Here we are, in an introspecting mood as we find ourselves gearing up for 2014. 2013 was a year of mixed emotions for the Hindi film-lover. We’d like to think that this year, the definition of a successful film shifted a bit towards content over box-office returns. Indie filmmakers received more love from audiences than ever before. Filmmaking got more democratic, only to be run down by the politics of releases and star-power, and some films left the audiences with permanent brain damage and trauma.

On the bright side, this was a good year for Indies. Films like Ship of Theseus, Shahid and The Lunchbox received a lot of love from the audience and films like Lootera, B.A. Pass and Kai Po Che gave the discerning film watcher a much- needed break from the mindless jhingbang, restoring faith into the future of this industry where quantity (box-office) over quality seems to have become the mantra.

Meanwhile, Bollywood’s 100-crore club continued accepting new members. Chennai Express, Grand Masti, Krrish 3, Dhoom 3, Ramleela, Yeh Jawaani Hain Deewani and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag were some of the entrants this year.

2013 was also a year of disappointments, and for the superstar system this meant that just being a Khan or Kapoor wasn’t enough. So what do you think happened? Technicals got a big boost this year, with Bollywood continuing to invest in its efforts to improve and match up to Hollywood. This resulted in better VFX, sound design and visuals, but what we gained in the technical department, we lost in terms of story.

Hopefully, by 2014 Bollywood will have gotten over it’s fascination with new toys and will get back to good old filmmaking, with the script receiving the respect it deserves. Till then, here’s our to ode to them all.

The ‘What-were-they-smoking?’ films of 2013: (in no particular order)


1. Himmatwala

Dir: Sajid Khan

One fine day, Mumbaikars woke up to news that sent a chill down their spines.  Full-page announcements in almost all dailies declared that a Sajid Khan ‘blockbuster’ was now on the floors. How oxymoronic. Given that mindless cinema was a major winner in 2013, it was surprising to see the movie crash and burn.

A remake of the 1980s Jeetendra-Sridevi starrer, this film got back those images that the industry had spent long hours in rehab to forget. Woman-in-garish-costumes-dancing-atop-oversized-drums-wooing-her-man-who-looks-like-he-is-in-desperate-need-of-a-life, this film had it all, except sense. So much so that even die-hard Devgan fans had no way to justify the actor’s decision to be part of this film.

The only good thing about this film is that it (hopefully) taught some people to eat humble pie.


2. Dhoom 3

2013- the year of sequels. Bollywood has finally cracked the franchise formula and is reaching the 100-crore milestone faster than you can say “What a hat, sirji!” Good cinema? That’s so passé!

If India’s first IMAX movie is anything to go by, (and judging by the fact that it has made the fastest buck this year), the formula to a successful film is as follows. (City full of skyscrapers + superhuman + leading lady) x tearjerking backstory = 100+ crores.  Lots of cars and bikes and policemen who don’t know their job are a must. A dash of Nolan will take care of any script requirement.

Best actor nominees next year will see tough competition from the Clown’s ears. Hell, even the Clown’s hand gestures merit a special mention. Over-intense, narrow eyes and furrowed brows are predicted to be the look of 2014.


3. Krrish 3

Another sequel, another 100-crore grosser, another excuse of a script. Slated to be India’s first IMAX film until it was derailed by D3, K3 found a lot of support amongst moviegoers who were happy to see an Indian superhero-vigilante hanging around Mumbai’s skyscrapers. Yet, when the curtains fell, many returned home disappointed. Others claimed that the film was good ‘for Indian standards.’ Whatever does that mean?

Given that superheroes enjoy such cult status, a desi-superhero is a great idea, but it’s time he pulls up his socks (or supersocks, or whatever is in superhero Vogue) before he is defeated by bad storylines.


4. Besharam

C’mon now people. Once in a while, a Kapoor can have a bad day too. Three Kapoors having a bad day together? Now that is something else. Slapping, name-calling, wisecracks, outrageous characters, forced laughs, this one had everything needed to make it big in 2013. Besides, how can you go wrong with a family of actors so loved and respected as Rishi, Neetu and Ranbir Kapoor?

Give them crassy lines that they look uncomfortable saying, get the son to beat up his father in a scene that looks more forced than Katrina Kaif’s Hindi and make one of Bollywood’s most classy women talk trash, that’s how.

The same man who made a legend out of dialogs about passing gas directed this, but this time it just didn’t work. Rubbish dialogs in Dolby will sound just as ridiculous, so maybe it’s time to read the writing on the wall and start making something worthwhile for a change?


4. Matru ki Bijli Ka Mandola

Dark humour. That’s one thing your average Indian filmgoer is not used to, so it was no surprise that this Vishal Bharadwaj film didn’t fare too well. While some found the film a bit too bizarre, with African dancers and pink cows, many see this as a brave effort to open Indian cinema to new genres. The verdict is still out on this, but hey, kudos to Bharadwaj for taking such a risk.

On another note, Imran Khan turned out to be that unfortunate actor who sticks out like a sore thumb even in a bizarre milieu such as this. Someone should’ve told him that expressions are universal.


5. Ghanchakkar

What’s it with Vidya Balan and her wardrobe. Now that she’s finally improved her sartorial sense, her role as a housewife who reads too many fashion magazines yet understands none of it, saw her don some outlandish clothes yet again. Ghanchakkar seemed like a very interesting film in the promo, but too many conflicting reviews within the first week of its release sealed its fate. The script could’ve been crisper, the technicals weren’t much to talk about, but one can’t help feel that this film didn’t exactly get its due. We were hooked on to the plot and we feel the movie could have done without some unnecessary sex-related jokes and unrealistic characters, but then again if a Housefull or Grand Masti can have audiences doubling up in laughter, what went wrong here we wonder?


6. Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster Returns, Once Upon a time in Mumbai Dobara

The year of sequels and none could repeat the magic again. Let the fate of both these films, both with a strong starcast, serve as an example of when you should leave a good script alone. It’s better to have audiences remember the film fondly, than for all the wrong reasons.


7. Zanjeer

It takes a brave man indeed to step into the angry, young man’s shoes, and Ram Charan (who?) found those shoes too big to fill. Zanjeer once again made history- this time, for all the wrong reasons. Mumbai ki, na Dilliwalo ki, this new Zanjeer was no one’s favorite, especially the paisewallon who wanted their money back after spending it on this film. Hopefully it serves as a warning to the rest to think twice before messing around with a classic. Which reminds us, have you booked your tickets to Sholay 3D yet?


8. Yamla Pagla Deewana 2

We clearly are not the target audience of a movie such as this, so it might seem a little unjust for us to even try and criticize YPD2, but all we can ask is that if cinema and the media are building perceptions and stereotypes, can we try being a little bit classy? Or civilized, at least?

In conclusion, here’s tipping off the hat (you know which one) to a year of stunning work from the technical department. Great camerawork, top-notch VFX and ever-improving sound design are taking the experience to a whole new level. That said, a sincere request to all filmmakers for 2014- aspiring and established. Respect the medium. Cinema is audio-visual ‘storytelling’. Imagine how cheated you’d feel if all your grandmother did when you asked her for a story is make sound effects of the kings and monsters at war.  Yes, we admit it would be cool for a moment, but every single time? That would be a traumatizing childhood indeed.

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