Is there such a thing as a typical year in Hindi films? Probably not if 2010 is anything to go by – if 2009 threw up surprises in forms of producers’ strikes and 3 Idiots taking more money than the seemingly unbeatable Ghajini, 2010 has gone one better – this year has seen the return of the masala film, the rise of the no star-high concept film and Hindi cinema continuing to make its presence felt on the international stage.
First off, the success story of the year – Dabangg. At the beginning of 2010, it seemed the records set by 3 Idiots would not be broken for sometime but Dabangg proved us wrong. Even more surprisingly, the film was an out and out entertainer, executed with a conviction and clarity that hasn’t really been invoked since the monster hits of the late 80’s/early 90’s, yet it still appealed across the board and took the world of Hindi films by storm as well, taking Salman Khan’s career to an all time high. Of course, some of the 2010 blockbusters did have some grey matter, namely Raajneeti and My Name Is Khan, both of which garnered critical acclaim and made money at the box office. We also had Robot with Rajnikanth and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan which also did well at the box office despite its mammoth budget.
On the other hand, we had films like Love, Sex Aur Dhoka, Udaan, Peepli Live and Tere Bin Laden which all had one particular star in common – content. With unusual subjects, fresh treatment and guerilla marketing, these three films achieved critical and commercial acclaim and were embraced by audiences across the board – most interestingly, by a section of the audience that might usually have given the no stars film a miss. This is not to say star vehicles high on content did badly – Ishqiya was the first clean hit of the year and like the aforementioned films, represented Hindi cinema at many an international film festival.
Speaking of international matters, we saw strategic attempts at making a successful crossover – My Name Is Khan and Kites tried to please both Indian and Western audiences. Whilst MNIK fared better, Kites made headlines for a bumper opening and cracking the US Top Ten which is no mean feat. Sadly, Kites failed to capitalize on its success whilst MNIK did well but received a mixed reception all round. Still, both were worthy attempts and no doubt this won’t be the last time a crossover is attempted.
So, out of this year’s crop, which films did I think were the best of the year? Read on and see if you agree…
Ishqiya – The trailer piqued my interest but frustratingly, there was no UK release and I was going to be damned if I was going to download this. Luckily, I went to India in March and bought an official DVD and got to see this properly when I got back. And it certainly was worth the wait – Naseerudin Shah was excellent as always, Arshad Wasi was bearable but the real star was Vidya Balan, following up Paa with another fantastic performance. I loved the dark undertone, the way the film was written and of course, the song Dil To Bache Hai Ji which was underrated in my opinion. This film did well at the domestic box office as well as garnering critical acclaim and in a way, set the tone for the rest of the year. Highly recommended, this is worth a watch.
Love Sex Aur Dhoka – With posters that looked very dodgy, I was in India when LSD released and everywhere I went, this film was being discussed. Though I didn’t get to see it there, again, I was lucky enough to buy the official DVD just before I came back and this was another treat that was worth the wait. Shot in a unique way for a Hindi film, with an unknown cast, once I got into the first story, I was hooked and not only did LSD entertain but also provided plenty of food for thought, with an interesting take on urban India today. Rightly creating controversy, LSD was a breath of fresh air and proved Hindi cinema is not just the glossy song and dance fare that it is sometimes dismissed as.
Raajneeti – I love a trailer with a gravelly throated voice over and this film had me at the voice over annoucing the title – thankfully, the film was quite good too. Based loosely on the Mahabharat, Prakash Jha skillfully handled the ensemble cast and gave us the biggest surprise in form of Katrina Kaif giving her career best performance so far. Despite a long running time and quite complex rationale, Raajneeti scored on all fronts and quickly became the highest grossing film of the year (until a certain film arrived – ahem) and rewarded Hindi film lovers everywhere, giving the industry a much needed boost and once again proving that a good script could make all the difference.
Once Upon A Time In Mumbai – Killer soundtrack? Check. Interesting casting? Check. Channeling a retro vibe with a modern flavour? Check. On a rare day off from work, I saw OUATIM at a morning show and was blown away by it, knowing nothing about the film before I had seen it. The storyline, the acting and the styling all had me hooked and though I missed the first minute of it (a rarity as though I am never punctual for anything, I never miss the start of a film), this only made me enjoy the film more. In another unique moment, I actually liked Emraan Hashmi’s performance – usually I cannot stand him. I have yet to give this another viewing though I have rinsed the soundtrack out since I first heard it. Once again, innovation and good scripting proved the order of the day and made for a good film. Definitely one to catch up with if you haven’t already seen it.
Dabangg – Now, I know what you are thinking – glory hunter. BUT – Dabangg was a bloody good film. With a kickass soundtrack and strong performance from Salman Khan, I liked this film for two reasons – firstly, I saw it in a packed cinema, where people whistled, applauded and sang along with the film like it was The Sound Of Music and for me, this gave Dabangg a special quality that I still feel it has on repeat viewings. Secondly, I had slagged off Salman to all and sundry after Veer as I was so disappointed by Veer – but Dabangg was a slap in my face for writing off Salman and made me rethink my views on him – especially as I went into the screening tired, stressed and bursting for a wee and emerged on a high, with a smile on my face and not needing to go to the loo after all – now that is a result!
Band Baaja Baaraat – A late entry but better late than never. I almost didn’t see BBB in its release weekend but forced myself to give it a chance and didn’t look back. Like all the best films this year, there was an awesome soundtrack, good story, strong performances and a reference to 80’s/90’s cinema presented in a way that appeals to modern audiences. The biggest surprise was this was a Yashraj film and made by a debutante director but it was a combination that worked well and has had me recommending it to everyone, especially in the face of the lacklustre films released towards the end of the year. BBB summarises what 2010 was about – content is king and Hindi film viewers want to be entertained with high quality fare and won’t be fobbed off with any old nonsense – unless we are in the mood for it.
(I would love to include Tere Bin Laden and Udaan in my list but I haven’t had a chance to see them yet. Also, though I enjoyed Peepli Live, not sure I would include it in my favourites…)
So, these were the films I thought worked in 2010 – do you agree? Have I missed your favourite out? Let me know! Also don’t forget to check out my posts on Heroines, Heroes and Soundtracks of 2010…