With 2006 we enter the second half of the decade. Big budget cinema ruled the Box Office, but a number of small films made a significant impact. This year can also be said the year of sequels, sequels to three previous super hit films were released and turned out to be even bigger moneymakers for their respective producers:

Krrish – This Koi Mil Gaya (2003) sequel had Hrithik Roshan as the 21st century superhero complete with a body suit, a cape and a mask. Move over Spidey!

Dhoom 2 – The sequel to the 2004 slick action flick reprised most of its original cast and added the uber glamor factor of Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai to the mix. The media world went wild when Ms Rai locked her lips with Mr Roshan in her pre-Bachchan-Bahu days. Of course the action scenes were staged at an even grander scale, the explosions were much larger and the clothes smaller.

Lage Raho Munnabhai – The darling don was back with a bang (a non-violent bang if I may say). Most of the crew from the original movie reprised their respective roles in front and behind the camera except for Gracy Singh (remember her?). She was replaced by a new character and hence a new actress, Vidya Balan. In my opinion this sequel was better than the original (a first in Bollywood). Raju Hirani’s story was original, refreshing and using Sanju Baba (who essentially plays a crook in the movie and is known to be a trouble-maker in real life) to spread the message of Gandhigiri is hands-down one of the best casting in Bollywood. And it worked, it worked in ways I did not expect it to. Gandhigiri became all the rage and yes there were no protests by anyone about the portrayal of the Father of the Nation as an entertainment commodity.

Other notable movies:

Omkara – Vishal Bharadwaj ventures into the Shakespeare land again, this time it’s Othello. He adapts the story to the North Indian heartland, desanitizes the language and serves it on a sun-baked dusty platter. Othello becomes Omkara, Desdemona becomes Dolly, Iago becomes (langda) Tyagi, Cassio becomes Kesu, Emilia becomes Indu and Bianca becomes Billo Chamanbahar. While all the actors turned in stellar performances, it’s Saif Ali Khan’s portrayal of Langda Tyagi that steals the show. Evil was rarely so appealing. Full credits to Vishal and his team for the attention to detail (Omkara’s black shawl with a red border, Tyagi’s clothing has shades of green and Dolly is in white) and for daring to not simplify the language or the accents to be palatable for a larger audience. The movie boasts of numerous powerful and dramatic scenes (too many to list here), it also has one of the best choreographed and picturized songs of the decade – “Beedi“. It is as near an experience as one can have of being at a rural North Indian nautanki surrounded by a few hundred inebriated drunk men who can break into a violent fight at any second.  Explosive stuff.

Rang De Basanti – Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra’s ambitious film about the current social and political situation narrated through the voices of the urban youth was a massive box office success. It was a daring project and I must applaud Mehra for his confidence in the subject. Mehra apparently took seven years to develop the concept and come up with a script. His hardwork and sincerity shows on the screen. The film’s social commentary theme had a considerable impact on the Indian youth (for better or worse is yet to be determined). The youth found a voice to channel their ire towards the ineptitude for the Government and Politicians (the solution suggested in the movie is something my digestive system could not handle, but again it wasn’t my movie) . It evoked political discussions and a wave of “lets do something for the nation” emotions in the young and the restless. Prasoon Joshi’s lyrics and A R Rehman’s music rocked an entire nation – Paathshala, Ru-ba-ru and Khoon Chala are the true ballads of today’s India.

Dor – This little movie by Nagesh Kukunoor is a tale of two women whose lives intersect as a result of a tragic incident that changes their lives. These women largely lead distinctly different lives : one’s a Muslim, the other’s a Hindu, one lives in the mountains, the other in the desert, one’s fiercely independent and headstrong, the other is diffident and leads a life defined and governed by others. Gul Panag and Ayesha Takia bring to life the two central characters of Zeenat and Meera respectively, ably supported by Shreyas Talpade. The movie touches a lot of feminist and social issues without broad-brushing them. The movie has one of the most joyous scenes when the three main characters dance to the 2005 hit song Kajra re in the middle of the desert. It’s a good reminder to let-it-go every once in a while!

Khosla Ka GhoslaDibakar Banerjee’s free spirited indie movie about the land grabbing scams prevalent almost all over India, is an immensely confident debut from a first time film-maker. The screenplay and performances sparkle with wit and display an ease of being in the environment it creates for itself. Dibakar’s Delhi in the movie avoids all the photo-op locations of Delhi and yet you feel you experienced a slice of Delhi in the most non-filmy way. Dibakar is a film-maker to watch out for as he will prove with another gem of a movie in 2008. This is also a movie where Anupam Kher’s career got a new life. It was such a shame seeing him waste himself in the many Bhatt movies and other low-brow comedies.

A quick mention must go to the following:
If Hollywood can remake old classic movies with a new twist, how can Bollywood be left behind. Farhan Akhtar and J P Dutta tried their luck with two much loved films of the past:
Don – Farhan Akhtar’s retelling of the old Amitabh classic thriller was a stylized product with a new twist in the end. The original belonged in an era when kitsch was cool (the image of Pran in a blonde wig in white body hugging suit still haunts me). This version would have been better if Farhan had stuck with the kitsch and not taken it so seriously (of course my opinion).
Umrao Jaan – Two things : 1) Aishwarya Rai is not Rekha and can never be a Rekha. 2) Anu Malik is not Khayyam and can never in a million years be a Khayyam. That’s all I will say about that.

Karan Johar tried to make and “adult” love story about failed marriages with Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. The movie had characters with the same sensibilities and maturity (or the lack of both) that of his previous Kuch Kuch Hota Hain, except these characters are now 10 years older (but none the wiser), wear expensive designer clothes and live in New York City. Amitabh continued to set new standards of hamminess – just when I think we have seen the bottom of his downward arc, the man manages to find a new bottom.

Kajol returned to movies after her marriage with Ajay Devgan with Kunal Kohli’s Fanaa. Was it a love story? Was it about terrorism?  Not entirely sure, an immensely muddled script written by someone with a pea-sized brain. Nevertheless, the Kajol-Aamir Khan star power saw this movie make a decent collection at the box office.

Movie of the year: Omkara
Actor of the year:  Saif Ali Khan (Omkara)
Actresses of the year: Ayesha Takia, Gul Panag (Dor)
Director of the year: Dibakar Banerjee (Khosla Ka Ghosla)
Music director of the year: A R Rehman (Rang De Basanti)