2004 lies right in the middle of the decade and going by the kind of the movies released this year, it delivered movies which were on the cusp of the older-tried to the newer-bolder themes . While formulaic movies such as Main Hoon Na and Dhoom were made, Bollywood started taking bolder steps in the form of Swades, Maqbool and Meenaxi. This year can be officially said as the year when the cracks in the egg started to show.
Notable movies of the year:
Veer Zaara – Yash Chopra returned as a director with the cross border romance Veer Zaara. The movie had everything going for it, a stellar star cast, oodles of North Indian-ness* and a great musical score revived from the tunes of the late Madan Mohan.
* The depiction of North Indian and the Punjabiyat can really be labeled as Chopra-ness : there is such a difference in the Chopra-Johar depiction of the North Indian-ness than say that of a Dibakar Banerjee, Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra or Anurag Kashyap.
Dhoom – Sanjay Gadhavi’s out and out action thriller was a box office winner and the composer Pritam became a hot property. (most of his hit compositions are “inspired” by middle eastern or far eastern music is now well-known).
Chameli – Kareena Kapoor attempted to dabble into the serious cinema land with her portrayal of a street prostitute. Although her efforts are laudable, it proved that no Kapoor of this generation can convincigly portray a poor/impoverished character convincingly. The Kapoors are just too glamorous to embody such characters.
Maqbool – The Bard arrived in Bollywood with Vishal’s Maqbool. For all those who think Shakespeare is dull, boring (me included) not in the literary sense but in the performing arts sense, Vishal’s Indianization of Macbeth is anything but. This dish was delicious, like a well made juicy fragrant mutton biryani. Vishal showed that he can be a prolific director who can handle complex subjects with a lot of flair. More on his another masterpiece in the adaptation of Othello in 2007.
Swades – In my opinion this is Shahrukh’s best and most restrained performance till date (yes, even above the Sunil character of Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa). Despite the minor detours into preachi-ness, the story of a NRI trying to connect with his roots while balancing between his ambitions and making sense of his existence is a triumphant tale. And is it me or that Shehnai that Rehman used in “Yeh jo des hain tera” pierced through everyone’s soul? The movie also boasts one of those moments on film that stay with you for a long time, the one with Mohan in the train and the kid selling water on a train platform – tears you apart. It’s one of those key scenes which connects the audience with the protagonist (I refer to these as “bait” scenes, most all character driven movies have at least one of these and the success of the rest of the movie lies heavily on the execution of this one scene.) Well done, Ashutosh.
Yuva – Mani Ratnam returned to Hindi cinema after a long hiatus (after the ill-fated Dil Se in 1998) with this tale about the urban youth and their myriad issues and frustrations which culminates into a more palatable solution than a future Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra’s film, more on that in 2006.
Lakshya – Farhan Akhtar’s second directorial venture did not break any new grounds like Dil Chahta Hain, but then one’s not obligated to do that every time, is one? This story of an aimless youth (Hrithik Roshan) trying to find his calling seemed autobiographical to me.
Movie of the year: Swades
Actor of the year: Shahrukh Khan (Swades, Veer Zaara, Main Hoon Na)
Actress of the year: Rani Mukherjee (Veer Zaara, Yuva)
Directors of the year: Vishal Bhardwaj (Maqbool) Ashutosh Gowariker( Swades)
Music director of the year: A R Rehman (Yuva, Swades, Meenaxi)
If 2004 was a little cautious and played it safe, 2005 saw Bollywood emerge from the cracked shell . This year saw the release of movies with subjects as varied as AIDS/homosexuality, the 1975 emergency period, a love story of a ghost and an adaptation of a classic Bengali literary work. New names such as Shreyas Talpade, Chitrangada Singh, Vidya Balan, Shantanu Moitra, Swanand Kirkire, Pradeep Sarkar made their mark and would produce quality work in the coming years. Notable movies of the year:
Black – This adaptation of The Miracle Worker by Sanjay Leela Bhansali won all the accolades and awards there were to win this year. Personally, the movie did not work for me one bit, but there is no denying the popularity and love it got from the people. Accolades are deserved for SLB, since he definitely does not shy away from putting his stamp on each of his productions – you like it or not.
Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisee – Sudhir Mishra’s hard hitting story of three friends growing up in the tumultuous seventies was a story rooted in the land. The blogosphere will make you believe that this is the best movie of the decade, but I wouldn’t go so far as to address it in those superlatives. It is a sorry state that not many film-makers have ventured into the political topics of the post-independence india. There is much material there and will make for many interesting films.
Iqbal – Nagesh Kukunoor’s little sports movie of a deaf and dumb village boy making it to the Indian cricket team was predictable (like most underdog sports movies) but an immense joy to watch due to the crisp script and earnest performances by Shweta Prasad as Khadija the little sister of Iqbal (she from Makdee of 2002), Naseeruddin Shah as the village drunkard Mohit and above all Shreyas Talpade as Iqbal. Sports movies do not usually tell a new story, but they are surefire winners if done with sincerity and Iqbal had oodles of it.
My Brother Nikhil – This small movie with Sanjay Suri as a homosexual AIDS patient was probably the first foray of mainstream cinema and actors into handling this subject. Sanjay Suri, Purab Kohli and Juhi Chawla pitch in sincere performances.
Parineeta – Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s classic novel, Parineeta has been adapted multiple times to the film, most memorable being the Bimal Roy adaptation of 1953 with Meena Kumari as Lalita. The 2005 version introduced a new actress, Vidya Balan who made a confident debut in her portrayal of Lalita. The director makes full use of her old world Hindi film heroine looks and expressive eyes. The film was mounted on a lavish scale, had lilting music by Shantanu Moitra and was a box office success.
Paheli – Amol Palekar’s movie based on a Rajasthani short story was India’s entry to the Oscars this year. I guess the Indian forum saw this as a tourism promotion of Rajasthan and its colorful culture and overlooked any other films (Hazaaron would have been a deserving entry). Neverthless, this was an unusual and a risky movie and was surprised to see Shah Rukh Khan backing this movie financially.
Aamir Khan attempted to recreate the magic of Lagaan with the historical epic Mangal Pandey but failed miserably due to a weak and a deeply flawed screenplay. Ram Gopal Verma’s Sarkar was a dark brooding tale of a prominent underworld family of Bombay (with a cacophonous background score), this is the movie which can be credited for the “Bachchannalia” phenomenon (definition: if one of the Bachchan’s stars in a movie,at least one other Bachchan will make an appearance) that would be prevalent for the rest of the decade. A mention must go to a small movie “Main, Meri Patni aur Woh” for it’s sensitive portrayal of an everyday man as it’s hero played by Rajpal Yadav (the kind of characters that Amol Palekar had perfected in the late 70s).
Movie of the year: Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisee
Actor of the year: Shreyas Talpade (Iqbal)
Actress of the year: Vidya Balan (Parineeta) Rani Mukherji (Black, Paheli)
Director of the year: Nagesh Kukunoor (Iqbal)
Music director of the year: Shantanu Moitra (Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisee, Parineeta)