My youngest son Ben is home for the summer from college. He agreed to watch an action movie with me, and of the films I described, he picked Shahrukh Khan’s Don. This was his first Shahrukh Khan film, although he has certainly walked through the room as I’ve watched, and rewatched SRK’s many films. Ben has only seen a handful of Indian films – the Babhubali films, Student of the Year and Dabangg 1 and 3.
I can’t believe this is the same team that made Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Save your money, and don’t go see Tubelight. So disappointed!!
How we met through her masters thesis project, and how we both started watching Indian films!
It’s still January, if barely, right? This is a list of my favorite films in Indian Cinema released in 2016. I have not seen every film released, by a long shot, but I’ve seen quite a few of the top releases in Hindi and Malayalam cinema in theaters. I still haven’t seen Pink, although that is definitely on my list, and it’s now on Netflix streaming.
1. Kapoor and Sons (Since 1921)
Kapoor and Sons was hands down my favorite Indian film of the year. I just love the way the cast interacts. It feels like you’re a voyeur in a real family and their drama. I will admit that Sidharth is the weak link, but Alia and Fawad are so great in this. Fawad Khan especially just blew me away. And the soundtrack! Kar Gayi Chull is my phone ringtone for a reason, because I never tire of hearing that hook.
2. Kammatti Paadam
Dulquer Salmaan had an amazing year, but Kammatti Paadam is just a masterpiece. I’m so glad I saw this Malayalam gangster epic in a theater. I was nearly shell shocked by the experience of seeing this Rajeev Ravi film. Dulquer is our eyes into this world of gangsters, and dalit toughs. He is very, very good, but the two actors, Vinayakan and Manikandan steal the show.
3. Udta Punjab
Alia Bhatt also had a great year. I’m still thinking about how fantastic she was in Udta Punjab, a film filled with great performances. This is the film that introduced me to Diljit Dosanjth. And how great was Shahid Kapoor as the comic relief? This was an entertaining film, but also one with an important message about how the drug trade affects everyone– a message the censor board tried to suppress, and thank goodness they did not prevail. Udta Punjab is currently streaming on Netflix.
Oh my goodness, Kali is such a tense thriller. Kali means rage. I admire the script and how the director kept me on the edge of my seat. I did not know what would happen next at any given moment. I felt that anything could happen. And I loved that about this Malayalam movie! The first half is a personal story of a marriage with young man with anger issues. Then the second half grips you by the throat. Dulquer Salmaan gives another stellar performance in a great year, matched by Sai Pallavi.
5. Dear Zindagi
I adored Shahrukh Khan and Alia Bhatt in Dear Zindagi. We were afraid when the film was announced it was going to be a romantic relationship, but SRK is her mentor and therapist in this fantastic film. This is my first Gauri Shinde film, and she is a wonderful director. This was a nice crossover film that I took some Bollywood virgins to see, and they loved it.
Although not a perfect film, I submit Fan may be the one of the best performances of Shahrukh Khan’s career in the double role of Guarav and Aryan.
This really felt like a year for women in Hindi cinema. Sonam Kapoor was perfect casting for Neerja. This film reminded me very much of United 93 – you know what’s going to happen, but you’re still on the edge of your seat watching it unfold, filled with tension. Neerja is currently streaming on Netflix.
I love that Aamir Khan made this movie about girl empowerment. He let the young women at the center of this true story take the lead, and he was brave enough to play a father with a paunch, no less. Dangal was one of the biggest family films of the year.
9. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
I’m still not happy with the ending of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, but man it has some glorious moments. It’s full on lush Karan Johar film making – actually my first Karan film on the big screen. I’m reading his autobiography now, An Unsuitable Boy, and he says that Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is about his own unrequited love story. It’s a very personal film. I wish there hadn’t been all the controversy about Pakistani actors, and Fawad Khan had a bigger part. That soundtrack!! I listened to the title track on constant repeat.
