Some movies are so wildly original, so stupendously fantabulous that they transcend all definitions of aesthetics and define greatness on their own terms, providing wholesome though perhaps unintentional entertainment.
This decade has seen many such works of art.
In this post, I shall try to give them their just deserts in terms of awards, one award for each genre.
Disclaimer: To qualify for these awards, movies have to have a budget greater than Rs. 5000, have recognizable movie stars, have had a nationwide release in major theaters and have had to be watched by me (which explains why for example Boom is not in the list).
Most Awesome Patriotic
Award: The pacemaker batteries of Asok Kumar from “Clerk”.
Winner: Gadar–Ek Prem Katha (2001): Tara Singh (Sunny Deol) has come to Pakistan to bring back his wife Sakeena to Hindustan when her evil father played by Amrish Puri (he is after all Pakistani) decides to convert Tara Singh to Islam. First, in front of a crowd of Pakistanis who look like they are straight out of a Taliban training camp, he makes Tara agree to become a Muslim. He does. The crowd cheers. Then he makes him say Pakistan Zindabad. He does so. The crowd cheers once again.
And then he asks Tara Singh to say “Hindustan Murdabad“.
Big mistake. Big fucking mistake.
Tara Singh bellows in a voice that can be heard from Rawalpindi to Lahore.
Hindustan zindabad tha, zindabad hai aur zindabad rahega.
As the crowd looks on stunned, Tara Singh further thunders:
Agar main bibi bacchon ke liye sar jhuka sakta hoon, to main sab ke sar kaat bhi sakta hoon.
Withing seconds, the evil Pakistanis starts running towards him thinking they can finish him off.
Big mistake. Big fucking mistake number two.
Sunny Deol with his bare Jatt hands yanks out a handpump from the ground. One Pakistani comes rushing in. Within seconds he is airborne. Another attains escape velocity a second later. And so it goes on as Sunny Deol with one handpump fights off a city full of Pakistanis, in a display that would make Neo of Matrix say “He, not me, is the chosen one.”
In the meantime, Isaac Newton comes in to say “Bete this is against my first, second and third laws.” Sunny cracks Newton’s ribs and says “Phir se bol !” And just for fun he reverse-slaps Einstein and yanks off his mustache with an earth-shaking “m c square naheen, m c round hai” .
Coming back to Gadar, Sunny-paaji boards a truck with his wife, kid and cleaner and they start driving for the border. The Pakistanis hurl grenades at the truck. And the one thing you don’t do is to mess with a puttar’s truck, specially one that has been fitted with anti-mortar armor in Ludhiana. A series of grenades detonate on the lorry but nothing happens to it. Several cars come in front of the marauding truck though and they are ma-behened. Soon of course the entire Pakistani army is behind Sunny-paaji. No matter. All he has to do is to scream and their First Division is in full retreat. Soon their President is asking for three billion dollars in non-military aid from Obama and our Prime Minister is weakly catapulting in Sharm El Sheikh.
Gadar is brilliant. No more precisely Sunny Deol is brilliant. Whether it is fighting a village-full of Sikhs with a stick or a town full of Pakistanis with a hand-pump or singing “Main nikla gaddi leke” or flexing his muscles or belching out lines that echo in eternity, this is the most powerful “Veer ras I love Hindustan” performance you will ever see. This decade or the next.
Most Awesome Horror
Award: The lantern used by the nighwatchman in “Khooni Panja”
Winner: Jaani Dushman–Ek Anohi Kahani(2001): Simply put the last word in horror. Monisha Koirala, all many dhai kilos of her, jumping on a mountain and triggering an avalanche. A Christian priest adjudicating a boxing match. Sunil Shetty, Akshay Kumar, Monisha Koirala as college students. A man inside a tree. Suhaag-raat fornication with skeleton. Electrocutions. Bargain basement special effects hacked from Matrix and Terminator. Sonu Nigam as the second heroine with his disquieting girlie “Bhaiyya Bhaiyya” screams . Snakes. Mouths that open to the ground. Monstrous bad breath. Producer’s son as the hero. A song that goes “Javed bhai so raile”, a dig at Javed Miandad, the second greatest Hindi horror movie song (the first being “Ladki kaisi phasai jaati hai, baat tumhe batai jaati hai” from Saamri)
Jaani Dushman. Horror can indeed never get as horrifying, terror as terrifying, possession as possessive. A movie so macabre that you cannot hope but wonder what sinister spirit must have taken control of the big-name actors who signed on the dotted line.
