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Thursday, 10 January 2013

Tintin's Top Ten: 10 best Bollywood movies of 2012

Tintin's Top Ten

Onto 100 Year's of Bollywood, Looking back at 2012's Top Ten

Happy New Year!!! I know I am a little late, but as I mentioned previously; Personal duty called. The previous year was majestic in it's way especially for Movies. The big Marvel Avengers gamble paid off, The greatest CBM series ended with a Rising, Science Fiction rocked cinephiles, Spider-Man celebrated his 50th year with brother in arms Agent 007 AKA James Bond.

Most importantly however, Bollywood entered into a century of entertaining fans around the world with the end of 2012. The year saw a loss of some great legends, women shouldering blockbusters in cinemas, A bevy of 100 crore (1 billion rupees) grossers (out of which most were really just crap!!!) and the vital rise of the Hindies (a topic for another day)

So, in ode to the 100 years of Bollywood that culminates this year. I will be counting down the 10 Best Bollywood movies of the year. This list will be in my opinion, so let me make this crystal clear; I am a huge fan of Bollywood Art House Cinema. Movies that make the viewers think and are not very entertaining to the masses* will be all included here. This year's big blockbusters (apart from a few) were not worth the money they grossed at the box office so I will definitely not include those in my countdown. There will also be mention of a few other notable choices to look into as well as those movies I have yet to see. Also all ten of these movies could have easily featured at the top spot, So here goes, from number 10;

10. OMG!

Director: Umesh Shukla

Cast: Paresh Rawal as Kanji Lalji Mehta, Akshay Kumar as Krishna Vasudev Yadav/Krishna (God), Mithun Chakraboraty as Leeladhar Swami, Om Puri as Advocate Hanif Qureshi, Mahesh Manjrekar as Lawyer Sardesai, Govind Namdeo as Siddeshwar Maharaj, Poonam Jhawer as Gopi Maiyya and Lubna Salim as Susheela Mehta

Genre: Comedy/Satire/Social

Budget/Box Office: 20/83 Crore (1 Crore= 10 million)

Best Scene: Kanji in court explains that he saw a beggar watching the milk run through a dirty sewage outside a temple. This milk was being poured inside the temple on an idol of a god. Seeing this Kanji says to the court, he realized that he would  rather give the milk to the poor beggar than pour it on just some statue.

Best Performance: Paresh Rawal as Kanji Lalji Mehta

Score: 8.1/10 (Story-8.7, Direction-8.1, Performance-9.3,Score-6.3)

At number 10 is Oh My God! The movie charts the tale of an idol seller and atheist Kanji Lalji Mehta (Paresh Rawal) who abuses God believing him to be a Hoax. His accusations soon create a storm among Hindu priests causing an earthquake that destroys only his shop within the market area. With the insurance company claiming it as an 'act of god' and preventing him from reclaiming any money. In turn Kanji decides to sue god and here begins the main plot. He begins to fight for his right and in turn becomes a lawyer for all those who have been denied by the Insurance company under the 'act of god' claim. His fight reels in priests from church, temples and mosques most importantly antagonist Mithun Chakraboraty as corrupt and wicked Leeladhar Swami. His case then ends up bringing in God (Akshay Kumar) himself to help him understand that Kanji should rather fight against those who use the name of god to swindle people. This in turn teaches Kanji to go from not believing in God into believing him in the correct way (not praising and giving money to idols etc.).

The Movie is a splendid entertainer mixed with a moral. The performances are top notch with the lead protagonist Paresh Rawal (fame Hera Pheri) giving it his all, his reliable comic timing and the passionate way in which he potrays a ordinary man fighting as a lawyer is one to watch for. The supporting characters are also a thrill, most important of all is Akshay Kumar (fame Khiladi franchise), as God he plays of Rawal's timing and situational comedy to create a believable but not too preachy character. Wishing, to see this Akshay Kumar style of acting in his next movies.

9. Agneepath

Director: Karan Malhotra

Cast: Hrithik Roshan as Vijay Deenanath Chauhan, Rishi Kapoor as Rauf Lala, Sanjay Dutt as Kancha Cheena, Priyanka Chopra as Kaali Gawde, Om Puri as Commissioner Gaitonde, Zarina Wahab as Suhasinin Chauhan and  Chetan Pandit as Master Deenanath Chauhan.

