Experts pick best movies of 2014
And we don’t mean in terms of box-office collections. As we enter the New Year we ask experts to pick films that they think excelled beyond the mainstream parameters of a well-made film, by that we mean technically superior movies.
Films are an amalgamation of various visual and audio art forms. Without the right cut or appropriate aesthetics or perfect background score a movie wouldn’t leave the same impact. Every time a Raj Kumar Hirani film comes out the audience takes back with them a lot of things – a social message and a powerful phrase (Jadu ki jhappi, Aal is well and Wrong number). It is because of a good scriptwriter.
Did you know that Krish and Ananya’s wedding sequence in Two States which seems to be shot in some place down south (maybe Kanyakumari or Rameswaram) was actually filmed at the outskirts of Mumbai, on a hilltop? That’s handiwork of a brilliant art director/ production designer.
When Aamir Khan saw the first edit of Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na he felt his nephew’s debut film would be a box-office disaster. So the PK superstar and his filmmaker-cousin, Mansoor Khan, re-edited the movie several times to shape it into an emotionally powerful story. That’s the power of editing.
These are a few instances that prove that the ancillary aspects of filmmaking (screenplay writer, dialogue writer, art direction, cinematography, editing, sound design, VFX) are as crucial as a good director or the right actor for a film to make the audience laugh or cry. And so we look at films that were brilliant irrespective of their box-office fate.
Milap Zaveri, Filmmaker and Scriptwriter
“The best script of 2014 for me was PK ‘coz it merged a social message about religion brilliantly with entertainment and emotion. Structurally also it went back and forth and gripped one throughout. A great script is one which makes you laugh and laugh without you realising when you cried. PK was such a script.”
V Srinivas Mohan, National Award winning VFX director
“I was part of jury for a film award so I have watched all the films of this year and I think Roar: Tigers of Sundarbans had excellently and effectively utilised VFX. We haven’t seen something that good in India yet. Tigers in some scenes were real and some scenes were CG, yet one can’t really make out the difference. Even the composition of wide shots (which had CG scenes) and close-ups (live shots) was well blended. There’s a particular scene with a crocodile which is also well executed. In VFX heavy films lighting is crucial and in this movie the light set-up used in CG scenes blends in with the live scenes. I think as per our standards VFX wise Roar: Tiger Of Sundarbans was the best film of 2014.”
Subarna Ray Chaudhuri, Costume Designer
I personally liked Highway because it had a very rustic and realistic look. At the same time it was repetitive, which is good to see in a film, and the clothes looked aged, worn out, which added to the reality of the characterisation and the story. The costumes were simple and straight and enhanced the characters; it was a portrayal of the characters more than just the attire.
Another film that had an interesting look was Gunday. I wouldn’t want to mention it just because I have done the costumes, but the vastness, the different kinds of costumes that Gunday had made it very interesting. The look was very layered and elaborate. We were covering the 80’s period. And the styling of the actors like Priyanka Chopra was very contrasting and had several shades. Sometimes she was seen in a saree while on the other hand she donned the cabaret look. There was a lot of focus on the look of the junior artists and the dancers as well making it all very elaborate. For instance the song ‘Tune Maari Entriyaan’ had a huge variety with dancers wearing costumes from different parts of India – Manipur, Assam, West Bengal and so on. It is due to this grandeur and variation in costumes that Gunday is worth a mention.
Sham Kaushal, Action Director
I haven’t seen all the films that released this year but from what I saw I really liked Ugly. After a long time, we have seen such realistic action that does not look choreographed. It is very difficult to do such action. The story and characters decide the kind of action for a film. Since the story is real the action needs to be realistic too. And if the story is larger than life, the action needs to match that.
Another film in which I liked the action was Singham Returns. From a commercial action perspective, Gunday too had good action. I was the Action Director on the film and it was a very different experience. Firstly the film had two heroes with equal importance. We had a solo fight sequence between them, which I did after a long time. Earlier films had many solo fights between actors but you don’t get to see that in today’s films. We also had some unique sequences like the one on the train and another sequence that was shot in a live location in Kolkata. The climax action that happened in a coal mine was also very challenging. Overall the action of Gunday was different.
Siddharth Diwan, Cinematographer
One film I loved the most and thought was shot very nicely was Aankhon Dekhi. I really like Cinematographer Rafey Mahmood’s work. It was very subtle and never went into that point of showing off the craft or going into lensing, lighting etc. where it will catch any kind of attention. The images had a very nice texture and felt very nostalgic. I think it comes from the choice of locations, all those places felt like they are stuck in time, they have been like that for 30-40 years. Also it was shot on film so that added up to the nostalgia. There were several scenes – the Lohri sequence for instance, where he (Rafey) is never manipulating the image, it felt more like capturing the time and space in whatever light it is in. He must have used lights but it never felt lit anywhere. Another thing I found interesting was the blocking of the film. I think it comes from Rajat Kapoor’s theater background. I felt this blocking was very theatrical, I’ve seen him doing this in his earlier films also, but it worked very well in Aankhon Dekhi. There is a scene in their verandah where the camera is in one position, there is a wide lens and there are about 10 characters in the frame. And it is almost like a theatrical blocking which has been done throughout the film. The camera never moves, it is all about the placement of characters and how they move about; how the attention moves from one character to another and their whole relationship starts changing within the frame. That I thought was done very interestingly.
Another film worth mentioning is Ugly. I really liked what Nikos Andritsakis (Cinematographer) did with the lighting, make up etc., because everything creates that dirty, slimy feel. I think it is the overall texture, which makes the city, the people, everything, look ugly. And it is very consistent; you feel it from the first frame right up to the last frame. He has used silhouettes like a language through the film. Also the way he has lensed it, the way it is lit, everything plays towards creating that whole world. For instance, the interrogation between Rahul Bhatt and Ronit Roy has been shot with a wide lens. So you start feeling the discomfort in the space because there is so much darkness in it. The wide lens is not showing you so much of the space but whatever you see has that little distortion. And he has done it consistently.
Among the other films that I liked this year were Haider and Miss Lovely that too were shot very well.
Shajith Koyeri, Sound Designer
The sound designing of Dedh Ishqiya done by Kunal Sharma was the best amongst the films I’ve seen. He has done a great job and the balance between the music and sound was perfect. The sound design went very well with the mood of the entire film. Kunal has also worked with silence in many scenes rather than adding unncesaary sound. The silence adds to the beauty of the performances and you can feel the intensity between the characters . At times sound designers put a lot of sound which may not work for a scene, especially in performance oriented films. The sound should be such that it doesn’t distract audiences and Kunal has done that very sensibly. The quality of the sound design was brilliant, he has chosen it selectively and added it only where needed. I’d say it was a very well mixed and well-designed film.
Steven Bernard, Film editor
“I haven’t seen many Hindi movies this year but from what I have watched I feel Mardaani was a well-edited film. The film’s sharp editing ensured the viewer is on the edge of his/her seat and the flow of scenes were rightly-paced and smooth.”