India Insight

The best (and worst) Bollywood films of 2013

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

This was the year of the mega blockbuster in Bollywood. Box-office records were broken in 2013 as more and more audiences thronged into cinemas. It was also the year that Indian cinema celebrated a century of existence, cementing its place as one of the world’s most prolific film industries — one that thrives on its own audiences and talent, without having to borrow from elsewhere.

As for content, it was a mixed year, with an overriding focus on catering to the lowest common denominator to bring in the money. Films such as “Chennai Express” and “Dhoom 3” proved that, backed by a big star, this formula still works like a charm.

Critics, thankfully, don’t have to go by numbers. Here then, are my picks for the year’s best and worst, in no particular order:

The Worst:

Besharam
Ranbir Kapoor couldn’t resist the temptation to jump onto the Salman Khan-Akshay Kumar bandwagon to do his version of “Dabanng” and “Rowdy Rathore.”  Kapoor picked the director of “Dabanng”, Abhinav Kashyap, and even got his parents on board to ensure a casting coup of sorts. The one thing no one, including the studio producing it, noticed, seemed to be that little thing called the script. The film was riddled with the lowest grade of toilet humour, inane dialogue, and a plot so thin that no one could muster up the enthusiasm to act it out. Kapoor delivered his worst performance so far, and proved that “formula films” don’t always work.

Himmatwala
A few days before the release of what director Sajid Khan said would be his biggest hit yet, actor Naseeruddin Shah made a rather caustic comment about the movie. Films that shouldn’t have been made in the first place, he said, were being remade now. But Khan was convinced that his re-telling of K Raghavendra Rao’s campy 1983 film of the same name would create box-office records. The exact opposite happened. “Himmatwala” tanked, highlighting a lack of creativity and originality among many of Bollywood’s film-makers. The belief that a film with a retro theme would evoke nostalgia among audiences was misplaced, and instead reminded them of a time when emancipation of women was unheard of, romance meant dancing to a song with a thousand extras gyrating behind you, and where logic had no place at the movies.

Tendulkar exits, Anand slips during emotional 2013

Sachin Tendulkar bid a teary-eyed farewell to cricket while contemporary Viswanathan Anand lost his world chess crown in an emotional year for Indians in sports.

Forty-year-old Tendulkar, statistically the greatest batsman ever, walked into the sunset in November after his 200th test at his home Wankhede Stadium brought the cricket-crazy nation to a standstill.

“My life’s been 22 yards for 24 years. It’s hard to believe that wonderful journey is coming to an end,” an emotional Tendulkar said during a moving farewell speech as most Indians on and off the ground battled to hold back tears.

A Minute with Vijay Krishna Acharya on “Dhoom 3”

Vijay Krishna Acharya wrote all three films in India’s only action franchise – the Dhoom films, and directed the latest one. Fashioned as slick action thrillers in the mold of “Ocean’s 11” or “The Fast and the Furious”, the films always star an intelligent thief – an anti-hero who is too smart to be caught.

Opening this weekend to record-breaking ticket prices (three times the normal amount of a multiplex ticket), “Dhoom 3″ features Aamir Khan as a bank robber. Acharya, 45, spoke to Reuters about the film, why he wanted to shoot it in Imax, and what it takes to write a good anti-hero.

Why did you want to shoot “Dhoom 3” in Imax?

I have been a keen watcher of Imax films abroad, and always thought that we should experiment with the format. With this film, I had the sets, the locations and the story that lent itself to this kind of treatment. The audience that is discerning, and has been exposed to such films in the past, will definitely appreciate the IMAX experience.

Movie Review: Dhoom 3

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The dominant sound in Vijay Krishna Acharya’s “Dhoom 3” is the revving up of a bike. The bike never quite takes off though, resulting in a lot of noise and smoke, but not much else.

Hyped as the biggest release of the year, and as the slickest action thriller to come out of India, “Dhoom 3” turns out to be a damp squib. For an action film, there is hardly any action – instead the 172 minute film is laden with an insipid romance and many other distractions that add nothing to the story except lengthen it further.

Even the action sequences aren’t clever – the bike that Sahir (Aamir Khan) uses can apparently travel on water, fire and in air – can combine with another bike to transform into another machine altogether, and even straddle a rope across two buildings. If the film had gone on any further, it might have solved world hunger.

