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Bollywood to Explore – List 1 of Personal Faves

January 9, 2009

Being one of the few foreigners working in the Bollywood film industry, many of my friends keep asking me about what is new and good. Here comes a list of personal faves, some of them typical star movies, some small independent ones.

2008

JODHAA AKBAR –  starring Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, music composed by A. R. Rahman, the story of the love between King Akbar the Great, the righteous Muslim ruler of whol ived 1542-1605 and the Rajput Princess Jodhaa. Inter-religious love  story before a stunning background of sets, stunning costumes and stunning score.

TAARE ZAMEEN PAR – starring Aamir Khan, written by Amole Gupte, the story of a 11 year old dyslexic completely isolated boy and the transforming injfluence of his art teacher. A film that has made parents, teachers, principals and even the ministry think and is India’s Official Entry to Academy Awards 2008. Story-telling and usage of film score of a very different kind. Impressive and heart-touching!

TAHAAN – Filmmaker/Cinematographer Santosh Sivan (THE TERRORIST, ASOKA, BEFORE THE RAINS) is always ready to explore new ground. After giving us with HALO (1997) probably one of the best chilren films of all time, his new children film TAHAAN is a simple tale about a Kashmiri boy named Tahaan and the difficult journey he is willing to undertake to bring back his companion, a donkey, who has been separated from him. But TAHAAN is also the story of present-day Kashmir and cross-border terrorism, and of course, of the test that the little boy is put to in the name of unconditional friendship. Original and heart-touching. 

JAANE TU… YA JAANE NA – Abbas Tyrewala’s directorial debut is a fresh romantic comedy which succeeds in entertaining also those in the audience who otherwise are not very much into this genre. Being nominated for 8 Filmfare Awards and having won 4, this film comes with the right mix of heart, humour and accurate observations of life.

AAMIR – AAMIR is a man-on-the-run thriller revolving around the eponymous London-based doctor’s visit to his family in India. Geographically, AAMIR’s maze is set in the Muslim dominated streets and residential pockets of Old Bombay. In its lanes and crowded alleys, cheap restaurants and lodges, amongst nameless pimps and whores, run-down buildings and packed markets,the protagonist has to battle against an invisible enemy giving him instructions over the cell phone. A small budget film without stars but an excellent screenplay with slight similiarities to PHONE BOOTH. AAMIR was directed by newcomer Raj Kumar Gupta who also wrote story, screenplay and dialogues and was called “quite likely the best film of the year” by rediff.com.

A WEDNESDAY – The one independent film in 2008 who did very well with the audience based on its good story although it was not backed up by stars, big budget or PR.

ROCK ON – This entertaining rock’n’roll drama became a huge hit all  over the country. Nothing new, but well-made. Co-written by FTII-graduate Pubali Chauduri it features lyrics by Javeed Akthar.

VALU THE WILD BULL – See Film Review 1.

2007

CHAK DE! INDIA – Jaideep Sahni, writer of KHOSLA KA GHOSLA, wrote this rare phenomena, an Indian sport film that rocks! The direction by Shimit Amin, the music by Salim and Suleman Merchant make all the difference in this film about the Nationnal Indian women hockey team in which even Sharukh Khan is highly enjoyable.

LOINS OF PUNJABA NRI-comedy taking place in NY, must-see!

JAB WE MET – Starring Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor – Even Romantic Comedy can be entertaining if the dialogues are that witty. Congrats to director/writer Imtiaz Ali.

2006

LAGE RAHO MUNNABHAI – The best Indian film since LAGAAN or maybe even better? Made a whole generation think about the teachings of Gandhi.

Here a video excerpt which shows the Mumbai-based gangster Munnabhai cheating to win a radio-phone quiz on Mahatma Gandhi to impress the radio talk master Jhanvi with whom he has fallen in love. As he has no idea about who who Gandhi was, his men kidnap a couple of history professors and force them to give the right answers.

