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Bollywood's Best Films of 2012

Last updated on: December 26, 2012 18:41 IST

Bollywood's Best Films of 2012

     Next

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Sukanya Verma in Mumbai

Every single year Bollywood serves a melange of exceptional and expendable cinema. It's only the ratio of one to another that differs from time to time. 

The year 2012 had it good with quite a few films doing moderate to major business. Quality took a backseat often with the onslaught of dense masala fare (Housefull 2, Rowdy Rathore, Kya Super Cool Hain Hum, Son of Sardaar) and frequent sequels (Jannat 2, Dabangg 2) especially horror (Raaz 3, Bhoot Returns and 1920: An Evil Returns).

As always some of the most hyped/anticipated films like Agent Vinod, Ishaqzaade, Heroine and Jab Tak Hai Jaan were let down by either flawed scripts, stereotype elements, a propensity for excesses, uninspired direction or that one-legged monster better known as 'second half.'

But I must add, I was rather thankful for that odd remake (Agneepath), which was respectful of its iconic source and evoked memories of a time when our revenge dramas were dominated by overpowering villains, an odd pair (Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu) who chose not to reveal the outcome of their relationship, yet another but significantly better retelling of a school teacher's contribution in the fight for freedom (Chittagong), a 40-something's romance against a quirky Parsi backdrop (Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi), the madcap Punjabi-themed banter of the Khurana family (Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana), an extravagant teeny-bopper musical (Student of the Year) that lay no claim to depth and, finally, a Salman Khan starrer (Ek Tha Tiger) for not entirely assaulting my collective sense and sensibilities.

And with this we've now arrived at my favourite part of this year-end exercise, listing the year's 10 BEST Hindi Films. What I love about this selection is the diversity; they're all so different from each other in mood, treatment and ideology and yet achieving a common goal of entertainment with excellence. So without further ado, here's my compilation in no particular order.

Kahaani

In the best film of Sujoy Ghosh's career so far, a heavily pregnant Vidya Balan comes to Kolkata looking for her missing husband.

What appears to be an uncomplicated plot at first is aligned by fascinating characters that change properties around an intricate set-up of deep-rooted deception within an ambiance that celebrates its city's rich traditions, chaotic imagery and everyday temperament without dumbing down to cultural stereotypes.

And that, along with a mind-blowing Bob 'Namaskar' Biswas, is what stays with you about this sly, steady thriller even after the big revelation.

Read the review here


Image: Vidya Balan and Bob Biswas in Kahaani


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Paan Singh Tomar

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Apart from making his acting debut as the mild-mannered antagonist in Gangs of Wasseypur, filmmaker Tigmanshu Dhulia impressed us behind the scenes with his long-delayed Paan Singh Tomar. 

There are many reasons that make this a great film. Foremost among them is the incredible Irrfan Khan, it's as though every time he reads a persuasive script, he organically transforms into that person.

His compelling, physically demanding delivery, filmed against a realistic landscape and camaraderie with co-actors like Mahie Gill, Nawazuddin Siddiqui is boosted by Dhulia's tangible portrait of a true story to note the sad irony of a neglected steeplechase champion turned notorious bandit.  

At a time when the entire country is feeling restless and ignored, the questions posed by Paan Singh Tomar seem more pertinent than ever.

Read the review here


Image: Irrfan in Paan Singh Tomar


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Gangs of Wasseypur

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Three hundred and twenty minutes of slow-cooked revenge is a bit of a stretch, you'd say? So Anurag Kashyap's Gangs of Wasseypur takes its own sweet time to come through. And yet, strangely, the two-part deal around Dhanbad mafia is a rare example of indulgent filmmaking done right.

The quality of its narrative, nuances, compositions, inspirations and a rollicking soundtrack (both original and the ones borrowed for cinematic effect) encompass a great deal at once.

GOW, part 1 and 2, is filled with characters of varying motives and manners -- the Khans, the Singhs and the Qureshis -- prompting a popular blog to post a meticulous family tree of the same.

And yet the populated ensemble is undeniably immersive through its two extensive editions documenting events from 1940s to 2000s. 

Also, despite its clearly male-dominated contents high on memorable performances from Manoj Bajpai, Tigmanshu Dhulia and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the womaniyas (Richa Chaddha, Huma Qureshi, Reema Sen) aren't props for glamour but represent a sharp, strong set of individuals.

While I prefer to treat them as one if I had to pick between the two, I'd go with the riveting build up of Part 1.

Read the review here


Image: A scene from Gangs of Wasseypur


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Makkhi

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Months before its Hindi dub hit the marquee; I watched this Telugu blockbuster (Eega) the day it released. It was the first time I watched a Telugu film on a big screen and it's a memory I am taking with me to my grave.

What. A. Fly.

Director S S Rajamouli's live-action-meets-CGI may not possess the technological finesse of Avatar but when it comes to unconstrained imagination, it soars like no other. The sheer creativity and theatrics (I Will Kill You) with which our super-fly tortures and hits back at the bad guy reaffirms my faith in Galadriel's claim, 'Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.'