Tattoo business booms as India shows off body art

Kamaldeep Sethi used to be a corporate trainer with a flair for drawing on office walls. Then a colleague talked him into learning the art of tattoos.

Sethi, who goes by the name KD, set up a tattoo parlour in New Delhi in 2005. He now owns three shops, including one in Canada. The 32-year-old is part of a new generation of tattoo artists who left high-paying corporate jobs to follow their passion.

Though exact numbers are hard to come by, tattoo art is a flourishing business in cities like New Delhi, which is estimated to have between 60 and 100 tattoo studios and more than 300 home-based artists.

India’s debit card safety rule boosts sales of payment processing firms

Companies that help in processing card payments look set to benefit from rising demand for portable card swipe machines after the Reserve Bank of India adopted new rules to prevent fraud and enhance security.

Merchants in India usually swipe cards through a reader to generate receipts that customers sign, but the new rule, effective Dec. 1, adds another layer of security by making debit card holders enter their personal identification numbers to validate transactions via these machines, also referred to as point-of-sale (POS) terminals.

Businesses such as fuel stations, hotels and restaurants that normally keep their card machines out of the customer’s reach will have to buy the portable, GPRS-enabled devices to offer convenience to clients.

A year after a deadly rape, Delhi women not keen on self-defence classes

Riddhi Mittal took a big professional risk when she moved back to Delhi in September to start her own software company. She did not want her personal safety to be part of the risk, especially considering the gruesome tale of the deadly Delhi gang rape that made headlines around the world one year ago this week.

Mittal, who earned her undergraduate degree and master’s degree in computer science at Stanford University in California, and was an intern at Facebook and Microsoft, was apprehensive about returning to the city, now that it was dubbed “India’s rape capital,” so she signed up for self-defence classes.

“I was here in Delhi in December 2012 for my winter vacation when (the rape) happened. So I was tracking it 24×7 when I was here, and even when I went back to the U.S. in January when my vacations had ended,” said Riddhi, 23, who lives with her parents in South Delhi’s New Friends Colony.

A Minute With: Sascha Sippy

Ramesh Sippy’s epic buddy action film “Sholay” failed to impress audiences when it came out in 1975. Almost 40 years later, the movie is an integral part of Indian pop culture. The film is now being released in 3D amid much acrimony.

Sippy went to court against his nephews who own the rights to the film. His nephew, Sascha Sippy, who runs Sippy Films, said that his uncle didn’t have any rights to the film, and did not have a say in whether the film could be released.

The Bombay High Court rejected Ramesh Sippy’s order, clearing the way for the new version. Sascha Sippy spoke to Reuters about the feud, why he decided to release the film in 3D and how he plans to take the “Sholay” franchise forward. Responses have been lightly edited.

Markets this week: Sensex falls 1.3 percent, BHEL slumps nearly 10 percent

By Ankush Arora and Aditya Kalra

The BSE Sensex fell 1.3 percent in the week ending Dec. 13 after high retail inflation raised fears of a rate hike. Eight of 10 analysts in a poll on Friday said they expected the central bank to raise the repo rate by 25 basis points to try and tame stubbornly high inflation.

Before falling for four consecutive sessions from Tuesday, markets touched life highs on Monday. The BSE Sensex touched 21483.74 after sentiment on the street was boosted by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s win in three of five state elections.

However, profit-taking and the cautious outlook of investors before Thursday’s inflation data pushed shares lower, with the Sensex registering its worst weekly performance in nearly a month.

Movie Review: What the Fish

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Gurmeet Singh’s “What the Fish” is a comedy about a cranky old woman, her beloved goldfish, and a group of reckless, irresponsible young people who play havoc with her house while she’s away on a holiday abroad.

Sudha Mishra (Dimple Kapadia) is a cantankerous, divorced woman, who is constantly suspicious of everyone and doesn’t trust her own son. She reserves all her affection for Mishti, her goldfish, and her blossoming money plant.

When she leaves India to stay with her son for a month, Mishra entrusts her precious possessions and the house to Sumit (Sumit Suri), her niece’s lackadaisical fiancé. But the minute her plane takes off, the peaceful environs of her house are shattered.

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