Good films rolled out in heartening splendour in 2006 ...

By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service

imageMumbai, (IANS) This year I felt I was a child in a toy store. The goodies from filmdom rolled out in heartening splendour. To pick out my favourites during a year dotted with dynamic delights is not an easy task.

But here goes the list that starts with Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's "Rang De Basanti" (RDB). It is also India's official entry to the Oscars this year.

1. "Rang De Basanti" - From "Sholay"'s Basanti to "Rang De Basanti" -- mainstream Hindi cinema took a U-turn this year. In the tradition of 'Guru Dutt's "Pyaasa" and Mahesh Bhatt's "Saraansh", RDB went way beyond a movie experience. It questioned the quality of contemporary life. Corruption ceased to be cool. What qualified as full-on cool was editing, music and performing profile. Every actor seemed to forget the camera. Almost a year after its release, the colours of RDB refuse to grown dim.

2. "Water" - Deepa Mehta's elegiac look at a widow's ashram on the banks of a quietly non-judgemental river, just swept me away in its bridled wave of emotions. Here is a filmmaker that feels deeply and expresses tightly. And to make John Abraham and Lisa Ray look convincing in white muslin was no joke. Wonder how Mehta managed what Ravi Chopra couldn't in "Baabul"... make widow rehabilitation look like a matter of the conscience. (Yet to be screened in India)

3. "Dor" - Nagesh Kukunoor's story of two young women's search for one destination had a devastating echoic effect underlining its acutely sensitive canvas. The locations were so real you could stand on that mound of boulders where the Rajasthani child-girl Ayesha Takia stood to mobile-connect with her long-distance husband, and get a view into the very heart of the universe. "Dor" is a film that lingers long after its playing time.

4. "Lage Raho... Munna Bhai" - Lage raho, Raju bhai. Raj Kumar Hirani pulled out all stops to give us a film that made us feel-good about life. Gandhigiri has become a catch phrase all over the country. Though, at the end of the year I did feel Gandhiji himself would have had a good laugh over this magnificent merchandising of the Mahatma.

5. "Gangster" - It was the dark horse of the year with a sublime performance by debutante Kangana Ranaut. Sodden, scarred and scared she ripped the screen apart with her searing presence. Anurag Basu's original screenplay hinted at fears and insecurities of human heart that his mentor Mahesh Bhatt used to specialise in.

6. "Dombivli Fast" - A Marathi film by debutant director Nishikant Kamath featuring Sandeep Kulkrani as a man, who after years of commuting through a life of middleclass drudgery loses the plot. Plotted like a thriller, "Dombivli Fast" was a taut and disturbing mirror of everyday anxieties edited at the pace of a local train in hurry to get to a place where the working class rests its case.

7. "Khosla Ka Ghosla" - The biggest surprises come in smallest packages. This was the sunshine film of the year about a Delhi denizen and his family getting together to fight a land shark. Superbly plotted with lines that flowed with the inevitability of a tube of toothpaste, this comedy was like Raj Khosla's "Do Raaste" gone zany. This was one 'Ghosla' that Raj Khosla would have happily inhabited.

8. "Omkara" - Saif Ali Khan as the newest avatar of Shakespeare's Iago as the epitome of evil -- so mean, so wicked and conniving -- he brought boorishness into vogue. If Shakespeare were alive to see the new interpretation of his tragedy, he would have probably smiled at the liberties with his text. God knows, director Vishal Bhardwaj's characters did not give us much to smile about.

9. "Vivah" - Simple, elegant, soft and supple "Vivah" brought back a feeling we had long abandoned in our quest for the Machiavellian world of "Omkara". To be simple is very difficult. Quite simply, Sooraj Barjatya pulled off that difficult job.

10. "Provoked" - Jagmohan Mundhra's well-crafted film on domestic violence gave actress Aishwarya Rai a chance to get into the skin of a real-life abused wife in London who finally has the guts to get up and say, 'I don't'. (The film has not been released in India yet)

11. "Pyaar Ke Side Effects" - Who would've thought there would be a chemistry between Mallika Sherawat and Rahul Bose? But the two whooped it up in this sex comedy as though they were made for each other. Urban couples identified completely with the angst of a commitment-phobic man and his anxious girlfriend. And talking to a certain intimate part of the male anatomy became an acceptable part of human behaviour.

12. "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna" - Karan Johar explored the anatomy of urban marriages with an aplomb that insouciantly belied his candyfloss image. As a filmmaker Johar crept coolly out of his nutshell into a knot-shell. The wedding planner in Johar went in and out of a quartet of lives. Two couples crisscrossed into one another's lives with terrible consequences. And their ugly confrontations were handled with dignity.

13. "Corporate" - Madhur Bhandarkar's sharp exploration of the corporate world was done with well-researched confidence. The ensemble cast from Bipasha Basu to Sammir Dattani lent a feverish flavour to the proceedings. Though not as engaging or path breaking as Bhandarkar's "Chandni Bar" or "Page 3", "Corporate" had a sustained breathlessness in its narration.