Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

December 27, 2013

Hits & Pits 2013

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 10:45 pm


It’s been a year of some big moneyspinners and a few surprise gems. Unlike 2012, which was a comparatively stronger year what with such unconventional hits as Kahaani, Barfi, Vicky Donor and English Vinglish emerging out of the mainstream, 2013 saw blockbusters like Chennai Express, Krrish 3 and Dhoom 3 offer comfort in the familiar.

Like every other year, the list of big bloated failures is a long one, and picking just five of the worst films was a tough job. Nevertheless, here are the five films I enjoyed most and the five films I most detested this year. Remember, these are personal choices each, not determined by their box-office performance.




At #5 a tie: Ram Leela was a passionate celebration of love, yet it was as much a celebration to mark the return to form of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who whipped up a cocktail of unabashed melodrama, stunning visuals, and elaborately-choreographed songs for this fiery adaptation of Romeo & Juliet. Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone’s performances crackled with cheeky humour, sexual irreverence, and raw passion. Despite its bloated length, Ram Leela had great style and aesthetic.


Tying at #5 Shuddh Desi Romance: In this nicely textured love story, writer Jaideep Sahni and director Maneesh Sharma turned the conventional notions of marriage and romance on their head. Shuddh Desi Romance stood out as a non-formulaic, charming film with characters that developed cold feet just as easily as they fell in love. Despite the film’s repetitive turn of events, the writing, particularly the dialogues, felt fresh and original. A definite plus was the terrific acting, particularly by Sushant Singh Rajput and Parineeti Chopra who got the sense and tone of small-town India just right, while emerging a romantic pair that refused to conform.


At #4 Shahid: Easily the most powerful film of the year, Shahid was an explosive, uncompromising look at the real-life story of controversial human rights lawyer Shahid Azmi, who was gunned down in cold blood in 2010. Director Hansal Mehta’s gripping story of courage and conviction urged us to confront our own prejudices. Leading man Rajkummar Rao was the soul of this fearless film that oozed the sincerity that you long for in Hindi films.


At #3 Kai Po Che: One of the year’s lingering visuals will be that of three friends leaping off a fort into the sea. Yet Kai Po Che didn’t just rest on the lighthearted moments between these buddies. Director Abhishek Kapoor masterfully built up this tale of childhood pals whose lives are changed irrevocably by the Gujarat earthquake, the Godhra massacre and the 2002 riots, weaving cricket into this patchwork. Kapoor deftly handled the film’s varying moods and extracted competent performances from each of his three leads, even as Sushant Singh Rajput made the biggest impression with sheer confidence and a distinct likeability.


At #2 Lootera: Once there was a boy and a girl, who loved each other despite insurmountable odds…  Lootera was steeped in old-fashioned romance, but it was in the storytelling that writer-director Vikramaditya Motwane wooed you. A bittersweet tale of love, betrayal and redemption told without melodrama, and by skillfully marrying the key tools of cinema – picture, sound and music – the film made a place in the heart despite its second-half speed-bumps. With Sonakshi Sinha and Ranveer Singh delivering their strongest performances yet, Lootera left a lasting impression.


And at first place – #1 on my list of the Hits of 2013 – is The Lunchbox: As much a love letter to Mumbai as it was a searing portrait of loneliness, The Lunchbox relied on scribbled notes tucked into tiffin boxes to deliver a charming love story between a introverted widower and a neglected housewife. First-time writer-director Ritesh Batra made a strong case for lost souls in a city bursting at its seams. Powered by unforgettable, sensitive performances from Irrfan Khan, newcomer Nimrat Kaur, and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, The Lunchbox was a delicious story, flavored with heartfelt emotions.


So there you have it, my top five Hindi films of 2013. There are other honorable mentions too, good films that didn’t make the Top 5 shortlist. They do, however, find a place in the Hall of Fame. A big shout-out to Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, Special Chabees, Madras Cafe, D-Day, BA Pass, Raanjhanaa, Go Goa Gone, Bombay Talkies, Mere Dad Ki Maruti, Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster Returns, and the terrific Ship of Theseus that didn’t qualify for this list because technically it’s not a Hindi film.