Here an interview with director/writer Rajkumar Hirani about the making of the movie.

RAANG DE BASANTI – Starring Aamir Khan, Music A. R. Rahman, directed by Rakeysh Mehra, it is a modern interpretation of the life of freedom fighter and martyr Bhagat Singh.

As the official webpage has been closed down for unknown reasons, here the title song.

KHOSLA KA GHOSLAK. K. Khosla (Anupam Kher), a typical middle-class father, has saved all his life to be now able to buy a plot of land in or near Delhi where he wants now to build a house for his wife, himself and his three adult children. The plot gets usurped by Kishan Khurana (Boman Irani) who wants 15 Lakhs to give back the land. So much the beginning of this excellent middle-class study in the disguise of a comedy written by Jaideep Sahni and directed by Dibakar Banerjee.

DORSensible drama by Nagesh Kukunoor. Why are there not more movies like this????!

KRRISH Hrithik Roshan acts under the direction of his father in an Indian superhero-fantasy-dance-melodrama which sfx and costumes try to resemble “The Matrix” but whose story is purely Desi.

2005

IQBALNagesh Kukunoor of HYDERABAD BLUES-fame made this sensitive film about a teenager (Shreyas Talpade) who is deaf and dumb but dreams of making it big in Cricket.

THE BLUE UMBRELLA – See Film Review 3.

BLACK – Although I hated Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s DEVDAS, BLACK deserves recognition and appreciation for the fact that an ensemble piece with mostly only 2 actors, a deaf, mute and blind girl (Rani Mukherjee) and her teacher (Amitabh Bachchan) was made inside the Bollywood film industry and for the histrionic performance of both actors. Ultra-emotional like a genuine Sanjay Leela Bhansali-film ought to be!

WATERJohn Abraham as Gandhian??! Well, apart from that is Deepa Mehta’s film, actually a Candian production, a sensitive and necessary exploration of the life of a young woman forced into the inhumane restrictions of widowhood and her love to a young Brahmin who is a follower of Gandhi. Beautiful cinematography by Gilles Nuttgens.

2004

SWADES – Excellent film by LAGAAN-director Ashutosh Gowariker who unfortunately flopped at the box office. Still a must-see, good performance by Sharukh Khan, usually superb score by A. R. Rahman.

MAIN HOON NA – Silly Sharukh Khan-comedy with former Miss Universe Sushmita Sen and Zayed Khan as his brother. Has a MATRIX-spoof-scene. Another film in which Sharukh Khan’s character is named Ram.

2003

MUNNABHAI M. B. B. S.A gangster goes doctor to please his parents. So simple can be the tagline for a brilliant comedy.

KOI MIL GAYA – An E. T.-remake with Hrithik Roshan which I personally like better than the Original. Very emotional. Keep those tissues ready.

2002

THE LEGEND OF BHAGAT SINGH – One of Ajay Devgan’s best performances as freedom fighter Bhagat Singh who got executed with his fellow revolutionaries at the age of 23. Superb soundtrack by A. R. Rahman.

2001

LAGAAN – Read also Book Review 1 – The Spirit of Lagaan, the story how the made the film.

DIL CHAHTA HAI – Starring three decent actors Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Akshaye Khanna, DIL CHAHTA HAI again proved the point that yes, one can make a different kind of movie, critically acclaimed and commercially successful, inside the parameters of the Bollywood Dream Factory. DIL CHAHTA HAI tells the story of three friends graduating from college and transitioning into life as adults. Director Farhan Akthar, son of lyricist/writer Javeed Akthar, rocked the scene with this very life-like directorial debut. 21 wins & 36 nominations.

KABHI KUSHI KABHIE GHAM – Star-director Karan Johar assembled an All-star ensemble incl. Amitabh Bachchan, Sharukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor, Kajol, Rani Mukherjee and used the blue print of the “Ramayana”created a much-loved and much-hated film – The true essence of Kitsch and melodrama. The ultimate tearjerker.

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