Most Awesome Desi Sanskriti
Award: A tin of Dalda
Winner: Vivah(2006) In the midst of Emran Hashmi and Payall Rohatgi, of “Flirt Mere Dil and “Topless” Sooraj Barjatya has kept the lamp of Indian sanskriti burning through the stormy nights, as he has continued making movies, in his own words, for the “hardcore middle class – my son’s tuition teacher, my maid, not South Mumbai residents.” [Link] in the process etching a most marvelous world of purity and of values, a world brought to life in Vivah.
A world of rich men with no worries in life except planning weddings and vacations in London. A world where “beti ghar ki laaj hoti hai” and “ghar ki bojh”, especially if she is not that fair. A world where women quit working after having babies voluntarily. A world where young women from the village (the only place where purity resides) grow up preparing meals, doing Puja and playing in the fields singing simple songs of nature, come home before sundown to remind their father to take his medicines, keep their eyes downcast, sharmili and respectful while being referred to as “Jagatjaniyaan”. A world where lovers do not use the phone to initiate naughty conversations but instead whisper to each other “Kya aap mujhe prem kartein hai?” A world where lyrics go “Neeche jo dekhoon to ocean hi ocean hain, upar jo dekhoon to tu akash main roshan hain”. A world where the doctor, on seeing a badly burnt lady in his chambers says “Nayee dulhan ko operation main laiye please“.
And most importantly a world where Alok Nath, the father depot of human kindness, rules supreme.
So awesome was Vivah that there was a similar-themed movie made by the Barjatiyas in 2009 called Ek Vivaah Aise Bhi, a story of an all-sacrificing female and her holy non-consummated love for her adarsh purush (Sonu Sood). Though I have not seen the full movie (only one hour) making it ineligible for my award list, I was most amazed by the casting against type of Isha Koppikar as the Barjatiyan heroine, an artist most memorable in the public mind for dancing wet in “Khallas” , for locking in passionate positions with two men at the same time (Sanjay Kapoor and Arbaaz Khan) in Qayamat and for “that” girl-on-girl scene with Amrita Arora in “Girlfriend”. Had I had the moral fiber to sit through Ek Vivaah Aise Bhi , it may very well have won this award. But I could not. Which makes Vivah the undisputed champion.
Most Awesome Romantic
Award: One of the red heart-shaped balloons from Chand Ne Kuch Kaha from “Dil To Pagal Hain”
Winner: Chingari (2006): What could be more romantic than Prabhuji Mithunda as Bhuvan Panda saying Nirvastra ladki mere jaang ke upar baithke mere vasna ki aag bujhayegi or Basanti (Sushmita Sen) telling a male customer— Let ja, Basanti a rahee hain? What indeed can capture the joys of a relationship than dialogs like Kitne doorgandh a rahi teri shareer se and Manjoranjak Kutiya? If you want to see lovey dovey romance and the same old same old watch Johar-Chopra. But if you want to see true love in its smelly, bitchy avatar shorn off all fluff then do not look further than Kalpana Lajmi’s “Chingari”.
Most Awesome Historical
Award: The Best of AK Hangal DVD brought to you by the Museum of Natural History
Winner: The Rising—the Ballad of Mangal Pandey (2005) A great historical movie is one which makes history come alive from the old dusty pages, allowing us to interpret some of the most significant events of the world in a totally new light. In that respect, there are few which can match Mangal Pandey which paints a vivid picture of the events that led to the first war of independence. Namely wet-nurses breast-feeding, a madam called Lol Bibi (Kiron Kher) in whose acting’s honor “LOL” (Laughing out loud) is now a part of everyday jargon, voyeuristic servants getting aroused seeing their memsahabs, slave traders auctioning women in a wanton manner, white saheb making love to comely widow, water being poured on bosoms carelessly, two women doing a hot girl-on-girl dance in the Barrackpore cantonment.
No wonder, given all that was going on, there had to be a “Rising” followed equally predictably by an eruption of passion that ended pre-maturely.
Everything about “The Rising” is top-notch. There is Ketan Mehta’s deeply symbolic direction where for instance the wet-nurse who suckles the British child having no milk for her own son representing India being ravaged by imperialists and having nothing in the tank for her own children. There is Amisha Patel’s “Oh my God I have gone back in time. Where is my make-up kit?” expression. And finally there is “I am the Kamal Hassan of Hindi movies” Aamir Khan engaging in his passion for “dress up” in the most expensive Halloween costume ever.
History has rarely been this exciting.
Most Awesome Musical
Award: Preetam’s photocopier
Winner: Classic Dance of Love. (2005) What do you have when you put the Dance Dance team together again—-B Subhash, Mithun-da and Bappi-da? You get a classic. Or more appropriately a “Kelassic Dense”.
