Imran Khan, Ratna Pathak Shah, Boman Irani, Ram Kapoor

From The House Of Johar, abode of the Bollywood deities of Melodrama and Lavish Scale, comes this pleasantly small and sweet romantic comedy about friendship and love. It’s not so much a romance actually as a buddy movie with a boy and girl, and the coming-of-age story of the boy. There’s that eternal question: can two people of the opposite sex ever be friends without falling in love? The answer is not obvious, and you’re unlikely to guess it’s coming up even as Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu’s unusual ending nonchalantly strolls by.
By the time that happens, if your tastes are anything like mine, EMAET will have drawn you in so subtly that you will have forgotten the moment when you began to share Riana’s laughter, when Rahul’s pain became yours. Did I tell you their names are Riana Braganza and Rahul Kapoor? He’s an average guy who has never been good enough for his pushy parents. She’s a ray of sunshine bursting at the seams with talent. He’s a reluctant architect though his passion is photography. She’s a hairstylist and you wouldn’t guess from her cheery personality that she too gave up some dreams. Mr Tight Ass and Ms Free Spirit meet in Vegas and gel unexpectedly. Oh no, yet another film about opposites attracting, did I hear you say? But this one’s different. And for the record, it is not a copy of What Happens In Vegas.
Four years back, when Vidya Balan and Shahid Kapoor starred together in Kismat Konnection, Vidya was subjected to nasty remarks though she’s just four years Shahid’s senior. There were acerbic reactions even when Bipasha Basu, then 30, co-starred with Neil Nitin Mukesh, then 27, in Aa Dekhen Zara, though it was and still is routine for a man to play the lover of an actress 15-20 years his junior. But that gender-specific ageism has been very very very gradually declining from the Bipasha-Ranbir Kapoor pairing of Bachna Ae Haseeno onwards. What’s more, EMAET actually specifies that Imran Khan’s Rahul is 25 and Kareena Kapoor’s Riana is 26-going-on-27 … just in passing, perhaps to make the point that it’s no big deal.
Subtlety is, in fact, EMAET’s strength. That the heroine has had sex before marriage is not tackily trumpeted as a sign of liberalism or liberation, nor is it condemned … it’s just stated as a fact. The film is equally subtle about the lead pair’s religions. In contrast to earlier decades when every young Christian female character in Hindi films was a cabaret dancer or gangster’s moll or at best a secretary in minuscule outfits, in pointed contrast to the sari-wearing demure Hindu heroine, EMAET steers clear of the stereotype. Riana’s family is not caricatured either, unlike the Christian families of an earlier Bollywood when all the men were portrayed as drunkards, gangsters, bootleggers and bartenders, when all Christians wore huge crosses on their chests, made the sign of the cross in slow motion at the drop of a hat and could barely speak Hindi. In that sense, EMAET is a refreshing change from a film as recent as Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani in which the Hindi-speaking Hindu hero visits a church and suddenly switches to English as though a Christian god would not understand Hindi.
A lady in the hall where I watched EMAET did wonder aloud whether the film is playing it safe by making the heroine a Christian, as a way of explaining away an Indian girl being sexually active before marriage. The thought preyed on my mind for a few seconds … but well, if that really was the intent, I’ll let it pass since to my mind the actual stereotyping in this film is of socio-economic differences – Rahul’s mom is a typical rich bitch, dad is a cold and calculating bastard; they seem to be just tolerating each other in contrast to the middle-class warmth of the Braganza home. I’ll let this pass too because it contributed to the film’s fun quotient, especially that lively Auntyji song with Riana’s family and one neatly done climactic scene featuring a fork and chopsticks in the Kapoors’ Mumbai home!
The verdict … EMAET does take a bit too much time to pick up in the first half, but the pacing gets sorted out by the interval. The dialogues feel very real, except in two instances of trying-too-hard-to-be-what-we-think-cool-people-would-be … when Riana’s mom asks her if she’s PMS-ing and her dad asks if she’s had sex with Rahul. That apart, it’s an understatedly funny film completely unlike many recent Bollywood comedies – no hero peeing on a haystack here, no farting ape! The emergency in Riana’s life that brings her to Rahul’s house does seem slightly contrived in retrospect – why is a charming creature like her so friendless in Vegas? But that’s a minor squabble in the overall analysis.
Major grouse: Why doesn’t Kareena get the No. 1 slot in the credits? She’s the bigger star than Imran and lights up the screen every time she appears in EMAET. Imran is well suited to the role and is growing as an actor no doubt, but Ms Kapoor is just luminous! She could easily have played Riana as a city-bred version of Geet from Jab We Met, but she does not. So, like Geet, Riana is vivacious and fearless, but she has far more maturity, refinement and good sense. Imran and Kareena don’t have the searing sexual chemistry that Kareena shared with Hrithik Roshan in so many films, but such sparks would have been out of place here. Quite rightly, instead, they come across as one of those compatible couples who seem to enjoy each other’s company. Amit Trivedi’s music is as nice as Batra and Ayesha Devitre’s writing. EMAET didn’t take my breath away, but it did leave me with a warm, happy feeling.
Rating (out of five): ***
CBFC Rating:                       U/A
Running time:                        110 minutes
Language:                              Hindi

