Some films are such a great representation of a specific place and time — Wake Up Sid is just that for late 2000s Mumbai. The evocative songs, editing, and heartfelt lead performances are a testament to Mukherjee's skill as a director. This is a fantastic introduction to Hindi cinema and left a lingering mark on urban audiences around the globe. It also happens to be Mukherjee's debut and long-standing collaboration with Ranbir Kapoor.
Jab We Met
Jab We Met was a childhood favorite and aged quite well, with Ali's mature treatment of a generic rom-com. Shahid and Kareena never looked better together on-screen (as this is their last film before their infamous break-up!) Pritam's music is iconic in this film, as with his other collaborations with Ali. Anshuman, played by Tarun Arora, is one of the most memorable rom-com antagonists of Hindi cinema — infuriating and simultaneously ridiculous.
Dil Chahta Hai
My heart longs for Dil Chahta Hai's friendship, road-trip, college experience once every few years. A must-watch Hindi film and one of the coolest debuts from a star-kid and multi-hyphenate like Farhan Akhtar. Dil Chahta Hai was also the first film to use sync sound in India — and its brooding and emotional score will let you know that they did not need to use ADR (additional dialogue replacement).
Don is Farhan Akhtar's second film, before he ventured into acting and singing. It's a chopped and screwed version of the 1980s classic, Don starring Amitabh Bachchan. While I love both versions quite a bit, "Aaj Ki Raat" will always hold a special place in my heart as one of the best party songs (of my childhood). Starring SRK and Priyanka Chopra (sans Jonas), Don is slick and stylish.
Dabangg is severely underrated for what it did for audiences in 2010. With a dearth of fun, just ridiculous, over-the-top action films in Hindi cinema, Dabangg, unfortunately, restarted the craze. The songs were fun, Sonakshi Sinha was appropriately silent ("Khamosh!" cried her father), and Salman Khan played the role of a lifetime as Chulbul Pandey. If you're familiar with Anurag Kashyap's gritty realism, then you're in for a ride in his brother's direction.
After watching Vanga's Arjun Reddy (2017), I was not as impressed with Kapoor's performance as an alcoholic, chain-smoking, consent-troubling doctor. (Yes, this character is a medical professional - a surgeon, actually.) Preeti, the love interest, speaks 45 minutes into the film to tell us her name. Kabir wallows in self-pity throughout, unless he has been angered either by his house-help or girlfriend or football rival. I'd recommend watching Arjun Reddy for Vijay Devarakonda and Kabir Singh for... Hindi songs?
In the Mood for Love
2000 Hong Kong, China
This film blew me away the first time I watched it on a tiny laptop screen. It also blew me away remastered in the Criterion Collection (highly, highly recommend this!) The two songs that play throughout, Quizas sung by Nat King Cole and Yumeji's Theme, haunt my favorite memories. Definitely the best of the informal trilogy (Days of Being Wild and 2046)!
Eeb Allay Ooo!
Watch, watch, watch! One of the most interesting animal subjects I've seen in Indian film — Eega (2012) probably being the best. Eeb Allay Ooo! explores a growing langur and bandar problem in Delhi's Rashtrapati Bhavan, the seat of governmental power in India. Shardul Bhardwaj is transformative in his debut role; the supporting cast and monkey-catching experts are delightful as well! One of the best Indian films released in the pandemic.
Mehra's craft is best used in the mundane experiences (I'm not a fan of his sports dramas). The two star-kid leads, Bachchan and Kapoor, deliver understated and quiet performances if not completely convincing as an NRI and Delhite respectively. Love the songs composed by AR Rahman, especially "Masakali" and "Dil Gira Dafataan."
Hands down Shahid Kapoor's breakthrough role, in terms of performance and fully embodying two roles as Charlie and Guddu. Vishal Bhardwaj delivers in this black comedy as writer-director and composer.
As a once NRI (non-resident Indian), this film tugs on my longing for the eternal homeland. Swades is meant to do this entirely, through SRK's tears and the shrill shenai in the background score. I would rather watch Swades over Lagaan, another one of Gowarikar's famously long films. However, Swades is also a film about the oppressor caste, fair-skinned savior — a troubling but common trope in Indian cinema.
I've seen this film twice. While it is well-produced, interesting, and well-made in general, Arjun Reddy falls flat due to its overt misogyny and toxic masculinity. Arjun is an alcoholic medical student then a doctor-surgeon — and we are supposed to accept his alcoholism as a symptom of depression. Nt my cup of tea, even though it is a rather well-done movie. Vijay Devarakonda is searing on the screen and is the only enticing aspect.
