9 Best Movies of 2016

2016 was one of those years in the Bollywood history where not many movies were Box Office successes, however, there were some really brave movie attempts made by unexpected quarters. Here is my pick of top 9 movies I felt were different and entertaining. Please do not go by the BO numbers.

Dangal: Like the saying save the last dance. Aamir did save his best performance and movie for the last week of 2016. Based on the true life characters of Mahaveer Phogat and his daughters Geeta and Babita, this was a great movie experience. Never was a sports based movie made with such passion and splendor. The wrestling fights looked so real that I had myself sitting on the edge whenever Geeta ‘Dhobipachadofied‘ her opponents. The highlight apart from the last fight was the bout between the father-daughter jodi played by Aamir and Fatima.

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Nil Battey Sanatta: This was one masterpiece that I was fortunate to see in 2016. Produced by Aanand L. Rai and directed by Ashwini Iyer Tiwari (the wife of Dangal director Nitesh Tiwari), tells the story of a housemaid played brilliantly by Swara Bhaskar and her daughter who is scared of mathematics. The moments in the movie were heartfelt and the narrative was so gripping that made you feel a part of Apu and Chanda’s lives.

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Pink: ‘Whatamovie’ was the first expression I let out after watching this simple but powerful story of a movie. Amitabh Bachchan was a sheer pleasure to watch as the bipolar lawyer and Tapsee Pannu showcased her brilliance with her portrayal of Meenal Arora. ‘No means No’ became the mantra of this tony courtroom drama directed by Aniruddha Roy Choudhary.

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Aligarh: Another biopic that made me cringe in my seat was Manoj Bajpayee starrer Aligarh based on Professor Ramchandra Siras’ life. Professor Siras was who was sacked from his position as a Marathi professor from Aligarh University for his sexual orientation portrayed the sad reality of our homophobic society. Also, the mysterious way in which he was found dead makes us question ‘whether sexual orientation is above humanity?’ Homosexuality is a crime in India and there are hardly any meaningful movies made around this subject. However, Hansel Mehta’s brave attempt on this real life character and Bajpayee’s sensitive performance is quite commendable. I will also give full marks to the writing department and one particular dialogue of Professor Siras from the movie still gives me goosebumps – Koi Mere Feeling Ko Teen Aksharon Mein Kaise Samajh Sakta Hai!

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Kapoor & Sons: There are many stories revolving around a dysfunctional family, however, Shakun Batra’s second movie outing was a beautiful piece of cinema. Grand Father who is preparing for his death and wants to have the last family picture clicked, Father – a cheating husband, Mother – lost in her own world, Elder son – a closeted gay, Younger Son – still trying to figure out his true calling in life etc. are characters inspired by true life. It was shocking to see King of Candyfloss – Karan Johar producing a true to life story. The movie was quite relatable and the performances were wonderful. Give me a choice and I would love to see this movie anytime, anywhere.

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Dear Zindagi: A slice of life movie that centers around a budding cinematographer Kaira played by Alia Bhatt, who hails from a dysfunctional family and after several failed relationships, is in search of a perfect life. She bumps into Dr. Jehangir, an unconventional thinker who helps Kaira in gaining a new perspective about life. Gauri Shinde after her endearing debut movie English Vinglish gave a near perfect movie – Dear Zindagi, and also gave Shah Rukh Khan a much-needed image makeover (it’s been nearly a decade that I liked any of SRK’s movies past Chak De India!).

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Neerja: Directed by Ram Madhvani, Neerja was another commendable biopic on Neerja Bhanot, AC, who was a purser for the airline Pan American World Airways, based in Mumbai, India. Neerja was shot and killed while saving 359 of 379 passengers on board Pan Am Flight 73, which was hijacked by terrorists on 5 September 1986 at Karachi. Sonam Kapoor gave her career best performance and also won the hearts of cine goers. A wonderful movie that every India should watch.

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Airlift: The film directed by Raja Krishna Menon follows Ranjit Katyal (Akshay Kumar), a Kuwait-based businessman, as he carries out the evacuation of Indians based in Kuwait during the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The movie was inspired by the real-life character of Mathunny Mathews who was instrumental in carrying out the biggest Air evacuation in World History. Air India holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people evacuated by a civil airliner as a result of this effort. The operation was carried out during the Persian Gulf War in 1990 to evacuate Indian expatriates from Kuwait and Iraq. It is believed to be the largest civilian evacuation in history. The way the movie was shot and narrated is praiseworthy. Akshay Kumar, as usual, gave a great performance ably supported by Nimrat Kaur and Prakash Belawadi.