At #5 Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara: This colossally disappointing sequel from director Milan Luthria not only failed to evoke the nostalgia of its times in the way that its predecessor did, but also delivered a limp love triangle that felt so contrived, it was hard to care for any of the three harebrained leads. Akshay Kumar, in the part of a supposedly dreaded gangster, was more comical than menacing, and Imran Khan was never quite convincing as his tapori protégé. Yet no one came off worse than Sonakshi Sinha, as the struggling actress happy to take favors from Akshay but outraged when he reveals he has designs on her. The film’s dialogues felt like a full-fledged assault of rat-a-tat punch lines, and at over 150 minutes Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara was the equivalent of getting a root canal.


At #4 is Besharam: The kind of joyless film that made you wait patiently through a torturous 138 minutes to understand what exactly drew Ranbir Kapoor to sign on the dotted line. The film’s empty plot was likely scribbled on toilet paper during an inspired moment on the pot, and the casting of unimpressive newbie Pallavi Sharda as the film’s heroine was baffling to say the least. Director Abhinav Kashyap followed up Dabangg with this dud comedy that squandered the talents of not only its leading man but of Rishi and Neetu Kapoor who played supporting parts. Besharam showed you what happens when a fat paycheck is the only incentive to go to work.


Coming in at #3 Sajid Khan’s Himmatwala: This puerile reimagining of the 1983 Jeetendra-Sridevi melodrama couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a faithful remake of that film, or a spoof of those Madras potboilers. As a result the film’s tone see-sawed between revenge saga and comedy, never doing justice to either genre. Ajay Devgan as the nostril-flaring, vengeance-seeking hero mouths corny lines, even as the film’s heroine Tamannah carries around a whip yelling “I hate gareebs”. The only Himmatwalas here were those in the audience who survived the entire film without passing out from sheer frustration.


At Number 2, it’s R… Rajkumar: A putrid cocktail of relentless action and crass humor that numbs your brain as it unfolds over an excruciating two-and-a-half hours. Shahid Kapoor must defend his girlfriend’s honor from his gangster boss who becomes determined to marry her. It’s a flimsy premise that translated into a regressive film packed with third-rate dialogue and embarrassing performances, particularly from Sonakshi Sinha who, in one scene, whips off her sari and snarls at Sonu Sood that she’ll willingly strip for him if he can defeat her lover first. This awful film from director Prabhudeva belonged to the 80s, and that’s where it deserves to be left.


Racing up to the top of this shameful list – at the #1 position, my worst film of 2013 – is Zanjeer, a movie so appallingly atrocious that it immediately brought to mind Ramgopal Varma Ki Aag, which I consider the worst Hindi film ever made. Not satisfied with being a hollow imitation of the classic 70s hit Zanjeer, this Apoorva Lakhia-directed remake was embarrassingly ill-conceived and packed with howlers. How Prakash Mehra’s own sons could produce this drivel was a mystery. Forget the wax model-like hero Ram Charan, a portly Sanjay Dutt sleep-walking through the film, or Priyanka Chopra chattering away like a six-year-old on a sugar high, I’m still scarred from villain Prakash Raj’s grotty dialogues, like that unforgettable, eloquent line, “Chicken and chicks are the two meows of life.” Showing scant regard for our intelligence or entertainment, Zanjeer stank like a pile of rotting fish.


So those were the five films I least enjoyed this year, but it’s only fair to list the other honorable mentions that will find their way into the Hall of Shame. Here are some of the other films that were considred, pondered over, but didn’t make it to the final shortlist because they were bad, but not as bad as the ones that did make the list. So a big thumbs down to Inkar, Murder 3, I Me Aur Main, The Attacks of 26/11, Ishq in Paris, Yamla Pagla Deewana 2, Satyagrah, Boss, Rajjo, Satya 2, Gori Tere Pyaar Mein and Grand Masti.



(This feature first aired on CNN-IBN)


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