2008 - the most mercurial years Bollywood has seen in recent past. It was a year where most of the big films proverbially bit the dust and some small ones conjured biggest of surprises. It was a year where the small indeed became the new big.
Hindi cinema saw an emergence of a totally new breed of film makers in the recent past. It’s a breed of film makers who served new concepts and ideas on a totally newly stylized platter. Bollywood is changing and so is the audience. And this was the biggest change in 2008 compared to previous years. We had newer ,out of the box scripts backed by some really brave production houses. And above all we had an audience who lapped these films up. It didn’t matter if the stars were huge names in the industry or whether the banners backing the film were big corporates. If they served trash, it was duly thrashed. And innovative efforts were deservingly adulated. Many Hindi films have talked about problems faced by our society or by the country. One of the biggest problems our country faces today is terrorism. The whole country is angry and so was the protagonist in Neeraj Pandey's A Wednesday.
Many a time, films are a reflection of the society, and ‘A Wednesday’ was exactly that. It superbly portrayed the country’s seething anger. With terrific performances by Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher, ‘A Wednesday’ not only impressed the critics but won the biggest cheers from the common viewer. This small-budget film is easily one of the best films of 2008.
Along with ‘A Wednesday’, 2008 saw two more amazing movies which in some or the other way dealt with terrorism - Mumbai Meri Jaan and Aamir. Nishikant Kamat’s ‘Mumbai Meri Jaan’ had one of the most flawless pieces of characterization any Indian film has seen in recent past. Stories of six characters were told parallelly with a backdrop of the 11/7 train blasts in Mumbai. Kay Kay Menon, Paresh Rawal, Soha Ali khan, R.Madhavan, Vijay Maurya and Irrfan Khan, all gave the best performances of their careers. The movie handled the after effects of the blasts with amazing sensitivity and the conclusion of the film was applause worthy. If it was not for Taare Zameen par, ‘Mumbai Meri Jaan’ would have been my entry for Oscars.
Rajkumar Gupta’s ‘Aamir’ on the other hand told the story of an innocent guy caught in one of the most difficult and strange situations just because some unknown voice wants him to know how his community has been ill-treated in this country. It was one of the best thrillers to come out of Bollywood and no other Bollywood movie ever must have captured the rigours of Mumbai better. The visuals were so raw that u could actually smell the underbelly of Mumbai. It would be a shame if Alphonse Roy didn’t win any awards for his breathtaking cinematography. Amit Trivedi’s> music took the movie to newer heights. Though there were accusations that the movie is inspired by a Phillipine movie, Cavite’, you just can't take anything from the makers of this film for making an absolute cracker of a movie.
The most remarkable thing about these three movies was that, all three movies were directed by debutants! Though Nishikant Kamat had made ‘Dombivli Fast’ in marathi, Mumbai Meri Jaan was his first hindi movie.
2008 also saw some other low-budget movies which either touched the viewer’s heart or brought a smile to his face. These films indeed had a new story to tell. One such film was Rajat Kapoor’s ‘Mithya’. An absolutely endearing story about a simple man caught in bizarre underworld politics. With a supremely witty as well as touching script, Mithya won great critical applause. Ranvir Shorey’s performance can easily fit into the top 10 performances of this year.
Vinay Pathak has now created a niche for himself and he has proven to the world his capabilities again, in Shashant Shah’s ‘Dasvidaniya’. This beautifully made film told the story about a loser who bids the greatest goodbye ever. Made on a shoestring budget, this film impressed every viewer who saw it. At the end of November came Dibaker Banerjee’s splendidly made ’Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye’. It was a witty film about a thief who wants to be famous. Abhay Deol now has a brand of his own, and this film is a testimony of his talent. His greatest talent is, in fact, the accurate selection of films.
2008 also saw film makers come out and dare to make statements. Samar Khan’s Shaurya was one such great attempt. Though it was inspired by ‘Few Good Men’, it got encouraging response from the audience. Top-notch performances was its biggest strength. Veteran Shyam Benegal made a social drama ‘Welcome to Sajjanpur’. He showcased the problems in rural India with some great underlying wit. Shreyas Talpade proved that he can carry a film on his shoulders. Suhail Tatari’s ‘Summer 2007’ also had something new and important to tell. Maybe Suhail lacked the punch, but his film left a mark because of its strong story.
At the same time, there were films which had big names attached to them, but actually were made on medium budgets. Two such films went on to do great business. Those were ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’ and ‘Rock On!’. Jaane Tu had names like Aamir Khan and A.R.Rehman attached to it. But that was only till the audiences came to the theatres. After that debutant director Abbas Tyrewala and debutant actor Imran Khan, alongwith Genelia D'souza, had the responsibility to carry the film. And boy! They not just carried it, the movie went on to become the biggest hit of the year. Rock On! had Farhan Akhtar singing, acting and producing. Director Abhishek Kapoor made sure he got the best music out of Shankar Ehsaan, Loy, and the music went on to become a rage. A story about a band, stylishly presented on screen.
The biggest positive out of 2008 was the fact that the production houses were ready to back the new ideas. . They believed in the scripts. They made the resources available to the directors and brought alive the scripts which otherwise would have never been made into films. They not only backed such projects, but also promoted them. This was a major change in 2008. Ronnie Screwvala’s UTV Spotboy was most active. They backed fantastic small films like Aamir, Welcome to Sajjanpur, Mumbai Meri Jaan. These films were critically acclaimed, and went on to make small, but the important profits. Ronnie Screwvala indeed deserves applause. Arindham Chaudhary’s Planman Motion Pictures also backed films like Mithya and Rituparno Ghosh’s ‘Last Lear’. Although all these films were not financially successful, they earned critical appreciation.
So 2008 saw some very talented new directors with courageous projects. They knew very well, that the script is the real star of the film and they had complete faith in their scripts. And then there were production houses that backed them. Ideas which would have never been filmed came alive. Bollywood saw new signs this 2008. We not just wish for an encore in 2009, but we want even more of such films than what we got this year. Hope for great times ahead, wishing the small even bigger success!