Bombay cinema's Top 10 of the decade
Mayank Shekhar lists his favourite Bollywood films of the 2010s
How do you satisfyingly arrive at what you thought were the best films from Bombay cinema through an entire decade, that is 2010 to 2019? It's tough, tougher than entire political science. To begin with, there is 'recency' bias. To reverse that is to go nostalgia, which is inevitably an exaggeration.
Choosing your favourites implies an exercise in revealing personal tastes, one's own temperament, time/mood of day when you watched the said film, and other such biases anyway. But some films, like all art, surpass these momentary considerations to survive across generations. As they must. That said, sure, movies age, and some age quite badly. But their memories don't.
With pictures, unlike with people, first impression is almost always the lasting one. And fiddling with this part is pretty easy, if you've practically watched all the major Bombay films over 10 years. Star-rating, that bane of film reviewing, comes to your rescue.
So you can simply sieve out all the four-star rated movies first. And here I find the list spilling over to a point that it's impossible to convincingly contain the best, within just top 10. Almost all spots have two films tied. What a decade!
And yet, no, seriously how do you skip Sriram Raghavan's Andhadhun (2018). How? What about Vikramaditya Motwane's Udaan (2010), and Lootera (2013), or, oh man, Trapped (2016)? Sheer brilliance. But damn, but what about Anusha Rizvi's Peepli Live (2010); shit, further screwed, Akshat Verma's Delhi Belly (2011). Come on! And then why not Hansal Mehta's Aligarh (2015), Amit Masurkar's Newton (2017), Anubhav Sinha's Article 15 (2019), Konkona Sensharma's Death in the Gunj (2016), Anurag Kashyap's Manmarziyaan (2018), Mukkabaaz (2017), Dibakar Banerjee's Love Sex Aur Dhokha (2010), Raj and DK's Shor In The City (2010), Habib Faisal's Do Dooni Char (2010), Kiran Rao's Dhobi Ghat (2011), Tigmanshu Dhulia's Paan Singh Tomar, Abhishek Chaubey's Ishqiya (2010), Udta Punjab (2016)... Okay, stop.
What's also important within that long list are films you can watch again and again — not necessarily from start to finish, but from any point to another, and enjoy the moments for their own worth. Which singularly explains the films splitting the No. 1 spot in the chart below:
Still from Gangs of Wasseypur
1. Zoya Akhtar's Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011) / Anurag Kashyap's Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012): Couldn't be more different from each other — one's a slick, urban bromance; the other, a grimy Mob opera, from the boonies. So personal and yet so grand in their panoramic view. Both stand out for how the sum of incredible parts is sometimes greater than the film itself. Can watch ZMND and GoW, for a few minutes, just flipping from scene to scene, anytime, anywhere.
2. Anand Gandhi's Ship Of Theseus (2013) / Chaitanya Tamhane's Court (2014): Astoundingly experimental, both films hit you, for you can play with film as a form, and thought as entertainment!
A still from Dangal
3. Nitesh Tiwari's Dangal (2016): Full of drama, high on emotions, badass performances, simultaneously moving and inspiring. The fact that it found hugest audiences in China, of all places, is of course only its minor achievement. That Tiwari followed the mainstream Dangal up, with the incredibly intimate Chhichhore (2019), is a bigger feat.
4. Neeraj Ghaywan's Masaan (2015) / Shakun Batra's Kapoor & Sons (2016): One took the exotica out of Banaras. The other took the lid off the great Indian family. Both were so delightful while gently depressing at the same time.
5. Zoya Akhtar's Gully Boy (2019) / Ritesh Batra's The Lunchbox (2013): Most quintessentially Bombay films. What else to say? The world must watch them, if they haven't already.
A still from Court
6. Rajat Kapoor's Ankhon Dekhi (2014): Hard to imagine a film so much fun and yet so frickin' profound. And, well, the Marvellous Mr (Sanjay) Mishra. Chha gaye guru!
7. Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Bajirao Mastani (2015): Because it's been more than a couple of decades, and no one, absolutely no one, does visual spectacle to befit a hardcore Bollywood musical as Bhansali, still. You only have to watch similar attempts by lesser others to appreciate his architectural mind.
8. Meghna Gulzar's Raazi (2018) / Talvar (2015): Raazi more than Talvar, but both such compellingly paced thrillers/dramas to knock your socks off, and yet stay within such strong realm of realism. As filmmaker, Meghna Gulzar, without doubt, was the revelation of the decade.
A still from Ship of Theseus
9. Shoojit Sircar's October (2018) / Piku (2015): Because no mainstream Bollywood director has delivered on promise as much as Shoojit Sircar — having not once gone wrong in a career spanning five films, and just as many genres. October was such a sombre delight, and Piku, its adorably garrulous opposite — both written with tender love and care by Delhi's super-talented Juhi Chaturvedi.
10. Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury's Pink (2016) / Alankrita Shrivastava's Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016): Because this was the decade of the woman in film. And these two films, along with Pan Nalin's rather under-rated Angry Indian Goddesses (2015), struck at the roots of patriarchy, and centuries of male harassment, in ways that future generations will, hopefully, admire forever.
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