Mumbai, the dream factory of India was once again brought to its feet in November 2008 by a handful of Pakistani terrorists. Hundreds died in the horrific attacks at some of Mumbai’s landmark locations. The entire world watched the events unfold on live television. While watching the coverage from 10000 miles away, a thought came to me: how much what we see on the 24X7 news channels resembles a movie: the good guys and bad guys going at each other, gun shots, buildings on fire, choppers hovering over buildings, hostages trapped in burning buildings: this was all happening – it was not an action movie – this was life – unscripted and in your face.
Whatever the aftermath of the attacks, it was clear (as if it was not earlier), we are all in it together. The spirit and/or callousness of the city were put to test yet again. People picked up the pieces, washed the blood and guts, lit some candles and moved on. It is only appropriate that three movies released this year were strikingly close to the subject of terrorism in urban India, especially Mumbai the hot spot hang out for the Jihadists. Each movie, presented the subject from a different perspective, yet was able to stir the required emotions in the viewer. (Whether, movies make a difference in governance, foreign and internal policies and the general outlook of the junta is not entirely clear, but it is important that the films we watch reflect the issues that any generation faces.)
Aamir: A Muslim man lands in Mumbai only to find himself caught up in a situation which takes him to the very underbelly of the city that is completely unknown to him (since he is from the upper class educated/moderate Muslim community). The discoveries he makes in the process are supposed to be an eye-opener to him as a Muslim man living in India, but eventually leads to, him realizing (and in turn us) the futility of the whole situation which crosses all religions/class and nationalities and makes it loud and clear : it is a “human” problem. Rajkumar Gupta’s debut feature film ends on a poignant note with one of the most haunting songs in the recent times. Sung by Shilpa Rao to the music of a new talented music director Amit Trivedi – “Ek lau is tarah”. This song, is a fitting tribute to all the victims of mindless acts of terrorism across the world – lives of people going about their daily business, stopped abruptly.
A Wednesday: An edge of the seat thriller which puts two fantastic performers of Hindi movies – Anupam Kher and Naseeruddin Shah against each other. Naseer portrays the utter helplessness of the common man who has been the victim of the new constant in his life – terrorism. The movie does not seek solutions, but focuses on asking some vital questions. The monologue by the Naseer character in the climax is one of the riveting scenes of the decade. Neeraj Pandey, the debutante director makes a confident debut.
Mumbai Meri Jaan – Nishikant Kamat is one of the young directors who has played a significant role in the revival of modern Marathi cinema. His first foray into Hindi cinema is set in the backdrop of terrorism in Mumbai. He uses the format of “multiple storylines/characters which come together in the end”. This one is not as hard hitting as the previous two, but nevertheless manages to focus on the impact of terrorism on a common Mumbaikar.
Oye Lucky Lucky Oye – Dibakar Banerjee’s second directorial venture about a likable thief Lucky is inspired by true events from Dibakar’s home city of Delhi (shot without the usual photo-op locations of Delhi). What a thunderously marvelous movie this is right from the opening title sequence played to the 1978 Kishore Kumar song from Lahu ke do rang: Chahiye thoda pyaar chahiye.
From OLLO, 4:43 onwards:
While Khosla ka Ghosla almost became a “David Dhawan/Priyadarshan-esque” in the formulaic second half, Dibakar manages to stick with his main character and avoids to give the audience a “closure”. The movie oozes with local dialect and mannerisms which I am sure a Delhite will identify with immediately. The clothes, the locations, the language and the smallest of characters are all a result of careful observations on part of the scriptwriter and the directors. Abhay Deol and Manjot Singh as the old and young Lucky are a delight to watch. Sneha Khanwalkar composes a rollicking score in tune with the land the movie is set in – a female music composer in a predominantly male profession is a welcome change.
Rock On – This movie had many things going against it: Farhan Akhtar as the lead actor who is a rock star and who sings his own songs, a debutante director Abhishek Kapoor, the only marginally saleable actor from the ensemble cast: Arjun Rampal. Yet, the movie scored good points with the audiences, the music was a smashing hit and yes, Farhan could sing. This is how a movie about music ougtha be! (A turkey from 2009 will show how it should NOT be).
Welcome to Sajjanpur – Shyam Benegal’s folklorish movie set in an imaginary town of Sajjanpur is about a motley bunch of characters with issues from contemporary rural India such as: inter-faith and cast marriages, superstitions, widow remarriage etc.
Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi – Adi Chopra returns as a director with this story of a simpleton trying to woo his new wife with his alter ego of a metrosexual “dude”. An over the top SRK does all the heavy lifting in this staple Yash Raj production. Point to note, Adi does not go to Europe in this one and decides to stay local – but pray why those tacky saas-bahu-tv-show style sets?
Ghajini – If SRK can strut his stuff (the six pack abs in Om Shanti Om) how can Aamir be left behind? He goes a little further, tattoos his bulked up upper body and scores a wicked scar on his skull in this remake of the Tamil superhit by the same name, which in turn was loosely inspired by the cult classic Memento. The box office welcomed Aamir – muscles, tattoos and all. It went on to become the biggest hit of the year.
Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na – Jaane tu brought two new actors – Imran Khan and Genelia D’Souza in a breezy romantic comedy with foot tapping music by A R Rahman. The movie was a winner amongst the young adults. For all it’s Gen-Y look and feel the end result of the Girl wanting to marry the Boy was very 20th century. “Kabhi Kabhie Aditi” and “Pappu can’t dance” became a rage and Ratna Pathak Shah’s portrayal of the proverbial “maa” stood out. The movie boasts of a classic line: Imran: “College ke chaar saal kaise guzar gaye pataa hi nahi chala?” Ratna Pathak: “Phone pe beta phone pe”. How true for this generation. P.S.: phone pe can be used interchangebly with Orkut pe/facebook pe!
Jodhaa Akbar – An epic love story of a Muslim emperor and a Hindu princess. Ashutosh Gowariker’s labor of love falls short in the emotional department and does not deliver the required goods for an historical epic. The lead actors Hrithik Rosha and Aishwarya Rai, make it very difficult for the audience to invest in them emotionally – we are too mesmerized by their physical beauty. A failed attempt almost across the board – save for beautiful locales, wonderful lyrics by Javed Akhtar and an ethereal musical score by A R Rahman.
Slumdog Millionaire – This British movie (not a Bollywood movie in any respect) became the underdog winner across the world and put Mumbai in the world spotlight. It swept the BAFTAS, the Globes and the Oscars. A R Rahman and Gulzar got recognized at the Academy Awards. Many Indians however were not too happy with the portrayal of poverty in the movie and poverty-porn was a buzzword which was thrown around quite a lot . But regardless of how people felt about the movie, Mumbai and Bollywood stand to benefit by the stupendous success of this movie. It will not be a surprise if more and more Hindi movies, actors and musicians get a global audience as a result of Slumdog.
Movie of the year: A Wednesday
Actor of the year: Abhay Deol (Oye Lucky Lucky Oye)
Actress of the year: Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) This choice is for a non-hindi movie, and is more because of the media attention an Indian actress garnered despite a role with about 20 minutes of screen time
Director of the year: Neeraj Pandey (A Wednesday)
Music director of the year: Amit Trivedi (Aamir)