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:

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.

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.

India’s Oscar fight: Batra offers an apology, and some advice

(This post has been updated)

Ritesh Batra, director of the “The Lunchbox,” apologized to the Film Federation of India after accusing the group of corruption because it did not pick his movie as India’s contender for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2013 Academy Awards.

Batra said his intention was to participate in the “vigorous debate” that arose over the selection process for the country’s Oscars entry. His letter to the group came after the federation, which chooses India’s entry for the Academy Awards each year, demanded an “unconditional apology”.

The FFI’s choice of Gyan Correa’s Gujarati-language film “The Good Road” drew heat from the makers of “The Lunchbox”, a film with backing from prominent Indian directors and other producers. The movie screened at the Cannes, Telluride and Toronto film festivals, and was listed by several U.S. publications as an Oscar hopeful.

Movie Review: The Lunchbox

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

Even if Ritesh Batra’s “The Lunchbox” had been a film with a weak script, wayward direction and too long to hold your attention, there would be still be a reason to watch the film — Irrfan Khan.

Here is an actor who will mesmerize and transfix you while playing the most unassuming of characters.

Collaboration key to Bollywood’s global appeal – Irrfan

Irrfan is no stranger to Hollywood. The Indian actor, who uses only his first name, has been part of critically acclaimed films such as “Life of Pi”, “The Namesake” and “A Mighty Heart”.

The 40-something actor is doing his bit to help Indian films reach more audiences worldwide. Irrfan says he’s goading local movie producers to collaborate, find new markets and swap its Bollywood image for a more universal language of cinema.

His new film “The Lunchbox” is one such international co-production and won the Grand Rail d’Or at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival Critics’ Week. Director Ritesh Batra‘s debut feature film is about a mistaken lunchbox delivery by Mumbai’s dabbawalas that connects a young Hindu housewife to an old Catholic man played by Irrfan.