I really enjoyed Sultan, and Salman made a great pairing with Anushka Sharma. It was another Hindi film with a message of female empowerment, even if the majority of the film was about Salman’s character. Great soundtrack, too!
Special mention for Brahman Naman which I saw the premiere of at Sundance back in January. I’m not sure if it’s a purely Indian produced film, but it’s a quirky and wonderful teen sex comedy. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.
I mostly loved Raees. If you’ve read my last post, you know I have had a difficult month with my father having been in the hospital for a couple of weeks. He’s better but things are still rough. I’ve been so looking forward to this date — finally a new Shahrukh Khan film.
Raees is a great character for Shahrukh. He’s playing a gangster — but a bootlegger with a heart, who makes dinner for his wife. He’s got a lot of swagger and panache to him, and we are totally on his side as he seems to only kill bad people.
I love how the film starts, with the child Raees who works as a lookout and a mule for the local bootlegger. Even as a kid, he has lots of moxie, and you never, ever call him four-eyes.
Raees has a great foil in the police inspector played by Nawazuddin Saddiqui. What a dream to see these two actors going head to head. Nawaz’s introduction scene left me in stitches. He’s so by the book about illegal liquor in Gujarat, that his superiors don’t know what to do with him. He won’t play the game, and keeps getting transferred around. He’s like Wile E. Coyote against Raees the Road Runner, outsmarted at nearly every turn.
What I absolutely loved about the film was SRK’s relationship with Mahira Khan in the film. Their romance is already existing at the beginning of the film, and the scene we discover that is amusing. Mahira as Raees’ wife is steadfast, and the only one who can put him back on his heels. They have a teasing relationship that feels real and adult — not a kid romance.
Besides the setting in the 80’s and all of Raees’ cool glasses, there is a wonderful homage scene to Amitabh and the classic gangster films of the past. I haven’t seen Deewar (I know, I know, it’s on the list!), but I have seen another great Indian gangster film, Nayakan. This has some of the same elements. The gangster who becomes the champion of the people.
In Raees, he becomes a politician at one point to get past people who are standing in his way.
Is Raees a perfect film? No. I think Shahrukh had to stretch more as an actor in Fan. But Raees is a crowd pleaser. It has the music numbers, some romance, and the cool slow-mo shooting with a shot gun while falling type scenes.
I was tired going in to the film, even though it was a 2 p.m. matinee (I had to get up at four a.m. today) And I was in a theater that had those reclining Laz-E-Boy type seats which didn’t help – but to be honest, it felt like the film lagged a bit in the middle at points. I don’t think it was just that I was so tired. I don’t think the film kept the tension going consistently.
Still, Shahrukh Khan had a great character to play, and it’s just a joy seeing him play a serious role like this, especially opposite Nawaz. This is sort of like a Godfather type film, which Nayakan is an homage to, but somehow it didn’t quite have the pathos. The Godfather and Nayakan deal with the tragedies in multiple generations, and Raees’ child is still a toddler at the end of the film. While Shahrukh acted well in the parts where he was supposed to be a brash young man, he is getting a bit long in the tooth to pull it off.
It’s a very enjoyable film, just not a great one for the ages. It’s nice to be arguing that kind of point about a Shahrukh Khan film. It’s one I’ll be seeing again in theaters, and will be fun to rewatch.
Plus, Shahrukh dancing garba is always a good thing. 😉
Letterboxd.com is where I keep a diary of all the films I watch, including films I rewatch. They have a very cool year in review feature. I was inspired by this Matt Bowes post about all the media he consumed in 2016, to make this post. I’ll just talk about the movies here, but I love how he listed all the comics, podcasts, etc., too!
So, according to Letterboxd, I saw 222 films in 2016, which includes short films and rewatches. That averages out to over 18 a month, and over 4 a week. Weeks like our visit to the Sundance Film Festival, where we saw 30 films (including shorts) certainly help to bump up that average, but I am an avid movie viewer no matter how you slice it. I just started this blog in April, but I had been posting short reviews on most films to Letterboxd before that.
