Greatbong's Best Movies of 2007

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[This list is based on the movies I have seen through 2007. I have not seen “Dharm” or “Blue Umberella” , which is why they were not considered in the making of this list. ]

6. Guru Is it a public-relations piece that seeks to white-wash the sleazy legacy of a corporate criminal by presenting him as a crusader against a flawed economic system ? Or is it a “warts-and-all” biopic of one of modern India’s most significant figures colored by director Maniratnam’s over-all sympathy for the main character?

What makes “Guru” such a delight, besides the Maniratnam-signature polish and the rock-solid performances (Mithun-da rocks but what’s new?), is that it provokes debate, not just on the director’s motivations or the saintliness of the protagonist but also whether it was “Guru”bhai who corrupted the system or whether it was the corruption inherent in the system that made “Guru”bhai inevitable ? A detailed review here.

5. Johnny Gaddar A deal gone wrong. A death that should not have been. A shitload of money that has disappeared. A traitor in the gang. And right in the middle of this crisis, the leader of the group , Dharmendra tells a nervous underling in trademark “garam paaji” style: “Go get a drink. You will be all right.”

Class.

Johnny Gaddar is all style. And also substance. Rarely has one seen such a crime caper in Hindi filmdom where the story travels along unexpected lines without going off into the realms of the fantastic; where the characters take a break from walking in “Sanjay Gupta-patented” rapturous bad-ass slow-motion to live, breathe, hesitate, panic, think and even regret their actions.

4. Namesake Having a father who came to the US in the late 60s to do his PhD (like Ashoke Ganguly) and having spent some part of my childhood in the US, this is a movie that I emotionally connected with at multiple levels. And when my mother told me how moved my father, not normally a very emotional man, was after seeing Namesake I appreciated even more the power of this Mira Nair-Jhumpa Lahiri creation to pull at one’s heart-strings—a power that can make both father and son sit silent in their seats for a few seconds after the end credits roll. [More about this movie here]

3. 1971 Lacking big stars, a mega budget, item numbers, glam dolls, and most importantly a hype-generating PR machinery, this little gem, that exhorts the nation to not forget the Indian prisoners-of-war still illegally held by the butchers across the border, passed underneath the radar of the average cine-goer.

Directed by Amrit Sagar (the grandson of Ramanand Sagar) 1971 starts slow and just when you want to dismiss this as yet another well-meaning but cinematically flawed tribute to the troops (one of the Pakistani army-men who seems to be channeling Keshto Mukherjee and Dev Anand is unintentionally hilarious), it explodes spectacularly in the last hour to become a frenetically breath-taking escape drama that culminates in an extra-ordinarily conceived, stirring climax that is anything but formulaic.

2. Gandhi My Father A Mahatma—too invested in being the father of the nation to give any kind of attention to his own offspring. An imperfect son, unwilling/ unable to live up to the high ideals that the Mahatma imposed on himself and by extension his family, dodged throughout his life by accursed luck both professionally and personally, defining his own existence through desperate rebellion against his father on one hand and continuous craving for paternal approbation on the other.

“Gandhi My Father” is the tragic story of this father-son conflict played against the backdrop of tumultous historic events, brought to life by nuanced performances from Darshan Jariwala (Mahatma Gandhi), Shefali Chaya (Kasturba Gandhi) and an acting tour de force from Akshaye Khanna as Harilal, the failure son of one of the most iconic historic figures of the 20th century.

1. Taare Zameen Par An engaging, restrained message movie that will hopefully foster greater understanding for children with learning disabilities, Aamir Khan’s “Taare Zameen Par” elevates itself to greatness in the sequences where it explores the magical world of Ishaan Awasthi, a hyper-imaginative 9 year old whose mind wanders out the window to the wide world outside while his friends cram and suit up for the rat-race they are forced into.

The essence of being a child has rarely been captured so evocatively as it has been in “Taare Zameen Par” where Aamir Khan, looking through the eyes of Ishaan, finds wondrous beauty in a puddle, in the sight of a building-worker climbing a scaffolding, in the twirl of ice-candy and in mixing paint. He also extracts a heart-wrenching performance from Darsheel Safary, who as Ishan Awasthi, expresses wonderment, despair, anger, and frustration often wordlessly, without taking recourse to the “cute kid” over-precociousness that has become the staple of commercial Hindi films.

Take a bow Mr Khan—-you have outdone yourself.

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56 thoughts on “Greatbong's Best Movies of 2007

  1. Ah! first….

    My list will have the same movies except for Manorama would swap with 1971.. And then with the strong bias I have for Mani Rathnam, Guru would take pole position.

