Happy December, everyone! As 2013 comes to a close, we decided to look back at the highest rated films of this landmark ‘100th year of Indian cinema’ and here is our list of the top 10 Bollywood movies of 2013. Read on to see why this has been a year for historical fiction and biopics.
The real-life heist film based on the 1987 burglary case, where 26 men posing as CBI officers carried out an income tax raid on a prestigious jewelry store in Mumbai, has a great story to tell and it does so with panache. Director Neeraj Pandey (of ‘A Wednesday’ fame) proved once again that gripping con-job thrillers are right up his alley. Akshay Kumar’s stepping away from his muscle-flexing roles to this subtler, intelligent character also came as a happy surprise.
As a commemoration of Bollywood’s centennial year, Bombay Talkies lived up to its high expectations. Tapping four of the most successful directorial talents in recent times, it is an amalgam of four short stories – all involving a strong influence of Hindi cinema on its characters. Karan Johar’s story was praised for not being yet another view through his rose-coloured glasses and finally offering a bold and mature story about a gay man and a dead marriage, albeit a tangential connection to Bombay’s cinema. Dibaker Banerjee’s short about the poor, out-of-work theater actor, played brilliantly by the versatile Nawazuddin Siddiqui, was the most memorable piece. Zoya Akhtar’s story garnered less favorable responses for perhaps being too juvenile for a tribute. And finally Anurag Kashyap’s short was a predictable but fitting story to tell for our star-crazed nation.
It has never been easy in India to make a film based on real-life controversial political and historical events. Braving all the hurdles posed by sensitive social and political groups, Shoojit Sarcar attempted to tell this important story about the plotting of former PM, Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination with the backdrop of the Sri Lankan civil war (even though there is a disclaimer that it is a work of fiction). The film steers clear of jingoism and sensationalization, which is Bollywood’s common treatment of such themes. Instead it tackles the subject with objectivity and empathy and succeeds in underlining the futility of war.
A biopic about a sportsperson is by all means still a novelty for Bollywood and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Farhan Akhtar went a few extra miles to make this one an ‘every paisa vasool’ fare. Melodrama and exaggerations notwithstanding, it is a commendable effort with Farhan’s evolution to method acting, the film’s ace cinematography, visual effects and an engaging tale of a forgotten national hero. It clocks over three hours, which is too long even for a mythological epic, but nobody was complaining because the cinematic experience was a lot higher than the bar we set for summer blockbusters.
Bollywood’s obsession with the dreaded ‘D’ at the top of India’s most-wanted list continues with this installment – only this one is India’s revenge fantasy as opposed to a celebration of the fugitive’s underworld prowess. While Rishi Kapoor was a convincing embodiment of Dawood, Irrfan Khan and Arjun Rampal add more watchability and credibility to an imperfect plot. The pulpy action-suspense keeps you hooked throughout and the unlikely love story of an ex-Indian army officer (Arjun Rampal) and a Pakistani sex-worker (Shruti Hassan) offers some tender moments in the film.
Vikramaditya Motwane is going to leave an indelible mark on Hindi cinema and he is only getting started. With this second directorial venture, his tools appear sharper and more-polished. Every critic praised the poetic, painting-like visuals and the mesmerizing quality of the film. With its charming old-world aura, it is a beautiful love story drawing inspiration in part from American author O. Henry’s ‘The Last Leaf’. With brilliant performances from the lead pair and the subtlety in storytelling – much unlike the noises we’re hammered with in commercial entertainers, Lootera is probably the most rewarding cinematic product of the year from Bollywood’s largely stagnant mainstream.
Kai Po Che! was the critics’ first favourite of 2013 and it stood its ground through the year with very few challengers. After the deftly made ‘Rock On!’, director Abhishek Kapoor returned with a more challenging script, lesser known faces and without the crowd luring rock numbers – and yet, it worked stupendously. This wasn’t the regular light-hearted bromance – depicting relentless fun and adventure among affluent male friends – the kind we have come to expect from the genre. It was far from it. Adapted from Chetan Bhagat’s ‘The three mistakes of my life’, it overlays the subject of male-bonding on top of some serious issues like religious politics, natural disasters and communal riots. The fragmented themes do make the film feel rushed and less deep than it wants to be, but nevertheless the story-telling is a breath of fresh air.
This biography about the lawyer and human rights activist, Shahid Azmi, who was assassinated in 2010 in Mumbai at the young age of 32, is not the kind of film that emerges out of the commercial Bollywood factory. It tells the incredible true story of an average citizen who rose above his grim circumstances to save other lives. After being wrongly implicated as a terrorist and spending seven years in a high security prison, Azmi’s spirit was indomitable and he went on to become a criminal justice lawyer, fighting for others who had been wrongly accused. Raising questions about our flawed criminal justice system and urging us to stand for what is right, Hansal Mehta’s film is sincere and important. Raj Kumar Yadav’s portrayal of Azmi was highly praised as one of the best performances of the year.
If words of praise could equate a standing ovation, then ‘Ship of Theseus’ certainly got one – across the board! First time feature film director, Anand Gandhi interweaves three powerful stories of ordinary, broken lives in the bustling chaos of Mumbai. A photographer on the verge of blindness, an ailing monk who must choose against his principles in order to survive, and a stock broker sucked into the grim reality of illegal organ trade. Gandhi approaches the subjects with immense compassion and originality and compels the viewer to reflect on humanitarian values and social responsibility. The film was unanimously praised as a triumph for independent filmmaking in India.
Rarely does a film come along that remains unblemished even by the harshest of critics. The Lunchbox is one such film and most-deservingly our highest rated Indian film this year! Director Ritesh Batra tells the heartwarming story of two lost souls connected only through notes in their lunchbox, delivered by the world famous ‘dabbawallas’ of Mumbai. Critics called it ‘A sumptuous treat’, ‘an exceptional love story’ , ‘poignant and powerful’, ‘a delicious, beautiful little film’, ‘ a film of multiple pleasures’, ‘one of the best films to come out of India in a long time’, ‘a movie that leaves you with a running film reel in your head, and a need to have delicious food!’ – need we say more?