Movies that mattered in 2016
1. Udta Punjab - True Grit
Ever since I had read about the drug menace in Punjab and how endemic the rot was, I felt it was prime fodder for a movie that needed to be harsh, black but had to be done in a deprecatory tone of the over amped Punjabi spirit. It required a Vishal Bharadwaj protege Abhishek Chaubey to get deep yet poke with a riveting screenplay. By taking the first thing that comes to our mind when we say Punjabi - the Gabru Jawan and questioning its very existence through a rap song ' Where is the Gabru' it was self referential to the Punjabi man whose adrenalin is pumped by drugs and dhinchak truck music. With stellar performance by Alia Bhat playing an abused Bihari girl, Shahid Kapoor outdoing himself as the druggie rapper Tommy Singh , Kareena Kapoor playing the staid doctor and the Punjabi actor Diljit Dosanj helming the cop who wakes up , the movie did justice to the subject both in film making style via dark commentary and bringing the dystopia of the situation brutally.
2. Kapoor and Sons - The Page Turning book
Breezy yet deep, Dysfunctional family tale well told. A tale that unravels itself giving ample time to focus on each of the central characters and their failings , Kapoor and Sons gave the family saga its modern twist with sparring brothers, failed marriages , social tokenisms and brushing issues in upbringing. Ratna Pathak Shah is splendid as a mother of two extremely handsome sons who dont get along and have an awkward history. Who is the good son and not so good son ? Is it to do with success or something else? Set in Ooty type hill station, the movie is like reading a good book with layers getting revealed slowly in a poignant manner. A great win for a Dharma Production - no sugar coating , no chiffon but very hummable songs in Ladki beautiful and so on.
3. The year of the biopics
Dangal, MSDhoni, Airlift , Neerja - all made based on real life heros were great to watch.
Biopics need the following S - Setting has to be realistic, Staging - a singularity of purpose , Spirit - you need to feel for the characters, stand up when they win , Struggle - their struggle needs to pain you and Story Telling has to be lively ( not like a documentary).
Dangal takes the cake - It gets the setting (Haryanvi lingo, realistic portrayal of village), staging ( very clear from the first scene where Aamir Khan says Dangal khoon mein hota hai), spirit (Amazing acting by the 2 girls who play his daughters), storytelling that is never dull and the struggle is good to watch. Central character is played with apblomb by Aamir who gets his body language right to play a 50 year old and in a way wrestles not to use his trademark mannerisms.
MSDhoni gets the setting right ( the Ranchi setting with the railway quarters), staging is good in the first half but weakens in the second half - you feel for Dhoni till he becomes a cricketer - the years of struggle and his calculative spirit comes out ( finishing his exam 30 mins earlier so that he can catch the train to play the match). The movie loses steam once Dhoni becomes the Dhoni we know and the long second half is only watchable due to the earnestness of Sushant Singh Rajputs performance. Wish the movie had more of the moments where Yuvraj shows his Ranji performance or we go a bit deeper into the Dhoni's Zen persona.
Airlift - got a lot of things right - especially with Akshay Kumar making it more relatable. Since the story is not so well known , the setting of Kuwait doesnt move you that much in the beginning but its the performance of Akshay and Nikhat that slowly draws us into their world and then the deliberate nature of the screenplay makes us aware of what Indians trapped in Kuwait would have undergone.
Neerja - was the most mediocre of the biopics. I generally hate Sonam Kapoor and her portrayal was better than her previous movies. However the movie didnt make me go and ready about the real Neerja, I would have remembered Neerja the PanAM airhostess without watching this movie. Something failed , cant put a finger to it. Maybe the plot was not so tense as Airlift although the real life situation must have been more harrowing.
Rustom although not a biopic but inspired by some incidents was very watchable - again because it was set in a different time , the staging worked well however the screenplay became a bit predictable and you didnt know whether to feel sufficiently for Rustoms family.
4. Sultan for sheer entertainment value -a tale about someone who becomes a wrestler to woo a woman wrestler and both go on to win national medals. they get married and wife sacrifices her career for her husband and who gets a second lease at a boxing league. Star power reigned supreme with Salman and Anushka giving no chance for any complaints.
5. Fan delivered when it was about the Fan and not the Star. As the Star takes over the movie to fight a obsessive Fan , it was Shahrukh the star taking over Shahrukh the performer. Shahrukh's Fan act with prosthetic makeup with his very Patpargunj Dilliness was unique and showed what the actor is capable of.
6. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil for the Musical of the Year even though it struggled as the tangled mess of love and friendship. Its tough in todays world to remember all 6 songs of a movie and hum them. If only the poetry in the songs came alive on the screen more than a few good dialogues scattered here and there.
7. Raman Raghav 2.0 showed the Anurag Kashyap is the only director ( and Sriram Raghavan if he can keep the Badlapur form) who can get into the psyche of crime, murderers and deliver it with spinechilling effect.
8. Pink for a bold subject choice and showing it well on screen.No Means No will be etched as the statement of the year. However I still feel the movie could have been titled Damini 2.0 and brought back Govind on screen screaming - Kuch bhi to nahi badla! Towards the end Amitabh becomes undistinguishable from the character he is playing and the baritone voice he is delivering. Hence my plea for giving Govind back on celluloid..