Mayank Shekhar's round-up 2011: Best and worst movies

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By Hindustan Times

As with all art, I suppose, there’s no such thing as a good or bad film. There are films that affect you, others that don’t. Some can blow your mind. The ones below did mine. They deserve awards, except no one will care to roll out red carpets for them next year. We humbly oblige. Presenting then the 10 films of 2011 that topped from the bottom of our brains. These were movies so bad they turned out to be beyond good:

Ultimate Rajshri reproduction: Sachin Pilgaonkar’s Jaana Pehchana
About 75 per cent of the movie, in flashback, is a picture called Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se, a 1978 Bollywood version of Eric Segal’s Love Story. The rest is set in the present; here the hero meets another girl, who looks the same as his dead girlfriend. You begin to see in twos: actor Sachin at 21 in his frizzy curls; Sachin at 54 in what looks like a wig. Heroine Ranjeeta, with a hennaed Jaana Pehchanafringe, scary eyelashes, in a sari; a much younger Ranjeeta as Lily in shirts and skirts. Your grandmom and your girlfriend on either side in the theatre: One leaves humming the melodious bhajan type romantic number, Ankhiyon Ke Jharokon Se; the other goes home with a worrying headache. This is classic mild. Smoke it.

Stranger than fiction: Tarique and Sahil Seth’s A Strange Love Story
The heroine’s a screechy nymphet. After her mom died, her dad ran away with a girl her age. This is why, she says, she smokes a lot of cigarettes! She is now being followed around by “jinnaat” (plural for genie). You see, the world is divided between humans and animals. And then there’s another species called — “ek aur specie jinko kehte hain” — Jinnaat. You either believe her, or shudder in disbelief: effect’s the same.

So far we’ve met a Christian priest and a horny Hindu Godman “Jai Mahakaal”. Finally, we’re at a Muslim Baba Mustafa’s den. Devotees are in a state of trance. The usher plays football in a field where you can no see no other players. The ball gets passed around still, from one corner to another. The teams are invisible. A goal gets scored, because one of the unseen players, the goalkeeper, is apparently away.... That’s it. You need no more proof. This underground genie stuff is work of sheer genius. Try this at home, under medical supervision, of course.

Turd Reich: Rakesh Kumar’s Gandhi To Hitler
“Dr Goebbels ko bulao,” Adolf Hitler yells. “Bulao” (bring ‘em on), you say (in your head). Given ‘Mungeri Lal’ Raghuveer Yadav is Hitler in blue contact lenses, you wonder if ‘Dr Dang’ or ‘Gabbar’ will land up for Dr Goebbels. It’s an Andheri actor all right. Naseer (pedophile from movie Page 3) plays architect Albert Speer. He shakes his head when Hitler commands, “Yeh saare pull uda do (blow up all the bridges).” Uda do.

The stage’s set. This is a fabulous fancy dress show. What do the characters — Gandhi, Hitler, Aman Verma — have to do with each other? Doesn’t matter. The filmmakers find enough in this time-space continuum to break into an upbeat Holi song and a couple of good quality ghazals.

Hitler’s nervous. Towards the end, his body shakes like he’s getting epileptic fits. His partner, Eva Braun, that’s Neha Dhupia, says, “Some music, my Fuehrer? Main aapko aisa nahin dekh sakti (I can’t see you like this).” “Theek hai,” says Hitler. “Kuch acchha sa laga do! (Put on something interesting).” Put it on, the movie’s DVD. Right now.

Lovably lame: Abhinay Deo’s Game
Boman Irani is front-runner to the prime minister’s post in Thailand. Abhishek Bachchan is a casino owner in Istanbul. Jimmy Shergill is a Bollywood superstar. Anupam Kher is a billionaire with a private island, who calls all these assorted guys over, hosts them for a night, so they can murder him! Investigation starts.

Kangana Ranaut is the world’s top-most detective, whose sleuths are connected with close circuit cameras and under-cover cops everywhere, from the streets of Greece, Thailand to the pandu hawaldar in Andheri police station. Background score is an indoor concert. What more do you want? Let the game begin!

