It has been a dull year for Bollywood, with the number of watchable films being small enough to count them all on your fingers. It has been a year of one mighty Khan delivering the most shameless, brainless blockbusters of all time, another mighty Khan still facing the backlash to his most ambitious film of all time and the last one — a self-proclaimed perfectionist — staying away from mainstream films except a short appearance in his wife’s Dhobi Ghat. All in all, it has been a disappointing year and the only reasons to cherish 2011 are listed below.
5) Don 2
Panned by many critics, this film makes it to the list for not only being the first genuinely slick action flick of Bollywood, but also because it brought back memories of a Shahrukh Khan we didn’t despise. Don 2, despite its slow pacing and rather humdrum plot, worked rather gloriously because the Don himself got to deliver some fun punchlines; wear masks of actors far more good looking than him and romance the girl with the sexiest pout in Asia, Priyanka Chopra. Looking back at the year, this is the only mega hit of 2011 that was actually fun to sit through.
4) Stanley Ka Dabba
This film should be much higher up, if only it wasn’t for the lack of its mainstream elements. Yet, this is a small-scale, simple and spectacular film that works as effectively in providing a refreshing twist to the poor state of children’s cinema in India as it does in tugging at the heartstrings without trying too hard. The Partho kid is rather neat, but his father, director Amole Gupte (the writer of Taare Zameen Par) is the one who takes the cake here. A must-see!
3) Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
This film is in our list because this is, by far, the best looking flick of the year, a tour-guide to Spain that unimpressively breezed through much frivolity and mush before taking off the covers and showing us a heart and a soul. This was mainstream, commercial cinema that had something to say — and while the underlying theme was rather stale — the packaging was pretty damn great. Katrina rode a bike all the way through Barcelona only to give a man a kiss, Hrithik Roshan stood opposite her to complete the fantastic looking pair and Farhan Akhtar rose above the role to truly give a heartfelt performance.
2) The Dirty Picture
First banned and then unbanned in Pakistan, this gutsy film is perhaps the most unforgettable feature film of the year. The rigorously censored version in Pakistani theatres should be given a miss. This one is to be seen at home, late at night when kids and parents have been put to sleep. Revolving around a vulgar little South Indian item girl, The Dirty Picture is far braver an achievement than Delhi Belly — another push-the-envelope feature — simply because it uses a female to forward the theme. And what a female she is! Vidya Balan — a genuine actor revelling in her onscreen glory with such remarkable glee — is the one reason why this film is so high up on this list. Trendsetting stuff!
Take a bow, ladies and gentlemen. In a year when Aamir was absent, Hrithik was sleepy, Shahrukh and Salman were busy baking blockbuster recipes; one guy stood up and showed them all who the real daddy of performance is. Ranbir Kapoor and this realistic story of music, love and pain are not stuff that Bollywood is used to. Kapoor is a superstar and a spectacular actor who knows how to pull off both sides of him at the same time.
And this film is, undoubtedly, this year’s only truly amazing film aided by AR Rahman’s glorious soundtrack and Imtiaz Ali’s dialogue. A better film than Ali’s previous cult Jab We Met, this is the kind of film that makes a dull 2011 seem not-so-dull after all.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2012.
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