For some masochistic reason, when I started the fiftyfiftyme challenge three months late, I made two decisions that now seem strange: I decided not to count any books read or films watched before I signed up to the challenge, and I decided to count only non-English movies. Had I not inflicted those handicaps on myself, my tally for both books and movies would have been well over fifty each. In the case of movies, it also meant excluding some of my favourite viewing of the year, including Lola Versus, Damsels in Distress, Ruby Sparks, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Avengers, Moonrise Kingdom and The Descendants. Next year I’m counting every movie I watch, but only writing about the ones that matter to me.The upside of my self-imposed restrictions was a broadening of my watching beyond just Hindi movies. My tally of fifty movies included: Eight French films, six Italian films and one each in Bengali and Arabic. The remaining thirty-four were Hindi films, keeping the primary focus I’d intended for this blog. From my viewing in 2012, here are my bouquets and brickbats:
The thing that stands out for me from the Hindi films I watched this year is that the three which made the biggest impression and that I liked the most despite any quibbles I had with them, were all movies built around and for female leads. Of the thirty-four Hindi films on my tally, by far the best were, Kahaani, Aiyyaa and English Vinglish. Three very different films, but all were star vehicles for their female leads, and it’s hard to imagine other actors in their roles. It was a real delight to find that the three stand-out films for me all fitted into the theme of women in Indian cinema which kickstarted this blog, thanks to the Adam’s Rib initiative arranged by Katherine Matthews of Totally Filmi. I hope there are plenty more strong, unashamedly female-driven films to come in the years ahead. Take it away, Rani!
Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I am constantly whining about how I never get to see Hindi films at the cinema. Well this year, I did get to see one at my local cinema, and it wins this award with ease. Dabangg2 was everything Dabangg wasn’t, dull, with no spark and flat performances from everyone, except the criminally under-utilised Deepak Dobriyal. I am sadly building an impressive track record of seeing only turkeys on the big screen.
This award is shared by two films, Dabangg and Tere Ghar Ke Samne. Dabangg wins for surprising me by being a film in a genre I don’t really like that I ended up loving anyway. Fun, vibrant, full of life and with catchy songs, the only complaint I have against it is that it made me excited to see its sequel. Tere Ghar Ke Samne wins for being a star vehicle for an actor whose persona I really dislike intensely, but who I loved in this film. How can anyone not love Dev in this?
Three films share this award, Paan Singh Tomar, Supermen of Malegaon and The Eclipse of Taregna. A dramatic biopic, a low-budget documentary about no-budget film-makers, and a beautifully crafted short film, the one thing they have in common is that they did not get the recognition and viewership they deserve. Irrfan’s performance as the athlete-turned-bandit Tomar was very moving and credible, the enthusiasm and passion of the Malegaon moviemakers was uplifting, and the craftsmanship of the storytelling in Eclipse was remarkable.
This award goes to an Italian film that I got to see at the cinema, another rare treat. Benvenuti Al Sud was everything a remake should be. It was true to the original, even featuring Dany Boon in a cameo that I missed, yet still added something to the idea and made it fit with its new setting. A genuinely funny film, and a reminder that it is not an immutable law of the cosmos that remakes must be awful.
Those are the ten films that stood out for me from my fiftyfiftyme list, overall a very good year. I look forward to seeing what 2013 has to offer. If it offers films as good as my top three, fiftyfiftyme will be as rewarding as it was this year. More Sri Devi please!