Genre: Action/Drama

Budget/Box Office: 60/121 Crore 

Best Scene: Vijay gets his revenge, as he hangs Kancha to the tree where his father was hanged. He does this while reciting the poem 'Agneepath' as taught by his father with wild fury and passion.

Best Perfromance: Sanjay Dutt as Kancha

Score: 8.3/10 (Story-7.1, Directing-8.5, Performance-9.6, Score-7.8)

Action Packed! Intense! And Masala Entertainer! This is you typical big budget, big superstars, big producer's Bollywood film. The first mega blockbuster of 2012 for Bollywood. Agneepath is a harrowing revenge tale which sees a young Vijay (Hrithik Roshan) seeking vengeance against the man (Kancha) who wrongly accused his father of rape and got him hanged by the villagers of Mandwa as well as got his family to run away. Vijay uses the Mumbai underworld and it's overlord Rauf Lala (Rishi Kapoor) to defeat Kancha and regain the drug induced and now military camp-like Mandwa.

The movie is a Bollywood spectacle that urges it's viewers to get a feel of the Indian film culture. It has the catchy tunes, the beautiful women, the heroic and driven lead and his grotesque over the top foes. While it does seem stereotypical in it's theme and genre, Agneepath is relatively better than other Masala entertainer's this year in hindsight due to it's gritty nature, mature content, fearless drama and dynamic performances.

 The three male leads are a must watch, each one brings a lot to the table and is a show stealer in their own right. Hrithik (fame Krrish) as the protagonist provides a range of emotions to allow Vijay to vent both his frustrations and desire for vengeance. The narrative allows him darker shades veering him towards anti-hero and thus enhancing the character and performance. Rishi Kapoor (fame Bobby) plays a negative character for the first time in his illustrious career, he is one who enters the skin of his character and is hard to identify in the Muslim garb. A man known for his choclate boy looks and sweet nature, Kapoor proves why he is a talented actor and makes you believe he is vicious (with his dialogue delivery) and rough (his action scenes). The movie however hinges of Sanjay Dutt's (fame Lage Raho Munnabhai) Kancha, whenever on screen Dutt's misshapen look and menacing demeanor make him a sensation to take in. Dutt who is no stranger to villainous roles (see Vastav), brings an over the top performance to his villain without ever veering into campiness. His portrayal is realistic and in tone with the movie as well as his posture is one that causes an influx of fear. I would suggest people to watch this for these performances and the typically entertaining revenge story.

8. Kahaani

Theatrical release poster depicts a pregnant woman, looking sightly surprised, stands at a place with the city of Kolkata in the background during Durga Puja. Text at the bottom of the poster reveals the title, tagline, production credits and release date.

Director: Sujoy Ghosh

Cast: Vidya Balan as Vidya Bagchi, Parambrata Chatterjee as Inspector Satyaki 'Rana' Sinha, Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Khan, Indraneil Sengupta as Milan Damji and Saswata Chatterjee as Bob Biswas

Genre: Crime/Thriller

Budget/Box Office: 8/104 Crore

Best Scene: A pregnant Vidya Bagchi is resting up on the platform waiting for the Metro and assassin Bob Biswas pushes her onto the railways as the train comes speeding.

Best Performance: Vidya Balan as Vidya Bagchi, Saswata Chatterjee as Bob Biswas

Score: 9.2/10 (Story-9.2, Directing-9.5, Performance-9.7, Score-8.3)

Vidya Bagchi (Vidya Balan) is a London based Software Engineer who arrives in Kolkota during Durga Puja (Holy festival) to find her missing husband who she claims came on an assignment. She gains the aid of rookie cop Rana (Parambrata Chatterjee) but soon falls under the scanner of Intelligence Bureau officer Khan (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and other corrupt officials and terrorists who send in assassin Bob Biswas (Saswata Chatterjee).

The movie is a tightly scripted thriller and a first time 100 crore (1 billion) grosser for a female centric film with no famous male actors. The Bengali setting is feverish yet serene and is grandiose to watch. While this garnered critical acclaim and is considered the best film of 2012 in many critics lists I felt it wasn't such a big deal hence the current position on my list. The film takes a leaf out of films such as Kill Bill and A Brave Heart. It however immerses itself within Indian culture and characters.

Vidya Balan makes it 5 in 5 with her performance after her varied range of characters and eclectic showings in The Dirty Picture, No One Killed Jessica, Paa and Ishqiya (must watch movies!!!).  Her Vidya is a vulnerable woman due to her pregnancy but is driven and strong willed, She gives her male contemporaries in the movie and the industry a run for their money. Her dialogue delivery is hard hitting to watch. She is aptly supported by a wide range of thespian actors and Bengali cinema stalwarts.