Photograph courtesy:   

Saturday, February 4, 2012

THE annavetticadgoes2themovies AWARDS - BEST FILMS 2011 :)

So the awards season is on in full swing. And I’ve given myself a nice long vacation from blogging. Time to lift myself out of my lazy stupor and write a piece on the Best Hindi Films of 2011.

Let me start with a caveat though – chances are that you’ve not seen the No. 1 film on my list. People often blame critics for leading insular lives, liking films that no one else does and hating films that the public loves. It’s just one of those generalisations that some people make unthinkingly … though usually when you scrape the surface you realise that most people regularly follow precisely one critic (or at best two) and attribute all that person’s qualities to all critics.

Anyone who actually reads more than one critic routinely will find that the cliché is so wrong. Each critic is an individual giving you a perspective on a film based on the sum total of her/his life’s experiences, exposure and interests. Critics are not a homogeneous mass of people with identical views. So while there may be films that more critics have liked than disliked, how often have you found a film towards which 100% of all critics had the same feelings?

There’s that other point … if a film has not been previewed for the press, a critic may go to great lengths, travel great distances to watch it even if it’s not been given convenient time slots in good theatres near home. The public is unlikely to do that, especially if the film has been poorly promoted. Sadly, at least 3 films on my list suffered greatly because audiences (and even some critics) were not aware of their existence till reviews were published on Friday or Saturday, by which time it was too late of course! A pity, because I Am, Memories In March and Bubblegum are really worth your time!

On a different note … Because of the New Year resolution I made last year to try my utmost not to miss a single Bollywood film released in my home city, my choice of Best Films of 2011 is based on having actually watched 121 films, not just the more high profile ones! You won’t find an awards jury to match the one you find on annavetticadgoes2themovies this awards season! J

My Best Film #1 of 2011: I Am

Director Onir’s brave film raises uncomfortable social and political questions that Hindi cinema prefers to avoid. I Am is a compilation of four short stories: of a young divorcee in Kolkata (Nandita Das) having a baby through artificial insemination; of a Kashmiri Hindu girl (Juhi Chawla) who returns to Srinagar for the first time since her family was forced to flee; of a film maker in Bengaluru (Sanjay Suri) whose seemingly callous nature camouflages his struggle to cope with memories of child sexual abuse; and a gay man (Rahul Bose) who is afraid to come out to his family. The scene showing a man being raped in that last story chilled me to the bone. But the account that moved me the most in this quartet was the one focusing on the politics of Kashmir, an issue shamelessly ignored by Bollywood. In a scenario where rabble-rousers try to force liberals into taking a stance that’s either entirely pro- or anti- either Hindus or Muslims, here is a film that does neither, and yet steers clear of secular clichés! Beautifully acted, beautifully told!

