Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: A Review of Sorts

The year in review: 2011

After the significant gains of 2010 (Udaan, Karthik Calling Karthik, Peepli Live), Hindi cinema in 2011 was a bit of a letdown. Vishal Bharadwaj finally delivered a clunker, 7 Khoon Maaf. The story - about a woman who keeps killing her abusive husbands - needed something like the Wilder touch. Bharadwaj instead ended up directing like the David Fincher of Se7en and Fight Club: the film was cynical, oppressive and unremittingly dark. It did, however, have “Darling”, which would have been the song of the year if it’d been original (it was an acknowledged cover of the Russian song "Kalinka").

Aamir Khan continued his golden run as producer. Kiran Rao's Dhobi Ghat was a muted tribute to Mumbai, and far too gentle to remember for long. Yet, there was a lot that was just right about it: the performances by Prateik and Kriti Malhotra (who has the most relatable voice), the score by Gustavo Santaollala and a unwillingness to concede to popular appeal (down to Aamir Khan’s irritating mind games about how this wasn’t a movie for the masses). Delhi Belly was its polar opposite: loud, trash-talking, fast-paced. It had whipcrack editing, the funniest script in recent memory, three leads who cussed like they didn’t care, and crazy, cross-eyed Poorna Jaganathan stealing scenes from everyone's noses. Also, I hate you like I love you love you love you…

Shor in the City may not have been as slick as 99, but it did manage to take the manic comedy of that 2009 film and turn it into something darker and more substantial. Directors Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D also got Tusshar Kapoor to act, an aberration that was quickly forgotten after his turn in The Dirty Picture (which, despite a joyously smutty performance by Vidya Balan, was very average).

The close but no cigar film of the year: Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster, which had an impressive Randeep Hooda, a surprisingly effective Jimmy Shergill and an awful Mahie Gill.

Ra.One might just be the worst film ever made in this country's history. If you’ve already seen it, I don’t need to tell you why. If you haven’t, read this Vigil Idiot strip.

Level any charge you’d like against The Tree of Life, but I could not get those images, or the haunting “Les barricades misteriuses”, out of my head for a long time. The most ambitious and flawed film of the year.

Drive unfolded like a cool dream interrupted by hideous violence. Gosling was a real human being, and a real hero (how old-fashioned). Carrey Mulligan will have to stop with that sad smile, or every film she does is going to end up this way.

Yet to see Shame, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Artist, War Horse, any of which might be the year's best.

Finally, some miscellaneous categories with no significance whatsoever:

Best concert I attended this year: Vieux Farka Toure Toumani Diabate and the Manganiyar troupe at Siri Fort

The concert I attended that I wouldn’t trade for the best concert I attended this year: Bob Dylan, live in Singapore

Best concert I didn’t attend this year: Metallica, Gurgaon

Best concert I’ll never attend: R.E.M, who broke up this year

Album of the year: The Beach Boys’ Smile, pieced together and released after four decades in the vault

Oh, and I bought my first original Criterions this year: Robert Altman’s Short Cuts and Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter. And we won the World Cup.

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