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Sultan: My list would not be complete without a Salman Khan starrer and this year he did make me proud as a fan. Sultan a love story of a wrestler had Salman living the character to the T. It was not a typical Bhai movie but a warm and heartfelt movie of a wrestler who gets into the game only to impress his lady love and in turn goes to win medals for the country. Pride and ego bring his downfall and soon his entire life is shattered. What happens next is the journey of Sultan who rises from the ashes like a Pheonix. Salman after Bajrangi Bhaijaan was a sheer pleasure to watch. His transformation as a wrestler in the movie was commendable and Bhaijaan did act well in this movie.

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It was difficult to pick 9 movies from the 100+ movies released in 2016. If you have your own favorites please do comment below.

Review: Dear Zindagi ‘I Love You’!

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I know it’s been a while I reviewed any of the new releases, however, I was busy with the release of my new book Alfie The Elf. Anyway, at no cost I wanted to miss out on Dear Zindagi that released this week starring Alia Bhatt and Shah Rukh Khan and directed by Gauri Shinde of ‘English Vinglish’ fame. Let me directly dive into the plotline of the movie.

Kaira aka Koko (Alia Bhatt) is an ambitious cinematographer (wait aren’t they called DOP these days?) who like many millennials has a messy love life and a yet to bloom career. She falls in and out of love instantly. She parties and also cheats on her boyfriend (Angad Bedi)  with another man. However, her entire world comes crumbling down first with a heartbreak when the guy of her dreams Raghvendra (Kunal Kapoor) dumps her and gets engaged to someone else. And, then her landlord  slaps her with an eviction notice and our cutie-pie Kaira processes this cumulative assault while biting into green chilies. Throughout you are subjected to a slight hint of her strained relationship with her parents.

Enter Jehangir Khan aka Jugs (Shah Rukh Khan) who is a DD – Dimag Ka Doctor, who tries to help Kaira with her problems and to love her Zindagi. In his ‘out of textbook’ ways, Jug helps Kyra open up about her on the surface problems and further digs into the bigger ones. With his ‘cool’ stories, he wins over Kyra’s fears and teaches her to embrace life. Alas, our baby-faced Kaira falls head over heals in love with Jugs. Now, what? Would Jugs reciprocate to her love or leave her like her previous crushes? Find out by watching Dear Zindagi at a theater near you!

Coming to the script and screenplay, which seems to be good, however, Gauri seems to have gone on a trip of her own. She tries to weave in multiple issues into one story for the character. The parental issues, love life issues, career issues etc. and in that process losses track. The sparks she showed with Sridevi starrer English Vinglish is missing. The dialogues though initially interesting tends to be very preachy and boring in the second half.

Performance wise, this is Alia’s best. She rises above the screenplay and gets perfectly into Kiara’s character making it more believable. Shah Rukh Khan as Jugs is impressive, however, the dialogues let things down. As the entire focus of the movie is on Kaira’s character, the characters supporting hers viz; Raghu (Kunal Kapoor), Sid (Angad Bedi) or Rumi (Ali Zafar) get no background whatsoever.

The music is average only the title song ‘Love You Zindagi’ and a rehash of yesteryear superhit song ‘Ae Zindagi’ from Sadma composed by maestro Illayaraja stands out. Editing in the second half could have been crisper.

On the whole, Dear Zindagi is a great watch for all Alia Bhatt and SRK fans.

My Verdict:***

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Movie Review: Ae Dil Hai Mushkil!

Diwali is the biggest festival of India and like every year, this year too, two BIG movies are clashing with each other to  get audience’s attention. The first movie I am reviewing is Karan Johar’s much-anticipated, much-talked and controversy surrounded – Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Without much talking, let me dive into the story of ADHM.

