Tag Archives: Best Bollywood Movies

Recap: First Ten Reviews of 2017

Having published ten reviews of Bollywood movies that released in Chicago area theaters so far this year, I wondered: how many of the movies released early in a calendar year tend to wind up on my Best Bollywood Movies list at the end of that year? How many wind up on my Worst Bollywood Movies list for the year?

I looked back at my “Best of” and “Worst of” lists for the last five years to see just how many of the finalists in my top ten and bottom ten were among the first ten theatrical releases of each year. Here are the names of those films, as well as the position they finished in each list:

Best of 2012: Kahaani (1st)
Worst of 2012: Ekk Deewana Tha (1st)

Best of 2013: Kai Po Che! (3rd), Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola (4th), ABCD (7th)
Worst of 2013: Zila Ghaziabad (8th)

Best of 2014: Queen (2nd), Highway (5th), Dedh Ishqiya (6th)
Worst of 2014: Karle Pyaar Karle (2nd)

Best of 2015: NH10 (6th), Badlapur (7th)
Worst of 2015: Shamitabh (4th), Roy (10th)

Best of 2016: Neerja (8th)
Worst of 2016: Mastizaade (1st), Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3 (2nd), Ghayal Once Again (5th)

The first few months of the year certainly offer up a mixed bag in terms of the quality of the films released. Three of my worst movies of last year were among the first ten films release in 2016, but I gave a four-star rating to all three of the above titles that made the Best of 2014 list.

I’m skeptical that any of the releases from this year will ultimately land on my Best of 2017 list. I gave ratings of at least 3.5 stars to all of the “Best of” titles listed above, and the film presently sitting atop my 2017 list — Commando 2 — only earned 3 stars. If it makes the cut, it will only be because there weren’t ten titles that I rated more highly than it, which is kind of a depressing prospect.

On the flip side, zero-star Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai and 0.5-star Kaabil have already locked up a spots on this year’s “Worst of” list. 1-star Badrinath Ki Dulhania will almost certainly make the list, too, barring a glut of really offensive films that manage to make it look comparatively progressive. That’s a depressing prospect as well.

While none of the 2017 films released thus far have blown me away, there are a number of movies yet to release that I’m really looking forward to — comedies like Phillauri and Noor and the action-thriller Naam Shabana. 2017 could be a strong year yet.

Here are links to my first ten Bollywood reviews of 2017 (in chronological publishing order):

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Best Bollywood Movies of 2013

What stands out most on my Top Ten list for 2013 is the diversity of genres represented. No matter what you’re in the mood for, there’s a really good movie on this list. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)

Want a fun teen dance flick? Check out ABCD: Any Body Can Dance.
Looking for a good sports movie or biopic? Try Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.
In the mood for a family drama set in the underworld? You’ve gotta see Aurangzeb.

In addition to the great variety on the list, all the movies mentioned are accessible to an international audience. Familiarity with Hindi movies and their structure may enhance one’s appreciation of Phata Poster Nikla Hero or Commando: A One Man Army, but a lack of prior experience shouldn’t keep Bollywood newcomers from enjoying them. In fact, Commando‘s best selling point is that it’s a martial arts action flick with a romantic dance number in the middle.

2013 was a great year for films featuring ensemble casts. Movies like Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola and D-Day showcase the work of veteran stars, while Shuddh Desi Romance and Kai Po Che! — both of which star Sushant Singh Rajput — feature up-and-comers with bright futures ahead of them.

D-Day also features my single favorite scene in any movie from 2013: a heartbreaking song montage about the doomed relationship between an assassin (Arjun Rampal) and a prostitute (Shruti Haasan).

My favorite Hindi movie of 2013 offers the perfect mix of passion and drama in a beautiful setting. If I could dream up an ideal romantic movie, it would be Lootera. [Buy it on DVD here.]

Writers Vikramaditya Motwane and Bhavani Iyer took a short story by O. Henry and adapted it to depict a tumultuous time period in India, as family fortunes were dismantled in the years following partition. Imagine trying to cope with the heightened emotions of first love while your way of life is turned on its head. Such are the circumstances for Pakhi (Sonakshi Sinha) and her beau, Varun (Ranveer Singh).

Fans of Victorian literature or contemporary period dramas like Downton Abbey: Lootera is made for you.

Best Bollywood Movies of 2013

  1. Lootera — Buy at Amazon
  2. D-Day — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  3. Kai Po Che! — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  4. Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola — Buy/rent at Amazon
  5. Shuddh Desi Romance — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  6. Commando: A One Man Army — Buy at Amazon
  7. ABCD: Any Body Can Dance — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  8. Aurangzeb — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  9. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  10. Phata Poster Nikla Hero — Buy at Amazon

Previous Best Movies Lists

Best Bollywood Movies of 2012

2012 was a good year for Hindi movies. Of the fifty 2012 releases that I reviewed this year, thirty-one earned positive reviews of 2.5-stars or higher. The ten films below were the best of the best. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)

My favorite movies of the year were almost exclusively dramas, whether the subject matter was political (e.g., Shanghai and Chakravyuh), social (e.g., Ishaqzaade and Talaash), or personal (e.g., Cocktail and Patang).

