WHATAY! 2012 in review

I meant to do this, and then I was on the Tripple Eggs podcast for the same purpose (in which I discuss some of these same ideas in longer form), and even contributed a smidge to Upodcast's year-end episode, so then it felt redundant. But now everyone seems to be writing things down, and I feel left out. So. Here you go.

(Apologies to Get Filmy and everyone else who did the "long, specific, and funny category names" thing already. It's too fun to resist.)

Depiction of the Blight on Hindi Film Characters of 2012, aka Traffic Safety
Shanghai, Cocktail, Heroine, Talaashand, I am told, Jab Tak Hai Jaan

Women Doing Stuff
SO MANY WINNERS THIS YEAR, both fictional and real! Female heroes. Directors. Music directors. Writers. Festival films. Mainstream films. Younger. Older. HURRAH!

The Unpopular Movie That Does Have a Few Supporters but We're Not Terribly Vocal about It, and I, for One, Do Not Need You to Love It like I Do
Agent Vinod

The Unpopular Movie That Has an Increasing Number of Supporters and We're Terribly Vocal about It

Possibly Worth It for the Significant, Unconventional Ending
Ek Main aur Ek Tu

Will You Please Just Stop Now/Lotus Rising from the Muck
Madhur Bhandarkar/Kareena Kapoor in Heroine

Can't Dance (or Act), So Don't Ask Her
Sonam Kapoor, most recently evidenced by Players

Emotional Outburst
Sharman Joshi in Ferrari Ki Sawaari

Proper Grown-Up Role by a Proper Grown-Up Actor
Sridevi in English Vinglish
(Side note: I haven't seen Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi. Is it a contender?)

Surprisingly Shakespearean Inhabitation of a Villain

Rishi Kapoor in Agneepath

Brilliantly Understated Inhabitation of a Villain
Farooq Shaikh in Shanghai
Runner-Up: Adil Hussain in English Vinglish

On-Screen Story, and It Just Happens to Be True
Supermen of Malegaon

Comeback Jodi
Deepti Naval and Farooq Shaikh, in person (Listen Amaya, which premiered at the 2012 Chicago South Asian Film Festival in September, and releases very soon!) and invoked as the epitome of non-filmi, soft, quiet, more subtle romance (Aiyyaa)

Overall Soundtrack and Music Director Zindabad
Gangs of Wasseypur I and Sneha Khanwalkar

Hip-Flicking Earworm
"Pyaar Ki Pungi" from Agent Vinod

Character-Singer Harmoniousness (aka Keepin' It Real) Earworm
"Voh Dekhnay Mein" from London Paris New York

Earworm That Perfectly Suits and Captures the Film It's In
"Ami Shotti Bolchi" from Kahaani. It's chaotic and bipolar, Usha Utthup with hoarse metal. Read the translated lyrics if you haven't (here's one option; the internet seems to love to say that English can never express thoughts first formed in Bengali, but whatever, I gotta start somewhere). That song, er, tells the truth.

And Speaking of That, Calcutta, You Sexy; or, the Year Beth Finally Found Another World of Indian Cinema That Grabs Her Even 10% as Much as Hindi
Bengali Cinema of the late 1950s through mid-1970s