The movie starts with ‘private-jet ameer’ Ayan (Ranbir) trying to hook up with ‘Raees’ Alizeh (Anushka) after a chance encounter at a London pub. However, instead of they ending up in bed and bidding farewell later, they strike up a friendship instantly. They’re both Bollywood-crazy goofballs who love cheesy ’80s songs, poke fun at each other’s partners and fit into each other like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. But Ayan wants more from the relationship while Alizeh wants to have him as her ‘bestestest’ friend forever after reeling from her break-up with her ex DJ Ali (Fawad). Although, Ayan is a good singer, but Alizeh feels there is no feeling in his singing as he has never experienced heartbreak. Which he does when a chance encounter with Ali while Alizeh and Ayan are holidaying in Paris, makes her slip back into his arms, leaving him distraught.

Alizeh goes back to Lucknow and gets married to Ali against her parent’s wishes. Ayan tries to make Alizeh understand his love for her, but she rejects him as she is not in love with him. A distraught and heartbroken Ayan then finds solace in a physical relationship with an older divorcee Saba (Aishwarya), who helps him get a new perspective on one-sided love.

Will Alizeh fall in love with Ayan and accept him as her lover or will Ayan find his soulmate in Saba? To find out, watch the movie.

The story by Karan Johar is a mixture of his earlier movies like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kal Ho Na Ho, Ek Main Aur Ek Tu etc. and Rockstar. There is no originality in the story or script, however, performances by the lead actors keep the movie afloat and entertaining. Ranbir, as usual, does a fantastic job and Anushka is a dream to watch. Their chemistry is crackling and you don’t turn your face away whenever they mouth those typical filmy corny dialogues from the 80s and 90s. Aishwarya looks beautiful and does a decent job in her small role. Lisa Haydon is hilarious and makes the ‘Vaatavaran’ exciting with her presence. Fawad Khan and Imran Abbas are just okay and do not have too many screen time (there was no need for the entire controversy to be created around their presence in the movie). Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt lightens up the screen with their short cameos.

Dialogues by Niranjan Iyengar and Karan Johar is good and the first half is quite entertaining because of the dialogues and the lead pair’s chemistry. The second half drags in the first 20 minutes and then picks up once Anushka and Ranbir meet again. The music by Pritam is outstanding especially the title song and Channa Mereya which has a haunting presence even in the BG score.

Cinematography by Anil Mehta is very good and you will fall in love with the lighting and every frame which gives you that typical KJo signature style. Editing could have been crisper, especially in the second half.

Overall, ADHM is a feel good movie and keeps you entertained and therefore I would recommend you to watch it at least once if you are a fan of KJO movies.

My Verdict: ***

Movie Review: Baar Baar Dekho – A Total Letdown!

A news like Dharma Productions and Excel Entertainment joining hands is something to celebrate, as both premier production houses are known for some pathbreaking and good movies. However, after watching Baar Baar Dekho, I must admit that even best in the industry can also come up with a bad product. Debutant director Nitya Mehra had everything going in her favor viz. Big stars – Katrina Kaif and Siddharth Malhotra, big names/banners – Karan Johar, Farhan Akhtar & Ritesh Sidhwani, good songs – Kala Chashma, Nachde Ve Saare, Sau Aasman etc, big budget, picturesque locations and a grand release, alas all gone waste.

The movie tells the story of childhood friends turned sweethearts Diya (Katrina) and Jay (Siddharth) ready to tie the knot. However, on the day of their marriage, it dawns on him that they are different and he chickens out of the marriage. Then comes the time travel part where Jay with every sleep he wakes from finds himself in different time zones and he keeps aging and so does his relationship with Diya which is going for a toss and how he goes back to mend the relationship forms the rest of the story.

There is nothing new in the story or the premise as we have seen many similar ones churned out by Hollywood in the past. Also, if we jog our mind, there were few examples in Hindi movies too, eg: Love Story 2050, Kal Kisne Dekha and Action Replay. The first 30 mins are quite exciting and build up the expectations of the viewers, however, post the first time traveling expedition, the movie nose dives. Nitya Mehra needs to work harder as a director in her future movies as she is not able to leave a stamp with her abilities.

The screenplay, story, and dialogues by Sri Rao, Anuvab Pal, Nitya Mehra and Anvita Dutt is not up to the mark. Katrina and Siddharth do not deliver any noteworthy performances. There are not many surprises from the supporting cast either. The music is good, the editing is very average. The cinematography by Ravi K Chandran is breathtaking.

On the whole, you will not miss too much if you do not watch this movie.

My Verdict: *

Movie Review: A ‘Shaandaar’ Fairytale Blooper!