Prime among these is Nawazuddin Siddiqui (who features quite a bit on this list) as Khan, this was the beginning of mainstream exposure for the gifted actor and he grabs the role with his two hands. His Khan is rough with a no nonsense attitude and provides the template for the Faizal Khan from Gangs Of Wasseypur audiences would see later in the year. Balan is also given simpleton character Rana to play off from, Rana as played by Parambrata is the voice of reason and the ordinary character. He is fleshed out to be the hidden protagonist of the film and the typical rookie cop character; hard headed, soft hearted, noble. Parambrata who is a mainstay in Bengal Cinema gives the role his best and makes sure that with his  characteristic qualities does not try to steal the show from Vidya Balan and remains the subtle supporting character. Balan is matched toe to toe by relatively unknown and underrated Bengali actor Saswata Chatterjee, if like me you had clearly not seen the promos in depth then his introduction will come from nowhere. 

We see Biswas at his daily job being ridiculed by his boss, viewers won’t understand as to why in between Bagchi's search we are witnessing this. All get's cleared as we see Biswas receive a message and soon end up assassinating a woman aiding Vidya Bagchi. The use of relative unknown's is an advantage as it keeps the mystery of the movie intact and allows it to be shocking once the climax approaches. A intelligently crafted and firmly woven Indie (or should I say Hindie) film with some career turning performances makes this a simple must watch this year.

7. Chittagong

Director: Bedabrata Pain

Cast: Manoj Bajpai as Master-da Surya Sen, Barry John as Magistrate Wilkinson, Delzad Hiwale/Subodh Roy (young) Jhunku, Vega Tamotia as Pritilata Waddedar, Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Nirmal Sen, Raj Kumar Yadav as Lokenath Bal, Jaideep Ahlawat as Ananta Singh and Dibyendu Bhattacharya as Ambika Chakroboraty

Genre: Period/Drama

Budget/Box Office: 4.5/0.31 Crore

Best Scene: Jhunku informs Magistrate Wilson that the Indian villagers are finally rising, in the background we see villagers rising from the ground and then going on to take their granary back from the British authorities thus culminating in their revolution for independence.

Best Performance: Manoj Bajpai as Surya Sen

Score:8.9/10 (Story-9.1, Directing-9.7,Performance-9.1, Score-7.5)

Chittagong charts the saga of the unsung heroes of the Indian independence revolution. It is a near perfect true story based on the oft forgotten 1930's Chittagong uprising. The film follows young Jhunku who studies with British emissary and Magistrate Wilkinson. His father wishes to see Jhunku head to London and become a big lawyer, but an incident changes Jhunku's views and takes him on a path to becoming the youngest rebel leader. The film is directed by Bedabrata Pain, who left his dream job at NASA to direct this introspective period picture.

The film hinges on superlative performance especially from veteran Bajpai (fame Satya) and young lead Subodh Roy gracefully supported by a collection of unknown talents. The movie is quite short but gives ample time to take in the full scope of the uprising as well as the changing views of Jhunku. It is crafted with class, the lower budget makes the film seem grainy in nature and the use of a brown and grey color scheme gives off the period setting. A movie steeped in reality, Chittagong is harrowing and thought provoking allowing viewers to witness a part of the Indian independence revolution that is lost in the annals of history. There are some places however where the film seems to lag whether it be a few shoehorned in romantic excursions or intense emotional characterizations but even then these do add layers no matter how underexposed and unresolved they feel. If you like serious poignant cinema then this one is a must watch.

6. Gangs of Wasseypur Saga

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Cast: Part 1-Manoj Bajpai as Sardar Khan, Piyush Mishra as Nasir, Jameel Khan as Asghar, Jaideep Ahlawat as Shahid Khan, Richa Chada as Nagma Khatoon, Reema Sen as Durga, Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Faizal Khan, Tigmanshu Dhulia as Ramadhir Singh, Huma Qureshi as Mohsina, Vipin Sharma as Ehsaan Qureshi,  Pankaj Tripathi as Sultan Qureshi and Vineet Kumar as Danish Khan