2016 started with The Hateful Eight (which I didn’t love) and ended with Zootopia, which I did love. There were mostly older films, but I did watch 82 films that were released in 2016. It won’t surprise any of my readers that fully half were films from India, 111 of them.
Interestingly, the actor with the most films I saw was not Shahrukh Khan (who was second with 12), but Nasser with 14! That man is in EVERYTHING!
This year I discovered Telegu cinema megastar Mahesh Babu (9 movies) and Malayalam cinema star Prithviraj. I’ve got a stack of more Prithviraj movies to watch — the man has made so many! I’m amused that Prithviraj’s early film Stop Violence – which I watched without subs! – Letterboxd lists as my “most obscure movie”.
The highest rated (by people on Letterboxd) film I saw in 2016 is Moonlight, which is heading to the Oscars. The lowest rated is Yoga Hosers. Yeah. Have to pretty much agree with that — but Assassin’s Creed is giving it a run for it’s money on that score. Yoga Hosers is just crazy silly (Brat Nazis!) but it was worth it to go to the midnight premiere just to see Kevin Smith.
2016 will always be in my memory, because this was the year that a movie I helped get made premiered at Sundance.
How To Tell You’re A Douchebag is the movie I saw the most times this year, as I attended screenings of the film, and showed it to friends and family. I’m so proud of writer/director Tahir Jetter’s achievement. It was bought by BET and aired this summer. You can watch it on iTunes, Amazon video or Google play now!
Top films from 2016 I saw in Hollywood and Indian cinema coming soon.
When you have made the romance Hindi movie that is held up as the gold standard, and is STILL playing in a theater 21 years after it’s release, that’s a lot of pressure. Aditya Chopra is an excellent producer, but has gone years between directorial projects. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is the film that started me on my love of Indian Cinema, and I watched Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi second — and I was a goner. It’s hard not to have super high expectations of an Aditya Chopra film. All three previous films that Chopra has personally directed had superstar Shahrukh Khan as the lead, an actor that he was instrumental in making a superstar with DDLJ. It was so monumental an announcement that Aditya was casting a new (for him) actor, that Ranveer Singh made a video announcing it and described how he cried walking out of Aditya’s office when he heard the news.
The first teaser trailer of Befikre is in fact the opening credits of the film, showing couples of all shapes, sizes, colors and orientation kissing all over Paris. Is this Aditya’s shot across the bow to the censor board? I certainly know I’ve never seen another Hindi film with so much kissing in it, much less gay kisses.
Our first glimpse of Dharam (Ranveer Singh) and Shrya (Vaani Kapoor) is when a TV is thrown out a window. It’s the breakup to start, and that is Aditya’s way of telling us this isn’t going to be like every boy and girl meet cute film. It has a Western and an Indian flavor to it. He pays homage to DDLJ in a few ways, with a song, and a field of yellow (could be mustard) flowers in the distance in a country scene. I also see touches of some of my favorite romantic Hollywood films. There’s a little When Harry Met Sally. The flashbacks forward and backward over and over was very much like 500 Days Of Summer. Aditya has taken elements from lots of Hollywood romances, but he makes this film his own, as he is the master.
Dharam is new to Paris, and he’s a stand up comic flown in from Dehli to headline a friend’s club. Have we ever had a stand up comic as an Indian romantic hero before? That also felt very modern to me. Shyra meets him at a bar, and their dynamic from the beginning starts with a dare. “If you do X, then I’ll go out with you.” ‘Desperate Dharam’ as Shyra calls him, is up for any dare, if it means he can spend more time with this fascinating wild creature. When he takes her dares, Shyra gets that little spark in her eye – here’s someone who gets me and will go on my kind of adventures. But she warns him from the first that she won’t be tied down and she doesn’t want him to fall in love with her. We’ve seen all that from the trailer. We’ve seen live in relationships in Hindi films, too, but this relationship definitely feels more modern, and Aditya’s gorgeous setting of Paris helps with that.
