Thursday, February 10

Today: 10-to-11

This Saturday, HT City carried a page depicting eleven gamechanging Hindi movies from the last decade. I am not sure if these movies, or at least all of them, were pathbreaking in the fashion described, but they nevertheless make a fair representation of popular cinema between 2001 and 2010. It would also be in order to mention their marked commercial success, remarkable for me in the sense that box-office recognition is a clear shibboleth of mainstream moviemaking. But lets talk the movies themselves first.

Two on the list were from 2001. Ashutosh Gowarikar-directed Lagaan was a period drama that combined dollops of patriotism, bestselling music and uniquely Indian love for cricket to hold the audience in thrall till a literal last-ball six symbolizing victory of good over evil. It also spawned a level of MBA-speak (email forwards were in vogue then), touting a case study for teamwork and assorted management principles. Farhan Akhtar's Dil Chahta hai was a coming of age story in notably youthful and upmarket urban setting much before our demographic dividend was taken as a given, though the economic prosperity subtext was well established. I know enough folks that identified with DCH’s college-and-after situations; or with one of the protagonists: the broody Sid, female-felled Sameer and merry-go-lucky Akash (for those of you that remember, I also know a Subodh!) in a fashion unprecedented for Hindi cinema.

Moving on, 2003 had two entries as well. Koi Mil Gaya was a ritual Hindi movie saga of underdog triumph most noteworthy for a starring role for Jaadu, a pint-size desi ET that brought director-producer Rakesh Roshan king-size success. Its friendly treatment of a mentally challenged character was a subtle baby-step, the overt sci-fi setting a pioneering attempt in a cinema mostly known for its formulaic approach. Likewise, under Raju Hirani's baton, Munnabhai MBBS tread a new path, making a winning concoction of two dons: one a do-gooder bhai, other a stickler university Prof. A commentary on med-school exam system, lady love's hard-to-get-with-a-difference act, Bombaiyya lingo and avuncular humour in the otherwise morbid hospital setting - it was a class act.

Cut to 2006 and Rang De Basanti redefined cinema's impact on society. High on patriotism, the Rakeysh Mehra directed film was a brilliant expression of youth angst, starkly contrasting contemporary political mess with inspiring idealism from our Freedom Struggle. Much beyond storytelling, RDB’s veritable clarion call against corruption, or mobilization of the aggrieved many, are no less pertinent today. Youth and the Great Indian Middle voted with their wallets and feet, the latter a glimmer of hope for causes lost in the mire of vested interests in our country.

2007 had no less than three mentions. Imtiaz Ali's Jab We Met was an uncomplicated, lighthearted romantic affair, very accurately described by HT as 'a breath of fresh air', the spunky Geet making it the only movie on the list with a heroine dominant plot. Shimit Amin made Chak De the same year, another nationalism-meets-sporting achievement offering that, at the very least, succeeded in getting our national game back in public consciousness. Aamir Khan's fairytale directorial debut in Taare Zameen Par was a landmark too, challenging educational system stereotypes in our notoriously conformist society. In the context of our impending Demographic Dividend, its advocacy of innovative career choices and empathetic handling of special children was outstanding.

From 2009, HT's choice of Hirani's 3 Idiots was a shoo-in. Well-deserved questioning of learning-by-rote or overly-emphasized, narrow definition of scholastic achievement was at the film’s core; and a subtle Roarkian undercurrent on encouraging excellence blended with a humourous take on college hostel life. One more that captured the imagination of more than the youth around whom it was pivoted.

The only movie from the list I have not seen (unintended; to be corrected shortly) is Shankar's Robot from 2010. It is also the only feature (and it is telling that I can aver thus with complete confidence, without having actually seen the film!) incomplete without a panegyric to its hero, the inimitable Rajnikanth and his flair for shattering box office records.

I shall pause now. Dabangg, I presume is too recent to need me to jog those grey cells. Any case, but for an overly hyped item number, I found it a decent watch if not in the same league as others in the pantheon (no elitist rant, just that Salman does not much agree with me most times). Equally, and on the topic of my rating being influenced by lead actors, I present Aamir Khan, a bigger presence in this pastiche than any other, and who taught me the lesson of not judging a book by its cover! But that’s a story for a later day...


Anonymous said...

Mate! This spurred a stream of visuals from each of those flicks ... and now I’m sitting with a demand for a re run of that decade’s melody … some brilliant lyrics from the films you adduced… Radhaa Raas in Lagan to an appalled Mother’s call for her lost son in RDB and over to a paranoid Boy calling his Maa in Taarey … all brilliantly written, sung and filmed.

Alas! A so far not so indecent decade was lastly autographed by The Ms. S’s & The Ms. M’s (not referring to anyone dead or still breathing, in particular) blaring ballad!!!

Anonymous said...

Amidst all the hoopla about the 11 Men-In-Blue, it was great to read this one -- or 11 -- on our other national obsession! It runs deeper in our veins too -- look at 'us' diaspora and Bollywood will be alive and kicking -- or dancing! -- even if cricket's long gone. Hey win me a World Cup while we're at it :)

On the wishlist too please put the Aamir Khan piece you promise in closing -- you haven't forgotten Uttam Kumar, have you?!