**** (For the original review of I Am, click here)

My Best Film #2: Shor In The City

When Ektaa Kapoor promised us alternative cinema through Alt Entertainment, she clearly meant it. Bollywood directors have repeatedly examined the underbelly of Mumbai, but no one has done it quite like Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK with Shor In The City, a film that should have been better marketed. Shor… cleverly blends the bleakness of Mumbai with humour to give us the stories of petty criminals Tilak, Ramesh and Mandook; an NRI who returns home to find that running a business without paying hafta is near impossible here; and an aspiring cricketer who learns that selection is done strictly on a merit-cum-means-to-pay-bribes basis. The sound design is particularly laudable, and whaddanensemblecast! Sendhil Ramamurthy (yessss, His Hotness Ramamurthy from the US tele-show Heroes!) made his Hindi film debut with Shor... While he is delicious, the pick of this enchanting cast is arguably Pitobash Tripathi playing a loose cannon whose idea of fun is to peep over a toilet wall and use a newly-acquired gun to threaten a man relieving himself! Shor… is one of the most unpredictable Hindi films I’ve seen, constantly swinging smoothly between laughter, tears and suspense. Lovely!

(For the original review of Shor In The City, click here)

My Best Film #3: Delhi Belly

2011 really and truly was The Year of The Ensemble Cast! Every single actor in Delhi Belly was perfect for their parts in this hilarious story of amorality in the Indian Capital. When a cache of diamonds gets mixed up with a stool sample headed for a doctor’s clinic, chaos ensues! The foul language in this film was much talked about, but frankly, it was neither over-the-top nor sensationalist … I’m afraid Dilli-vaasis are like that only, folks! And then there was that famous close-up of diarrhoea pouring out on to a table … Vijay Raaz as the gangster confronted with the flowing faeces must rank as one of the Best Supporting Actors of 2011 for his performance as a villain who manages to keep his emotions in check at most times. The other highlight of this excellent troupe of actors was Poorna Jagannathan, Indian-origin star of US TV making her Bollywood debut. The farting and the grumbling tummy in the film became a trifle excessive beyond a point. But I still got a belly-ache from laughing non-stop through director Abhinay Deo’s wonderfully constructed Delhi Belly!

***1/2  (For the original review of Delhi Belly, click here)

My Best Film #4: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Three friends go on a road trip through stunning Spain to take a break from life, rediscover themselves and each other. When the synopsis of Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was published, some cine buffs feared that it was Dil Chahta Hai revisited! Others made the accusation after seeing the film. Unfair, I say. This Hrithik Roshan-Farhan Akhtar-Abhay Deol-starrer takes us through the internal and inter-personal conflicts of these best buddies who make no apologies for their wealth and lead seemingly trouble-free lives. Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s music blended well with the setting, and the decision to get the three actors to sing their parts in the Senorita number was a masterstroke. Carlos Catalan’s cinematography was absolutely brilliant. The lead stars were impeccable. Akhtar was a revelation! And though some portions of the film felt like Spain Tourism advertisements, there was something irresistible about this mellow male bonding film with a uniquely feminine – and feminist – touch.

***1/2  (For the original review of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, click here

My Best Film #5: Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries)

Shai (Monica Dogra) is an NRI who is in Mumbai for work, Munna (Prateik Babbar) is the washerman who falls in love with her, Arun (Aamir Khan) is a reclusive painter she falls for, and Yasmeen (Kriti Malhotra) is a young bride whose life we see in flashback through videos that fall into Arun’s hands. Their separate yet intersecting stories were the fabric of debutante director Kiran Rao’s warm tribute to Mumbai. Except for Khan (also Rao’s husband and the film’s producer), the rest of the cast were all youngsters, mostly first-timers … but you wouldn’t guess that from their relaxed approach to acting. Babbar, who was so delightful in a cameo on debut in Abbas Tyrewala’s Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na in 2008, was loveable in Dhobi Ghat, yet seemed irredeemably bad in Aarakshan and My Friend Pinto later in the year – proof, if any was needed, that no actor is better than his director. Rao’s quiet storytelling style made this a charming ode to a metropolis she clearly loves, and the heartbreaks that accompany its throbbing heartbeat.

***1/2  (For the original review of Dhobi Ghat, click here)

My Best Film #5: Memories In March

If my son used condoms then he couldn’t have been gay, says a mother struggling to come to terms with the discovery of her late child’s homosexuality. Telling moments such as these fill Memories In March, a stirring English-Hindi-Bengali production that must rank as one of the most poorly marketed good films of 2011. Strictly speaking, I’m not sure it could be categorised as “Bollywood” … but it’s on my list anyway because I can’t let a minor quibble stand in the way of an excuse to talk about a heart-warming film. Deepti Naval shines as an emotionally conflicted parent. Rituparno Ghosh as her son Siddharth’s gay boss is spot-on. And Raima Sen delivers a typically under-stated performance as Siddharth’s colleague. Well scripted, well acted, well directed, pathetically promoted – films like this typify the great tragedy of niche cinema in India today … There are some little gems out there that run out of budgets and/or ideas for marketing! Keeping films like Memories In March a secret is an injustice to followers of good cinema!