A Malayali classic! Manichitrathazhu has been remade several times - most notably as Chandramukhi (2005) and as Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007). A spooky take on what feels like an old wives' tale, apparently a true incident in the 19th century. Shobana is a dancer by profession so watch for that! This film also produced legends like Priyadarshan, who has directed films in multiple languages.
I really enjoyed Solo. It might be a little pretentious in its form: four stories tied together in a curious and creative way. I especially loved Dulquer Salmaan in this! Bejoy Nambiar delivers quite an interesting treat here.
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is the second collaboration between Mukherjee and Kapoor! While I enjoy Wake Up Sid for its quietness, YJHD is amazing for its brightness and life. Each character is depicted wonderfully and their friendships and relationships make up the heft of the plot. The songs are fantastic as well. The title is an RD Burman song from the film Jawani Diwani (1972) which stars Kapoor's uncle.
Koi... Mil Gaya
In this E.T.-inspired extravaganza, Hrithik Roshan shines as the bumbling and sweet Rohit. For many kids of the early 2000s, Koi Mil Gaya represented an idyllic childhood turned into a superhero-hood. I've seen it countless times and it's still a pretty fun movie!
Jab Tak Hai Jaan
This is Yash Chopra's last film and is an ode to the epic, star-crossed love stories he directed on screen many, many decades ago. I enjoy the soundtrack a lot, but the movie can be a bit slow and sluggish as points. This trio, SRK, Anushka Sharma, and Katrina Kaif, also appear in Aanand L. Rai's Zero (2018) which is a curious departure from the tone of Jab Tak Hai Jaan.
One of the best Indian films of 2021 and maybe, the best film about the pandemic, made during the height of the covid19 crisis. Fahadh Faasil is spectacular and breath-taking as he always is. Joji is a twisted, morally obscure man whose life on a rubber plantation serves as the crux of the plot. It is also a great introduction to Malayalam films!
I am speechless when it comes to Karnan. Both of Selvarj's films tackle casteism and caste violence — Karnan takes this message to heart. At times, the film gave me full-body chills as a viewer. Dhanush did an amazing job with this role. Hopefully, Karnan ushers a wave of new Tamil filmmaker-activists. Highly recommend!
One of the few films of this era that was critically acclaimed, both internationally and in India, as well as extremely popular. There's not much more to say about A Wednesday! other than you should watch it and be mesmerized by Naseer-saab and Anupam Kher's acting.
Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.
Subah ho gayi, mamu! And, morning it is indeed after watching one of the most absurd films in Indian cinema: a somewhat run-of-the-mill criminal head honcho or "bhai" who aspires to be a doctor. Well, more like pretends to be a doctor until his deception is revealed to his parents. Munna is incomplete without Circuit, his trusty sidekick, and Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi become an iconic duo as their roles. A classic Raju Hirani feel-good movie!
Sherni was a bit of a miss for me. Eeb Allay Ooo! (2019) set the tone for animal-related films (maybe besides Haathi Mere Saathi (1971) and Eega (2012)) in Indian cinema. Even though Masurkar directed Sulemani Keeda (2013) and Newton (2017), Sherni still fell a little flat in terms of performances, story, and the odd comedic inserts. Masurkar didn't write this film which shows. It seemed as though the Adivasi (read: indigenous) perspective was the most compelling in the film, yet those actors got the least amount of screen time. Balan's performance was satisfactory but nothing revelatory or exciting — to see Vidya Balan sing on screen, watch the Kahaani films, Dirty Picture, or even Bhool Bhulaiya. The same goes for the chameleon Kabi, who plays Balan's boss in the film; watch Sacred Games, Pataal Lok, Talvar, or Ship of Theseus instead.
I watched the remasted 2K version through Criterion. This is an unbelievably moving film and I feel as though I've found a wonderful new director to binge. Kore-eda has a lovely way of composing each frame simply yet evocatively. I loved all the performances and meandering bureaucratic ways of this "after-life" station.
Like Father, Like Son
I recently rewatched this film and cried at least three times. Again, Kore-eda is just a master of the simple, quiet moments. This film is heartwrenching and the children just capture your attention every time they're on screen ("Yamato desu" trills the Saikis' youngest child). Each character is beautifully developed and no frame is ever wasted.