My Favorite Films of 2012
5. Agent Vinod
One of a few films this year that kicked up a fuss in one direction or the other with a vehemence I really do not understand, this was the most fun I had at the cinema all year, and that includes seeing two movies in Bombay. Duplicitousness is Saif Ali Khan's sweet spot (a trait I explored in a WSJ column here) and I loved seeing him employ it for the motherland. While acting his age. And wearing an impeccably tailored wardrobe. Too bad the ending(s) wasn't (weren't) similarly carefully trimmed.
4. Vicky Donor
I don't require every movie to be realistic (obviously), but smaller-scale—yet still well-developed and complex—characters are a refreshing change of pace, especially when portrayed so charmingly. The ethnography of regional cultures and the wedding (which for all I know are insultingly shallow and facile, but they don't scream as such) are unexpected additional pleasures.
3. Shanghai
At first I thought "Huh? This isn't the Dibakar Banerjee I know and love!" but then I realized it is, just employed in very different ways. The epic profile of this filmmaker by Jai Arjun Singh in The Caravan is just as masterful.
2. Kahaani
Through the shenanigans of various circumstances, I saw this three times in the cinema within about six weeks, and with each viewing it got stronger (except for one plot hole that presented itself to me almost immediately in my first viewing, which was even unsubtitled, so it's not like the problem is hard to spot), and different performances, visual details, and layers of the story came to the fore at different times. This film is not only very rewatchable but it morphs with each viewing—and how perfect is that in a film in which characters routinely state and experience that the world they inhabit is not what it seems.
1. Aiyyaa
The more I think about it, which is a lot, the more I'm calling it full-on revolutionary, in addition to fun, hilarious, clever, loving, and feminist. Watch this space, and several other blogs, for a podcast in the near future.


(Laura) said…
I can't WAIT to see 'Aiyyaa' (though it didn't come to theaters here, so I'll have to take my chances with a $2 bootleg from my local Indian grocer). Also happy to hear I'm not the only one who liked Agent Vinod. Yeah, the ending was a let down, but not enough of one to dismiss the whole movie! 'Kahaani' was my favorite of the year - though I was a real slacker in '12 and missed out on a lot of movies.
Anonymous said…
Fantastic list and absolutely NO apologies required for the "long, specific and funny categories" thing...it's just so much more fun that way!

Speaking of which JTHJ would take the crowning cake with the big flaming jubilee heart for your Traffic Safety category. Watch the freakin' road Shahrukh!

Also, Team Aiyyaa - may we grow and prosper.
Laura - Oooh I think you will really like it. Can't wait to hear what you think! I really don't get the AV blowback. I've seen it three times now and still enjoy it.

GF - Thanks to Anishok's photo recap posts on JTHJ, I have now at least seen a still of The Moment. It sounds HILARIOUS. I have promised Amrita we will watch JTHJ together in India surrounded by lots of booze.

Anonymous said…
I'm going to have to watch Aiyya, aren't I?
And re JTHJ...It wasn't just ONE, it was TWO freaking accidents!
veracious said…
I'm never watching JTHJ .. but I did read Ani's posts, brilliance!

Team Aiyyaa all the way! Glad to hear you find Kahaani so rewatchable. Because of the twist I felt like I'd only ever watch it once, but now I may be convinced to give it another go .. and perhaps even show it to some friends to see them stunned at the ending.
Ani - Your JTHJ recaps are surely better than the movie could be. And yes please watch Aiyyaa so we can hear what you think of it!

veracious - I tried the first 5 minutes of JTHJ and almost died laughing at it, which I am pretty sure was not the intended reaction. I'll see the whole thing soon but...it will require some reward system.

Re: Kahaani, I actually feel the twist gets weaker with each rematch (partly because I think its setup is weak to start with, per the aforementioned plot problem that has always bugged me, which I won't name here just in case people haven't seen the film and don't want a spoiler) but everything else about it just seemed better and better. My appreciation grows, you know? Get Filmy said somewhere, I think on the podcast I did with her on Tripple Eggs, that it's a film about storyTELLING, and that is something you can enjoy over and over.
Unknown said…
To know what the public has to say about the much awaited movie Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandolaa, catch the teaser here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYZOddRFvWw
eliza bennet said…
Team Aiyya FTW!

Re: Kahaani: The twist was so obvious to me from the moment at the taxi (a side effect of watching too many films of the same type) but didn't take away anything from the film. A story well told and cinematography of the type I like not to mention a powerhouse lead performance with not even a small weak link in the cast (a rare occurance).
Unknown said…
Ferrari Ki Sawwari and Vicky Donour were really great ones. I really enjoyed them a lot.

Eliza - Team Aiyyaa FTW!!!

I agree that knowing the plot twist doesn't hurt Kahaani at all. And great call about the performances - everyone is perfect.
Anonymous said…
i love ferrari ki sawari and english vinglish.Hindi Movies

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