***1/2  (For the original review of Memories In March, click here)

My Best Film #6: I Am Kalam

This comes straight from the heart of a hardcore film buff – thank you director Nila Madhab Panda for discovering Harsh Mayar! This little ball of dynamite has already won a National Award for his performance as Chhotu the dhaba boy in Rajasthan who is inspired by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s rise from poverty to the Presidentship of India. The nice thing about him is that there’s much more to him than his cuteness. Within just one film, Mayar displays more versatility than many adult actors do through an entire filmography! Matching his exuberance with reticence is the gifted Husaan Saad playing the neighbourhood Thakur’s lonely son with whom Chhotu strikes up an unlikely friendship. The film is clearly a call against child labour and in favour of education-for-all, but there’s nothing preachy about it. In an utterly guileless fashion, Panda captures the colour, sounds and feel of this remote dhaba, the foreigners who fill its charpoys, and the chirpy, hard-working child who serves them with a smile while dreaming of bigger things. Forget the slightly unconvincing end, and what you get is a sweet, funny, realistic, entertaining, well-intentioned film.

***1/2  (For the original review of I Am Kalam, click here)

My Best Film #7: Singham

1970s-style Bollywood melodrama + fantastical dishum-dishum + dialoguebaazi + an invincible hero = Singham. Oh how I loved watching Ajay Devgn beating up all the baddies single-handedly in those delightfully choreographed, over-the-top fight scenes! This story of an honest policeman who crosses swords with an evil politician was the official Hindi remake of the Tamil film of the same name starring Surya. Director Rohit Shetty cast Prakash Raj from the original film as the villain here too. Wise move! The background score and title song raised the film’s energy levels by many notches. But what I found most attractive about Singham were its dialogues infused with a drama that once filled the films starring The Big Bachchan. Of course it’s all improbable. But who cares when the bad guy’s constant refrain is, “Sab kuchh karne ka, lekin Jaykanth Shikre ka ego hurt nahin karne ka.” And there’s the hero’s one-liner, so apt for an India reeling under the impact of 60-plus years of corruption: “Meri zaroorte kam hai, isliye mere zameer mein dum hai.” Seetiyaaaaan!

***1/2 (For the original review of Singham, click here)

My Best Film #8: Don 2

Action with a sense of humour … that’s what worked for me in Don 2. Like the 2008 Don – a remake of the 1978 film of the same name starring Amitabh Bachchan – in this one too Shah Rukh Khan gave us a re-interpretation (not a copy) of that iconic character. Three years back, SRK transformed Amitabh Bachchan’s original Don into a physically less intimidating fellow, both impudent and arrogant, yet willing to laugh at himself. In 2011, he continued the self-mocking tone. It formed a lethal blend with Farhan Akhtar’s confident direction, some world-class action scenes, the effective use of Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s evocative music, slick dialogues plus that rare Bollywood heroine (Priyanka Chopra) who was as comfortable as her hero with car chases and kicking butt. True, some of Don’s schemes were not convincing enough, and there were other flaws in the script that should have been corrected. But by the time the closing song rolled on to the screen, with flames of near-tangible chemistry flashing between SRK and PC, all was forgiven!

***1/2  (For the original review of Don 2, click here)

My Best Film #8: Force

Force, starring John Abraham and Genelia D’souza, was a remake of Gautham Menon’s Tamil film Khaaka Khaaka starring Surya and Jyothika. The action in director Nishikant Kamat’s Hindi version was h-h-h-hot, as was John Abraham playing a cop who shuns personal attachments for fear that they could turn into Achilles heels in his professional life. Abraham – much maligned by critics on the acting front – turned in his career best performance in this film as a no-nonsense cop who falls reluctantly in love. Matching up to him very effectively was an interesting newcomer called Vidyut Jamwal playing the drug baron whose wrath he earns. Force was not as emotionally appealing as the very poignant Tamil original. Better chemistry between the lead pair would have made this a different film. Ah well … what we got instead was an intense thriller with the deadly combination of Action Abraham, sharp editing, Harris Jeyaraj’s music and some of the most unforgettable fights and chases I’ve seen in a Hindi film!  