Shyra has grown up in Paris with parents from India and she views herself as French, but cooks Paratha when she needs comfort food. Her parents are stunned when she announces, “I’m not asking for your permission.” that she will be moving in with Dharam. He tries to make nice with them, by touching their feet. “Why did you do that?” she asks. “I just wanted them to know you weren’t moving in with a jerk.” The mom I recognized as one of the aunties from Dil Dhadakne Do.
Ranveer has his manic energy, and shows more skin than our herione. Not only is there the red underwear scene from the trailer, but he shows off his bare butt, too. I really, really liked Vaani Kapoor. I didn’t remember her really from her first film, Shuddh Desi Romance — I think she was the jilted bride. She is tough and quirky and independent and Shyra. The dancing they do together is fantastic. I don’t know that they had that timeless chemistry or heat that Kajol and SRK did, but then again, that was an extraordinary jodi.
In one of my favorite dialogues, Dharam apologizes for calling Shyra a slut in their breakup argument, “It was me who wasn’t experienced. I’m sorry for saying that.” What happens after Dharam and Shyra breakup becomes interesting, as they are best friends after some time blows over. This is where many Hollywood romances would start, as they have to cram the whole story into 90 minutes. She starts dating someone else, but he is not an a**hole, or a jerk. In fact, he’s almost too perfect, and too grown up.
This is the part of the movie that felt very much like the new guy was Patrick Dempsey in Sweet Home Alabama. He is a real choice, but maybe not the right choice. And maybe not the choice for Shyra that feels like “home”. He’s not a horrible stereotype like Simran’s fiance in DDLJ.
The third wheel actor was new to me, Armaan Ralhan, grandson of a director, so in the filmi family. He was nice and not just a boring drip of a banker, plus he was more than accepting of her best friendship with Dharam. He was great.
Things all come to a head in a rather slapstick, almost farcical silly Four Weddings and a Funeral climax way. It’s not the emotional angst and drama of the climax of DDLJ.
But you know what? Sometimes, a French macarons is just what you want. Lighter than air, oh so sweet, but sophisticated, too, and out of the ordinary.
Also — There’s a cute epilogue scene after the final credits song so stick around for that.
Still LOVE this song the best. So catchy!
I unabashedly loved Dear Zindagi. It’s a true measure of my love of my family that I didn’t see Dear Zindagi the day it came out in the US due to our Thanksgiving holiday travels. I have been looking forward to this movie for some time, hoping it would live up to my sky high expectations, and it did. I have yet to see director Gauri Shinde’s feature film debut English Vinglish, which evidently deservedly garnered accolades. (I actually downloaded English Vinglish to watch on my trip but the subtitles were in Arabic. ARGH!)
I’m not saying a male director can’t tell the story of a woman, but there’s a different special perspective a woman writer/director brings to a film. Alia Bhatt’s Kaira (Koko) is allowed to be a complex young cinematographer who is troubled, and frankly, sometimes unlikeable. She is no manic pixie dream girl for anyone. And that is just refreshing to see in itself. The film totally passes the Bechdel test! Kaira has a tight knit group of friends who she can be totally herself with, but a tense awkward relationship with her parents.
She has a working and romantic relationship with producer Kunal Kapoor. He offers her a dream job directing her first feature film in NYC, but admits his ex-girlfriend will also be working on the project. He wants to make his relationship with Kaira more serious, but she demurs. Then she can’t sleep thinking about her quandary — should she go to New York even though it will be incredibly awkward?
Kunal is one of 4 men in her life in this movie (not including SRK). There’s Sid, the handsome restaurant owner (Angad Bedi) and Rumi (Ali Zafar), a charming musician she meets when she returns to her hometown of Goa. She has to go back to Goa because her landlord in Mumbai makes her move out because she’s a single woman. And he’s not the only one harassing her for being single, once she gets home she is barraged by her parents and her aunt and uncle for continuing to work, and not settling down.