          Part 2-Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Faizal Khan, Richa Chada as Nagma Khatoon, Huma Qureshi as Mohsina Khan, Reema Sen as Durga, Piyush Mishra as Nasir, Jameel Khan as Asghar, Pankaj Tripathi as Sultan Qureshi, Satya Anand as JP Singh, Zeishan Quadri as Definite Khan, Aditya Kumar as Nawab Khan/Perpendicular, Raj Kumar Yadav as Shamshad Alam and Tigmanshu Dhulia as Ramadhir Singh

Genre: Crime/Action/Anthology

Budget/Box Office: 9.2 and 9.2/27.85 and 22.96 Crore

Best Scene: When Ramadhir Singh sits down among a few loyal companions he explains that he has survived two generations of Khans and amidst multiple changes in crime only due to the fact that he has never been an avid fan of cinema. Dhulia's delivery of a crisp dialogue is worth the ticket money itself.

Best Performance: The full cast. With the time given to each cast member, they do the optimum best. If however I was to choose one then; Manoj Bajpai as Sardar Khan.

Score: 9.8/10 (Story-9.9/ Directing-10, Performances-9.8, Music-9.3)

Hindi Cinema just got it's own Godfather crime anthology!!!  The movie chronicles the tale of Gang war between the Khan clan lead by a surreal Manoj Bajpai (fame Satya) and dynamic Nawazuddin Siddiqui (fame Peepli Live) against former coal mine owner and criminal businessman Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia) and the feared Qureshi muslim clan. It's a complicated anthology of crime in Wasseypur in India so instead of explaining the plot I would suggest you hurry and go watch the two parter now!

Debuting at the Cannes Film Festival Director Fortnight 2012, GOW is a critically acclaimed and commercially successful film. It's feel is reminiscent of Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Once Upon A Time In America), Martin Scorsese mafia crime thrillers (Goodfellas), Francis Coppola's classic family Mafioso/gang war dramas (The Godfather Trilogy), Quentin Tarrantino narrative flow (Pulp Fiction) and Coen Brothers dark humor (The Big Lebowski and Fargo) but is essentially rooted in Indian aesthetics.

Anurag Kashyap is the star of the show, he brings the realistic feel of crime ridden Wasseypur to life on the big screen. His characters are harsh, bloody and powerhouses. As director, Kashyap is able to bring forth stellar performances from every member of his colossal ensemble cast but also define a gritty cinematography and crisp dialogue's as well as a briskly paced but overreaching and wholly satisfying script (penned by debutant actor Zeishan Quadri and others). It is the first Indian movie (both parts were played as one) to be screened at the monumental Cannes Director Fortnight and that speaks volumes of the movie and it's content.

Both parts are pitch perfect and rarely falter, the actors on screen make due to prevent any scenes from lagging. Among Part 1 the lead role (of Sardar Khan)is played by the underused and driven method actor Manoj Bajpai. He proves his mettle with impeccable dark comedic timing and devilishly charming antics. His dramatic delivery and slick expressions are a treat, the passionate way in which he explains to his wife as to why he is steeped in crime brings forth a trope not typically seen in revenge films; the monologue as to why revenge is the only necessity for a protagonist. . He is aptly supported by his large cast, notable performers of which are; Richa Chada's feisty Nagma, Piyush Mishra's troubled narrator Nasir, Nawazuddin's junky Faizal and debutant actor Tigmanshu Dhulia as powerful Ramadhir.

Where part 1 builds slowly towards crescendo, it's part 2 that provides the pay-off. It is specially intriguing to see part 2 and even part 1 play off Wasseypur's situation itself. Part 2 is much more blood soaked and feverish, mirroring the state of Wasseypur itself. Where the gang war in the first part resulted between Sardar Khan and Ramadhir Singh, the second one provides a change in tempo as multiple hooligans begin to want to reign over as crime lords of the murky city.

Part 2 sticks to it's guns as the pay-off and provides a higher dose of action. The only problem within part 2 is there is excessive violence which has no dramatic resonance. It's the performances that lead the second part to a closer range with the first. Leading Part 2 is Siddiqui's Faizal who goes from a down in luck junkie into the intimidating mafia boss of Dhanbad and Wasseypur. Nawazuddin reminds the viewer of a young Al Pacino in his stunning leading man performance, his character is a stirring mix of both Michael Corleone and Scarface. It's deadly to watch his turn as he realises his friend's betrayal and hand in murdering both his father and brother and soon chops off the said friend's head thus declaring his arrival. It's also interesting to witness his chemistry with debutant actress Huma Qureshi (as his wife Mohsina) who provides the moral support but is the dominator within their relationship.