***1/2  (For the original review of Force, click here)

My Best Film #9: Bubblegum

Brilliant ensemble casts and the emergence of some superb child actors … those were the high points of 2011. Director Sanjivan Lal’s Bubblegum had both. This loveable film set in 1980s Jamshedpur is about teenaged romance and sibling rivalry in an era before cellphones and the Internet. It’s also about the inevitable tensions in a household where well-meaning parents end up unintentionally showering more attention on a child with special needs. Vedant (Delzad Sanjay Hiwale) is struggling with his first crush when his brother Vidur (Sohail Lakhani) comes home from boarding school for the holidays. Vidur’s speech and hearing impairment tends to make him the centre of attention at home, causing Vedant to resent him. This is not a film with snazzy plot twists but a simple narration of life as it is and was. The immensely talented Hiwale and Lakhani were backed by a team of young and old co-stars so good that at times while watching Bubblegum it was hard to believe they were performing before a camera; it felt like they were just being … and just being themselves. Such nostalgia, such charm!

***1/2 (For the original review of Bubblegum, click here)

My Best Film #10: Stanley ka Dabba

As much as I’m in love with the children in this film, it was director Amole Gupte’s approach to making Stanley ka Dabba that I found most fascinating. It was shot through a year-and-a-half-long workshop with the students of a Mumbai school, during which Gupte kept an unimposing little camera running and told the kids to improvise dialogues and just be themselves. The fruits of this amazing and time-consuming experiment are the incredibly natural performances that you see in the film. The story is of a poor boy called Stanley who is victimised by a bullying teacher in his school. The leading little man is played by a bright young actor called Partho who happens to be Gupte’s son. Hopefully we will get to see a lot more of him and the rest of the child brigade that make Stanley ka Dabba what it is. On the downside, I’m troubled by the film’s completely uncritical view of children as flawless creatures. But that does not take away from the fact that this is a pathbreaking film with completely, utterly, unarguably memorable performances

*** (For the original review of Stanley ka Dabba, click here)

My Best Film #10: Sahib Biwi aur Gangster

Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Sahib Biwi aur Gangster is an uncommon story of politics and crime in a small northern Indian town. The story is about the son of an erstwhile royal family (the sahib), the criminal activities he indulges in to supplement his dwindling wealth, his love-starved and mentally unhinged wife (the biwi) and the mole planted in his household by a rival (the gangster). The tightly written script combined with equally tight editing made this a highly entertaining drama. The locations looked authentic, the art design gave the film an atmospheric feel. And the lead trio –Mahie Gill, Jimmy Shergill and Randeep Hooda – were just right. The sex too was served more tastefully than we’re used to seeing in Bollywood films that have so much of it! Not in the same league as the Hindi film classic to which the title bears a resemblance, but a fitting and unusual modern-day tribute all the same!

*** (For the original review of Sahib Biwi aur Gangster, click here)

(Photograph credits are listed with the reviews of individual films to which links have been provided above)

FOOTNOTE: My list of Best Films of 2011 is based entirely on my personal assessment of the films, and completely unrelated to their ultimate box-office performance. However, a few weeks back I had conducted a poll on this blog asking you to vote for your choice of Best Film from among Bollywood’s top 10 box-office earners of 2011 as per the trade website The list (in order of box-office ranking) was as follows: 

1. Bodyguard
2. Ra.One
3. Don 2
4. Ready
5. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
6. Singham
7. The Dirty Picture
8. Rockstar
9. Mere Brother ki Dulhan
10. Delhi Belly

Your choice of Best Film from the above list based on your votes is as follows:
1. Don 2 – 32%
2. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara - 26%
3. Bodyguard – 11%
4. Rockstar – 7%
5. Delhi Belly – 6%
6. The Dirty Picture – 5%
6. Singham - 5%
7. Ra.One – 2%
7. Mere Brother ki Dulhan – 2%
8. Ready – 1%