She happens to overhear SRK speaking at a therapist conference and goes to see him. If only all therapists looked like Shahrukh Khan. When through several sessions, they get to the root of her insecurities, I was crying right along with Alia. She is just fantastic in this film. She has this quality about her that reveals her vulnerability and she sucks me right in. It’s hard to believe how far she’s come as an actress since Student of the Year. Highway was my first glimpse and then this year she was devastating in Udta Punjab. I can’t wait to see her work in the future.
Some reviewers have questioned the epilogue at the end of the film, but I liked it. As suspected, Aditya Roy Kapoor is the final cameo man in her life. I liked that the movie left us at a hopeful point — that she’s moved on and is ready for new possibilities. I like that kind of ending in my romance novels, and I liked it here.
Shahrukh Khan is fantastic in this as her therapist and mentor. He has unorthodox methods, like playing Kabbadi with the surf on the beach outside his office. But best of all is his message to young girls through the words he says to Kaira (Alia). She thinks everyone thinks she’s a slut because she’s had relationships with more than one man. SRK asks her if she’s ever bought a chair. “Did you buy the first one you saw without trying it out?” as he pops from chair to chair in his office. He gives her permission to live her life without worrying so much what “everyone” else thinks.
The music in the film didn’t send me, but the title track is decent. It’s not that kind of movie. There’s mostly montage type song sequences. Really this is sort of a bridge film between Parallel type cinema (The Lunch Box, etc.) and mainstream Hindi fare.
I’m glad Kaira found support with her Dr. Jehangir Khan, and that director Gauri Shinde has backing from producers SRK (Red Chilies) and Karan Johar (Dharma). She’s a great talent. Loved this film, and already have plans to see it again in a few days. I’m taking some friends who don’t even watch Bollywood films. This is a great crossover type of film.
Shahrukh Khan was my entree into Indian Cinema. And it’s all because of Netflix. Netflix streaming’s algorithm recommended Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge to me because I love romantic movies. Then I watched Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and I was a goner. I think my story is similar to many other non-Desi fans of Indian Cinema — Shahrukh Khan is our gateway to this wonderful world of film. And the internet and Netflix makes it so easy now to really dive into an obsession.
How big a fan of Shahrukh Khan am I? This is my phone’s lock screen background:
I’ve seen 50 of Shahrukh Khan’s 70 plus movies. Picking my favorite Shahrukh Khan films after the top two is like picking my favorite children. SRK brings something special even in the worst of films.
The only Shahrukh Khan film I really can’t stand and won’t watch again is King Uncle, and really that’s a Jackie Shroff Annie remake and SRK is barely in it.
But enough of the worst, on to my favorite Shahrukh Khan films:
My love of this movie about an NRI who returns home to India is particularly for this song sequence. In Yeh Tara Woh Tara, when the projector won’t work in the village, SRK leads the children in a song about the stars. And we get that classic arms outstretched pose projected on the sheet used for the screen. Just a magical moment of a song.
9. Chak De India
I love that SRK did this film about a girl’s field hockey team. Just a masterful performance and a great message. He’s let his female co-stars have top billing in his films, and here he lets a whole team of them take center stage.
I recently watched the original Don with Amitabh Bachchan, and I am now even more impressed with how Farhan Akhtar kept the spirit of the original, while updating it and giving it a new twist. Plus he has the cool seventies music from the original updated and incorporated in this fantastic film. I love Shahrukh Khan in double roles, just love seeing him create two different personas in the same film, from Baazigar to Fan. This is one of the best, and so delicious to see him in a dark sexy villain role.
7. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai can be silly, but Karan Johar can just get me right in the gut with his love story triangles (or quadrangles). This gazebo scene is just so sexy. That SRKajol magic! We get SRK/Rani plus a sweet Salman Khan as a bonus.