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This week opened with the most anticipated movie of the year ‘Shaandaar’ starring Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, directed by Vikas ‘Queen’ Bahl. Queen was one of the surprise hits of 2013 and it not only gave a boost to Kangana Ranaut‘s career but also showcased a lot of promise from Vikas Bahl as a director. If Queen was his best then Shaandaar is his RGV Ki Aag!

The movie begins with an animated backstory narrated by Naseerudin Shah (voiceover) about an orphan girl Alia (Alia Bhat), who is brought home by Bipin Arora (Pankaj Kapoor). The family headed by Bipin’s mother Kamla Arora (Sushma Seth) as well as his wife (Nikki Aneja) do not like Alia, but she gets welcomed by his daughter Isha (Sanah Kapoor).

Alia is an insomniac and therefore never sleeps at night. Bipin finds a unique way to make Alia sleep, he sketches and gifts her everyday interesting things which she can dream of, alas she never sleeps. Years pass by, granny fixes Isha’s marriage with Fundwani’s (Sanjay Kapoor) younger brother Robin (Vikas Verma) to further their business relationship. Fundwani is a gold loving Sindhi millionaire who sees Queen Elizabeth to Michael Jackson as Sindhis and justifies with his sick sense of humor. In walks JJ aka Jagjinder Joginder (Shahid Kapoor) who is the wedding planner for Isha’s and Robin’s wedding.  It is attraction at first sight between Alia and JJ who is also an insomniac. What happens to Alia and JJ’s love story? Does the marriage based over a business deal work? To find out, watch the movie.

Coming to the story, there is none. The movie in totality is bad. There is nothing interesting in the script, dialogues or screenplay that will stay back with you. Vikas Bahl got overconfident with Queen’s success and thought he could make anything and the audience will like it but sadly you cannot fool the audience. Good actors, songs and scenic locations do not guarantee a successful movie.

Shahid, Alia, Pankaj Kapoor and Sushma Seth impress with their performances. Debutant Sanah Kapoor is quite impressive and leaves her mark with her performance. Sanjay Kapoor is as usual – BAD! The music by Amit Trivedi is good especially Gulabo and Shaam Shaandaar. The editing could have been crisper. The cinematography is wonderful and the locations have a fairytale kind of feel.

Overall the movie is a bad product and might not appeal to most of the people.

My Verdict: *

Movie Review: Katti Batti – Only Katti, No Batti!

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I was still recovering from the torture I suffered from Nikhil Advani‘s last release Hero when I was struck by another bout of suffering with his this week’s Imran Khan-Kangana Ranaut starrer Katti Batti.

Kangana is one actress who is hot in the industry circuits these days after Queen and Tanu Weds Manu Returns. She is also being compared with Aamir Khan for her script sense and that was the only thing that motivated me to go and watch this movie. I have decided to be ‘Katti’ with Nikhil for life after the double dhamakas.

The movie tells the story of Madhav aka Maddy (Imran Khan) and Payal (Kangana), and the on and off relationship with each other. It is love at first sight for Maddy and he keeps on pursuing Payal who is not interested in a serious relationship but ‘timepass’. Somehow the couple get into a live-in relationship, but after a slew of fights and incidents, Payal leaves him, forever, and Maddy is shattered. But, there is a ray of hope for him as he feels somewhere deep inside that Payal can’t be so heartless. And this realisation brings him back to life and he goes Payal-hunting. The rest of the movie is all about him trying to get her number, gatecrashing her marriage and attempts to woo her back.

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The story and screenplay by Anshul Singhal is a big let down and the constant flashbacks is a huge hindrance to the narrative. The dialogues are funny but no movie can run only on the basis of dialogues. Nikhil has proved once again that he is a mediocre director who needs to go back to assisting Karan Johar to learn more tricks about moviemaking. Performances are average especially Imran Khan’s who struggles to act but he couldn’t get it right. I blame the director for the same because even Kangana (a great performer) does an average job in this movie. However, Imran has a lengthier role compared to Kangana who is hardly there in the movie.

Coming to music, it is no great shakes. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy has given better music in Nikhil’s previous movies like Kal Ho Na Ho or Salaam-E-Ishq. The cinematography is first rate and one should applaud Tushar Ray for the same. The movie could have been edited further to make it look crispier because most of the parts in the first half drags a lot.

On the whole, the movie is a rehash of several Hollywood movies which we have seen and is not even worth a dekho.

My Verdict: *