English Vinglish — a personal drama about a mother’s quest to regain her self-worth — proved to be one of the years most delightful surprises, thanks to a triumphant return to the big screen by Sridevi.

I awarded a perfect four-stars to three movies this year — movies that could not be more different from one another. Supermen of Malegaon is one of the most fun and fascinating documentaries I’ve ever seen. While it never released theatrically in the U.S., the whole movie is available for free with English subtitles on YouTube.

Evaluated in a vacuum, Barfi! is a wonderful and heart-wrenching movie. But given director Anurag Basu’s apparent lifting of whole scenes from other films, I have trouble recommending it with a clear conscience. Therefore, I instead recommend the (unfortunately-titled) Jism 2, a movie so bad, it’s good. There’s no movie I had more fun watching in 2012.

The best film of the year was a meticulously crafted thriller with character development to spare and a magnificent, evocative setting. My best Bollywood movie of 2012 is Kahaani.

This is a movie I could watch over and over again. Vidya Balan reaffirms that she’s the most talented actress working in Hindi films at the moment. Her co-star, Parambrata Chatterjee, holds his own alongside her, playing a police officer with a crush that’s doomed to go nowhere.

One aspect of Kahaani I particularly appreciate is its positive take on marriage. Balan plays Vidya, a pregnant woman from London searching for her husband, Arnab, who’s gone missing in Kolkata. Everyone tries to tell her that he has probably just run out on her, but she refuses to believe them. She knows in her heart that not only would he never leave their unborn baby, but he wouldn’t leave her, either.

So often, we’re confronted with cultural tropes that portray marriage negatively. Husbands are depicted as either incorrigible philanderers or hapless morons barely tolerated by wives who only need them for baby-making and yardwork.
Isn’t it more satisfying to see an onscreen marriage in which both partners really know and value each other? That’s what makes Vidya’s search so frustrating and engrossing: there’s real love at stake.

Best Bollywood Movies of 2012

  1. Kahaani — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  2. Barfi! — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  3. Supermen of Malegaon — Buy at Amazon
  4. Talaash — Buy at Amazon
  5. English Vinglish — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  6. Patang — Buy/rent at iTunes
  7. Ishaqzaade — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  8. Chakravyuh — Buy at Amazon
  9. Shanghai — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  10. Cocktail — Buy at Amazon

Honorable MentionJism 2 — Buy at Amazon

Previous Best Movies Lists

 

Best Bollywood Movies of 2010

After reviewing my lists of the best Hindi movies for 2008 and 2009, I’m convinced that 2010 was Bollywood’s best year among the three. Of the approximately fifty Hindi movies I reviewed this year, here are my picks for the top films of the year. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)

Some movies are worth seeing just for the stunning visuals, like the updated epic Raavan — which takes place primarily outdoors amid stunning natural beauty — and Guzaarish, which paints a personal struggle in super-saturated blues.

Politics set the stage for many of the strongest dramas, including the action-packed Aakrosh, the historical epic Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey and dynastic thriller Raajneeti.

Other, grittier dramas like Udaan and Striker featured smaller stories personal growth under the direst of circumstances.

2010’s best romantic comedies also had an earnest tone, featuring complex, realistic female leads in Anjaana Anjaani and Break Ke Baad.

Another romance, The Japanese Wife, deserves an honorable mention. It tells the story of two pen pals — one a Japanese woman and the other a man from Bengal — who fall in love through letters written in beginner’s English. Because it’s not in Hindi, it’s not in the running for best Bollywood movie, but I heartily recommend it.

The two best Hindi movies of 2010 defy easy classification. Part drama, part comedy, part romance and part adventure, they represent cinematic storytelling at its most complete. Both movies are less than two-hours long, emphasizing that it’s the quality of the story, not the length of its runtime, that makes a fulfilling cinematic experience.

Ishqiya features memorable performances by Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi and Naseeruddin Shah as a widow and a pair of petty thieves trying to pull off a heist. The story is simple but compelling, and the performances make it shine. It’s a remarkable effort from debutant director Abhishek Chaubey.

The movie that has stuck with me more than any other is Road, Movie. After playing at international festivals in 2009, it opened in limited release in the U.S. in May of 2010. I caught it during its short run on On Demand. It tells the story of a city guy who drives a dilapidated truck across the desert, meeting strange companions along the way and learning the secret history of the truck: it was once a mobile movie theater.

Road, Movie is so charming and engaging that it briefly made me believe that I could make a career of driving a truck though rural India, projecting old movies onto the sides of buildings for grateful villagers (never mind that there are few things in the world I’m less qualified to do, and the need for the service is shrinking). The film embodies the escapism that cinema provides and inspires us to dream improbable dreams.

Road, Movie isn’t the easiest film to find in the U.S. — it’s not yet available on Netflix or Amazon (though my local public library has three copies) — so seize the chance to watch it when you can. It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.

Previous Best Movies Lists