Here then is my third installment of entertainers and truly outstanding productions from Bollywood. Strictly speaking, these are not all Bollywood films but they are by Indian directors, wherever in the world they may be. Some of these films go back in time. But, I am convinced that in spite of that, they have survived the dating well and continue to be relevant, thought-provoking or simply entertaining. I think that it is because one has to search through a lot of chaff to find the true treasures, that I tend to appreciate them even more.
So, here goes –
- Delhi Belly (2011) – This one is currently top of mind since it has not been long since I saw it. A non-stop laugh riot, this has to be the most audacious Bollywood movie I have ever seen. Deservedly rated “A” for Adults, this is a must-see. Released in both English and Hindi (dubbed), this is another gem from Aamir Khan. Who stars in it really doesn’t matter, it’s about the story, screenplay, dialog, music, the attention to detail and absolute creativity. A hilarious winner! Watch the trailer here, then go see it!!
And here are some more movie recommendations for your discerning tastes –
- I am Kalam (2011) – On the lines of Stanley Ka Dabba, this story is of two boys in the deserts of Rajasthan. One, an underprivileged and ambitious child laborer, the other a well-to-do boy with no friends. It’s about their bonding, the people and conditions they have to deal with it and how they overcome their individual challenges. The best thing about it is how natural and unassuming the boy actors are.
- Fire (1996) – This Deepa Mehta film broke new ground, I would say not just in India, but globally. It is the first in her trilogy (the others follow immediately below). Spectacular performances by Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das, who play co-sister-in-laws, and have to turn to each other for love and compassion when neglected by their husbands. While it won some 14 international awards, it also sparked riots across India when it opened. Years before Brokeback Mountain hit the screens and caused strong emotions, dare I say it – this film broke new ground? What an understatement!
- Earth (1998) – The second in the trilogy by Deepa Mehta, this brilliant film showcases the time of India’s partition in 1947, the division between Hindus and Muslims, and the story of real people on the ground. Aamir Khan as never seen before, along with a stellar performances by Nandita Das and Rahul Khanna. This is one of those films that lingers on your mind long after you have watched it.
- Water (2005) – Deepa Mehta ended her trilogy with this stirring film focused on the life of widows in Varanasi. As with the others, this issue-based film roused strong emotions as well as huge controversy in India. A moving story of very young, middle-aged and elderly widows and their second-class (or worse) status in society, this brought to light some of the injustices done to humans, women especially, in the name of religion.
- Mississippi Masala (1991) – one of the better films of Mira Nair, juxtaposing the Indian and American approach to race and relationships. Shot in the deep south of US, and starring Denzel Washington, this movie gave desis in Amerias a reality check on their lives while giving Indians a peek into what it was like to live in the US.
- Kaminey (2009) – Who knew Shahid Kapoor could give such a glorious performance (or two)? One as a good twin who stutters, and the other the “bad” twin who can’t say the letter “s”. It obviously takes a director. Vishal Bhardwaj (again!) came out with this brilliant movie about identical twins born and raised in Mumbai’s slums.
- The Blue Umbrella (2005) – Another jewel by Vishal Bhardwaj, this film is based on a novel by Ruskin Bond. With Shahid’s dad and actor extraordinaire Pankaj Kapur as the main character; the shopkeeper jealous of the blue umbrella that is gifted to a village girl by a Japanese tourist. This film is set in picturesque Himachal Pradesh and can be seen just for the beauty of the surroundings, but wait! This is a Vishal Bhardwaj film, so there’s so much more to delight in!
- Arth (1982) – This goes way back in time; I probably saw it a few years after its initial release but the power-packed performances of Shabana Azmi and the late Smita Patil are not easily forgotten even now. The allegedly true story of a Bollywood film maker and his extra-marital affair with an actress entailed all the drama you would expect. But the real winners were the soul-stirring performances by the wife (Shabana) and the high-strung actress (Smita).
I end with this trailor for the Blue Umbrella. Enjoy!
Here then is my second installment of entertainers, and even some gems, from Bollywood in the categories that I had created.
(As expected, I’ve merged my previous #2 and #3 into the second category below).
- Jab We Met (2007) – See it for Geet played by Kareena Kapoor. Romantic drama with comedic moments in a pucca Punjabi family. One of those entertainers that can be seen and enjoyed more than just once. As a bonus, there’s great music, dancing and a cute hero too.
- Ghajini (2008) – an Aamir Khan spectacle that just works; remade from a South Indian hit film. Has a little bit of everything – romance, action, drama….and of course, Aamir.
- Veer Zara (2004) – a glorious romance between a Hindu and Muslim crossing the Indo-Pakistan border with relish. Told with all the colorful, extravagant and musical trappings of a Yash Chopra movie.
- 3 Idiots (2010) – I thought it was overrated and over-hyped but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth a watch. It does have a unique story, good dialog, 45 year old Aamir actually looking like a college kid (collagen fillers work wonders!), good music, comedy and drama (a bit much).
- Dil Chahta Hai (2001) – The tale of three young men, their friendship, their relationships and their life. One of these really well-thought through scripts acted and directed brilliantly. Another gem with Aamir. I could watch it again today and be entertained.
Innovative (maybe even Groundbreaking) or Art House:
- Stanley Ka Dabba (2011) – breaking new ground for sure, this wonderful gem made by Amol Gupte is a charming and heart-wrenching story of Stanley and his missing lunch box. New this year and not to be missed. All the little actors – Stanley and his buddies – are naturals. Kudos to Mr. Gupte who is also one of the main characters as the baddie in the film.
- Shor in the City (2011) – a look at the small time criminals in Mumbai with parallel stories made even more interesting because of the direction, actors and tight plot. Watch it for Sendhil (wow!), the supporting cast and great music. One of the few good movies this year, and a surprise to boot.
- A Wednesday (2008) – Rage against terrorism! And about what we do to bring justice to terrorists. Naseeruddin Shah is simply awesome (is he ever anything else?) in this awesome movie. Did you say you have not watched it? Shame!
- Rang De Basanti (2006) – what a unique movie that juxtaposes the modern (corrupt) India with scenes from fight for Independence from the British Raj. Very innovatively shot. Great screenplay, acting, music and direction!
- Aamir (2008) – Scenes of the Mumbai underworld in terrifying realism, this fast-paced movie takes a newly arrived UK doc from Mumbai airport through the most terrible back alleys of Mumbai, all the way to a surprising finish.
- Omkara (2006) – Shakespear’s Othello re-done but set in, of all places, Uttar Pradesh. Fantastic film and performances, created by India’s most prolific director and all-rounder – also a writer, producer, musician and singer, Vishal Bhardwaj. It seems there’s nothing he can’t do!
2. Innovative (maybe even Groundbreaking) or Art House – a first or near-first for Bollywood or an art film -which is typically a serious, independently made movie for a niche rather than mass audience.