Hindi cinema has taken a gigantic leap in the past couple of years. It is slowly maturing, tackling newer subjects and experimenting with new narrative styles. (I refuse to use the term Bollywood for Indian cinema – especially the Hindi cinema, and I am not going to justify why). Of the very few Hindi movies I saw this year, here’s what I felt about them.

The Good:

Movie: Taare Zameen Par
Director: Aamir Khan

Aamir Khan’s first directorial venture. He chose a brave subject and managed to keep the focus on the subject and the little hero of the film. Inspite of the caricatured supporting characters (the teachers and the jarring father), the film manages to make an impact. The issue and the child are always in focus – Aamir Khan, “the star” takes a back seat. The subject is dealt with a lot of sensitivity and maturity. Darsheel Safary’s Ishaan is a performance of the year. All of the so called stars should carefully study this boy’s performance to understand what communicating with eyes and body language is all about.

Movie: The Blue Umbrella
Director: Vishal Bharadwaj

Vishal takes a simple fable (original novella by Ruskin Bond) and structures a heart-warming film around it. Punkaj Kapoor gives yet another stellar performance as NandKishore the tea stall owner. The Himachal Pradesh Tourism Board should use some frames of the film in its ad campaign. Sachin K Krishn’s camerawork captures the beauty of the region beautifully.

Movie: Manorama Six Feet Under
Director: Navdeep Singh

The movie starts with a beautiful tracking shot (the cinematography goes downhill there after). This is a multi-layered suspense whodunit set in a nowhere Rajasthani town in the desert. An excellent script and consistency of shot-taking, narration and pacing throughout the movie makes this a very entertaining movie. Debutante director Navdeep Singh must be lauded for his keen eye of the life in small towns. You will be wiping the sand from your brow by the end of the movie. Watch out for the clever nod to Roman Polanski’s Chinatown.

Movie: Johnny Gaddar
Director: Sriram Raghavan
This one is a homage to the 70s crime capers – Johnny Mera Naam, Jewel Thief, Parwana etc. It also takes a lot of inspiration from Pulp Fiction, Sin City and other Tarantiono/ Robert Rodriguez works. The movie lets the audience figure out the characters (no spoon feeding here), characters stay in “character”, one of the best death scenes I have seen in the recent past, one well picturized sequence in a train. Note the color schemes, the music, the innovative camera movements, lighting and the top notch sound design. Sriram Raghavan is a director to watch.

Movie: Chak De India
Director: Shimit Amin
A movie based on sports: you already know the outcome. Inspite of the clichéd and predictable script, the movie works largely due to the performances of the girls and SRK. The movie never looses focus from the subject and intelligently stays away from having SRK do the love and dance routine. The sore parts of the movie are the mohalla scenes – ugh. Read more about it in my review here.

The Bad

Movie: Aaja Nachle
Director: Anil Mehta

This was Madhuri Dixit’s comeback film. She deserved much better. Where should I begin – if the movies above indicate 10 steps ahead for Hindi cinema, this one was taking 20 steps back. It does not offer anything new – the fake and tacky village sets, the caricatured characters, the dead Guru, the cute daughter, the bad guys going good and weepy in a jiffy. Take M out of this movie and I would put this in the Ugly list.

The Ugly

Movie: Bhool Bhulaiyya
Director: Priyadarshan
I so wanted to run far away from this dud except I was trapped in a basement of a friend’s house. Amisha Patel and Shiney Ahuja cannot act – even monkeys would do better. But why am I blaming them, it’s the director who is at fault -. Priydarshan might have done some good work in Malayalam movies; he also had a decent run in Hindi , however I have always found his movies loud, over the top and unfunny. Someone needs to get Mr Priyadarshan a ticket on the Konkan Railway to be shipped back to the backwaters. Do what you are good at Priyan.

Movie: Salaam-e-Ishq
Director: Nikhil Advani
Replace the “Charmin” roll in your bathroom with a sandpaper and it would still be less painful than the monstrosity called Salaam-e-ishq. The movie had everything to be a good entertainer on paper : the director had made a good entertainer (Kal Ho Na Ho), had the who’s who of Hindi Cinema in it, popular music, a script idea that just needed to be translated from English to Hindi (its supposed to be inspired by Love Actually). What we end up with is a colossal mess. Definitely the worst of the lot I endured in 2007.

The not so good but not so bad either

Movie: Om Shanti Om
Director: Farah Khan

Unabashed, shameless spoof on Hindi movies of the past and the present (the Manoj Kumar bit was hilarious). This one was a glossily packaged Diwali gift. The first half worked for me. In the second half, the movie goes on the path of all the things that it tried to mock in the first half.

Movie: Jab We Met
Director: Imtiaz Ali

A well written romantic comedy with good performances by Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor. The characters were well rounded and in tune with the current young generation. The dialogues were witty and quite unexpected in some situations. The music was soothing. If only it was a little shorter, this one would go in the “Good” list.

Movie: Guru
Director: Mani Ratnam
A Mani Ratnam movie is always an event. This one was no less, it had a everything: A larger than life protagonist (portrayed brilliantly by the Little B), great music, good supporting performances in Aishwarya Rai (yes, I am saying this), Mithun Chakraborty and Madhavan. Where it faltered a little bit was the narration, it felt like a string of incidents woven together. BTW, what was the need of the Vidya Balan character?