    Nevertheless, fantastic compilation….

  2. Agree with your #1 assessment. Its selling to packed houses in CA.
    Parents applauded at the end of the movie. Guru is not Mani Rathnam’s best so yes, it is ranked appropriately here below The Namesake.

  3. Both Dharm and Blue Umbrella deserve to be in this list. Do watch those movies if and when you get a chance (and update this list if you think they deserve to be included).

    Also, you absolutely must watch Ta Ra Pum Pum. That movie is literally crying out to be included in your previous list.

  4. Good list, except for the Namesake.

    Jhumpa has always played the same formula in all her books from Interpreter to this one. Yes we get it, you love writing about NRIs who find life in a foreign land hard to adjust to: Deal with it and move on.

    Seeing that same premise milked a hundred times is unoriginal, tedious to sit through and only fuels the stereotype of the culturally shocked Indian who can’t come to terms with his surroundings.

    I realize your emotional attachment to the film, but let’s be serious, this is nothing more than a saccharine, formulaic, regurgitated piece of rasmalai and has no place on a “best of” list.

  5. Great List !!!
    However I thought TZP could have been made a tad better by someone like Nagesh Kuknoor. The songs in the movie seemed unnecessary. Minus the songs and Amir’s style(which looked like a hangover from his past movies)it was a lovely movie and Darsheel Safary’s acting was by far the best acting by a child artist in a Hindi movie .

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  7. Great list, Greatbong!!

    My list will have Black Friday on top (IIRC, you saw it in 2005 that’s why it didn’t make the cut). Johnny Gaddar is such a wonderfully entertaining movie and what’s more it gets better on repeated viewings. Such a shame it didn’t succeed.

  8. I haven’t watched all the movies in your list, but ‘Chakh De’ seems to be conspicously missing from the list… Is there some reason behind it?

  9. “Taare Zameen Par” deserves the Best Film of the Year award. Going by the absence of a review on your blog I thought you had given it a miss. Now that its crowned on your blog too, I am relieved that the ‘hyperbolic praise’ I have lavished upon TZP on my blog isn’t all exaggeration. ” Tu sab jaanti hai…hai na Maa” , I am sure, will capture the imagination for generations to come with its understated somberness and emotive appeal.

    Coming to the other entries in your list I would love to get my hands on ‘1971’( din even hear of it) and ‘Gandhi- MY Father’ which drove me away with my past experiences of historical dramas still fresh in memory.

  10. You could have included Chak De India, considering its impact (and not its earnings). But great compilation, nevertheless. 🙂

  11. GB,

    “Rarely has one seen such a crime caper in Hindi filmdom …”- Have you watched the director Sriram Raghavan’s first movie- Ek Haseena Thi? You would love that too.
    About Gandhi- My Father”, no doubt the performances were outstanding. But the movie is a tad tiresome- too conscious an effort maybe to create “meaningful” cinema. Not the riveting stuff you come accross in a movie like “Maine Gandhi ko Nahi Mara”
    And dude- its a pity you have not watched Blue Umbrella!! Its a delightful movie and Pankaj Kapoor proves that he is THE most underrated actor in the country.

    And no ‘Bheja Fry’ in the list? Isn that a 2007 release…?

  12. wasnt expecting TZP to top the list .. but no complaints …

    Was dissapointed with Gandhi my Father … the film had the possibility to explore much more… besides the slow pace and slightly ‘fake’ handling of the subject at hand … the film was also guilty of never highlighting but only perfunctiorily touching the cause of firction…

    Its a story that deserved to be told .. and told better !!!

    1971 is one of the very under rated yet brilliant movies of the year …. was simply blown away by the film…

    oh and the keshto-dev anand unintentionally hilarious actor u are talking about is Piyush mishra – actor in Dil Se, Maqbool(as Kaka) and recently Jhoom baraber jhoom as the pakistani friend of AB Jr…

    P.S – ArnabDa Have u seen manorama 6 feet under ? how did u find the film (and the chinatown connection) ???

  13. I think CDI should top the list as it has brought energy in sportsmen of this country whether it be cricket or football or hockey.So it is a matter of surprise for me to see this movie not evvven at No NO.10.

  14. @Arnab:

    As mentioned earlier in our conversations, I disagree with you on Guru. The others are definitely good films, especially Johnny Gaddar. I will watch TZP this weekend, and am pretty sure I’ll love it.

    But, like others, I do recommend Manorama-6 Feet Under highly.