With Siddiqui's character arc it is impossible for him to gain the deeper layers of humor and romanticism  provided for Manoj Bajpai's Sardar. Thus it falls on his other brothers to give some enhanced support, chief among these is Definite Khan (Zeishan Quadri) who is violent, savage and witty. Quadri who makes a debut with this film, makes most of his role as the step-brother to Faizal and plays his character with under the surface wickedness. It's a testament to the unknown talent that he handles both the new world of acting and crafts the 300 plus minute story (yes Zeishan Quadri is also the writer for GOW). The other actor is young Aditya Kumar as Perpendicular, his character doesn't get a lot of screen time but stays with the viewer. Perpendicular brings black humor and a window into the youth that is swayed by crime within Wasseypur.

Overall I can guaranteed say that this movie(s) stands as a revolutionary in Gangster flicks, not only for Hindi Cinema but for the genre itself. I can place this among classics such as The Godfather Trilogy and Scarface. I Suggest if you are an avid fan of crime films, this two part masterpiece is for you. Plus check out the zany soundtrack which moulds in the background, perfectly with the montage sequences.


5. Vicky Donor

Director: Shoojit Sircar

Cast: Ayushmann Khurana as Vicky Arora, Yami Gautam as Ashima Roy Arora, Annu Kapoor as Dr. Baldev Chaddha, Dolly Ahluwalia as Mrs. Dolly Arora and Kamlesh Gill as Bijji

Genre: Romantic/Comedy

Budget/Box Office: 5/46 Crore

Best Scene: A drunk Dolly and her mother-in-law (Bijji) discuss their friendly rivalry and relationships. Splendid comedic timing spiced with insightful emotion.

Best Performance: Ayushmann Khurana as Vicky Arora

Score:8.9/10 (Story-8.9, Directing-8.4, Performances-8.9, Score-9.5)

Vicky Donor is the tale of a loafer Vicky (Ayushmann Khurana) who lives off his deceased father's and working mother's money. He has no job or goal in life apart from drinking, playing cricket and having fun with friends. Soon during a scuffle Vicky is targeted by a fertilization specialist Doctor Chaddha (Annu Kapoor) who believes him to be an 'Aryaputar (descendant of Alexander the Great)' with the ability to donate sperm to save his clinic from closing down. Vicky is soon convinced and begins earning money, thus bringing him into confrontation with bank assistant Ashima (Yami Gautam). Romance blooms and soon enough the couple are married, with pregnancy issues arising Vicky's past is open and it brings him to struggle to prove that what he had done was not wrong.

Donor is a simplistic and genuine movie that deals with a taboo subject within India. The movie deals with the serious issue using a comedic background which never veers into vulgar, instead using a genuine romantic plot and lighthearted fare to do this topic justice and craft a heartwarming story. Vicky Donor pulls the audience with it's kindred form and lush Delhi based palette.

The irresistible youthful charm of lead actor and debutant Ayushmann Khurana is what gives the audience a staying reason. He invokes a array of emotions to the role and has a witty comic timing and fluid delivery and posture. It never feels like a debut film for the former VJ and TV regular. He is also given a great foundation by his cast; whether it be the heart fluttering Bengali Yami Gautam, wickedly hilarious Dolly or typically crisp Kapoor. It's one of the warmest films of the year and although the second half lags due to the misguided drama and stereotypical climax, the film reaches from negativity to provide a satisfying conclusion. This is a must watch not only to laugh, but to take in the finesse explanation of Sperm donation as provided by Sircar as well as the influx of Delhi culture in today's Hindi cinema.   

4. English Vinglish

Director: Gauri Shinde

Cast: Sridevi as Shashi Godbole, Priya Anand as Radha, Mehdi Nebbou as Laurent, Adil Hussain as Satish Godbole, Navika Kotia as Sapna Godbole and Master Shivansh Kotia as Sagar Godbole

Genre: Comedy/Drama

Budget/Box Office: 15/85 Crore

Best Scene: Shashi gives a speech in English on her niece's wedding day and stuns her husband and daughter as well as close relatives with her fluency in the language.

Best Performance: Sridevi as Shashi Godbole

Score:9.2/10 (Story-9.4, Directing-9.1, Performance-9.5, Music-8.6)

If your mother is a housewife/takes care of the family 24-7 and you ever felt that you or any family member under appreciates her, then go hug her and say Thank You straight away!

