Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Best 50 Films of the Decade: Part 1

As the curtain is drawn on the first decade of the new millenium, I began to ponder over the gone by in terms of the movies that came and went. This was the decade that saw, I believe changed the fundamentals of Bollywood. The rise of the multiplex culture provided a new exclusive urban audience that demanded a different style of cinema. As a result a number of different movies and subjects that wouldn't have worked 15 years back suddenly found a market for themselves. As a result of this, there was a lot of promising new talent and technique that found its way to mainstream audiences and made the decade memorable. This was the decade to be in for an Anurag Kashyap or a Vishal Bharadwaj. This and the fact that I still have to come across any decent list of the best Hindi movies online inspired me to create a list of the 50 best movies of the decade. Hindi, English, multilingual and bi-lingual films have been considered so long as they are made in Bollywood. The entry is split in five parts and

50. Namastey London: An unexpectedly quirky comedy, this surprise hit remake of the classic “Purab aur Paschim” was authentic, fun and funny for most part. It featured an refreshing and energetic performance from Akshay Kumar (before he got typecast in “Welcome” type roles) and gave Katrina Kaif a chance to use her Angrez accent to actually add authenticity to her character. The music was an eyesore thanks to the involvement of aapro Himesh. However, the movie was earthy, breezy and a perfect outing on any given Sunday.

49. Mithya: A black comedy to the core, Mithya was as entertaining as it was sad. Featuring an impeccable performance from Ranbir Shorey, the movie was extremely funny for the most part. Unfortunately, it was also a thin storyline stretched too long, like butter spread overdecade too much bread. However, solid dialogues, performances and a few well placed plot twists made the film a highly entertaining experience, a rarity in Indian dark comedies.

48. Johnny Gaddar: Had it not been for Neil Nitin Mukesh’s wooden performance, Johnny Gaddar would probably have featured much higher in the list. The movie is expertly crafted by Sriram Raghavan who makes a story that is at once a classical Western thriller and also postmodern tribute to the masala films of 1970s. With a plethora of superb supporting performances, the only problem with the movie is the fact that its leading man is far from convincing. Nevertheless, the confident direction and supporting performances make it a memorable film.

47. Parzania: A powerful film based on a true story with superb performances by Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika. A boy went missing during the Gujarat riots because of simply his name and his family is left behind to pick up the pieces. This could be a story of hundreds of families in Gujarat today. The movie was lacked the typical happy ending and instead gave us a disconcerting account of the atrocities that were committed and the chilling role that the government played in the carnage.

46. Om Shanti Om: An absolutely entertaining reincarnation tale, the movie was a classic big budget Hindi movie. However, what made it interesting is that it drew inspiration from and made references to a plethora of movies ranging from the usual Karz and Madhumati to Gone with the Wind, Phantom of the Opera and many more. A stunning comeback for Arjun Rampal as the menacing Mukesh Mehra, it also gave us the dewy eyed Deepika Padukone. At the same time, it was a celebration of the Hindi film industry with all its stars and its larger than life appeal. Needless to say, it proved to be one of the highest grosser of all time. 46.

45. A Wednesday: This sleeper hit, a phenomenon rarely witnessed on this side of the world, was timely and relevant in its subject matter. Unlike most terrorism films, it put the common man at the centre stage rather than the terrorists or the government. The dialogues were sharp, biting and reflective of the popular sentiment on the matter. The performances of veteran actors Anupam Kher and Naseeruddin Shah as well as Jimmy Shergill and Aamir Bashir were absolutely fantastic. While unrealistic, the plot achieved its objective in delivering an excellent thriller that was thought-provoking without being jingoistic.

44. Kabul Express: This was perhaps one of the most underrated films of this decade as it was a refreshing departure from anything portrayed on the Indian screen before. Shot on the tough landscape of war-torn Afghanistan, the film was technically flawless and had a tight screenplay. The story was entirely original and haunting in its implications, a tale hard to dismiss offhand given the director’s extensive experience with the country. At the same time, it was an entertaining road movie with the requisite humour, thrills and a great background score.

43. Morning Raga: Directed by celebrated theatre personality, Mahesh Dattani, the movie was a poignant and emotionally resonant tale of three people haunted by the past finding redemption in their love for music. The movie was interesting as it introduced Carnatic music to a wider audience (including myself) and featured some lovely fusion versions of “Thaaye Yashodha” and “Mahaganapatim.” It also featured a haunting performance by the always bankable Shabana Azmi. A lovely outing because it was fresh, metaphorical and pure.

42. Cheeni Kum: The tale of love between a 64 year old chef and a 34 year old woman; sounds familiar? Not really. And that was the USP of this film. Absolutely wonderfully enacted by Amitabh Bachchan and Tabu in title roles, the film was very well written in places and always interesting. The ideas of ageing, death and social stereotypes were dealt with the required delicateness and care. The sub-plot about the little kid may be slightly off-putting for some. However, the success of Cheeni Kum reflected the changing sensibilities of the moviegoer. No longer were subjects taboo (as had been the case for movies like “Lamhe”).

