Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best Bollywood films: 2013

I cannot do a Best Indian films of 2013 list because not many Indian films got released in my city. The majority of titles that made it to cinemas were some of the bigger Bollywood and Punjabi films. One of the biggest disappointments of 2013 is that Ship of Theseus never got a Canadian release. The much praised film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012 but never touched Canadian shores after that. The fate of Ship of Theseus puts things in perspective. If a film praised at TIFF cannot find proper distribution, then one fears for the fate of other Indian titles who fail to travel the film festival circuit. Thankfully, there were some worthy Bollywood Films made in 2013. Here are the top 3 Bollywood films seen in 2013:

1. Aurangzeb (Atul Sabharwal)


Atul Sabharwal’s film smartly fuses the family-political battles from Shyam Benegal’s Kalyug (1981) with the double character element found in Kagemusha and numerous 1970-80’s Indian films. The end result is a film that feels familiar yet is still unique given the contemporary setting in Gurgaon where real estate deals are ruthless.

2. Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns (Tigmanshu Dhulia)

Tigmanshu Dhulia heightens the sexual and political elements aspects from the first Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster (2011) film thereby creating a riveting follow-up chapter to the story of a man holding onto his crumbling kingdom. In comparison to the first film, Mahie Gill’s Biwi (wife) character is far more bolder and gives an assured, seductive performance while the Gangster character has more substance because of Irrfan Khan’s addition. Jimmy Shergill continues to thrive in what may be his finest on-screen role to date.

3. Lootera (Vikramaditya Motwane)


At first, Lootera looks like another Bollywood love story but thankfully, the love story is a facade which gives way allowing a Bengali inspired technically rich film to emerge. The sound design in Lootera is mesmerizing and allows everyday sounds to filter through the frame when needed. As a bonus, this is a rare Bollywood film that does not show snow as romantic. The first half of the film is infused with color but when the second half shifts to a colder landscape, the color is drained from the frame creating a cold sensation anticipating death.

Other Mentions

Bombay Talkies has many memorable moments in all the four shorts but overall Dibakar Banerjee’s segment steals the show.

Pankaj Kapur is at his intoxicating best in Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola.

Rishi Kapoor's stand-out performances in Aurangzeb and D-Day highlights that his impressive evil character role in Agneepath was not a one time acting decision. He is still doing romantic roles but it is impressive to see how he has reinvented himself.

The wicked ending of Raj Kumar Gupta's Ghanchakkar stays long in the memory, especially since nothing in the film prepares one to expect such a dark turn of events. The ending takes a path that 99.9% of Indian films would never take. For that reason alone, the film deserves a nod.

Bejoy Nambiar's David has a calm beauty to it although that beauty does not fully get transmitted until the final moments of the film.

Remo’s ABCD (Any Body Can Dance) features some of the best choreographed dances seen in an Indian movie. A lot of the moves are inspired from shows such as American’s Best Dance Crew and So You Think You Can Dance but the film manages to incorporate Indian dances beautifully in the mix. The casting of Lauren Gottlieb from So You Think You Can Dance highlights the worthy decision to cast trained dancers in the film.

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