A musical journey of a supremely famous individual Dr. Ramgopal Acharya ( who explains relativity as There is no time, no space. Only zero.” and is played by Mithun-da) from the heights of honor to the depths of depravity (Dr. Acharya ultimately becomes a “crazy man” who dances on the streets for laddoos) all because of lust (And no this is not the Tiger Woods story), “Classic Dance of Love” is simply timeless, a tandav on celluloid. [Original review : unfortunately the pictures accompanying this post is lost]
Most Awesome Science Fiction
Award: Yoda’s underwear
Winner: Love Story 2050 (2008) Love Story 2050 wins this over tough contenders like Rudraksh (which to its credit had Bipasa Basu as a University of California professor with blonde skimpily-clad research assistants) because of the Jules Verne-like vision of the present and the future it gives us. A Darth-Vader like voice exerts total control and Sith knights brandishing Laxman Sylvania tubelights as light sabers act as enforcers. Rampant product placements that would put movies in the past like Yaadein to shame. A clone army exists, identical copies of Hrittik Roshan, collectively called the Harmans who speak in a hep and happening ways with often unintentional consequences—Tumhara life hain na, it’s like hotdog without a sausage”. A droid keeps on saying Bootie Bootie whenever Priyanka Chopra is around. And over-precocious kids, of the type first seen in “Kuch Kuch Hota Hain” still abound.
Disturbing. Yes. But then so is some of the greatest science fiction.
Most Awesome Action
Award: Dialog cassette of Elaan-e-Jung.
Winner: Ghajini (2008) Who would have thought that the whimpy teenybopper Aamir Khan from his Raakh days, getting bashed by all and sundry, would transform himself into the moving-head-rapidly-from-side-to-side muscle-bound cross between the Incredible Hulk and Wolverine, looking and most importantly acting like Suniel Shetty, crushing in his bare hands the skulls of evil people and anything closely resembling sanity? Ghajini is another searing victory for the perfectionist Khan,this one was so “memorable” that people had to tattoo “Avoid this movie” on their chests with a red hot iron lest they forget.
Most Awesome Thriller
Award: A surprise gift from Pussy Galore.
Winner: Asamabhav (2004) Arjun Rampal playing commando Aditya Arya, on a mission of great national importance, barges in and asks “Where is the president?”. As if answering that question, the next scene begins with a tight close-up bang between the spread-out legs of terrorist hottie (played by Anupama Verma). The camera slowly moves up to her bust and then to her face. We discover we are in the villain’s lair where the President is being held captive. In the background, the music starts, very appropriately, Ho….. Right on cue Mumaith Khan enters shaking her stuff , moving herself sensuously as the villains try get a “feel” of the action while at the same time, in split screens no less, Naseeruddin Shah, playing a double-agent drug dealer, is wearing a ski-mask and shooting people who jump back in anticipation before the shot is fired.
To be honest, there was huge competition for this award from Sunny Deol’s “Hero: Love Story of a Spy” wherein Sunny Deol donned various mind-boggling disguises (like a hat and a beard) that left desh ke dushman stumped. But ultimately how can you stop a movie that has a lissome female interestingly called Ms. Bra-r French-kissing Sharat Saxena at a climactic point? How can you stop a movie where a terrorist organization called the Al Hamas (who have stashes of hummus in their backpacks) allied with an ISI colonel Milind Gunaji take the Indian president hostage in sequences that would make you laugh till you cramp up? How can you stop a movie where Naseeruddin Shah, who says “Mia tulchi” to show how badass evil he is, pops out of the bottom of the screen, says “Boom” and then dives down again? And how can you stop a movie with Amisha Patel’s male version Arjun Rampal as the hero, the man whose face is a blank canvas of supreme beauty and isolation?
How can you indeed? It’s ashambhav !
Most Awesome Mythological
Award: A place in heaven.
Winner: Aap Ka Surroor–The Real Luv Storieee.
Aarti utaroon main. Jai Jai Himesh-baba Jai Jai Babaaaaaaannnnnnnn….
Aap Ka Surroor is the holy tract of the cult of Himesh, in the same manner that Jai Santoshi Ma was for Santoshi Ma in the 80s. Each frame of the movie, every spoken line exists to establish His divinity. The hero’s name is Himesh. Every few minutes people, usually young girls, fall at his feet extolling his musical talent, his fame and his essential goodness going wild like moths in front of fire the moment he makes his “antry”. He pouts like Lord Zeus, holding the pose for the cameras. He shows as much male cleavage as Aphrodite. He bites the air like Neptune. He commands ghosts like Hades. He dances like a rockstar, hacks keypads through his musical sense. He is the patron saint of autowallahs in Germany. And finally he uses the words “Bhagwan ka screenplay” to leave no doubt as to His heavenliness.
I believe. Oh lord. I do believe. In Aap Ka Surroor.