6. Om Shanti Ohm
I love Farah Khan and her collaborations with Shahrukh. Main Hoon Na barely missed the cut for this list, but I have to give it up to OSO. Farah has given us an homage to classic Bollywood film, launched the debut of Deepika Pudakone, and the song sequences are just amazing. Farah was a choreographer first, and the great music is paramount in this film. I will love her forever for making SRK the item guy in the sexy Dard-e-Disco. We won’t talk about how many times I’ve seen the Dard-e-Disco song video.
I saw Om Shanti Ohm early on in my watching of Hindi films, and I don’t know if I recognized anyone except Kajol the first time I watched Deewangi Deewangi. This song is my yardstick of how far I’ve come in watching Hindi films. Farah Khan loves allusions to other Hindi films in her movies, and cameos and this is the king of cameo songs. I didn’t know Dharmendra or why Shahrukh made that hair gesture with the thin guy I now know is Zayed Khan. These days, I’m so advanced I know the guy playing Shahrukh’s father in the second half is a big Pakistani soap star (And I’ve watched him play Fawad Khan’s father in Zindagi Gulzar Hai)! OSO is just that much funnier and you just appreciate it so much more knowing filmi background. I laughed so hard at the Filmfare scene on a subsequent watch with Abhishek being nominated for Dhoom 4 and SRK being nominated for two identical looking romances in the Swiss Alps with sweaters.
5. My Name Is Khan
This may have been the first movie I saw with SRK where he wasn’t playing a version of the SRK persona, but was really acting a character. Shahrukh plays a man with Asperger’s and his relationship with Kajol in the first half of the film is just wondrous. The second half of the film is like looking at my country through a fun house mirror. The flood scene somewhere in the South where SRK is taken in by an African American family is a little weird, but it’s still a very moving film with a powerful message.
4. Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham
KKKG feels like the ultimate Bollywood film. It’s got just about everybody in it! I’ve shown this movie as a first Hindi movie to friends because it introduces you to all the major players. I’ve posted just the reunion scene of SRK with Jaya who plays his mother, and without subtitles, I’ve had people demand to know where they could see this film because of the emotion they saw. This song, Yeh Ladka Hai Allah, may be my ultimate SRK and Kajol dance and fall in love number ever. It is just so, so swoony. Yeh Ladka Hai Allah, indeed. And the outfit Shahrukh is wearing is so, so gorgeous.
Veer-Zaara is Yash Chopra at his peak. Lush scenery, beautiful songs, and an interfaith romance that just makes me tear up each and every time I watch it. My favorite song sequence of Shahrukh’s ever is Main Yahan Hoon from Veer-Zaara. Oh, my gosh. The way Priety is trying to forget Shahrukh as her father forces her to become engaged to Manoj, and yet, she sees Shahrukh everywhere. He haunts her. And then goes in for her collarbone in the rain and I swoon. Every. Single. Time.
2. Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi
Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (Match Made in Heaven) was the second Shahrukh Khan I ever saw, and I watched it right after DDLJ. This is how new I was to my love of SRK. I actually paused the movie and looked it up, because I could not believe Raj and Suri were the same actor. I loved the comedic Raj, but quiet nerdy steadfast Suri stole my heart. Such a great film. Aditya Chopra is the master. I watch this film over and over.. It is my comfort and my solace. Watching this film cemented my love of Shahrukh Khan forever.
- DDLJ (Could there be any other?)
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Bravehearted Wins the Bride) is the one that started it all. The first half can be a little silly, reminding me sometimes of a prank filled John Hughes film. But, oh, man, the second half hits you. I can’t even really express what watching DDLJ did to me the first time (and every time). It touched my heart and gave me something I didn’t even know I was missing. Hollywood rarely makes Rom-Coms anymore, much less musicals. This film opened my world and gave me the gift that is Indian cinema. Since I watched DDLJ in the summer of 2014, I’ve watched over 300 Indian films. Thanks, Shahrukh for making me fall in love! And Happy Birthday!