The film that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and warmed a million hearts, Sridevi's comeback resulted in bumper success that began at TIFF with an after movie 10 minute standing ovation. In Indian cinema not only is it hard for a female actor to shoulder a picture but it is also hard for an actress to make a comeback to films after a decade and more away. Sridevi pulls it with aplomb, her Shashi may seem like an underdog but Sridevi carries herself with dynamic confidence. There is no slip-up visible within her acting range and emotional depth, Sridevi in fact seems to have transcended into a much better performer prior to her hibernation. 

In the film viewers witness Mumbai housewife Shashi Godbole (Sridevi) who also makes Ladoos (Indian Sweets) to sell go through everyday verbal jabs from her teenage daughter and her husband Satish (Adil Hussain) due to her inability to speak fluent English. Eventually opportunity arises for her to leave family, She heads off to USA to help her sister in her daughter's wedding preparation and there gets a chance to learn English. Her underdog struggle culminates in her being able to eventually speak English and make her daughter and husband realize her true value.

The story is quite typical of an underdog formula but uses the point of a housewife and language barrier to inject an offbeat visual. As mentioned earlier Sridevi is splendid, there are no words to describe the range the character allows her to act with. The topic in general does not filter her but rather allows expansion in expression (a depth not plundered in her previous films, due to the times back then), inclusive of which are; fear after being unable to speak up at a restaurant, chirpiness whence going to learn English, joviality when getting answers right, fury at her daughter's embarrassment towards her and pride when she finally delivers her speech with a spice of humility. An emotionally satisfying homemade (cooked by the mother's hand) dinner!

For the genre and plot it is necessary to have an under the surface antagonist and in this case one that is also clueless and inattentive. Adil Hussain (fame Ishqiya) delivers this in spades, his Satish is a typical Indian or any other husband who has married a wife with a lesser education and thus feels he is much more superior, he doesn't intentionally mean to insult her but also does not understand her in a deeper level. The performances aside, cinematography based on Manhattan is splendid as with every movie and the dialogues are clear but not repeatable as such. This one is a must watch for it's typical but blissful ending.

3. Barfi!

Director: Anurag Basu

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor as Murphy 'Barfi' Johnson, Priyanka Chopra as Jhilmil Chatterjee, Lleana D'Cruz as Shruti Ghosh/Sengupta/Narrator, Akash Khurana as Mr. Johnson, Ashish Vidyarthi as Mr. Chatterjee, Rupa Ganguly as Mrs. Ghosh and Saurabh Shukla as Inspector Sudanshu Dutta

Genre: Romantic/Comedy/Period

Budget/Box Office: 30/106 Crore

Best Scene: Barfi tries to rob a bank to pay for his father's hospital bill. A hilarious rendition of a Charlie Chaplin classic but Ranbir Kapoor presents shades of his late legendary grandfather Raj Kapoor in his body language.

Best Performance: Priyanka Chopra as Jhilmil Chatterjee

Score: 8.8/10 (Story-7.7, Directing-7.9, Performances-9.6, Music-9.9)

Does it copy multiple Hollywood and Bollywood films? Yes. But is it the most sweetest, sincere and off-beat romantic tale of the year? Definitely. Barfi is a dazzling movie just like it's lush and eye catching Kolkota setting. The film follows the titular Barfi AKA Murphy (Ranbir Kapoor) as a wayward man and notorious thief in Darjeeling 1972, who falls in love with the visiting Shruti (Lleana D'Cruz). Shruti who is off to be married does not wish to be around Barfi much but soon falls for his charm and eventually falls in love. Her mother forbids this, questioning on how he (Barfi) will provide for them and Shruti succumbs to reality. Barfi due to an incident ends up kidnapping his childhood friend and autistic girl Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra), he soon uncovers another internal kidnapping plot regarding her and there hiding together ends up in a budding friendship to a quirky blossoming of romance.

A lot happens in this film that will feel repetitive but it's the humility of the story and it's weird yet deliberately sweet tale that catches the viewer. This would not be possible in a Bollywood movie without extra-ordinary performances, a catchy soundtrack and sincere cinematography of a aromatic Kolkota. The score is soft and really hinges on the tune, it's full of songs worth viewing on the screen and also tells it's own story. With deep influences from silent era films, the background music fits perfectly.

