**This note added 1/5: Happy birthday A. R. Rahman.**
Happy 2009! Wishing you all the very best for a happy, healthy and safe year ahead. A big thank you to all of you for your role in making 2008 a great year, especially those who comment regularly and make blogging a fun, learning experience. December was expectedly the answer to box office woes. Congratulations Aamir Khan for yet another feather in the cap! Ghajini (discussing it in this post) set Bollywood's all-time opening week records, which is well-deserved for the amount of hard work that went into it.
Here are the new releases for the month. A recap of some highlights from 2008 is included below.
Looking most forward to Luck By Chance, which releases the 30th. Produced by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani, directed by Farhan's sister Zoya Akhtar, and starring (get this) Farhan Akhtar opposite the ever-dependable Konkona Sen Sharma in a film reflecting on film -- the kind of film that can be quite good. It also stars Hrithik Roshan, Rishi Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia, Juhi Chawla (haaye Allah!), and Sanjay Kapoor (**Spoiler** And even Aamir Khan has a cameo in it! I believe his last was for Damini (1993) **End Spoiler**). Its soundtrack (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, lyrics by Javed Akhtar) is by far the best of the month, and here's its theatrical trailer:
Among the other releases I look forward to is what its makers term 'Bollywood's first Kung-Fu comedy', Chandni Chowk to China (lots at the official website: cc2c-thefilm.com). Starring Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Ranvir Shorey and Mithun Chakrobarty, it releases the 16th. Its soundtrack is about average, and has a couple of songs with vibes similar to those from Singh is Kinng (2007), which is not surprising any longer given Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi last month tried its own rehashes.
The song Bombay Se Aaya Mera Dost, which made the soundtrack to my life and was remade by Bappi Lahiri (who also made the original) here, could have been better. And while Ms. Padukone was really quite good in Om Shanti Om (2007), for someone who has one successful film to her credit (Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008) was not special), she sure does love to talk a lot. It'd be nice to have her walk the talk and I want her to do well, so opposite Akshay offers a very good opportunity. Wouldn't be surprised at all if this were the first big hit of the year. Akshay and Ranvir are fine comedians. Should be fun!
Raaz - the Mystery Continues (official website: raazthefilm.com) is intriguing, but there's absolutely no way I'd check it out in theaters for the theme. Raaz (2002) starring Bipasha Basu and Dino Morea was good, but there seem to be a lot more freaky elements in this. Kangana Ranaut and Emraan Hashmi again should be interesting. They were quite good together in Gangster (2006). Hashmi is an underrated actor who is often ignored when discussing the new breed of actors. Jannat (2008) proved he can run a movie on his own.
Victory stars Harman Baweja, Amrita Rao, Gulshan Grover, and a bunch of all-pro (read: really, really good) cricketers from some major test-match-playing nations including India (of course), Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Cricket fans can certainly appreciate this trailer, and I don't see how I'll stay away from it, regardless of the cast :)
Here's the complete list (source: IndiaFM):
- Jan 9: Bad Luck Govind, Horn Ok Pleassss, Kaashh... Mere Hote, The President Is Coming
- Jan 16: Chandni Chowk To China
- Jan 23: Firaaq, Raaz - The Mystery Continues, The Murderer
- Jan 30: Luck By Chance, Victory
The year that was
Here's a quick recap of 2008, then, based on the films I have seen. For discussions on all 2008 films discussed below, consult this A-Z listing. Yet again, I was quite pleased with the products of film by my favorites, director Ashutosh Gowariker and actor Aamir Khan -- Jodhaa Akbar and Ghajini were arguably the top two films of the year. A. R. Rahman clearly deserves the music accolades -- five soundtracks, each with a different flavor, each brilliant in its own right, with Yuvvraaj (lyrics by Gulzar) being my favorite. I hope he keeps up the frequency -- anything over two a year would be great.
2008 will not be remembered as one of the best for Hindi cinema, especially when compared to 2006 or 2001. But I'm confident a few years from now, we will remember it most for giving us some brand new talent that might well lead the next generation of artists. Some of my favorite débutantes:
Imran Khan did well in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, but the less successful Kidnap, in which I think he acted better, proved that he might well have arrived for the long term. He's often said he wants to be an actor first, celebrity second, and his first couple of film selections following Jaane Tu are very encouraging.
Farhan Akhtar, we were all familiar with because of his immensely successful directorial debut in Dil Chahta Hai (2001), followed by the stylish Don (2006). In Rock On, he was excellent not only as a director and actor, but also as a singer! His TV show Oye! It's Friday only proves he can do it all. Or maybe he's a nerd and I can relate to him.
Rajeev Khandelwal completes the top three new actors of the year. Aamir (the film) was one of the most engaging of the year, and his performance fit like hand in glove for what newcomer director Rajkumar Gupta (he's really quite good) was trying to accomplish.
Asin and Anushka Sharma had the good fortune of starting their Bollywood careers opposite two of the biggest names in the business in Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan respectively. Asin was clearly in the better film (and opposite the better actor), and considering she worked in several films in another industry prior to the Hindi Ghajini, comparing them might not be fair. Asin especially has the tools to be around for a while. Her next film also stars Salman Khan. Salman had a disappointing 2008, but that he will be back in 2009 is one prediction I'm glad to make.
Time has come for some original and brilliant music direction! Amit Trivedi's soundtrack to Aamir (the film) was a thing of beauty, and would make veterans proud. One of the most complete soundtracks of the year, it included a qawwali with elements of beledi, which is among the finest compositions I have ever heard. Memo to A. R. Rahman: Please take Mr. Trivedi under your wing -- we could use more such influence, because the rest are in a different league (read: simply way behind).
Benny Dayal and Rashid Ali: Both vocalists have major hits to their credit their debut year. Believe me when I say the most popular song of the year among the youth of India is Kabhi Kabhi Aditi by Rashid Ali (from Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na). Although I am somewhat tired of listening to it when around a friend named Aditi (seriously). Rashid, a guitarist in Rahman's music crew, finally got an opportunity and made the most of it. His other hit includes the title song to Ada - A Way of Life. It would not be surprising if he becomes to Imran what Udit Narayan became to Aamir Khan after their joint debuts in Qayaamat Se Qayaamat Tak (1988). Benny Dayal has Tu Hi Toh Meri Dost Hai from Yuvvraaj, and my pick for love song of the year, Kaise Mujhe from Ghajini.
And finally, Genelia D'Souza and Jiah Khan returned to success with Jaane Tu and Ghajini respectively. They aren't newcomers, and considering their careers didn't necessarily take off in their previous efforts, I'll be looking out for these lovely and feisty ladies, especially Genelia, who appears to be among the most natural on screen.
I'll be back with normal programming in about a week and a half. In the mean time, this would be a fair explanation of my absence :)