2014 turned out to be a parched year for Hindi cinema, with only 18% of all Bollywood releases making it past the critics’ litmus test for excellence. Out of 110 theatrical releases (excluding documentary features and re-releases), only 20 reached a TRM score of 6.0 or above. In contrast, 35 out of 94 Hollywood releases in India, made it past 6.0 (a solid 37%).The good news is that we saw bolder subjects, and a lot more feminism in both feature films and documentaries. Hurray for that trend! Here’s the list of the highest rated films of the year.
Mary Kom needs to be lauded for two subjects that mainstream Bollywood has finally started paying some attention to – a female lead and sports. What’s more, finally a protagonist from the North-East and a biopic about the gritty woman who put India on the map in one of the most unconventional sports for women. It’s not a flawless film and leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s every bit worth watching for Priyanka’s portrayal of Mary and her struggles in becoming a boxing champion.
This charming film directed by Rajat Kapoor takes us on a philosophical journey of a 55 year old family man (Sanjai Mishra), who has an epiphany and decides that he is no longer going to believe anything that he doesn’t witness with his own eyes. His sudden resolve is unshakable, spiraling out of control and causing unwelcome disruptions in the joint family’s routine life. Full of hilarious moments and wisdom, it also has great attention to detail towards the lifestyle of low income families in Northern India.
Amol Gupte never fails to tug at our heartstrings with soulful and meaningful stories. ‘Hawaa Hawaai’ is as much a film about reaching for your dreams as it is about the disparity in the the lives of children in our country. It shines a light on underprivileged kids who are told not to dream and who will likely lose their childhood to poverty. Here’s an uplifting story told by the director who does it best and with the child actor (Partho) who is a natural born star.
The story of shattered dreams in the big city of dreams – Bombay, and the struggle for two square meals, is not new. But Hansal Mehta’s ‘City of Lights’ has the heartbreaking quality that makes you stop and think about the unknown, downtrodden and defeated faces that we encounter everyday and don’t pay any attention to. It reminds us how financial desperation can lead to moral compromises and what the deep-rooted clutches of greed and malice have done to our society. Rajkumar Rao and Patraleka are outstanding.
With his third film, Homi Adajania returns to his signature – off-beat and immensely engaging – style of storytelling, which we saw in his breakout film – ‘Being Cyrus’. Set in a fictitious village of Goa (non-touristy and beautifully pictured countryside), it’s a story about five ‘characters’ who travel together to look for the lost love of Ferdie (Naseeruddin Shah). Ferdie had professed his love for Fanny in a letter over 4 decades ago and this letter has now been returned as undelivered mail, setting the story in motion. Delightful watch!
Vishal Bhardwaj’s third Shakespearean film, based on Hamlet and set against the Kashmir struggle, is beautiful, bewitching and unforgettable. The grossly underrated Shahid Kapoor finally plays the role he long deserved, and he’s sure to win a lot of nominations for it (Aamir Khan being his only real competitor this year). Tabu’s portrayal of the complex woman torn between her intense love for her son and her illicit love affair with her murdered husband’s brother, is flawless. Kay Kay Menon, Irrfan Khan and Shraddha Kapoor are each brilliant in their parts.
While most films follow the ‘good always wins over evil’ rule, Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly chooses to give you an unreserved tour of the darkness lurking around every corner. Lies, deceit, lust, greed, betrayal, rage, vengeance and everything in between – welcome to the world we live in. While a little girl’s abduction sets off the story, it is only a catalyst for revealing the ugly faces behind every mask, as the mystery unfolds. It disturbs you because you can’t shake it off with a ‘that couldn’t really happen’ remark.
This quirky little film made on a shoestring budget and with a big heart, comfortably makes its way into the top 5 films of 2014. A movie about the Bollywood-crazed audiences in India and its alienated neighbor Pakistan, reminds us that artistic medium transcends terrestrial boundaries and political agendas. And we all ought to know deep down that our fellow humans across the border share the same history, the same loves, the same interests and the same longing for peace and brotherhood.
The film that kicked off 2014 with a bang, stayed its ground as one of the best cinematic achievements of the year. The worthy sequel to the much loved Ishqiya, enthralled critics with its wit, Urdu poetry, strong female characters and heady drama. It’s a delight to watch actors like Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi in roles that are worth their salt. And a fitting comeback for the queen of hearts – Madhuri Dixit.
We can always count on Aamir Khan to surprise us at least once a year. Just when we thought he had played every kind of part there was to play, he showed up as an alien. An alien looking at our complex, contrived, messed up world with his child-like curiosity. And his innocent inquiries about our age-old beliefs and practices, make us question the ways we choose to live out our lives. Full credit to Rajkumar Hirani for his sharp writing, direction and his always-dependable originality.
The only film to score above 8.0 this year, Queen takes the crown for Best Film of 2014! In an industry starved for women-centric stories, Queen proved that the jilted lover can be a woman for once, and the story of her getting over a relationship through self-discovery and ultimately finding a path to true happiness, has a universal appeal. It is a victory for feminism and filmmaking alike. Kangana Ranaut deserves every statue for her brilliantly relatable performance. And may we also cast our vote for Lisa Haydon’s shining supporting role of the right-friend-at-the-right-time.
Other movies that fell short of making the list, but are worth a mention here are Dekh Tamasha Dekh and Miss Lovely at 6.4, Manjunath at 6.3, Hasee Toh Phasee, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, Highway, 2 States and Rang Rasiya, all tied at 6.1.