Image: A scene from Makkhi


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Barfi!

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Barfi! is like a warm, beautiful blanket you don't want to get out of only to realise it's actually a patchwork quilt made out of stolen scraps and pieces to look the way it is. But by then you've developed a strong attachment for it and love it despite this unpleasant knowledge.

Indeed its lack of originality did trigger a 'damn you Anurag Basu' sense of betrayal especially after my glowing appraisal of a movie that packs in so much feel-good.

But since cynicism is the last thing Brrrfee would ever practice, I am still raising two thumbs up for Ranbir Kapoor's terrific impulses, Priyanka Chopra's unexpected awesomeness and Ileana D'Cruz's exquisite portrayal from girl to woman.

Read the review here


Image: Priyanka Chopra and Ranbir Kapoor in Barfi


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OMG-Oh My God

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Who cares how pretty a movie looks or doesn't or how tacky its title is when the content is as cohesive as OMG, based on the hit Gujarati play Kanji Viruddh Kanji, which itself was inspired by The Man Who Sued God?

Like I wrote in my review, it's heartening to see a rock-solid Paresh Rawal in a mainstream project revolving entirely around him making a well-researched and bold argument about the myths and fallacies of religion.

If only Akshay Kumar would produce and act in such meaningful, well-written scripts more.

Read the review here


Image: Paresh Rawal in OMG-Oh My God


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Talaash: The Answer Lies Within

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The wait was never-ending but, in the end, totally worth it. Reema Kagti's second film as director, which came out only last month, was originally supposed to release in Fall 2011 and then June 2012 but owing to Aamir Khan's prior commitments (namely TV talk show Satyamev Jayate), it was postponed.

A lot of hullabaloo accompanied the suspense but why Talaash truly works beyond the short-lived thrill of who did it and why, is its complex spread of deprived or melancholic protagonists, articulated through delicate details.

An atmospheric, impeccably shot film, Talaash hugely benefits from its textbook casting ranging from Khan's contained angst, Kareena Kapoor's smooth enigma, Rani Mukerji's sensitive portrayal of loss and Nawazuddin's dimensions to a role that's most interesting of the lot.

Read the review here


Image: Kareena Kapoor and Aamir Khan in Talaash: The Answer Lies Within


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Vicky Donor

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If there's one film I could go back in time and add a star or half, it's Vicky Donor. While I wasn't too pleased about the manner in which Shoojit Sircar concludes this frothy adventure of a sperm donor, there's no getting over Juhi Chaturvedi's super witty writing.

There's so much going for it.

A) You have absolutely whimsical characters from Dr Chaddha and Mr Roy to Beeji and Dolly and their hilarious exchange and cultural clashes, the kind you simply have to eavesdrop on.

B) Two absolutely delightful debutants -- Ayushmann Khurana and Yami Gautam romancing the streets of Delhi in a manner so believable.

C) And most importantly, for a comedy that's set around the theme of sex/infertility/sperm banks, Vicky Donor is unbelievably tasteful and devoid of any sick innuendoes.

Read the review here


Image: Annu Kapoor and Ayushmann Khurana in Vicky Donor


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English Vinglish

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An infectiously charming Sridevi discusses her love for banana chips with her daughter's school principal even as her first born appears ill at ease. It's the moment you want to offer her a plate of her favourite snack and thwack her heartless kid.

A completely crushed Sridevi breaks down after she's berated by a rude cafe attendant. It's the moment when you can feel her trauma and helplessness.

A heartbroken Sridevi starts making ladoos from scratch instead of appearing for her exams when an unforeseen accident caused by her son leads to a floor filled with smashed sweets. It's the moment where her visibly sorry boy joins in to help; making you wish you could too.

A grace personified Sridevi delivers a wedding speech in acceptable (in her case triumphant) English expressing the qualities that make a marriage truly work to her newly married niece. It's the moment when we are looking at Adil Hussain's deservingly embarrassed disposition.

It's moments like these that make the predictable but precious accomplishments of a glorious Sridevi as Shashi Godbole -- one of the best comebacks Bollywood has witnessed in a long, long time. 

Another round of applause for debutant director Gauri Shinde.

Read the review here


Image: Sridevi in English Vinglish


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Shanghai

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With scams popping up every now and then, Shanghai, based on Vassilis Vassilikos' Z is a relevant and absorbing take on the science of politics and bureaucracy in the name of progress and how either impacts reality.

What I found most interesting about Shanghai is how director Dibakar Banerjee allows the viewer complete freedom to interpret his characters the way they like -- judge them, doubt them or venerate them. He doesn't explain the subtext that drives their actions in detail but drops enough hints for those willing to put it together.

Also, he effectively flavours the proceedings with his brand of wry humour, reliably good actors (Abhay Deol, Farookh Shaikh, Pitobash, Prosenjit Chatterjee) and revelations (a career-best Emraan Hashmi). 


Image: Emraan Hashmi in Shanghai


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