Performances wise this is essentially a Ranbir Kapoor starrer, after his passionate and edgy turn as a Rock star in Rockstar, Kapoor delivers again. His comedic timing equaled with the mute handicap is riveting, a frame by frame ode to Chaplin style and a legacy shining of his grandfather Raj Kapoor's acting form. Ranbir truly proves his mettle as a son of the first dynasty of Bollywood. He is however greatly outshined by Priyanka Chopra (fame Fashion), her vision of an autistic girl places on realism but get's depth with her emotions and attachments. Chopra has gone form strength to strength in the past few years, now she's no more a pretty faced model but a high caliber actor if she is given a meaty role as this one. Lleana gives a restrained debut that allows her contemporaries to freely act, her Shruti may be one character that get's hated but as the narrator she is a crux point of introducing and engaging viewers. Be assured that this is one of the spectacular movies of the year. Although not a negative on the movie's part, it however didn't deserve the Indian Films Boards official entry into the Oscars. There's quite a bit off regional cinema films and the next film on the list that deserved that nomination, but that still doesn't take away from Barfi's charm.  

2. Paan Singh Tomar

Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia

Cast: Irrfan Khan as Paan Singh Tomar, Mahi Gill as Indira, Vipin Sharma as Major Masand, Imran Hasnee as Matadeen Singh Tomar, Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Gopi, Zakir Hussain as Inspector Rathore,  Jahangir Khan as 'Daddaa' Bhanwar Singh, Rajendra Gupta as HS Randhawa, Ravi Sah as Paan's Nephew, Swapnil Kothriwal as Hanumant, Rajeev Gupta as Corrupt Cop and Brijendra Kala as Journalist

Genre: Biographical/Sports/Crime/Drama

Budget/Box Office: 8/38.4 Crore

Best Scene: Paan Singh finally get's his chance to face his tormentor and cousin, intimidating him with questions regarding why the cousin caused Paan's downfall from a national treasure and sporting legend to a wanted dacoit. 

Best Performance: Irrfan Khan as Paan Singh Tomar

Score: 9.6/10 (Story-9.8, Direction-9.8, Performances-9.6, Score-8.6)

Irrfan Khan proves that he is the best Khan acting in the Hindi film industry today. For those who do not understand, multiple Khan actors have ruled the box office since the nineties among these is the trinity of Sharukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan. However I can guarantee that among these Khans, there is no better actor than Irrfan and the proof is this eye opening gem; Paan Singh Tomar.

The movie is a biographical story that presents the social issues of sportsmen in India (that are not cricketers), Paan Singh is an army man who decides to join sports to satisfy his hunger (sportsman have a large diet), he becomes a steeple chase runner and eventually a national champion. Due to family and village issues, he retires and returns home. The issues escalate and eventually cause a snowball effect as no one comes to aid the so called National Treasure. Paan Singh goes from runner to dacoit and becomes the king of bandits among the ravines.

For the sake of the movie, Paan Singh's story is over-dramatized however the aesthetic, cinematography , dialogue and language give the film a layer of realism. Tigmanshu does not fall into the tropes of giving his bandit an over the top look or style, his feet are firmly grounded and even the issue that causes Paan's turn is viable. According to Wikipedia, the film took Dhulia ten years to make and this shows in the pain staking detail put into adapting the period setting especially of notorious Dacoit area Chambal.

The film has a riveting pace as swift as Paan himself. It's told to a reporter by Paan and sees him go from his youthful exuberance into his rage induced adulthood. PST is a shock and awe to those who witness Cricketers earning millions in sports in India where other sportsmen suffer. This could not have been accomplished without a stalwart performance from the films lead. As mentioned above, Khan does this without hesitation. It's a demanding role and he delivers, his sports scenes in the steeple chase look realistic thanks to his lanky but athletic frame and the fact that he also trained himself vigorously for the role. His dialogue delivery is uncanny and it shows as to why he is a natural selection for top Hollywood casting agents in many a film requiring an Indian character with staggering presence. It's been a fine year for Irrfan, he has been part of three successes; with a niche supporting role (elder Pi) in Life of Pi, a sinister cameo (Dr Ratha) in Amazing Spider-Man and this deserved leading role in Paan Singh Tomar. A must watch movie and sadly one that was deserving the official Indian entry for the Oscars. After all it is a tale steeped in Indian culture that makes sports fan aware of a dire situation with a beloved Indian actor among Hollywood.