  15. No surprises there, except for absence of ‘manorama – six feet under’ and ‘Chak de India’. I thought u liked ‘chak de’…

  16. With respect to Manorama 6 feet under, the reviews(one of which included a fairly detailed synopsis) seem to suggest that it was totally an Indianized version of “Chinatown”. I am a bit hesitant to see adaptations of great movies I have already seen—-can’t we be even moderately original is what I thought?

    But with so many of you recommending it (and I hope those of you who are have seen “Chinatown”), maybe it is good. Will try to see it sometime.

    With respect to Chak De India, I found it to be the most formulaic of sports movies with every conceivable sporting cliche packed in thick and fast. I am not saying it was not enjoyable, especially for people who have not seen many sporting movies (this is a rather new genre for Bollywood) but I was hesitating whether it being warranted being put it in my “Must Watch” list. What clinched the issue in favor of not putting it here, was the rather distasteful “Muslims are second-class citizens of India whose patriotism is always under doubt” angle to the whole story—distasteful because I do not think it is as universal a sentiment as it was shown in “Chak De India” where *everyone* was shown to be blaming the SRK character simply because of his religion.

    Now one may say that I am taking this a bit too seriously and that it was merely a plot device to add more drama. However when you see discussions on Pakistani communities about how CDI paints a true picture of Muslims in India, you realize the harm patently unrealistic movies like CDI do. And what’s that? Well they hand over to India-baiters a kind of “reference” which can be pointed to while saying “See even Indians acknowledge how badly Muslims are treated in India”.

    Maybe I will write a post on this sometime.

  17. Guru was a very good movie. Kinda met my expectations of a Mani Ratnam film. Maybe a couple of songs were redundant, but apart from that loved the fact that it makes the audience think. Abhishek was pretty good overall except that last scene where he decided to pay Vijay Dinanath Chauhan a homage. Prabhuji was absolutely fantastic, and I was also very pleasantly surprised by Aishwarya’s supportive rendition of the elderly Mrs. Desai.

    I was very happy after watching Johnny G. No, it wasn’t because of Garam Paaji playing a cutesy don, but the sheer brilliance of an Indian noir film, and in the end the success (not sure whether box office, but at least critical I am sure) of a not-so-big banner film.

    I thought Mira Nair outdid herself with Namesake. Of course people will compare it to the book and say the latter is better, but it is not easy to confine a big story within a two hour or so bracket. However, I thought Tabu was incorrectly cast and Irrfan went a little overboard with his Bangla, though taking nothing away from a novel tempered performance by Kal Penn.

    Haven’t watched 1971. Will try to when I get a chance.

    Contrary to your opinion, I thought Akshaye turned in a very strong performance as Hiralal in Gandhi, My Father. I also thought Bhumika Chawla held more than her own in front of seasoned actors like Darshan Jariwala and Shefali (she left big-nippled Harsh Chhaya). The biggest USP of the film is the huge irony and the script did justice to that.

    As I have said in the comments section of other blogs, TZP is a brilliantly emotional film. I couldn’t hold back tears during the emotional scenes with Tisca Chopra and Darsheel, especially during Shankar Mahadevan’s heart stirring rendition of Maa. If the movie hadn’t dragged a little bit in the first half, it might well have been my all time favorite Hindi movie. While I salute Aamir for the movie, I also want to give a standing ovation to the creative director and writer of the film Amole Gupte, who has been notoriously sidelined by our media. I hope we send this one to the Oscar’s next year. It’s certainly better than drivel like Paheli, our last year’s entry.

    All these innocent lists are OK, but GB, I am looking forward to a list of top Prabhuji movies ever made. I am sure classics like Gunda, Loha and Gunmaster G9 will make it.

  18. * Manorama deserves a spot in this list. And so does Blue Umbrella. As a film connoisseur, you need to watch both this movies, since they offer something refreshingly unique both in terms of treatment and content for a Hindi movie.

    I wasn’t impressed that much by ‘Gandhi my father” , because the original play on which it was based was much better. The same play didn’t get translated well into the movie.

  19. My first comment since eternity… and I am forced to comment today….
    Johnny Gaddar is really the movie that I could do without.

