Cinema: The best and the worst…in the 101st year

Published: December 17, 2013 - 14:17 Updated: February 3, 2014 - 00:41

Reliving the dialogues, songs and scenes that made going into a movie hall worthwhile during 2013

Sonali Ghosh Sen Kolkata 

At the end of the year, doing a round-up of Hindi films released during the year is both exciting and frustrating. It is fun, because you can go into a kaleidoscopic time machine and relive the dialogues, the songs, those scenes that made going into a movie hall worthwhile. It’s also frustrating because you look at movies that had potential which was never realized, movies that were good but weren’t marketed well, and movies that you were looking forward to but which disappointed.

The question is, how did Bollywood fare this year? Which movies made it to the Rs 100 crore list? Which songs made us sing out loud every time we heard them playing? And which movie wormed its way into our minds and hearts? Here’s what it looked like in 2013.

Love stories are still de rigeur, but lovers have changed dramatically. As recent movies proved, boy still meets girl in 2013 but it does not always end in marriage or even a happily ever after. There was the unrequited love of Dhanush which made Raanjhanaa’s  Kundan Shankar’s stalker lover look vulnerable and made the film a sleeper hit. Then Shuddh Desi Romance had its pair of commitment-phobic protagonists and Ram Leela had the protagonists fall in lust at first sight. The message from Bollywood this year was that love is getting edgier, bolder, and sexier.

Sequels work. Remakes don’t. Himmatwala, Chashme Buddoor and Zanjeer fell by the wayside quicker than you could say “Ram Gopal Verma ki Aag”. It proved the critics were right when they said that you should not ever tamper with something good, like Miss Chamko, angry young men or even Jeetendra’s feather dusters in the “Nainon Mein Sapna” song
in Himmatwala.

Sequels like Grand Masti, Race 2 and Krrish 3, however, did work. Which means we might have to see more of Hrithik Roshan in latex, Saif in a beard, and Aftab Shivdasani wearing nothing but a cat in the coming years.

Songs maketh the film. The Bhatt camp’s song “Tum hi ho” powered Ashiqui 2 to stratospheric success, and a ‘Lungi Dance’ sent a train wreck of a plot in Chennai Express chugging its way right to the Rs. 200 crore station. A “Badtameez dil” had the nation grooving to Ranbir Kapoor’s superstar status while the audience of Race 2 was more addicted to the beats of “Lat lag gayee” than the histrionics of the entire star cast.

Some experiments worked, some didn’t. Kai Po Che, even though lavishly mounted, had, refreshingly, no star power and made an impact. Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola  had enough substance, but ultimately seemed as random as the title. Go Goa Gone introduced a new genre to Indian films — the apocalyptic zombie movie, and it married the plot of a ninth-grade skit with enough wit and trance music to make it, well, almost believable. Madras Café could have been a great political espionage thriller, but its dense script made it difficult for the audience to digest this docudrama. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag showcased the acting prowess of Farhan Akhtar, but got bogged down by trying to say too much. Lootera was deeply flawed, but its lyrical storytelling made it one of the better movies to watch in 2013.

The more things change the more they remain the same. Shahrukh Khan believes in the dictum that if you market a bad product well, it will do well. He’s been doing it for the last few years and it worked wonders this year too, for his film Chennai Express. Others followed half-heartedly, and film stars graced every shopping arcade from Navi Mumbai to Malegaon with middling success for their movies. Prakash Jha continued to leach from current events, and his new movie, Satyagraha, was the same old story of corruption, politics and the aam admi. Sudhir Mishra’s obsession with his muse, Chitrangada Singh, continued with Inkaar which sank without a trace but is rumoured to have received a new lease of life with the Tehelka case. The Roshan family continued to rely on their rusty…er… trusty Krrish franchise, but it will need a superpower-worthy overhaul to keep the audience interested in a Krrish 4 or 5. The Yash Raj Films juggernaut continued to bombard us with films that start out well but meander into silliness by the end, a laAurangzeb and Shuddh Desi Romance, and it remains to be seen if they’ll succeed with Dhoom 3 coming our way by the year-end. Ram Gopal Verma did what he does every year, rehash his older hits. This year was Satya’s turn. It turned up as Satya 2 and thankfully vanished without a trace. A word to Tigmanshu Dhulia too — UP-based crime stories, even the luscious Sahib, Biwi Gangster variety, can become boring if repeated too often. Can we have another Paan Singh Tomar next year, perhaps?

...and the ones that stood out. There was a little gem of a movie that had Akshay Kumar as its hero. It had action, drama, suspense and was perfectly plotted, it was called Special 26, and maybe its odd title did not make it a success at the box office, but it did show that there were filmmakers willing to think out of the box, even when they had superstars at the helm.

The Ship of Theseus was another movie that was made not with the box office in mind, but with conviction. It was thought-provoking, provocative, a triptych of stories that elevated cinema into sheer visual art and did what good cinema always does— made us think.

And the last might not have been the Oscar pick from India, but it was fresh, original, a beautiful story, beautifully told. Yes, TheLunchbox gave us that elusive element we always look for when we walk into a cinema hall. It gave us hope.

Hope that new directors will get an opportunity to see their creative vision on the big screen. Hope that small films will be watched and appreciated. Hope that not all of Hindi cinema is about formula plots and song and dance, and even if it is, we are smart enough to like the ones that will carry on the legacy of the 100 years of cinema that we celebrated this year.  


Reliving the dialogues, songs and scenes that made going into a movie hall worthwhile during 2013
Sonali Ghosh Sen Kolkata 

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