Sunday, September 6, 2009

My 10 favourite Bollywood movies

These movies may not be the best Bolllywood movies of all time, maybe even for me. But I never got around to watching too many old movies. Not that I don't like them. In fact some of them (think 70s and 80s) are better than most movies that came out in the 90s for sure and even in the first decade of this century. One name that comes to mind immediately as I think of the movies that had style back then is Qurbani. Super cool!

But back to this list. These are the movies, and in some cases directors, that I have come to love over the last 20 years I'd say. This would be my definitive starting list to recommend to non-Indian friends (yes, that includes you Ajit) if they wish to watch interesting Hindi movies. And I'm not talking Slumdog Millionaire. Let's be clear, that was a British film about India. Nothing personal, but sufficed to say at this point that it did not deserve the awards it received. And this blog is to prove my point. We have better films about India, made in India.

Film: Omkara
Director: Vishal Bharadwaj
Vishal Bharadway took Shakespeare's Othello & set it up in NE India where violence is the law of the land. This movie became a part of a series of similar adaptations Bharadwaj made, including Maqbool, which was based on Macbeth. Bharadwaj started out as a music director in Hindi films, before transitioning to make movies. He also recently made Kaminey, which imo was his tribute to the classic Bollywood "masala" movies and he made one better than one other before.

Film: Sarkar
Director: Ram Gopal Verma
Another brilliant adaptation. This one from the Godfather. Ram Gopal Verma has the same sensibility as Mario Puzo. He tries to create similar power struggles. This movie is considered to be a tribute more than an adaptation because it is quite different from the original. Verma bases his story on a very close to reality political figure in Bombay. His use of different camera angles and lighting is brilliant, but the use of the background score is a little much. Other Verma movie to watch: Satya & Company. These are about the underwold.

Film: Rang De Basanti
Director: Om Prakash Mehra
This movie draws parallels between the awakening of youth during the Indian freedom struggle and in todays time. Its a story about how a bunch of youngsters become socially active when one of their friends is killed in a fighter plane crash and the government blames it on the pilots erroneous ways rather than admitting to the fact that the plane itself was sub-standard. It draws parallel to how the youth fought for India's freedom.

Film: Wednesday
Director: Neeraj Pandey
A film on terrorism but with a difference. This one looks at how the everyday terrorist attacks affect the common man who is left helpless amidst all the violence. Short movie by Indian standards but very well paced out. There's never a dull moment in this film.

Film: Black Friday
Director: Anurag Kashyap
This was one of the darkest moments in Bombay's history. In 1992, Hindu extremists took down one of the oldest mosques in India because that was supposed to be the birth place of Ram, a Hindu deity. In retaliation the Muslim underworld planned and executed bomb blasts across Bombay that killed about 300 people and injured many more. This film is a dramatic reenactment of how some of the terrorists were caught. Anurag Kashyap does a great job of keeping you on the edge of your seat throughout this documentary of sorts. The movie is based on a book of the same name.

Film: Bombay & Roja
Director: Mani Ratnam
Bombay is about the 1993 riots in Bombay which followed the bomb blasts mentioned above. Roja is about terrorism in Kashmir and is one of the best movies about that subject. Both great movies and while you're at it, watch Dil Se also, which is on terrorisist groups in far NE corners of India.

Film: Taare Zameen Par
Director: Aamir Khan
Aamir Khan is long considered one of the best actors in India. This is his directorial debut. Its about how to deal with dyslexia. Great performances by the kid who is suffering from dyslexia and also from Aamir. Very emotional story.

Film: Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II
Director: Shashanka Ghosh
This movie reminds me of Lock, Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels by Guy Ritchie. Bunch of well crafted characters, some on the right side of the law, some on the wrong, all get intertwined towards the end of the movie and most die. This is not a direct copy in anyway. The base scenario is well adapted into the Bombay underworld scene. I worry about recommending this movie to anyone who does not speak Hindi, becasue many of the jokes might be lost in translation, but do let me know if you enjoy this one particularly, since it is one of my favourite movies of all time.

Film: Johnny Gaddar
Director: Sriram Raghavan
Really cool thrillers are hard to come by these days in Bollywood. Johnny Gaddar does stand out inspite of just above average performances by all the lead characters. The story is very tight and the movie ends very well. Fast paced and moreover very believable.

Film: Parineeta
Director: Pradeep Sarkar
I had to throw in at least one "typical" Bollywood movie. Melodrama, love, longing and song-n-dance. I could've put in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, which started the trend for such movies in the recent past, or even Dev D, which is a modern day adaptation of a classic tale of love and longing. Dev D btw is the Romeo & Juliet (Baz Luhrman vesion) of Bollywood. However I chose Parineeta because of the way its executed. It is over the top, but not entirely and the performances are just mildly melodramatic. I would say it's just about done, not over-done.

Watch and let me know which ones you like.
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