Review of 2009: Part One – My Favourite Films Of The Year

Whatever anyone says and at the risk of repeating myself, 2009 has passed by us more quicker than any year I can remember. The year has flown by at such breakneck speed that upon reflection, it is hard to believe that at the start of the year, I went to the London premiere of Chandni Chowk To China in Leicester Square and saw Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar and Deepika Padukone in the flesh (definitely one of my highlights of the year!) I still can’t get over the fact that there was a multiplex vs producers dispute which lead to that awful strike that saw us with no films for three months.  But once the strike subsided and New York hit the marquee, it was back to business as usual. And we were treated to some truly memorable films and some very forgettable ones too. Here are my favourite films from 2009 (in no particular order):

Kaminey – I remember going to see Kaminey feeling absolutely exhausted as I went to a late night show after a busy Saturday running errands around town. At first, I didn’t know what to make of the film – but then slowly, as the story unfolded and I was sure my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me, I was drawn in. After the interval, the tiredness has subsided entirely and I was hooked, following and enjoying every facet of the film. Shahid’s performance was simply amazing – I genuinely was surprised as not only was this something I never thought I would see from Shahid but the confidence and elaan with which he pulled off the performance was simply wow! Then there was Priyanka Chopra, who also was showing a never before seen side to her and evolving as an actress before us in the film. With a cracking soundtrack, an intelligent script and amazingly eloquent direction, courtesy of Vishal Bhardwaj, not only does this make it my favourite of the year but also merits Kaminey joining the ever growing list of films that I recommend to those who are new to Hindi cinema.

Love Aaj Kal – Don’t you love those films that you can watch again and again, and find different things each time. I went to see this film twice in cinema (a rarity for me owing to time constraints – the last film I managed to see twice in cinema was Casino Royale) and loved it both times. Whether it was the clever dialogue, the gorgeous soundtrack or the fact that this was exactly the kind of film that I was in the mood for at the time, LAK scored on every count. Saif gave a good performance, Deepika was also a surprise, giving what I think is her best performance to date and then there was the actual surprise package  in form of Giselle Monteiro as the Punjabi girl who spoke more with her eyes than with words and still convinced us she was Indian rather than Brazillian. But maximum credit goes to Imtiaz Ali, who managed to follow up Jab We Met with a very likeable and enjoyable film and one that I think will benefit from multiple viewings…

Wake Up Sid! – Now here is an unlikely film to make my list – I say unlikely because when I first saw this film, though I liked it a lot, I didn’t fall in love with it (is it unnatural to love a film? Discuss at a later date!) But as the days went on, I found myself thinking more and more about it, with the film invoking nostalgic memories of university and all its trials and tribulations that were only a few years ago but now feel like ages away. Ranbir gave a very natural performance whilst Konkona provided the backbone for the film and of course, the Dharma Productions touch was there, like the fashion with the crazy cartoon T-shirt and sock combos modelled by Ranbir and Konkona looking fresh and natural.  This may feel like a one time watch but I am sure another few viewings will reveal subtle nuances and details that were missed first time around.

Paa – If  anyone has ever wondered what a landmark performance is, I would tell them to see Paa and watch Amitabh Bachchan’s superlative performance as Auro – R Balki cannot have enough praise heaped on him for conceiving this role and directing Amitabh in one of the finest performances of his career. When watching the film, I soon forgot Auro was Amitabh Bachchan and as it seems with all my favourite films, the character reminded me of someone and made me genuinely smile (as opposed to fake smiling which is also a problem when going the theatre too – you see people sitting with smiles plastered on their faces rather than allowing themselves to be genuinely entertained!) I really could not see anyone else playing this role or being able to execute the role with such conviction and energy.  I also don’t think we will see anything like this in Hindi cinema for some time to come  – though I really hope to be proved wrong and see other filmmakers and actors offering equally well made films. But for a film to start a genre of its own is a rare acheivement and a welcome one.

3 Idiots – How could I not include 3 Idiots in my favourites? It’s only been a week since I’ve seen the film and I can’t wait to see it again – sitting in a packed cinema, it really was a complete experience. The film engages the viewer with ease and talks to all sections of the audience without losing any momentum or compromising its content. That Rajkumar Hirani and Aamir Khan coming together would be magic was a foregone conclusion but this combination really has to be seen to be believed. What’s more, the rest of the cast benefit from it too and include the audience in the fun, transporting us from this world into another – something many films have attempted to do but only a few have acheived this year.

I really could not choose one film which was my overriding favourite of the year but I think that is a good sign, as it shows that although it is always better to have quality than quantity, a quantity of quality is always welcome!

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