The year 2009 hasn’t been a happy ride for Bollywood movies. Big names have fumbled on the box-office, leaving audiences craving for something good, worth watching. Neither has been there a promising trend in the overseas market of Bollywood flicks. All in all, Bollywood has faced its share of blues this year.
The year began with enough promise though. Quite a few (seemingly) infallible biggies were lined up for release. All media was splattered with optimistic photo features about movies to watch out for in the year to follow. That all of them, barring a couple, smashed like a squishy pumpkin on the box office window is almost laughable.
Audiences were left wondering “what went wrong?” The movie makers shared this emotion albeit, the inappropriate one. What they should be asking themselves is “Did anything go right in the very first place?” Even big starts couldn’t pull off a boring movie with absolutely no plot line and ridiculous ideation.
Let’s see. It all began with the severely panned Chandni Chowk To China. They had even pulled in “Warner Brothers” to attract audiences. Riding high on the super success of last year, Akshay Kumar’s invincible clout got its first major blow after Nikhil Advani’s extreme mish-mash of various genres, criticized for its absurd temperament failed to rake the requisite moolah.
And then there was the extended Slumdog Millionaire season for a while. Nothing to complain there for this slick, engaging Hollywood caper, directed by Danny Boyle. It earned A.R. Rahman two sparkling Oscars. The only catch is that it’s not a Bollywood film, the subject of this discussion.
Coming back to Akshay, the poor guy experienced multiple such “biggie-gets-the-boos” this year. Be it Kambakkht Ishq, Blue or 8X10 Tasveer. Akshay should thank Katrina Kaif for her good luck charm that helped De Dana Dan to pull off quite decently. Considering how audiences thumbed down potential blockbusters to favor crowd-pleasers or underdogs like 13B, Raaz 2, Wanted, All The Best and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, De Dana Dan always had a good chance of clicking. And so it did.
No-brainers aside, “offbeat with attitude” marks the pulse of 2009. Be it Kaminey, Luck By Chance or Dev D, wherein the filmmakers treated the subject a palpable defiance for formula and undying reverence for imagination.
Of the three, Kaminey, a Vishal Bharadwaj movie was liked the most. It is an unstoppably gripping, shrewdly narrated drama with clever writing and heart-stopping photography taking predominance over a cast of “so and so star” of “so and so film.” Luck By Chance, too, emerges a winner, courtesy a crisp script and its impressive ensemble cast, exploring the bittersweet workings of Bollywood and its oddball inhabitants.
Dev D is ostensibly wild. It is nothing short of a cult movie amongst the youth. The message it delivers with a neat twist in the end is indeed fresh, unique and commendable. One hell of a movie!
Now, make way for the disappointments. As always promos and soundtrack do their best to deceive. And so Delhi 6, despite its attractive, rustic premise and breathtaking music struck as too confused to be taken seriously. It is as if Rakesh Omprakash Mehra decided to compile an archive of random tweets and blogs and turn it into a full-fledged impressionistic movie. Quite an expensive experiment, right? Also, his conflict with the climax (an alternate ending where Abhishek dies) only confirms the uncertainty of his story.
Then there’s Love Aaj Kal. If moments alone make an engrossing film, Imtiaz Ali’s latest is a sure-shot winner. There are bits and pieces that make sense and touched the heart but otherwise the sketchy characterizations of Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone and the forced parallel drawn to their relationship with a period love story lugs about needlessly to the point of “who cares?”
Wake Up Sid is flawed but endearing only because Ranbir Kapoor plays saviour. The young actor was at his heroic best again in the mildly amusing, Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. Dil Bole Hadippa is chock blocked with too many Yashrajisms. New York failed to work for many. One could not feel any empathy for its protagonists despite its terrifying subject. London Dreams is plain boring. Kambakkht Ishq is too corny. What’s Your Raashee is so long, it hurts your constellations, mind, bum, everything. Clearly, 2009 is an underperformer.
As a result of this constant influx of ghastly to mediocre cinema, viewers are psyched into heralding even moderately good films as works of art. Also, in keeping with the latest trend of aggressive marketing, even if a movie gets an average opening, publicists plug it as a major hit. Running successfully all over, anyone? That’s old hat. These days, you have instant post-success celebration parties and their pictures plastered all over print.
Bollywood makes an overwhelming number of films every year. Roughly 100 or so films hit the marquee in 2009. And yet the upshot is just three or four memorable ones. That’s an embarrassing statistic.
For all the cribbing and grievances, we can only hope 2010 will prove to be much more productive. Sure, there’ll be slide shows featuring the obligatory anticipated films of the year. My Name is Khan, Raavan, Kites, Ishkiya, Karthik Calling Karthik, Guzaarish, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se and Rajneeti, to rattle off a few. Maybe for once, Bollywood will actually live up to the excitement it generates and satiate this brilliance-starved viewer’s appetite.