Hindi cinema is such a vast universe that coming up with a hot list for 2009 seemed daunting (it would be even harder to come up with a "Films of the Decade" list, but we still have a couple of months to write that one).
We decided to concentrate on films that we believe would appeal to an international audience. If we were Hindi film "pushers", what would we show uninitiated and non-Indian friends in order to convert them?
Here is the Hindi Cinema Blog's international pick for Best Hindi 2009 Film Releases:
Quick Gun Murugun: Be it as the first or last course of a filmi meal, 'Quick Gun Murugun' is a delicious satyre of everything a Hindi film virgin imagines Indian films are. Forget the difference between North Indian and South Indian films. The foreign common viewpoint is that Indian cinema is a mix of colours and dance, sprinkled with improbable script turns, action, love stories and a cheesy dialogue here and there. Well... 'Quick Gun Murugun' blends all these prejudices in a shaker and serves them as a clever and quirky cocktail, ensuring surefire entertainment for everyone: Hindi film buffs, Tamil film buffs and complete foreigners to the whole Indian film scene in general. Now that calls for one Masala Dosa with sambhar, I say!
Kurbaan: Do you want a full-fledged Hindi film experience? Despite a couple of loopholes here and there, particularly in the New York scenes, our vote goes to 'Kurbaan' for the beautiful visuals, performances, fabulous soundtrack, plot and climax. We believe it is one of the most honest attempts in mainstream Indian cinema to treat the delicate subject of terrorism and can definitely be considered international class entertainment.
3 Idiots: The year was marked by the undisputable victory at the box office of Rajkumar Hirani's '3 Idiots', which will undoubtedly continue collecting praise well after 2009 is gone and forgotten. Pulsating rhythm, optimism and a humanistic core give this film a high feel-good and entertainment quotient. There is something in it for everyone, whether it is great laughs or soul touching moments. Don't miss it.
Kaminey: A two-hour ride of unpredictable violence and stirring action, featuring Shahid Kapoor in an extremely convincing double role and Priyanka Chopra looking (praise the lord) as the girl next door and thus finally allowing viewers to concentrate on her acting instead of her looks. Kaminey is what we can call "thinking cinema", with each minute sincerely serving its purpose. Add to that a magnificent soundtrack and... Dhan te nan! You've got hot film material.
Firaaq: Nandita Das paints a disturbing and thought-provoking canvas in 'Firaaq', giving us a fictionalized account based on the Gujarat riots (2002) between Hindus and Muslims. Marvellously well cast, the story entwines the lives of 6 normal people who are affected by the communal violence taking place around them. No rose-coloured glasses are used in this story, despite all the escapism preconceptions that are spread about Hindi films among foreign viewers. A must watch.
Wake up Sid!: 2009 is the year that had us going back to school with '3 Idiots' and Dharma production's fresh, lively and youthful 'Wake Up Sid!'. Where other movies have failed to bring Ranbir Kapoor's full talent to the fore, this lighthearted film particularly succeeds. Is it the fact that they have cast him alongside a consistently excellent Konkona Sen Sharma? Is it the script? Who knows... but it works! Check out its soundtrack and the final hug scene (sorry guys, couldn't help it). You will come out of the cinema experience smiling, as if you had just received a big hug yourself.
Hopefully, this new year will bring plenty of amazing films, making more and more people abroad realize the international entertainment potential of Hindi films. Now that we have revealed our personal favorites, let us mention some of the films that made it to the 2009 runners-up list. Just in case your friends become as addicted to Hindi cinema as you are and are willing to take their experience a step further:
Luck by Chance (dir. by Zoya Akhtar, starring Farhan Akhtar and Konkona Sen Sharma) Insightful movie about the film industry in India. Mindblowing soundtrack.Barah Aana (dir. by Raja Menon, starring Naseeruddin Shah, Vijay Raaz and Arjun Mathur) An unconvential view on the reasons behind organized kidnappings.
Videsh (Heaven on Earth): (dir. by Deepa Mehta, starring Preity Zinta) A beautiful Indian bride moves with her husband's family to Canada. She finds her inner self and her strength when she is confronted to domestic violence and her new family's hostility.
Little Zizou (English language film by Indian film maker Mira Nair) A sweet and fun tale about a Parsi little boy who dreams of meeting football star Zidane.