Thursday, August 4, 2011


For previous posts, please visit the index.

Continuing on from the previous list, here are the rest of the ten films that I feel are representative of the decade 2000-2010.

Film choices 6-10

6. Company (2002)

Directed by Ram Gopal Varma
Starring Ajay Devgn, Vivek Oberoi, and Manisha Koirala

Gangsters have always been a favorite film topic in Bollywood and the 2000s were no exception. Company follows young buck Chandu (Vivek Oberoi) as he joins a gang and learns the tricks of the trade. Heavyweight actor Ajay Devgn plays Malik, the gang leader. The events depicted in Company are allegedly based on Dawood Ibrahim’s D Company, a crime saga as well known to Indians as the Whitey Bulger story is to Americans.

Company and other films like it are very similar in purpose to American gangster films like The Departed and serve up a sort of stark glamor of life outside the law.

7. Hera Pheri (2000)

Directed by Priyadarshan
Starring Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty, Tabu, and Paresh Rawal

Priyadarshan become synonomous with a certain kind of so-called ‘mindless comedy’ during the 2000s. The plots of these films are generally very nonsensical and punctuated by gags, slapstick, and sound effects. Think the Marx Brothers but with more dancing. Hera Pheri was the film that really set the trend off and, for my money, it’s one of the best. Three hapless but greedy guys get caught in a scam and end up being chased all over by gangsters.

The film is fast-paced and the song picturizations are a bit different from what one might expect. “Jab Bhi Koi Haseena,” for example, is an expert puncturing of the glossy Hero archetype from films like Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai.

8. Don - The Chase Begins Again (2006)

Directed by Farhan Akhtar
Starring Shahrukh Khan, Boman Irani, Priyanka Chopra, and Arjun Rampal

Farhan Akhtar gave Shahrukh Khan’s career a bit of a goosing in Don. The film takes the plot of the classic 1978 Bollywood film Don but remakes it in the style of the then-popular mainstream thriller. Set in Malaysia, the film stars Shahrukh Khan as “Don,” a charismatic gangster who runs afoul of the law and ends up in a coma in the hospital. While he’s snoozing away, street singer Vijay (also Shahrukh Khan) who looks remarkably like Don is tapped by DCP D’Silva (Boman Irani) to infiltrate Don’s gang. Meanwhile, lady-with-a-past Roma (Priyanka Chopra) has also infiltrated Don’s gang in order to kill him and avenge her family.

Despite the masala roots of the story, the film is the perfect example of those slick mainstream thrillers. An atmosphere of tense foreboding hangs over the entire film; sex and violence have been sublimated into item songs and action; and while Shahrukh Khan is far from a second tier hero, he brought along his second tier buddy Arjun Rampal, giving an ensemble feel to the cast.

And keep an eye out for Kareena Kapoor doing a game-changing item song in the first part of the film.

9. Dev.D (2009)

Directed by Anurag Kashyap
Starring Abhay Deol, Kalki Koechlin, and Mahie Gill

Classic Bengali novel Devdas gets a 21st century make-over in Dev.D. Much like Hollywood seems to put out endless versions of Pride & Prejudice, Bollywood cannot get enough Devdas. This version, like all the others, tells the story of the spoiled rotten Dev (Abhay Deol) who makes an ass of himself with his childhood love Paro (Mahie Gill) and finds solace in the arms of lady of the night Chanda (Kalki Koechlin.)

The film is pure neo-Bollywood. The actors’ performances, the tone, the editing, the script pacing... everything is done very much in the "international" film style but the soul of the film remains uniquely rooted in Bollywood. Music plays a big part in setting the mood and even though there are no picturizations, the flavor of the traditional song-dance break is kept. “Emotional Attachyar” from the soundtrack even became a surprise hit!

While I strongly discourage talk about Indian film “evolving” to become more like Western film, I do feel comfortable saying that this strain of neo-Bollywood represents the melding of that "international" style with the mainstream. And these are exactly the kinds of films that Western distributers should be buying for the art house circuit.

10. Wanted (2009)

Directed by Prabhu Deva
Starring Salman Khan, Ayesha Takia, and Prakash Raaj

We’ll end with neo-masala film Wanted. Based on the Telugu superhit Pokiri, Wanted stars Salman Khan as Radhe, a street thug who beats other people up for a living. One day he’s thrown into the path of the beautiful Jhanvi (Ayesha Takia) and their lives merge. Wanted really is a true masala film with equal parts action, romance, melodrama, and comedy. Jhanvi has a comical suitor - a middle aged man who thinks he’s a teenager. And Radhe suffers some father-centered melodrama. Plus, joining the fun is the current bad boy of Bollywood, villain Prakash Raaj, who merely has to wiggle his little finger for the room to shake.

Director Prabhu Deva comes out of the South Indian film industries and brings with him the dynamic camera movements and vibrant sound palette that never fell out of fashion there. The film did bonkers business at the box office and signaled to producers that audiences were really hungry for masala - a new strain of masala with better production values, less comedy, and a shorter run time, but with the same desi heart.


maxqnz said...

A good list, FG! I think you are probably very nearly right on the money in picking these as representative of the decade. I say that because of the 10, there's only one I love, two I thought were OK, and 4 that I neither have seen nor want to. That pretty much sums up the decade for me. I would also say the standout film of the 2nd half of that decade was JWM, but that such a sweet, simple-natured traditoinal BW film was not representative of the decade and thus was righyly omitted from your list.

Bombay Talkies said...

Am I going crazy or did you write your post with a white font? I can only see the links and have to highlight the text to make it show up.

(Excellent list btw.)

maxqnz said...

@Bombay TAlkies - must the two be exclusive? :)
But yes, I too had to highlight this list to read it. Not 1-5, though.

Bombay Talkies said...

Haha no, I guess they don't have to be. :P

I've had Blogger do that to me (change the font color) a few times. It's annoying and I have no idea why it does it, and since I type my posts in the HTML editor I never notice it until after I've hit submit.

Filmi Girl said...

I think I fixed it... blogger changed around some of their settings recently and it's driving me crazy!!!

Bombay Talkies said...

Huzzah, black on white again! :)

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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