The best of Bollywood 2005 ...

By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service

imageMumbai, Jan 2 (IANS) This year

at the movies I felt like a child at a toy shop. So much to choose from. So many colours of life, so many vibrant styles of


From wacky satires that didn't work (Kamal Haasan's "Mumbai Express") and historicals that were hysterical (Ketan Mehta's

"Mangal Pandey - The Rising") to period films that were noble failures (Subhash Ghai's "Kisna", Akbar Khan's "Taj Mahal");

from sleazy cornballs (Ashu Y. Trikha's "Sheesha", Jai Prakash's "Chaahat Ek Nasha") and unclassifiable oddballs (Chandan

Arora's "Main Meri Patni Aur Woh, Ruchi Narain's "Kal", Kannika Verma's "Dansh", Ashwini Chowdhary's "Siskiyan") to ragas of

finesse (Onirban's "My Brother Nikhil", Pradeep Sarkar's "Parineeta", Jahnu Barua's "Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara") and slick

eye-candy (Siddharth Anand's "Salaam Namaste", Shaad Ali's "Bunty Aur Babli"), and finally an outright classic (Sanjay Leela

Bhansali's "Black")... yes, I saw them all.

Here's looking back at my favourite films in 2005:

1. "Black": Sanjay Leela Bhansali's passionate interpretation of Helen Keller's brave struggle to overcome her handicap is

truly the most inspired and inspiring film of the year. While telling an inspirational tale, the director never loses track

of his main aim as a filmmaker: he grips, entertains and rivets viewers as the teacher (Amitabh Bachchan) and the taught

(Ayesha Kapoor/Rani Mukerji) blend into an enraptured embrace. Seamless as it is flawless, "Black" is a truly universal film

with the Bachchan giving what history might well judge as the single finest male performance in Indian cinema. Yup, the real

miracle worker is Bhansali.

2. "Page 3": A miracle of another order. How did director Madhur Bhandarkar do it? After laying two turnips ("Satta",

"Aan"), he bounced back to his "Chandni Bar" calibre of raw real and pain-lashed cinema. Filmed as a pastiche of scenes from

Page 3 parties, "Page 3" is replete with characters who jump out and clasp you by your throat.

No one gives an 'outstanding' performance. All the 40-odd characters blend into Bhandarkar's fluent narration, heralding a

new-age cinema, which doesn't sacrifice a solid storyline for technique and élan. Are the avant-garde sections of Bollywood

watching? "Page 3" is the future of mainstream cinema.

3. "King Kong": Yup, size does matter. 2005 was the year of unconventional yet sublime love relationship. If in "Black" we

saw an aging 'guru' (teacher) guide his physically challenged pupil into the light, in "King Kong" we see a love so

unorthodox and forbidden and yet so heartwarming it makes us want to sing hosannas for the genius who invented love for the


What astonishes and overwhelms is the emotional richness of the central romance. The gorilla (played by Andy Serkis) is so

human and humane in his sudden and irreversible love for the pretty Ann that we watch the love flow from the very heart of

the techno-savvy plot. Fated to be recognised as a landmark motion-picture achievement, "King Kong" is a film you should put

right on top of your must-see list. See it for the love of movies ...or for the love of love.

4. "My Brother Nikhil": An elegiac tale of a swimmer coming to terms with his sexuality, "Nikhil" was a path-breaker that

didn't take the untried path just to be different. Director Onirban had a gut-wrenching tale to tell. Hats off to Sanjay Suri

and Purab Kohli who had the guts to play Hindi cinema's first gay couple. The relationship was dealt with maturity and lack

of fuss. The film was as mellow and aqueous as the Goan seas, which overlooked this cool crossover film


5. "Sarkar": Ram Gopal Varma's finest work since "Company". "Sarkar" proved an astonishing showcase for the father-son

Bachchan duo. It tapped an entirely new dimension in the personalities of both Amitabh and Abhishek, casting them as a father

and son in ways that made then look compatible yet excitingly different from the way the public perceives them. The tinge of

real-life (Bal Thackeray) provided the material with the luminous layering of a film-noire. Months after release, the dark

images of gangsterism continue to haunt and nag. Moral Of The Amoral Tale: Ramu should just focus on films that he directs.

Forget "James", "My Wife's Murder", "Mr Ya Miss"... whatever.

6. "Antarmahal": Bengali brilliance included in this list for the long shadows it casts over the ambit represented by the

man-woman relationship. Rituparno Ghosh's economy of space and expression was evident in the sparse use of his star

attraction. Abhishek Bachchan as the Bihari idol-maker gave a deeper performance than "Bunty Aur Babli", "Sarkar" or

"Bluffmaster". The narrative was erotic. And the claustrophobic ambience of 19th century feudal Bengal came across


7. "Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara": Is picture ko kisne mara (Who killed this movie?)? On the one hand, Yash Raj Films faced

flurried flak for the de-robed excesses of "Neal 'N' Nikki". On the other, they marketed their proudest product to date.

Writer-director Jahnu Baruah's film about a daughter's struggle to cope with her father's illness was more a study of

resilience than Gandhism. A riveting chamber piece with unforgettable performances by Anupam Kher and Urmila Matondkar.

8. "Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi": A Gandhian tale with a difference. Director Sudhir Mishra's sly and sharp look-see at a

lost generation during Indira's Gandhi's regime placed a love triangle at the helm, and then went at a defunct and corrupt

political system with hammers and tongs.

The stunning finale had Shiny Ahuja's character almost being bludgeoned to death by a couple of cops like a stubborn rat.

Hollywood filmmaker Martin Scorsese met Govind Nihalani in Sudhir Mishra's very original and thought-provoking political

parable. Different needn't be meritorious. This film was both.

9. "Iqbal": Nagesh Kukunoor's ramrod-straight unsentimental tale about a deaf and mute boy (Shreyas Talpade) and his

struggle to become a national-level cricketer was remarkable for its absence of sentimentality. There were occasions galore

for soppy tears.

Kukunoor looked at the world of the brave and the unvanquished with dry-eyed normalcy. Hold on to that outstanding

performance by Naseeruddin Shah as a burnt-out alcoholic coach. All resemblances to a certain Mr. Bachchan's character in

"Black" were purely coincidental.

10. "Bose: The Forgotten Hero": "Bose"... the forgotten film! Inept marketing and the audiences' utter lack of interest in

history (remember what happened to the Bhagat Singh films?) killed the impact of this meticulously mounted story celebrating

one of Indian history's most unassailable heroes. Sachin Khedeker in the title role worked hard to get the nuances right. A

labour of love born to blush unseen.

11."Parineeta": Pradeep Sarkar's ode to Saratchandra's persistent obsession with theme of childhood love across the

economic barrier, took some startling liberties with the original material. The author would've probably committed suicide if

he had seen his 'innocent' lovers sleeping together in this remake. And therein lay this new literary adaptation's charm. It

wasn't slavishly devoted to the source material. Sarkar slipped in and out of Saratchandra, seeking out nuances that could've

been lost in translation. And what a vibrant volte-face of image for Saif Ali Khan!

12. "Staying Alive": Ananth Mahadevan's deeply moving chamber piece about two unlikely patients facing a death threat in

the ICU is yet to be released commercially. It should and it must. Mahadevan's understated exposition on mortality exudes the

scent of life and lyricism.