Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Best Movies of 2009

With 3 days to go in the year, lists are popping up everywhere and I too threw my hat in the ring. This list, of my top 5 Hindi & English movies, has been inspired by these tweets by my friend Abhishek Paul. So, without further ado let's delve into the year that was.

Note: I have only taken those movies into account which I saw in a theatre in 2009, with one exception, which we will come to later.


5.  Paa 

Two years back Amitabh Bachchan and Balki had created one of the most under rated movies of our times - Cheeni Kum. This time they didn't leave any stone unturned to ensure the movie got all the publicity it deserved (and more!) and that included Amitabh Bachchan appearing only through his 'Auro voice' for all interviews and even as a commentator for a cricket match!

Though there initial concerns about the movie being a rip-off of 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button', the final product had nothing in common with the Oscar nominated movie, besides the fact that the protagonists suffered from the rare disease, progeria. Maybe Amitabh Bachchan's angry-young-man went against him most of his life where he was typecast in similar roles, but now that he is taking up experimental roles we are perhaps seeing the best of Bachchan senior.

Auro will remain etched in the minds of Indian cinegoers for a long time to come. Shahenshah, take a bow.

4. Gulaal

Gulaal had very high stakes against it because it came on the heels of 'Dev D' the mega success from Anurag Kashyap and expectations were sky high. Also it was the last movie to be released before the 3 month long producers-multiplex owners strike. Just to meet expectations was a tall task, and Gulaal definitely lived up to it.

Though the plot was not overtly original, the portrayal was brilliant. All through the playing time of the movie you were glued to your seat with sweaty palms, unsure of what to expect from the very sharply etched, volatile characters. As usual Kay Kay Menon delivered a powerhouse performance in an Anurag Kashyap movie, but the biggest take away for me was the mind blowing performance of Raj Singh Chaudhary as Dileep. Perhaps the weakest character of Indian cinema, beating Devdas and Dev D to the post, his transformation was captured in a most riveting way. The twists and turns in the tales were a little predictable sometimes but on the whole this was Anurag Kahsyap starting off from where he left off in Dev D and cementing his place as a force to reckon with in Indian cinema.

3. Luck By Chance 

By far the biggest under promoted movie of the year. It's almost sad to see how it has evaporated from the combined consciousness of the industry. Zoya Akhtar's directorial debut with her brother (Farhan) in the lead role was a most refreshing package from the movie-within-movie genre.

Every character, howsoever short the role may have been, was realistic and believable, yes including the very colourful Romy Roli (Rishi Kapoor)! Hardly has such an honest movie been made on one of India's biggest dreams - making it large in the world of Bollywood. Starting from the acting classes where you have to not only act, but also sing and dance and fight and what not, Farhan's journey from a struggling actor to the next-would-be-superstar was beautifully etched. Konkona Sen Sharma never looked like she was in a movie, she hardly does. We are lucky to have such an natural in our generation, though she is getting a little stuck in the stereotype that she has created for herself.

Overall a delightful watch and leaves you with a sense of hope but not by sugar coating the world of cinema.

According to me Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's graph (Aks-Rang De Basanti-Delhi 6) has been one which goes up and to the right (complicated way of saying constantly improving!), but the reception to Delhi 6 was unexpectedly harsh. However, since this is my blog and these are my ratings I will keep it at no. 2 on the list and it remains one of those movies which says all that you wanted to but you could never say it as well kind.

The issues tackled - caste, superstition, communalism etc - are not new at all, but I felt the fashion in which it was portrayed was touching and inspiring. There were many cliches and in-your-face metaphors used, but with movies like this one which genuinely wants to spread a message, you need to use props to reach out to lowest common denominator.

Abhishek Bachchan and Sonam Kapoor were outstanding in their performances and like in all good movies the supporting cast stood shoulder to shoulder with them. E.g. in the scene where the sweetshop seller was beaten up and his shop ransacked, the pathos and anger portrayed was sharp enough to bring a tear to the eye and feel like bringing an end to the mindless violence we indulge in. And it will be unfair to finish the review with a mention about the music, A. R. Rahman has perhaps produced his greatest piece of work for this movie.

R. O. Mehra has at least one fan who respects him more after this movie.

1. Dev D 

It is not easy to make a movie on a story that has already been made 4 times in the last 60 years, with actors like Dilip Kumar and Shahrukh Khan having etched the protagonist's character in the minds of millions, for eternity. It get's even tougher when 2 of your previous movies (Black Friday and Paanch) have been banned and censored ruthlessly by the censor board of the country for no particular reason many times in the past.

