Tag Archives: Striker

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

Opening February 12: My Name Is Khan

The first major Bollywood release of 2010 is upon us. My Name Is Khan features Shahrukh Khan as Rizvan Khan, an Indian immigrant with Asperger syndrome living in San Fransisco. Kajol plays Rizvan’s love interest, Mandira. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 jeopardize their happiness, and Rizvan undertakes a cross-country journey to prove his love for Mandira.

I’m always interested in perspectives on 9/11 from filmmakers outside of the U.S., as in the 2009 Hindi films New York and Kurbaan. I’m a bit concerned about MNIK‘s surface similarities to Forrest Gump (a guy with social problems on a cross-country journey), a movie I wasn’t crazy about. But I have faith in SRK and Kajol to give spectacular performances that will win me over.

My Name Is Khan opens in the Chicago area on Friday, February 12 at the AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville. MNIK has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 25 min. Based on the amount of time the AMC theaters are allowing between showings (usually a reliable indicator), I suspect the movie’s actual runtime is longer than that.

The only other Hindi movie showing in the Chicago area this weekend is 3 Idiots, which continues for its eighth week at the South Barrington 30. The movie has earned $6,463,622 in U.S. theaters thus far.

Striker departs theaters after one week. I don’t have figures on how much it earned in U.S. theaters, but American YouTube viewers have rented the movie just 1,283 times since its worldwide release last Friday. I hope Striker gets more attention when it releases on DVD, because it’s terrific.

Other Indian films playing in the Chicago area this weekend include Body Guard (Malayalam), Kedi (Telugu) and Thamizh Padam (Tamil) at the Golf Glen 5. Kedi is also showing at Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove.

Movie Review: Striker (2010)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes
Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

When I sat in front of my computer to watch Striker on YouTube, I had some concerns. I was glad that I didn’t have to drive over an hour to the only theater near me that was showing it, but I wondered if I’d be as immersed in the experience watching it at home as I would be in the theater. Within minutes, Striker‘s riveting characters put my fears to rest.

Striker flashes back and forth through three time periods in the life of Surya (Siddharth), a young man who lives in Malvani, a Mumbai ghetto. As a child in 1977, he watches his older brother playing carrom — a table game like billiards, where small wooden disks are flicked with the fingers into corner pockets. Surya excels at the game but loses interest as he gets older.

Flash forward to 1988. Surya works as a courier who specializes in transporting jewelry and large amounts of cash. Because it’s a risky job — he’s responsible for repaying the money if he’s robbed en route — Surya pays a broker to find him a lucrative manual labor job in Dubai.

When the broker disappears with Surya’s money, his childhood friend, Zaid (Ankur Vikal), comes up with a scheme to get it back: playing carrom for money. Zaid runs errands for the local don, Jaleel (Aditya Pancholi), and is able to get Surya into some high stakes games.

Jaleel is, of course, not to be trusted. He and his goons don’t brandish weapons openly, but there’s an unmistakable air of menace about them. Zaid isn’t much more reliable, given his drug use and frequent arrests. And the rules governing life in Malvani are in flux after the arrival of a tough police inspector, Farooque (Anupam Kher).

In 1992, a time when religious riots are engulfing Malvani, Surya turns to Inspector Farooque for help. The movie begins and ends in this timeframe.

Striker opens with a note from the filmmaker, Chandan Arora, stating that the movie is based on true stories from people who live in Malvani. The movie’s structure, which shows Surya at various points in his life rather than following one linear narrative, makes Surya seem more like a real person than a typical hero. He’s not the poor kid who grows up to transcend his meager upbringing by leading a righteous life. He’s a guy who doesn’t have many options and occasionally tries to make good choices, but often doesn’t.

Zaid is the most interesting character in the film. Vikal plays Zaid as just charming enough to get by without any real vocation or goals. But, from the moment he shows up in the 1988 timeframe, it’s clear that whatever fate awaits Zaid is not a happy one.

Striker is wonderfully atmospheric. Malvani isn’t a slum as decrepit as the one in Slumdog Millionaire. It’s a neighborhood with houses and shops and various places to get into trouble. The carrom-playing scenes are as evocative as any scenes set in the smoky pool halls of Hollywood films. Appropriately, there are no song-and-dance numbers. Striker will appeal to fans of mainstream American films, inviting them to explore Indian movies beyond the musical masala fare.

Runtime: 2 hrs. 7 min.

Notes on the YouTube viewing experience:
I was impressed with the quality of the YouTube rental experience. The movie downloaded in its entirety almost immediately, so I didn’t have to pause and wait for the video to load. The English subtitles appeared in white text on a black band below the main movie, making them easier to read against a consistently colored background (and, I presume, easier to ignore if you don’t need them). I’d happily rent more movies from YouTube in the future, especially if they’re made available the same day as the theatrical release.

Opening February 5: Striker

It’s a light weekend for Bollywood films in Chicago, with only one new movie opening. Striker stars Siddharth as a poor kid who makes his way in life as a carrom hustler. It opens on Friday, February 5, 2010 at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles.

If you can’t make it to Niles to see Striker, fear not. Fans in the United States can watch the movie on YouTube for $4.99 starting on Friday, the same day that it opens in theaters. Follow this link to Studio 18’s YouTube page, then click on the red “US visitors click here” arrow in the upper right corner of the page.

Striker will be available for free to YouTube users in other countries starting on February 6. This is the first collaboration between YouTube and a Bollywood studio to provide streaming film content, and I hope the experiment works.

As for last week’s new releases, the Golf Glen 5 is carrying over Ishqiya, while the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington is carrying over Rann. 3 Idiots gets an astounding seventh week on screens at the South Barrington 30 and AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville.

Veer leaves theaters after two weeks, having earned $499,685 in the United States.

The Golf Glen 5 is showing a host of other Indian films this weekend, including Asal (Tamil), Bindaas (Telugu), Happy Husbands (Malayalam) and a remastered version of 1957’s Maya Bazaar (Telugu). Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove features the movies Goa (Tamil), Namo Venkatesa (Telugu) and Vairam (Malayalam).