Just realised this one didn’t make it to print because of space constraints. Hence the delayed post.
A real, troubled India emerged out of the films of 2013. An India that’s in conflict with itself, struggling to cope with identity politics that have complicated modern day relationships.
Here’s a look at the Hindi films that really stood out as we take stock of the year that passed us by, in the order of merit.
1. Kai Po Che,
Directed by Abhishek Kapoor; Starring Rajkumar Yadav, Sushant Singh Rajput and Amit Sadh
No other film this year captured real middle class India as evocatively and realistically as Kai Po Che, a classy adaptation of
Chetan Bhagat’s novel ‘Three Mistakes of My Life.’ Abhishek Kapoor chose to cast lesser known actors instead of stars – to portray the capitalistic, political and emotional side of modern India respectively – shot in real locations instead of sets, had people wear
real clothes, not fancy pants and showed us India, specifically Gujarat, like never before.
2. Raanjhanaa, Directed by Anand L Rai; Starring Dhanush, Sonam Kapoor, Abhay Deol, Swara Bhaskar
If Kai Po Che was set in troubled Gujarat, Anand L Rai’s Raanjhanaa explored the growing rift between the rural and urban Indias – Benares and Delhi – small town values (Kundan played by Dhanush) versus big city intellect (Zoya portrayed by Sonam Kapoor). Anand and screenwriter Himanshu Sharma refused to take sides and kept it real. Kundan and Zoya were as vulnerable and flawed as we are.
3. Shahid, Directed by Hansal Mehta; Starring Rajkumar Yadav, Kay Kay Menon, Tigmanshu Dhulia
If Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra made a fable out of Milkha Singh’s life by completely forsaking reality for the sake of spirit, another filmmaker showed us how it’s done by keeping the realism in tact. Besides it’s probably easier to sing praises of an icon than tell us the story of a lesser known activist who died fighting a lone battle against the system.
Shahid is relevant, hard-hitting and is simply among the best courtroom dramas to have ever come out of India.
4. The Lunchbox, Directed by Ritesh Batra; Starring Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
“The Lunchbox works because it is a world we recognise and relate to. The big city life that is increasingly alienating and causing
dysfunctional relationships… People in shells making no effort to reach out or connect, lost in their own mundane world of problems and routine… A crowded world that moves so fast around you that you one day wake up to find yourself old and full of regret,” as we noted in our review.
The understated, finely nuanced performances by Irrfan and Nawaz were a huge bonus in this film that felt a little scripted only towards the end.
5. Bombay Talkies, Directed by Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap; Starring Randeep Hooda, Rani Mukerji, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vineet Kumar Singh, Amitabh Bachchan
Who would have thought that India’s most commercial filmmaker would beat the independent filmmakers at their own game. Karan Johar’s heartbreakingly beautiful story of dysfunctional relationships is one of the finest depictions of closet homosexuality in Indian cinema. One that defies every stereotype associated with gay people.
Each of the four films in this anthology is proof of what our filmmakers can do, if they were given the freedom to do what they
want, irrespective of the market.
6. Shuddh Desi Romance, directed by Maneesh Sharma; Starring Sushant Singh Rajput, Parineeti Chopra, Vaani Kapoor
“We live in troubled times. Where relationships are messy, marriages fall apart, people fall in and out of love and arranged marriages are almost a joke. Only that not many Hindi films would dare to say it out aloud. Because it does not make good business sense to make fun of what’s at the core of the great Indian family — the arranged marriage.
Nor does it make commercial sense to show the youth the mirror — of how messed up and fickle they have become… But this is modern India in all its hypocritical glory,” as we observed.
One of the most misunderstood films of the year where humour by repetition got mistaken for lack of a plot.
7. Madras Cafe, directed by Shootjit Sircar; Starring John Abraham, Siddhartha Basu, Nargis Fakhri, Prakash Belawadi
If this taut spy thriller works, it’s not because of its lead but in spite of them. Even if we buy into John Abraham as a spy battling his
demons, buying Nargis Fakhri’s acting as a credible performance requires quite some suspension of disbelief.
Yet, Madras Cafe is a compelling thriller that chronicles a fictitious conspiracy – an assassination plot – by borrowing liberally from real
events, without really taking sides.
8. Ship of Theseus, Directed by Anand Gandhi; Starring Aida El Kashef, Neeraj Kabi, Sohum Shah
Anand’s Ship Of Theseus was “a simple, fairly accessible, populist, touching and heart-warming film while the promos made it out to be an intellectual, layered and philosophically deep film,” as we noted earlier.
“This uncompromising and honest film examines and deconstructs the Greek paradox through three relatable situations by literally applying the idea to humans and questions who we are if one of our parts were to be replaced. There are no new revelatory answers.”
9. D-Day, Directed by Nikhil Advani; Starring Rishi Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Arjun Rampal, Huma Qureshi, Shruthi Haasan
Nikhil Advani’s spy thriller throws logic to the winds, is supremely reductionist and trigger happy without a cause. Yet, there’s no
denying that this film makes up for all the plotholes with its pace and unabashed masala film emotionality.
This finely edited film zips past gaping holes in the storytelling and yet we cheer on because it’s populist and is wish-fulfilment of sorts.
We get to nab one of India’s most wanted men at least on screen. Inglourious Basterds and Zero Dark Thirty served Desi style.
10. Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram Leela, Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali; Starring Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Richa Chaddha, Supriya Pathak
As we said, this is “his most uninhibited film with raw sexual energy and explosive chemistry between the two of the best looking people in the country. Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone burn the screen down with their presence in exquisitely designed ethnic costumes tailor-made to show off their sculpted bodies and it’s a bonus that they can actually act.
The first half breezes past on pure colour, costume, choreography and chemistry that’s distinctly Bhansali… a musical that’s true to form without any pretensions of being anything more.”
Ten that almost made the list
David: For the irreverence and madness it packed in the Vikram story
Special 26: For giving us a desi Oceans film
I Me aur Main: For being the most mature modern romantic comedy where girl leaves boy
Mere Dad Ki Maruti: For surprising us with the maximum laughs this year
Go Goa Gone: For being a fun zombie comedy film despite the message
Fukrey: For giving the slackers their due and attempts at being zany
Ghanchakkar: For the mad, dark, twisted uncompromising end
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: For Badtameez Dil and its zest for travel
Lootera: For its gorgeous cinematography
Akaash Vaani: For showing us the ugly side of arranged marriages like never before