    Neil Mukesh is good but the rest is just some ‘twist’-ed random content stuffed in to fill the time.

    on th list , nething but this 😦

  20. @Arnab :
    I don’t really care in which order you have ranked the other movies, although all of them are good enough to be included in the list.
    But had you not rated Taare Zameen Par the best movie of 2007, I would have felt really heartbroken.
    I’m not sure exactly how I was feeling but honestly, I don’t remember a Hindi movie making me feel this way before.
    It wasn’t entertainment. It was emotion, joy, sympathy, ecstasy and God knows what else filling up my mind – all at the same time. So was the impact of TZP on me that I forgot about dinner and couldn’t sleep till early morning after watching the movie.
    As far as Aamir Khan the actor is concerned, he was really good although I believe he had done better roles than this before. But, Aamir the director has exceeded all my expectations. May be Amol Gupte, the Creative Director has a lot to do with TZP but still it was Aamir who extracted that amazing performance from the kid Darsheel Safary. His expressions are as good as we get to see. To me, this is by far the best performance by a child artist in Indian Cinema.

    P.S – Please don’t miss Blue Umbrella. It may not be at the same level as TZP but it’s a gem in its own right as well.

  21. The only change I may have made (and others have suggested here) is in addition Manorama Six Feet Under. However, I have not seen 1971. Haven’t seen Dharm either which many thought was good.

    I think I liked most about 2007 was the variety of movies which were critically aclaimed but also commercially successful. For every standard Bollywood fare such as Om Shanti Om, there was a Johnny Gaddar, a Chak De (cliched maybe, but certainly not run-of-the-mill), and now a Taare Zameen Par.

  22. A very ordinary year overall for Bollywood, especially when compared to last year when the battle was between the likes of RDB, Omkara, Munnabhai etc. This year the contenders were movies like Chak De, OSO etc. which IMHO, were just okay-ish. But yes, oh yes – TZP’s the winner this year, hands down! And not just this year. I think TZP would have been my fav had it been released in any of the recent years.

    One movie which would be there in my list (probably in second position) would be Jab We Met. What I liked about the movie was the flow in the story and the simple way of showing a good story. Nothing great, just that they did not overdo things. And the songs were good too.

  23. have watched Chinatown…be assured u wud love manorama too, it is not “internalized” but inspired 🙂
    blue umbrella would also make any cut…highly recommended
    ek chalis ki last local was a decent movie too, it would get into my top 10 list for sure
    black friday def the best of the year

    no smoking for me would find a space in top 5 best … m glad u just put that into no. 7

  24. @ Devnull

    Jab we Met , i thought ,was good in patches. Some sequences that really stand out in a mediocre ” neither here nor there” film. Most of these sequences are also in the first half only– the scene where the couple check into a seedy hotel , for example. And I would have loved to see Abhay Deol play Shahid’s character. He is probably the only deol who isnt a star but definitely an actor

    @GB
    Its only my opinion , and I feel sometimes we try to look for too much in a film. Chak De seems to be one such case- why get into whether its realistic or have religious undertones? It was a fun movie and did entertain us unlike the regular stuff we come across. Lets not forget that movies at he end of the day are meant to entertain and that Chak de did!!

    And GB- how about a list of the best and worst of actors and actresses ? Though we know who is going to top the Best Actor’s list already 🙂

  25. @ GB

    ABout Chak De, the central character getting tagged a traitor because of his religion is actually not far from the reality.
    I am totally apolitical ( though its only me saying so :), but I have often heard it said that Azhar got involved in the betting scam mainly because of his natural sympathy towrads Pakistan. What about Ajay Jadeja, Manoj Prabhakar, Nayan Mongia? They only had circumstantial evidence against them but so did Azhar! And what is more , Azhar has not been implicated for compromising matches exclusively against Pakistan either.
    I suspect that every allegation against Azhar is true- but its attributed to the wrong motives. He sold out for the moolah not because he was a Mullah ..( sorry about the pun )

  26. TZP was a good effort and the child actor has done a brilliant job but I felt the movie was unrealistic in certain areas for instance, when the parents visit the kid in the boarding school, inspite of seeing his distress, they dont do anything about it. I mean any parent would have been terribly concerned if their child reacted the way he did. And though aamir takes such pains to tell that dyslexia is not an earth shattering problem and can be corrected, there is not even a hint on how he does this miraculously in such a short period of time. And i dont even want to start on the slapstick comedy during the painting competition, something we see only in B grade movies and I never expected to see in an aamir khan movie. Maybe all these are beside the point, but my expectations were high and I was disappointed.

  27. Glad you’ve got Johnny Gaddar in your list. That was a sincere genuine thriller in a long time. Personally I hated Guru; for me it was just “a public-relations piece that seeks to white-wash the sleazy legacy of a corporate criminal by presenting him as a crusader against a flawed economic system”. Namesake had no bang for me. Its one of those poor movies that can move only those who have been in that situation and not others. I expected a lot from the movie, but it just ambled through. Gotta watch Taare Zameen Par. Can we expect a best and worst for Hollywood? I vote I AM Legend for the top worst spot.

