Dec. 29, 2012
Every December, as the calendar year drew to a close, we gave you a list of the year’s Top 10 Bollywood films. That’s now passe. This year we give you the other gems: Bollywood’s Top 10 atrocities, indulgences and ego trips.
It’s customary for newspapers to summarise and recap a year in elegant lists. And nothing is more contentious and fun than the Top 10 inventory. Bollywood, by its very nature and mass appeal, lends itself beautifully to such numeric tabulation — 10 best films in 12 months. That’s easy. Barring some snobbish exceptions or a couple of personal favourites/prejudices, you and I share the same Top 10 list in any given year. My best of 2012, for example, includes two gorgeous gems — Aamir Bashir’s Harud and Faiza Ahmed Khan’s Supermen of Malegaon (documentary) — which deserved but didn’t get a decent cinema outing. The rest is all mainstream Bollywood films — Vicky Donor, Shanghai, Paan Singh Tomar, English Vinglish, Agneepath, Maximum, Ek Main Aur Ek Tu and, of course, Bol Bachchan.
These films have been feted and hash-tagged, some lucky ones even got to trend on Twitter for a full virtual week or two. Their writers and directors have been fawned upon and actors interviewed ad nauseam. They’ve had their fill.
So this year we have decided to dump the sweeties and focus on the horrendous and the heinous. These are films that, justifiably, played to empty cinema halls, bar the weeping critic, the slipping-into-coma producer and the horny couple trying to make out, earnestly praying that the armrest would rise on its own, saluting their deep desperation. It, of course, doesn’t budge, hence the periodic murmurs and exclamations which have nothing to do with the proceedings on screen.
During the course of the year, we duly noted these dreadful films, reviewed them, even barred innocent public from venturing anywhere near them with star-warning signs. But that’s not enough.
Atrocities like these need to be remembered, relived. Because, as my mother used to say and some religious friends still insist, suffering makes us better humans.
Also, of course, what a delight it is to bitch rather than just eulogise.
1. Student of the year
Karan Johan, who began the year with a blockbuster homage to his daddy, went progressively batty as the year progressed. Under the guise of obliging Bollywood pals — launching Mahesh Bhatt-Soni Razdan’s daughter Alia Bhatt, David Dhawan’s son Varun Behl, and Siddharth Malhotra, his assistant director on My Name is Khan — he created an elaborate, farcical facade to tell the most trite love-triangle story.
In a hallucination called St Teresa School, which was basically Riverdale High after a makeover by Manish Malhotra, men nearing their 30s zoomed about in fancy cars, pretending to be school kids. They danced, fought and attempted melodrama not just to exhibit their hardened faces and ballooning muscles but also to out-do each other in the world’s most idiotic race to win the student of the year trophy. That the contest involved a treasure hunt and a dance competition overseen by a gay-as-a-goose dean was downright offensive. Or, perhaps, proof that this was actually an institution for the mentally unstable and the film’s title, really, should have been Moron of The Year.
Boys, as always, were Mr Johar’s focus, with the bimbette mostly simpering in the sidelines, occasionally getting into a ghagra choli for a song or two.
The film had decent music, was posh looking, but that didn’t obscure the fact that it was like an extended episode of Channel V’s Dil Dosti Dance. Student Of the Year marked a particularly low point in Karan Johar’s career.
Also, I found the whole exercise and expense futile. These kids are not here to stay for long. I’ve seen better performances in nukkad nataks.
Madhur Bhandarkar likes to tell moral stories about immoral people. And this time he decided to gaze at Bollywood’s pierced, taut naval — so there’s the grimy casting couch, sagging careers resurrected by MMS scandals and the occasional girl-on-girl affair, that’s when the girl is not on another girl’s husband. Heroine could have been interesting, except that it’s the same story we’ve seen and suffered before — Corporate, Page 3, Fashion… Ambition leads girls to bad parties where they meet bad but big men, have torrid affairs and land promotions/assignments. This leads to success which leads to drugs and more sex and this, inevitably, leads to downfall, depression, dementia…
Mr Bhandarkar is like “Pig-Pen” from Peanuts — a cloud of dirt and dust follows him wherever he goes. He managed to get Bollywood’s most glamorous star and Kareena looked really good. But Mr Bhandarkar has the uncanny ability to turn whatever he touches tacky, including his incessant moralising.
The experience of watching Department is akin to being dragged by one ankle through the mucky and nauseating innards of Ram Gopal Varma. In this cop-goonda absurdity which is very loosely based on Infernal Affairs, women suck on kulfi and prance around in panties while men are either shooting or getting shot. All the action, all the gore, the abuses, jokes and caricature characters stand apart and alone, making little sense. And it doesn’t help that throughout the film, the camera skitters about, trying to creep up someone’s pyjama, jeans, lungi. Perhaps looking for a place to hide and wait for this calamity to pass.