Dam and dumber: Sohan Roy’s Dam 999
Couple looks at a river embankment. “You remember this dam?” hero asks. “They’re holding pressure like us!” Audience laughs. The woman with a perpetually constipated expression on her face had been dating the hero since childhood. Their horoscopes didn’t match. Once they’d held hands, a family member passed away.

Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles, imagine what would happen if they were to make out. So you know what happens next. This is a disaster movie. But nobody could have prepared you for Ayurvedic massages, astrology mumbo-jumbo and a Brit gent, who could be mayor in contemporary, communist, Godless Kerala.

You do look inwards, given the film’s Vedic philosophy, and finally wonder, “What’s this heavy helmet resting on the bridge of my nose? Is this a 3D movie?” Yup. Uncles at the Academy heard its soundtrack, nominated it for the Oscars. They should’ve seen the film. They would’ve loved it far more. You will too.

Going ding ding: Puneet Issar’s I Am Singh
Appalling Americans murder and beat the hell out of Sikhs after 9/11, confusing them for Afghans and Arabs. One after another, the movie provides us with Aaj Tak type TV recreations of various hate crimes against Sikhs, from Arizona to California. What does the hero do? To start with, he wakes up the sleeping Sikh patriot within him, imagines warriors holding up swords, marching to medieval battlefronts, fire lighting up the line of defense, as an angry bird casts its shadow on the troops.

After this, he goes to fight his case in an American court! White skinheads growl. Officers from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) turn out to be terribly rude, racist, incompetent, and even worse actors. The film’s director, Puneet Issar, best known for injuring Amitabh Bachchan on the sets of Coolie (in 1982) walks on to the screen, chanting in his inimitably croaky voice, “I’ll be the victaar in the turban case.”

I am Singh

This Sikh character was suspended from LAPD because of his turban. He should be commissioned again, right away, you plead. Send him back to the cops, please. Just lower the volume while you enjoy his flick though.

Salacious, hilarious: Sushen Bhatnagar’s Monica
We’re in New Delhi, the nation’s corrupt capital, where literally everyone’s in bed with the other, if not with Monica. Sex is no bar. Pamelaji, for instance, is a catty industrialist. Pammi aunty also strokes Monica’s bare back as they tuck themselves into a satin bed cover. Monica’s also bedding the telecom minister.

She used to cover universities for a local newspaper in Lucknow once. By now, she is a special correspondent, no less, from a “mamuli (ordinary) sub-reporter,” the filmmakers suggest. They probably mean a cub reporter, or a sub-editor.

She can become associate editor if she listens to her boss, who has no control over what she publishes as front-page lead stories in the paper he edits!

Heroine’s on the run. Minister, editor send out goons to hunt her down. Filmies in Bombay find their lives misrepresented in the press. If this film is any indication of what journalism could be like, God save the news. You mustn’t deny yourself this precious education still; this tragicomedy comes strongly recommended.

Deliriously dumb maal: Indra Kumar’s Double Dhamaal
Javed Jaffery plays a UD (under-developed) man-child Manav here, as he did in Dhamaal. He ups the act further in this sequel, changing his costume, hamming it up as a moronic kid with Mickey Mouse hair, besides other mimicries.

The other three actors (Riteish Deshmukh, Ashish Chaudhary, Arshad Warsi), Manav’s buddies, double or quadruple up their parts, non-stop for over a couple of hours, impersonating everything from a fake gorilla making out with a real one; a black-polished Caribbean lover-boy in a huge Afro; a Gujarati businessman with weird teeth; Sikh security guard getting his Punjabi right; Spanish prostitute with massive cleavage.

When they’re in their own character, relatively normal selves, they’re supposed to sound like Shatrughan Sinha, Shah Rukh Khan, Sanjeev Kumar. What for, but? Frankly, I don’t know. I don’t think they asked either.

The sort of public embarrassment Indian actors endure for our entertainment’s sake; they should be entitled to a gallantry award. Come on, the least we can do is watch them.

A star is corn: Tanveer Khan’s Miley Na Miley Hum / Prashant Chadha’s Azaan
Uncomfortable on screen, untrained performers off it, casually low on body movements, high on screen time; mostly given to monosyllables and mono-expressions. One (Chirag) is a blue-eyed boy of a Bihari politician (Ram Vilas Paswan); literally, unless those are blue contact lenses in his eyes.