Anurag Kashyap took on all of these adversities head on and made a movie which will get into the history books as one that, in some way, changed the perception about Indian movies forever. That's Dev D, or the new age Devdas, for you!

Abhay Deol (Dev) without a trace of doubt is the most versatile actor from his family (including his legendary uncle) and he produced one of the greatest performances of Indian cinema in the form of the 'loser' Dev who ruined his life over the love that he spurned due to hypocritical values. Mahie Gill (Paro) emerged as an actress to look out for. Same goes for Kalki Koechhlin (Chandramukhi), who by the way played an Indian character perfectly in spite of being from a French background.

This movie could never have been what it turned out to be without the almost enchanting music. It was so much a part of the story that it's impossible to remember which song played where in the movie. The biggest strength of the movie was it's non-preachy narrative and screenplay.

If Dev D is a symbol of what's in store for us in future, it gives all of us Indian cinelovers immense hope. God bless Anurag Kashyap.


This is the exception mentioned at the beginning of the post, as this is the only movie which makes the list that I didn't watch in the theatre (it's not released in India yet).

The sheer drama, taut screenplay and sense of victory along with David Frost at the end. A compelling watch

At the risk of being steamrolled by the intellectuals, and pseudo-intellectuals, I will openly declare my love for this thriller. I don't care however 'in' it maybe to hate Dan Brown's books and movies made on them, this movie kept me at my seat's edge through it's run and I left feeling my entire money spent on it was worth it. If you haven't watched it, please do yourself a favour, and get a DVD and watch it, even if you don't want to accept in public that you liked it:)

3. Up

Besides the unbelievable graphics (and I saw it in normal 2D), Carl Fredricksen's character resembled my grandfather, and the other grandfather like people I have known, so closely that I just had to keep it in my list. It has the technical excellence and the magic of Disney which through it's comics manages to tug at your heart. Perhaps one of the best animated movies of the decade.

2. Avatar

The most talked about and most expensive movie of this year and all time respectively has one of the simplest messages that there is - be good. However, the technology and the special effects will blow your mind away and the seamless way in which the technical marvel and simple fable kind of a storyline met is worth the hiked up prices at the multiplex. Avatar is more than a movie, it's an experience. One that you will regret missing, so please book your tickets while it's still running at a theatre near you.

It takes a Quentin Tarantino to play with history the way he did in IB. The only reason this makes the list, and right at the top of it, is because like most other movies in the list this was taut and edge-of-seat thriller, but this had me so riveted from act 1 scene 1 that I couldn't force myself to go for the much needed washroom break. If you have to watch one thriller in your life make sure it's this one!

Photo courtesy - www.glamsham.com (hindi), www.movieposter.com (english)


Abhishek said...

Great blog Suhel Da. We have 60% compatibility in our Top 5s :) Your descriptions of Gulaal, Luck By Chance and Dev D are exceptional. And am waiting to see Frost/Nixon - now that it comes recommended by you.

Just wanted to highlight a couple of exceptional performances in the movies of your list that I witnessed: 1) By Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds. Quite simply it deserves an Oscar; and 2) A cameo by someone called Abhimanyu Singh as Ransa in Gulaal - was magnificient while it lasted.

Hope to read a lot more of your blogs with a lot more frequency.

kalyan said...

Well said about Inglorious Bast...
only QT can make such movies and The scene in Bar is awesome,good post great blog....

himanshu said...

avatar is over hyped. the story isn't any newone. evern 3d effects couldn,t help the movie. 3idiots is the best movie from india this year.

Pradosh said...

Came across your blog from twitter. Was interesting to go through your list - could debate on the merits of each choice but then that would be too long a comment

Just cant avoid commenting on Delhi 6 being included in your best movies of 2009 however. The ensemble cast was probably the best in quite a few years, Sonam Kapoor is a star and Dil Gira Daftan was my favorite song of the year. Yet such a horribly written ending I could never digest. Completely destroyed all goodwill the first half had generated - and is the only thing that I remember about the movie now ...

Would like your opinion on my list (www.bombaycinephile.com)

Suhel Banerjee said...

@Pradosh - Completely agree with you regarding the ending and so, was happy to read this piece of news - http://www.filmicafe.com/news_detail.php?news_id=13170

watch avatar online said...

For me the top 1 movie is the movie avatar: "The most talked about and most expensive movie of this year and all time respectively has one of the simplest messages that there is - be good."

Very great story and special effects.. And famous director james cameron.. Job well done..

Suhel Banerjee said...

@Abhishek - Looks like Col. Landa is on his way to win the Oscar. And I hope you are happy with the increased frequency of my posts?

@Kalyan - Thanks.