Abbas-Mastan’s retelling of F. Gary Gary’s 2003 The Italian Job, is strictly for the dim-witted. Here dullness is omnipresent — it’s there in the tedious heist, in the acting, in the characters that actors are supposed to pose as, in the film’s pace and especially in the desi-fication of the heist which acquires a revenge-for-daddy’s-death goal to be attempted by do-gooder but duffer chors. The highlight of the film was a chase that involved three adorable Mini Coopers trying to dodge hovering helicopters. That’s a stretch, even for Bollywood.
5. Jism 2
Jism 2 is the story of the opportunistic Bhatts — father Mahesh and daughter Pooja — who saw money in the bank the moment they spotted angel-face desi porn star Sunny Leone on Bigg Boss. So they signed her and created a story around her two titties and two titty-crazy men. The Bhatts should have kept the film raunchy, semi-pornographic even. They didn’t. They tried to weave some nonsensical story about an undercover cop using a porn star to get to a don with putrid dialogues that included the words sitaron and maang. This required Ms Leone to do more than just pant and ride men, and the men to more than just graze. A tall order!
6. Daal Mein Kuch…
Daal Mein Kuch Kaala Hai! cannot be called a film. It’s an imbecility. This thing doesn’t have a single coherent thought, forget a full story. It’s just a camera following several idiots doing their special idiotic things around Veena Malik and a suitcase full of money.
That the film is directed by Aanandbalraj (one word), the guy who played Debu in the Anil Kapoor-Madhuri Dixit starrer Ram Lakhan, and whose only memorable line in the film was, “India is great” is warning enough. The other warning is what Ms Malik repeatedly says in this film: “Uff! Ek taraf bhoot, doosri taraf goonde log. Mein kahan jaaon?” Bhaad mein, I’d say.
7. Agent Vinod
Agent Vinod is a film about a vaulting spy on a mission to save Bharat Mata, except that this son of India is an idiot. He likes to hop from one country to another — Afghanistan, Russia, Riga, Somalia, Pakistan — to bash up the bad guys and try to locate a deadly bomb which is meant for India. The gaps in this one long chase to get to a bomb are filled by such poppycock that I can only quote what someone on Twitter said very succinctly: “Agent Vinod should be called Travel Agent Vinod”.
That this nonsense was directed by Gaddaar Sriram Raghavan was doubly depressing.
8. Dangerous Ishqq
Former female film stars, when they get bored playing ghar-ghar, decide to return to the celluloid. It’s like a mid-life crisis, like going back to an old lover for some self-love. Everyone does it. But only some, like Sridevi, do it sensibly. Others kill all future prospects in one go.
Usually I have really low expectations of Vikram Bhatt, and yet he managed to shock me with this punar janam-revenge torture. Obviously upset that he had a mother of two for a heroine, his film sulks, throughout, in 3D. In various get-ups, one janam after another, it doesn’t drop the sulking.
Karisma Kapoor, apart from being entombed in a foolish fancy-dress fantasy with kilos of makeup, scarves and jackets, skulks through this film with one expression: harried. It matched mine.
9. Zindagi Tere Naam
Zindagi Tere Naam is not inspired by The Notebook. Director Ashu Trikha has copied the Hollywood film scene by scene, ventriloquising lines and expressions, thus crushing any soul or sense the film may have had. The original story was heart-warming — about an ageing man who loses his beloved wife to alzheimer’s everyday. But here we go into flashback, to Chandigarh, where we meet young, annoying lovers… and some of the worst actors in the history of B-grade cinema. But that’s not the point of this film. Zindagi… was expecting us to get excited about Mithun and Ranjeeta being back together on screen after decades. Huh?
10. Gangs of Wasseypur
The world is divided between people who loved Gangs of Wasseypur 1&2 and those who hated it. After part 1, I sat twiddling my thumbs on the fence, wondering, waiting… But when part 2 arrived, after a gap of seven weeks, my boredom tipped me on the side of haters. It was anti-climatic.
That Kashyap is a master filmmaker is apparent in some almost casual strokes of brilliance in GoW. His Godfather-goes-to-Dhanbad saga has some good performances, interesting characters and scenes, but nothing makes up for the fact that Gangs of Wasseypur is not operatic, it’s soporific.
It takes a special kind of fuzzy love for oneself to make a film that is meant only to delight and impress the director and the Gangs of Anurag Kashyap. GoW 1& 2 was never about its story or its telling. It was about what Mr Kashyap can get away with and that indulgence is really annoying.