catching up on 2017

100 words or so on each of this year's Hindi releases I've seen but not written about elsewhere (Badrinath Ki DulhaniaMeri Pyaari Bindu, Jagga Jasoos, and Jab Harry Met Sejal have their own posts). Chalo!

Haraamkhor

What a way to start Nawazuddin Siddiqui's crazy year. I also want to see lots more of Shweta Tripathi, whom I didn't even recognize here despite watching her in The Trip web series. No doubt this is an upsetting story, maybe made more so by its remarkably unremarkable setting, but it's also full of strands of love of different kinds, most notably the affection and genuine care from an adult unrelated to a child who desperately needs a strong outside perspective, even if she doesn't realize it.

OK Jaanu
I didn't love the original as much as many people did, and this remake demonstrates why: the original is sold entirely by the charisma of its leads. Put the same story in the hands of uncharismatic leads and you're left with no charm, no sweetness, nothing. I say "nothing" because slightly rushed cinematic romances and fine performances from Naseeruddin Shah are plentiful and you don't need to sit through this to enjoy one. And if you haven't already read this majestic takedown of Shraddha Kapoor—and by a logical leap, I think, all other pointless beneficiaries of nepotism—please do.

Raees
Speaking of charismatic leads! Raees fascinates me—I saw it twice in the cinema just to try to work out some of its cultural identity points—and I love that an entire film is devoted to interestingly imperfect people. Shahrukh plays Raees as a full-blown grownup, a trick he pulled to create an equally effective non-heroic lead in Dear Zindagi, and it's such a thrill. The movie star in Fan and the ridiculous ex in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil are also true adults, different but effective in their contexts, which is one reason Harry in Jab Harry Met Sejal is such a disappointment.

Rangoon
While not at the peaks of Bombay Velvet and Detective Byomkesh Bakshy in the micro-genre of Period Pieces Most People Dislike But I Love, Rangoon had me in its clutches until the last 15 minutes or so, when the unexpectedly ridiculous deus ex machina kicks in. It depends on a foundation that Vishal Bhardwaj never builds and isn't implied by the film's own created universe, so much so that I'd easily believe 10 minutes of backstory got cut. Kangana is perfectly suited in her emotional, messy, spitfiring role.

Phillauri
Soooo I didn't guess the resolution of this film's main question as early as I should have, and as it unspooled I bawled my head off. The "then" and "now" portions of the story contrast and fuel each other smartly . The backstory is full of recognizable aches for recognition, choice, and protection, while "now" has blunter concerns: do we love each other in ways that mean we're ready to get married on the schedule that other people have set? I respect Anushka Sharma for creating interesting work for herself—and finished product for us.

Hindi Medium
Apart from its fantastic cast (absolutely everyone is great, including the little girl), what stands out in Hindi Medium when I look back is that it features a mother who's somewhere between gray and fully bad and a father who takes full responsibility for his part in their wrongdoing. Without shouting about it, the film also promotes the value of participating in the solution to community problems rather than buying your way out of them.

Side note: can Irrfan and Nawaz star in a cop buddy film or something? I'd love to see them together again.

Raabta
The Befikre+Magadheera mashup nobody wanted but worth a watch if you like reincarnation or fake-history accessories. Start at the interval—the first half, focusing way too long on the romance in the "now" part, is dull and unconvincing.
Thanks to Baahubali, all made-up historical epics now require waterfalls.
Once I thought of it, I couldn't unsee it.
As Amrita said, Raabta "was exactly the movie I thought it was gonna be; I dunno know what everyone's complaining about." If would have been made better in 1975, and it should have spent more time and energy on the "then" storyline, but even as is, I always appreciate raiding the cupboard of cracktastic masala ingredients.

Mom
Mom is a lot more interesting than I expected it to be. It looks and sounds fantastic, the harrowing parts of the story are agonizing, and the acting is good, especially Sajal Ali, who plays Sridevi's stepdaughter. The film seems muddled on the question of the motivation and benefits of Sridevi's revenge for her stepdaughter's rape, reminding me a little of a flipped version of villains who rape sisters or girlfriends in order to exert power over male heroes. Does this lack of clarity reflect society's changing thoughts on sexual assault? This film is much more empathetic to the victim than most but it's still not a focused on her healing. 
Bonus points for Akshaye Khanna, who very effectively channels both Iftekhar and his dad as Amar
 and its Mahabharata modern art exhibit.

Bareilly Ki Barfi
This is a great example of a film being highly likable even though its lead characters...aren't, particularly. Bitti is very identifiable, though: she hates societal double standards for women and just wants to be loved for the person she knows she is.
Pankaj Tripathi is so compelling as her progressive-ish father, who knows traditional womanhood doesn't suit Bitti but doesn't quite have the energy to fully be an active ally in what she wants. The performance by all the cast of toxic young manhood is pretty funny, though it doesn't get questioned as much as it probably should.

A Gentleman
A heckin' good Grosse Pointe Blank-style action comedy (GPB is one of my favorite films ever, so this is a significant compliment).
Everything I've seen Sidharth Malhotra do after Student of the Year has surprised me pleasantly, and this is no exception. I buy him as both the exhausted covert operative and the sunny, straightforward, suburban homeowner. Darshan Kumaar is fun too; Sunil Shetty is not. There should definitely be a spinoff web series about the Desi Store Mafia Whatsapp group.

Judwaa 2
You know how sometimes a film doesn't seem to know what it's trying to do or how to do it? Judwaa 2 does not have that problem: it knows exactly what it is and doubles down on  exuberantly providing exactly those types of entertainment. It's not a very well made film, and Taapsee Pannu feels really out of place in its goofy cartoon world that Jacqueline Fernandez and Varun Dhawan (and just the right amount of Anupam Kher) really sell. That said, this is not a movie for me. I haven't seen the original and have desire to; this one is more than 90s enough.

And the rest?
Things I still want to see that have already released: Jolly LLB 2Anaarkali of Aarah, Trapped, Lipstick Under My Burkha, Shubh Mangal Savdhan, Newton, Simran, Chef, Secret Superstar, Ittefaq, and maybe Begum JaanBehen Hogi TeriMunna Michael, and Babumoshai Bandookbaaz. And whatever language(s) Death in the Gunj is (primarily) in, it's on the list too.

Things I am looking forward to for the rest of the year: Tumhari Sulu, Padmavati, and maybe Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana and Tiger Zinda Hai if I don't have to drive very far to get to them.

What say you? Is there anything other than Newton that I absolutely cannot miss?

Comments

Rahul Tyagi said…
Rukh? Trapped? and maybe some others that were probably watchable (though not unmissable) like Toilet/Naam Shabaana etc.