1. Shanghai

Official poster for Shanghai 2012 

Director: Dibakar Banerjee

Cast: Abhay Deol as TA Krishnan, Emraan Hashmi as Joginder Parmar, Prosenjit Chatterjee as Dr. Ahmadi, Kalki Koechlin as Shalini Sahay, Supriya Pathak as Chief Minister Madamji, Pitobash Tripathy as Bhagu, Anant Jog as Jaggu and Farooq Sheikh as Kaul

Genre: Political/Thriller

Budget/Box Office: 12/25 Crore

Best Scene: Krishnan (Abhay Deol) having been exposed to the plot must decide whether to do the right and honest thing or play a part in the corruption and secure his future. Deol moves backwards across the room in a state of shock, the camera placement allows him to move between full light and complete shadows to show the ticking choices between right and wrong within his characters mind.

Best Performance: Emraan Hashmi as Joginder Parmar

Score:9.5/10 (Story-9.6, Direction-9.9, Performances-9.4, Score-8.9)

Here it is, the best and my favorite Bollywood movie of 2012; Shanghai. Shanghai is an official adaptation of the French novel Z written by Vassilis Vassilikos, in the up and coming city of Bharat Nagar the ruling political party has planned to create a project (IBP) that will turn the city into a staggering metropolis so as to outrun China and their city Shanghai. For this the government requires to relocate the people living in slums, fighting for them is Dr. Ahmadi (Prosenjit Chatterjee). During a speech against the party, Ahmadi is overrun by a truck and an investigation is set up to find the hit and run criminals. Where the investigation begins, Ahmadi's student Shalini (Kalki Koechlin) believes it to be murder where as Joginder (Emraan Hashmi) gains evidence to back this claim. The investigation is headed by honourable and righteous Krishnan (Abhay Deol) but head of the project IBP. Together these characters discover a conspiracy plot that runs deep within the party and it's higher officials.

A political thriller with more on the politics and less on the thrills, Shanghai is a fast paced and short film thus minimizing risks of riddling it with plot holes. Dibakar Bannerjee makes one of the most near perfect films I have been glad to witness. The film has a gripping narrative, terrific performances from it's ensemble cast, detailed cinematography and a steady hand.

Among the performances the three leads deliver as expected, they are aptly supported by veteran thespians such as Supriya Pathak (fame Kichdi) and Farooq Sheikh (fame Chasme Badoor). Emraan Hashmi (fame Jannat) proves his mettle as the most underrated actor in cinema today. His Jogi is the most honorable and selfless character of the bunch (considering he also films adult movies). Hashmi gets into the skin of his character with the paunch and the rotten teeth giving an insight into his performance style as well. Apart form him, Abhay Deol (fame Dev D) as usual is dependable in the acting range. Being a Northern lad it is hard for him to get the Southern accent right and he does so with sheer honesty. His Krishnan sounds genuine without being a caricature that most other actors would portray with a south Indian voice (looking at you Sharukh Khan from Ra One). Kalki (fame Dev D) as well brings gravitas to her performance and is certain to be under toned, so as to let her male co stars dominate when need be but she also makes sure to steal the limelight when she needs to.

However it is the cinematography that takes the cake. The use of dusty brown, murky yellow and sepia tones give Bharat Nagar the rustic look of India and it's politically gloomy situation. Camera work is stunning whether it be the aforementioned scene of using lighting to show the flux of decision between right and wrong. Or a simple scene of presenting main characters in danger when walking, as showing the scene behind them where our view of them is blocked by shops and we only get glimpses once they pass entrances to gullies (sorry hard to explain this one, go watch the movie). So as mentioned, go watch this one and be enamored by a bevy of great talent and a sensational director's vision.

Also check for the full review in a few weeks!!!

Other Movies to check out:  Chakravyuh, Ferrari Ki Sawari, Ek Main aur Ek Tuu, Talaash, Gattu, Cocktail, London Paris New York, Arjun-Warrior Prince, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, Aiyaa, Ishaqzaade

Not to watch: Bol Bachchan, Son of Sardaar, Khiladi 786, Rowdy Rathod, Agent Vinod, Joker, Players, Heroine

Movies to watch our for in 2013: Inkaar, Special Chabbis, Kai Po Che!, Chasme Badoor Remake, Saheb Biwi aur Gangster Returns, Nautanki Saala, Ek Thi Dayaan, Shootout at Wadala, Ghanchakkar, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Satyagraha-Democracy under Fire, Bullet Raja, Besharam, Dhoom 3


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