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%


  1. Dear Ma'm,
    i know it's a li'l late in the year to say this, but i might as well do!

    your resolution of last year was very helpful in giving insights on various aspects of film viewing. i don't remember how i chanced upon that resolution of yours (sorry) but it amused me and probably elicited a slight chuckle too.

    nevertheless, following you on twitter and reading ALL the blog-posts of last year has been a lovely experience. sometimes, if i missed them right away...then i'd definitely remember to go back and check. sometimes...when you were tied up in work and couldn't write a review would strike me up by monday or so...arre! review nahin aaya blog par?!

    i really like your writing skills and manner of presentation. you even dissent so politely! other driving far to see a film and then ending up watching HP in hindi..were somewhat hilarious!

    many times...i REALLY pitied you, thinking, "poor lady, has to sit through unbearable movies 'for us'", despite knowing that it was because of your own resolution!

    some time in december, i was feeling a li'l bad, too. it occurred to me that you will no more be reviewing ALL the hindi films released..which means we may end up missing out on some interesting films..because they may not be easily accessible to you..and now you are not even bound by a resolution!

    to conclude..THANK YOU for ALL the effort you made to stick to your resolution and in the process provided us with MANY reviews and insights. i feel sorry that you had to bear some trouble for a few of those flicks.

    the piece of yours i liked the most... Partho's interview after Stanley ka Dabba released!


  2. Singham does not deserve to be in top 10 list.

  3. last Sunday my movie pick was "I Am" after reading your THE annavetticadgoes2themovies AWARDS on saturday. Truly movie like " I am" is face of Brave Indian Cinema who always lags behind becuase of poor marketing, our system and under Budget Consideration. I consider myself unlucky to remain unaware of this brilliant work by Onir and his team but i would like thank Anna Mam for getting me reach this movie thru this Awards and today i decided to watch "Shor in the City".
    Perhaps i could thank all the Crew members of "I Am" for their outstanding cinema without bothering about financial results.

  4. Dear Annaji,
    I haven't seen some of the top 10 films in the above list;but somehow managed to catch a few among them which got released in my home town last year. It was heart-warming experience to watch a film after reading your review as I could easily match up both of our views in many occasions. Also there had been instances where I disagree with your views;but unlike others you were a good listener and above all spent time in justifying your points in a convincing manner which I believe to be your unique quality.
    Coming back to the reviews, I take this oppurtunity to share my views about Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Apart from Spain tourism and sheer bonding between 3 friends, I felt the director succeeded in giving a strong message through its climax -“follow your heart and live life freely and not for the sake of others. If there is passion and dedication towards a specific goal and if we are ready to take up challenges in achieving it, we will surely emerge as winners”. This may sound silly but I expected this too in your review…:)
    It was equally delightful to watch some of the golden hollywood movies which got relaesed in 2011 and full credit goes to you for giving fruitful reviews about them prior to its release date in my town.
    A pat on your back for maintaining last year resolution without fail and continue to cherish us with your mind blowing reviews as always…:))
    Warm Regards