Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best 50 Films of the Decade: Part II

40. Parineeta: Very rarely is a film carried through entirely by one powerful performance and that too of a new comer. “Parineeta” was one such rarity. Vidya Balan overshadowed seasoned actors like Saif Ali Khan and Sanjay Dutt to give the performance of a lifetime as Lalita. Shantanu Moitra gave his best score till date and Pradeep Sarkar’s eye for period and cultural detail and the delicate portrayal of the social differences at the time made “Parineeta” almost wonderful. The hackneyed climax was however, a real letdown and almost derailed the entire movie. The director’s attempt at the metaphorical breaking of the walls became a tad too literal and absurd.

39. Firaaq: Continuing in the vein of debuts, Nandita Das made her directorial debut with “Firaaq” in 2009. An intertwining tale of various lives colliding in the aftermath of the Gujarat riots and featuring an excellent ensemble performance from an army of seasoned actors, the film was well directed for a first timer. Das deserves kudos for selecting such a heavy subject for her debut vehicle and actually managing to make some sense out of the carnage that occured. It is also a delight to watch actors like Deepti Naval and Paresh Rawal in such form.

38. 3 Deewarein: A powerful work by Nagesh Kukunoor, 3 Deewarein was a powerful film which featured some terrific performances by the principal actors. The story is of 3 jail inmates on death row and a documentary filmmaker dealing with an abusive husband and a painful past who comes to the jail to film their last days. The movie reminded me a lot of Shawshank Redemption though that’s not to say that it was similar. It was deep, intense and featured believable characters. Watch it for Juhi Chawla who proves that she can do more than mere comedy and melodrama.

37. The Legend of Bhagat Singh: Certainly the best biography to be made in this decade, this little gem had everything right. Right from the impeccable casting and the high production values to the lilting score of A.R. Rahman, Rajkumar Santoshi created the definitive biography of Bhagat Singh’s life. Perhaps its greatest strength was an army of supporting characters that were not only cast appropriately but also fleshed out in great detail to create a great ensemble performance. The dialogues were fiery and the execution was just right. Unfortunately, despite all this, the movie sank due to two other movies on the same subject released around the same time.

36. Makdee: Vishal Bharadwaj’s directorial debut may have been his weakest film. But that is only testimonial to the brilliance he has achieved in his other films. Makdee was a lovely children’s tale featuring exceptional performances by Shweta Prasad and Shabana Azmi. It was believable, funny and made a strong message for children and adults alike. A simple tale told simply, Makdee is the best children’s tale to make it to the silver screen in the decade.

35. Zubeidaa: Shyam Benegal’s only decent film from the 2000s, “Zubeidaa” was an outstanding period piece that was authentic in its look and soul. Featuring some lovely performances by Rekha, Karishma Kapoor and Surekha Sikri Rage and a hauntingly melancholic score by A.R. Rahman, the film was technically flawless and delicate in its treatment of the tale of the doomed actress. I loved the way in which it portrayed royalty in all its elegance and claustrophobia. Long after the movie was over, I could hear the quivering voice of Lata Mangeshkar singing “So gaye hain, Dil ke afsane, Koi to aata, Phir se kabhi inko jagaane.”

34. Dor: Nagesh Kukunoor’s most mature work, “Dor” was a beautifully shot film about girl power which rested on the powerhouse performances of the two leading ladies: Ayesha Takia and Gul Panag. At the same time, Shreyas Talpade provides the humorous interludes and veterans like Girish Karnad, Pratiksha Lonkar and Uttara Bhavkar provide able support. Salim-Sulaiman’s score was as earthy as it was haunting especially “Yeh Hausla,” “Kesariya Balam” and “Imaan Ka Asar.” As we see the transformation of Meera (Ayesha Takia) from the happily subjugated wife and daughter in law to the emancipated independent woman is endearing and heartwarming. The performances, perfect pacing and the powerful dialogues make the film a highly memorable movie of the decade.

33. Mughal-e-Azam: Now this may be considered an odd entry by many. Originally released in 1960, K. Asif’s labour of love took over sixteen years in making and faced many hurdles. With an astronomical budget of INR 1.5 crores, the movie remains India’s grandest epic. The sheer scale on which the production was mounted (perhaps best seen in the legendary “Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya” and the 30 minute climax shot when Indian moviegoers got the first real taste of Technicolor in cinema) still evokes awe amongst most. However, K. Asif’s dream of releasing the entire film in colour remained unfulfilled at the time. In 2007, however, with an additional budget of Rs. 9 crore, the movie was digitally remastered and each frame was coloured using the latest technology. The result was an epic re-release of the opus which made a whole new generation watch and love the movie all over again. Coloured with great love and care, the movie was an absolutely magical experience. Each frame had the richness and sheen of a beautiful portrait and the re-release made the movie one of the most memorable of the decade.

32. Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye: The follow up to the awesome “Khosla ka Ghosla,” Dibakar Banerjee managed to deliver a memorable film yet again in “Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye.” What was most memorable was the performance of the actor who played the younger version of the crook. The movie showed an aspect of Dilli never seen before. Instead of showing the usual upper middle/rich class of society which Yash Chopra specialised in, Dibakar Banerjee takes us through the little gullies and mohalas of Delhi and the people that live there. Alternately hilarious and interesting, it was a worthy, albeit lesser follow up to the superb “Khosla ka Ghosla”.

31. Rang De Basanti: Here is another film where the end was its undoing. This movie was remarkable for the fact that it really sparked a minor revolution among the media and the youth, where, for a few months, people took the problems of society more seriously. The convergence of parallel tales of freedom fighters and today’s apathetic youth was powerful and mostly relevant. However, the convoluted conclusion was the prime culprit in making the movie less than classic. Nevertheless, the flavours of North India were dished out with all the ghee and makhan characteristic of the area. The music of A.R. Rahman ranged from the earthy “Rang De Basanti” to the soulful “Tu Bin Bataaye” and the haunting “Khoon Chala” and “Luka Chhupi.” It had a distinct sound which continues to appeal to many even today, 2 years later. It was, ultimately, a hatke experience that oversimplified to the point of absurdity.

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