The other (Sunil Joshi) is the son of a major Gutka baron: cute, chubby faced hero, with a smart stubble, shaven chest, hairy back, he loves bazookas, car chases, mortal combat, rock-climbing, globe-trotting, Hollywood blockbusters and a Playboy Playmate (Candice Boucher).

Both leading men have built their bodies, perhaps learnt a dance step or two. Crores have been spent to turn them into super-stars. Surely you can spend Rs 100 or two to watch such corny moments of movie history. What, you’re looking for stories instead? Go read a book.

GOLDEN TROPHIES, 2011

Salman Khan (Bodyguard, Ready) was the top performer in Bollywood of 2011. Let alone that terrible news. Here’s the good one: there’s a whole world within striking distance from where you can hear cash registers ringing incessantly, and the movie that’s killing it at the box-office is neither a Southern remake nor being panned by reviewers.

This was the year when critical acclaim, in a lot of cases, simultaneously spelt commercial success. In case you missed these films, you can watch them on DVD, many years later as well, which is what counts for more than a first weekend’s collections. Here’s my list of the top 10 of ‘11:

Zindagi1. Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
Heartrending yet hilarious, expansive, still intimate, this is an urbane bromance that, like its predecessor Dil Chahta Hai, will pass the test of time. Easily the best ‘mainstream, commercial’ film of the year.

2. Abhinay Deo’s Delhi Belly
At once outrageous and outstanding, this picture proved that crass toilet humour, served with such no-holds-barred sense of purpose, can be loved and appreciated for its honesty still. Full respect.

3. Kiran Rao’s Dhobi Ghat
Calm, lyrical, expressive, minimalist: all of it in about 90 minutes, paying tribute to a city where classes merge into a common river of sorrow, beauty and hope. We remain unaware of how each of us affects the other every day. If you’re conscious, this film’s subtlety will touch you for sure.

4. Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster
Punk chauffeur, scheming wife, credulous landlord, and a page-turner script set in Middle India that has a twist waiting for you at every corner. This Macbeth-like tragedy reminds you less of Guru Dutt’s Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam, more of Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool. What better compliment to pay.

Rockstar5. Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar
In a word, this movie displayed, beyond doubt, Bollywood has an altogether new rockstar now. In time-honoured tradition, if it’s not a Khan or Kumar, it’s a Kapoor!

6. Shoaib Mansoor’s Mansoor Bol
This Urdu gem’s poetic enough in its dialogue to make you feel like you’re at a mushaira. Screenplay is a literary tour de force, almost like an accomplished novel, set in contemporary, apolitical side of Pakistan. Performances, especially of the flawed old Hakeem (Manzar Sehbai), remain unmatched. Truly, super bol, this.

7. Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru’s Shor In The City
Very Guy Ritchie in its goofiness, completely Mumbai in its chaos, this richly textured, inspiringly cast, stream of consciousness plays along with several stories meeting on Ganesh Chaturthi. I suspect if Suketu Mehta’s stupendous Maximum City was a film, it’d come close to this.

8. Rajkumar Gupta’s No One Killed Jessica / Milan Luthria’s The Dirty Picture / Anand Rai’s Tanu Weds Manu
Semi-realistic, hugely entertaining, smartly original: girl-power galore. I guess if the vane super-stars continue to play themselves on screen, it’s the ladies who must take the lead. Audiences thankfully approve.

9. Amole Gupte’s Stanley Ka Dabba / Sanjeevan Lal’s Bubble Gum / Nila Panda’s I Am Kalam
Child is clearly the father of (the leading) man, the mentioned movies showed this well: each of them truthful at heart, sorted in the head, deeply evocative, marvelously inspired.

10. Sudhir Mishra’s Yeh Saali Zindagi / Prawal Raman’s 404
Both thrillers: one, slightly Dickensian, the other, super-natural. Tension is at once withheld, and released, and withheld again. So is the suspense. As they say, on the whole (ah, I love, on the whole), neither disappoints!

Box Office Results

  1. P.K. INR 198 cr.
  2. Action Jackson INR 53 cr.
  3. Ungli INR 19 cr.
  4. Happy Ending INR 20 cr.
  5. Kill Dil INR 30 cr.

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