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.

Movie Review: Besharam

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

Handout still from Besharam.Ranbir Kapoor is often hailed as the next big thing in Bollywood — a young star who knows what he is doing, chooses his scripts with care and delivers top-notch performances nearly all the time. If that is the case, Kapoor must have had a very bad day at work to say yes to “Besharam” (Shameless).

Abhinav Kashyap’s second film as director is crude, packed with toilet humour, and has no semblance of a plot. “Besharam” is a case study in lazy filmmaking, one that lowers the bar on good taste just to make money at the Bollywood box office. It insults the viewer’s intelligence and is an example of the Hindi film industry’s reluctance to let go of hackneyed storylines that were all the rage two decades ago.

Kapoor plays Babli, the protagonist in this Indian version of Robin Hood. He is a thief who steals swanky cars, sells them and donates the proceeds to the orphanage where he was raised. His talent catches the attention of a gangster (Jaaved Jaffrey) who hires him.

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