  28. Agree on all counts with Sriram Venkitachalam (except the I Am Legend one… haven’t seen it yet.. and it doesn’t count here either)… Guru was just average, surely not worth any list… and probably i had too high expectations from Namesake… and found it.. hmm… hard to describe… an arty Aa-Ab-Laut-Chalen themed film (and i mention AALC strictly in the literal sense, no connection to the movie)… for a film, i found the performances rock solid… the sreenplay was ok… and the overall outcome quite bland… but then i didn’t spend any part of my childhood growing up outside India.. so my opinion probably doesn’t matter… again, i’m getting high expectations for TZP… which is bad… coz it can ruin a perfectly good film only because of my own prejudice… Johnny Gaddar was definitely bang-on… and may I mention a movie called Naqaab ? not for the list quite though, just a timepass watch (and since you’ve survived stuff like RVGkiAag)… quite a few cliches, you might say.. or even not original… but entertaining nevertheless… happy new year !!

  29. @GB There was another brilliant movie made this year, Blue Umbrella (Chatree Chor). Based on a short story by Ruskin Bond, the movie outdid the book. It’s beautiful.

  30. Taare Zameen Par is certainly the finest film of the year. I am sure it will give way to more movies based on the faults of Indian education system. For making a movie on such a serious subject and still being able to draw masses, Aamir deserves applause.

  31. “1971” was quite…. disturbing. That poor soldier shell-shocked out of his sense (he is shown collapsed on a colleague’s shoulder throughout the movie), the section for the insane prisoners, the shocking climax and the slow, painful and miserable end of two major characters made “1971” a difficult experience. Excellent ensemble cast (including the very reliable Deepak Dobriyal and Manoj Bajpai), great locales, excellent make-up and costumes and a story with a heart. Too bad it was way under-appreciated and barely made a blip in the radar.

    And Johnny Gaddar…. wow! Wasn’t that a wild ride? How did all that little, mundane, trifles come together and create such an awesome movie? I mean, there are multiple “Chekov’s Gun” all over the reels, sometimes made more than obvious to the viewer…. yet the Director’s sheer brilliance in stringing up the bits and pieced kept us riveted to the whole proceedings. Whom do I need to murder, kidnap, extort or threaten to get movies like Johnny Gaddar, Ab Tak 56, Ek Chalis Ki Last Local etc made? 😉

  32. Aamir can be appreciated for choosing a sensitive subject and packaging it for mass consumption. I also agree with GB that the wonder of little things have never been better shown in hindi cinema. But TZP the best movie of 2007? Surely, thats more fan- than critic-speak. The direction is amatuerish and the story is chocful of stereotypes – the comically stern teachers, the amitious dad, the perpetually crying mother, the neighbourhood bully. And the worst part – aamir’s self obssession, which derails the film in the second half. Enter aamir and ishaan awasthi is relegated to the background. all we get are random shots of aamir playing the ‘complete man’ – singing cutely and shaking his cuter bum, getting teary-eyed about the mentally challenged kids(wat purpose the angle serves in the story except showing our hero has a heart of gold is a mystery), helping some random woman change her babies nappies in a bus, having serious conversations with pretty girl in the garden, etc.

    And TZP has a fault similar to the kind that GB points out in Chak de India’. The harm that this patently unrealistic movie does is oversimplify a complex problem and its solution. Like in most bollywood movies, the hero enters, self righteously mouth a few lines about the problem, sings a coupl of songs and sorts out all problems in a jiffy. If only dsylexia was as easy to handle.

    I’m disappointed with the movie. Aamir was expected to keep the subject above his image. He failed

  33. heyy…

    thats a good list. TZP is among the best 10 hindi films of all time.(10/10)

    Wow.. Aamir is on a roll (first Lagaan, than RDB and now TZP) Three masterpieces.( these 3 easily belong to the top 10 hindi movies of all time.)

    And Mr.Bong, u are right about CDI (7/10). It is a over-hyped movie and it has communal tones. Though it was a good movie, it is certainly not a great movie.

    To say that CDI inspired sportspersons is a bullsh-t. It inspired no one. This is all media-hype.

    But 2007 has ended on a high note with TZP. A movie of a lifetime.

  34. One masterpiece that I feel is a must watch is “Bheja Fry” – I loved it as much as I loved Johnny Gaddar and Taare Zameen Par.

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