Dark humour was clearly the dark horse for Bollywood this year. It’s that fine, intelligent genre that at once tickles you and makes you think, something Hindi movies had never quite managed to convincingly achieve since the great Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro in 1982. This year itself, there were four great black comedies, all of them watched by many, which told us two things about audiences: yes, they’re interested in the world they live in, and movies must reflect that, but they equally love to have a good laugh. Beyond that, below is the list of what I thought were the best of Bollywood this year. Together they make for about 40 hours of quality entertainment. Do check them out, if you haven’t already.
1. Anusha Rizvi’s Peepli Live
Possibly the most serious filmic comment of our times, brilliantly put together, superbly enacted, supremely sincere. Clearly the brightest work this year. And, mind you, a fine comedy as well. ‘Unreally’ real.
Anybody who’s grown up in a once satisfied middle-class India, shopped at markets like Delhi’s Lajpat or Saroijini Nagar, been to one of its English public schools, would’ve certainly been taught math by a gentleman called Duggal (Rishi Kapoor). They will also instantly recognise and adore this wonderfully written treat that so delectably delights in the mundane. A genuine return to the Great Indian Middle Class Entertainer from the ‘70s.
5. Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan
This ‘Pursuit Of Unhappiness’ reminds you of Catcher In The Rye’s Holden Caulfield going about his teenaged years in Jamshedpur, with a dad he has to call ‘sir’, a stepbrother he never knew existed, few delinquent friends he feels close to like family… A sort of coming of age movie that makes you believe you hadn’t come of age after all. Rare.
6. Prakash Jha’s Rajneeti
Just to let you in on a mental note I made, smilingly stepping out of this film’s interval: “You so know it when you’re watching the most powerful Bollywood drama ever!” This was. Wish I could’ve said the same for the other half of this political thriller, where top politicians double up as hardcore hit men, personally start shooting each other dead. In such case, politics wouldn’t be necessary at all, right? The film’s a cracker halfway through though. A must watch, and if box-office figures are true, I suppose, you must have watched this anyway.
7. Abhishek Sharma’s Tere Bin Laden / Subhash Kapoor’s Phas Gaye Re Obama / Shyam Benegal’s Well Done Abba
Whoever thought you can’t make light of 9/11, economic recession or India’s institutionalised corruption. These films were witty, intelligent, and downright funny. Brilliant black comedies, all.
8. Abhinav Kashyap’s Dabangg / Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzaarish / Karan Johar’s My Name Is Khan
Super-star vehicles, each. Yet the sort of blockbuster entertainment that showed that the leading men in Bollywood don’t have to play themselves anymore. They can play strong characters. Even Shah Rukh Khan must act. And when he tries, Superman Salman can do a thing or two beyond his swagger as well. Hrithik’s Hrithik. Of course.
10. Chandan Arora’s Striker / Sushil Rajpal’s Antardwand
Gripping, compellingly stark, incredibly authentic: one recounts Mumbai’s claustrophobic neighbourhood Malvani from the early ’80s; the other takes up groom kidnappings in north Bihar. Audiences probably missed both, not knowing these films even existed. You’re never too late for the DVD.