41. Being Cyrus: Bollywood has always been weak on thrillers, primarily due to a lack of originality. “Being Cyrus” was one of those rare thrillers that actually worked wonderfully. Darkly comic and macabre, the tale of Cyrus Mistry and his days with the Sethna family at their house in Panchgani is twisted and allows us a view of the deep recesses of characters’ psyches. It reminded me of Tolstoy’s saying that each unhappy family is unhappy in its own unique way. As we are exposed to the Sethna family’s secrets, we laugh, we gasp and in the end, are left with a sense of wonder and melancholy.


  1. What makes a movie great? If I can walk out of a theater, still savouring choice bits of what unfolded on the big screen...if i can still smile, giggle or be moved by that movie ages after...then the movie has made an impact on me.
    There is no TIMEPASS movie! It's either great or bad. I expect to be...transported...by the movies i watch.
    So how did namastey london and OSO enter this list??
    Yes, they maybe decent in their own right, but is this what the entire list is about? 'The Top Decent Movies of the Decade'?
    An entertainer like OSO was also unfortunately a much rehashed spoof of bollywood which we have seen in all the award shows which SRK-Saif host. The song Deewangi reminded me of a typical Filmfare dance item.

    Kabul Express- Apart from the stunning cinematography, what else was there to justify this shoddy venture making it to your list? For comic relief, Kabir Khan introduces stereotypes like the gay Afghan who checks out Arshad Warsi. (The number of books I've read on Afghanistan which touch on the prevalent homosexuality in the region!)
    I remember you pointed out the snappy dialogues between the protagonists of this story. But I think the music let down the movie too. Raghav Sachar wanted to bring a docu-drama feel to the background score, complete with local instruments, but the title track? My God!

  2. Dear BB, first out, its not the greatest films of the decade. Its the best films. Best is always a comparative term and it is relative to the other films that were released during the same time. Among 1000s of films made in the last ten years, I think these 50 are the best ones. That's a relative judgment. It is not an objective criteria of a "great" movie (although the objectivity of that too is debatable). But here, it is most definitely relative. And I find it impossible to believe you can have a strict bifurcation like "great or bad." I have seen way too many movies to support such a view. I suggest you see some more. :P

    Coming to individual cases, both OSO and NL were solid films. They were entertaining and well made for their genres. And OSO was a lot of things one of which was a spoof of Bollywood. It was also in many ways a loving albeit heavy handed tribute to the things we love about Bollywood. It was innovative in its making (see the opening sequence and you will see what I mean).

    Coming to Kabul Express, don't take one instance to write off the entire film. It was a very good story which did transport you to a war ravaged country. The whole deal with Pakistan's involvement in Afghanistan was something new, fresh and chilling in its implications. At the same time, it was smart and funny. I personally don't have such a strong opinion on the title track. However, I continue to maintain that the background score was very good and well in line with the tone of the film.

  3. Thank you shore, I'll take up your suggestion :)
    But since when watching more movies than someone equals accepting anything that is delivered to you? If I don't enjoy a movie, it is a bad movie for me. Period. Does exposing yourself to say 50 more movies than the other person introduce a third category?? I really don't understand your line of argument here - "I have seen way too many movies to support such a view. I suggest you see some more."
    Maybe what you are trying to say is that even a bad movie has its moments. You can distinguish a few nice scenes in say a horrendous film like One,Two,Three...but that still doesn't take away from the fact that the movie sucked as a whole...that the viewers were fleeced. And the entire exercise in movie-making was clearly not to create just those few good scenes, there is so much more to it.

  4. I really can't believe you are comparing One, Two, Three with the movies here. That movie was *abysmal*. I would say again, the movies here are good generally with specific faults. Not faulty movies with a few good scenes. I do realise that its a matter of perspective. You are entitled to your point of view. But even then, to only think in terms of "Yes" and "No" and "Great" and "Bad" is an unfair way in which to judge any film. Its true that if you don't enjoy a movie, its a bad one. But it's not true the other way around. If you do enjoy a movie, it does not mean always that its a great movie. There are good movies as well. There are solid movies also. There are movies that are hardly entertaining but very enlightening. Now, many might hate such a movie. But that does not make it a bad movie. And there are faults will be found in even the best of movies. Not one movie I have seen I can't find faults with.

  5. Sir,
    I can forgive anything. Its all subjective. But I cant really imagine a 'cinephile' awarding higher place to Jaane tu ya Jaane na, over Chandni Bar.

  6. Fair enough, you are entitled to your view. But I think "Chandni Bar" was too bleak a movie, rather dull and really had no point at the end of the day which, for its genre (the socially conscious drama), is not too good at all. It wasn't even that Bhandarkar's direction was particularly good. Tabu and Atul Kulkarni's performances are what really made the movie. JTYJN on the other hand was a lovely entry for its genre (romantic comedy). It wasn't perfect but it was highly entertaining with good performances, great music and a really witty script. That's just the way I see it.