Film critics are an envied as well as a reviled bunch. They’re envied both for the access they get to the movies before ordinary viewers and for the space they get to impose their views on others. They’re reviled precisely for the same reasons—and the added fact that they are usually deemed to be wildly off the mark on almost every new release. Yet film reviewing is mostly dreary business, especially when the pickings are slim.
2011 hasn’t been one of the best in recent years. We present the low points and the highlights of yet another year of reviewing Bollywood.
WTF moments at the movies
Shah Rukh Khan as a nerdy Tamil Brahmin programmer who morphs into a crotch-clutching saviour of the universe. Kangna Ranaut’s desperate makeover as a purring sex kitten. Jackky Bhagnani’s staggering ambition to be the next superstar. The recent and mysterious tendency of John Abraham’s eyeballs to move in opposite directions in Force and Desi Boyz. Sagar Ballary’s repeated attempts to prove his mettle as a director of comedy in Bheja Fry 2 and Hum Tum aur Shabana. Prateik as a wannabe priest with the potential to fire up future congregations in My Friend Pinto. Prashant Narayanan dressed as a tranny in the anything-goes Yeh Saali Zindagi. An all-Indian cast playing leading lights of the Third Reich in Gandhi to Hitler.
No spark: Actor Shahid Kapoor in Mausam
Zero chemistry degree
There’s a tie between R. Madhavan and Ranaut in Tanu Weds Manu and Shahid Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor in Mausam.
The dark horse prize
Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Sahib Biwi aur Gangster: a wicked, sexy story about fading royalty and flaming passions that saw Jimmy Shergill and Randeep Hooda in top form.
The ‘I’m Not There’ citation
Ranbir Kapoor, who put so much effort into making Rockstar work that you wonder if he actually thought he was in some other, worthier movie.
Ranbir Kapoor in Rockstar
Woman of the year
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’s Zoya Akhtar, for recognizing that female movie-goers need eye candy as much as males.
And the bravery medal goes to…
Kalki Koechlin, for appearing as the princess of disturbia in Shaitan, a nagging fiancée in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, an exploited masseuse in search of her father in That Girl in Yellow Boots and a lost waif in My Friend Pinto. Phew!
Two actors bookended the year with unforgettable roles. One was the redoubtable Vidya Balan, who went from dowdy in January (in No One Killed Jessica) to voluptuous in December (The Dirty Picture). Giving her company on her amazing journey was character actor Rajesh Sharma, who appeared in both films in small but unforgettable parts.
Kalki Koechlin in Shaitan
The Perry Mason award of the year
Anurag Kashyap for defending Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar across social media, calling it the Pyaasa of our times, berating the dimwits and philistines who didn’t like the film, and generally plugging the movie more vigorously than he promoted his own That Girl in Yellow Boots.
‘You’ve Gotta Hand It To Him’ gong
Also goes to Anurag Kashyap, for daring to make That Girl in Yellow Boots in a year when the word offbeat was as welcome as intelligent.
Nandini Ramnath is the film critic of Time Out Mumbai (www.timeoutmumbai.net).
Write to Nandini at firstname.lastname@example.org