There are two ways to make a Worst Of The Year list. One is to look at the embarrassing B-grade films, the predictably weak and awful movies that can fight for places in these lists even before they are released. The other is to look at prominent films that carry certain expectations, and how filmmakers who ought to have known better have disappointed.
I’ve traditionally taken the latter route, but this year my Worst Of list is a blend of the big and the banal, the inevitably tacky as well as the fatally flawed. Thing is, a couple of them are so bad they deserve to go cult, and hence can’t be ignored just because nobody’s surprised at their hideousness.
Without further adieu, then, the year’s most horrid Hindi movies:
Kareena tried hard, but this Madhur Bhandarkar trainwreck was one of the most unbearable films of the year, with all his cliched, feed-the-audience-what-it-knows tropes seeming more tired than ever. The token lesbianism alone, with two drunken girls hooking up and then feeling sickened and ashamed, is reason enough to shun this one.
The most bewildering film of the year, Aiyya sees a caricatured larger-than-life protagonist overshadowed by even more larger than life protagonists. The result is a screechingly annoying film, an inexplicably shrill and stupid film. Rani Mukherji valiantly tries to exert her lovability but it only serves in dredging up repressed memories of her dressed as a young Sikh batsman. Shudder.
8. Jism 2
Only in India, ladies and gentlemen, only in India. Only in India can a pornstar make money by keeping her clothes on. Only in India does a film touted to be the year’s sexiest turn out to be such a damp squib. And only in India can said porn-woman outperform the two ‘actors’ alongside her in the film.
On paper, the idea of Abbas-Mastan, our most hardened genre filmmakers, officially taking a remake of The Italian Job doesn’t sound like that bad an idea. Until, that is, they decide to make the classic Italian Job and the Mark Wahlberg remake, and puree them together in an atrocious smoothie, giving us a pair of conjoined heist films, each awful. And whoever okayed that cast? Bizarre.
You could be forgotten for thinking there are two Priyadarshans. One, the thoughtful and often meditative South Indian filmmaker who churns out emotive art-house fare. Two, the head honcho of the harebrained, the man with movies that hinge critically on both slapstick and actual slaps, falling dhotis and an invariably Benny Hill style run-along climax. Neither man, as the achingly boring Tezz proves, can direct a thriller.
Granted, it seems like a bit of a cop-out to pick a sub-B-grade film for a list like this, since expectations for a release like this were non-existent. And yet I must single out Ghost — a film the Indian censor board apparently considered “the most violent in the history of Hindi cinema” — for its intolerable tedium, for being a horror thriller than never scares and barely thrills, and for making a valiant stab at the so-awful-its-unmissable genre. At one point there is creepy crucifiction, even. All in the name of tawdry gimmick. This is one all masochists should watch, ideally as a drinking game.
It’s becoming harder and harder to justify watching an Ajay Devgn movie. They are all increasingly inane, increasingly star-worshipping, and increasingly dumb — a formula that somehow seems to work for Devgn, despite himself being a reasonably solid actor capable of far more than what he does. I refuse to watch Bol Bachchan, but Son Of Sardaar seems to me the most monstrous and unforgivably braindead of Devgn’s films thus far. “But he did Omkara” now feels a lame and rather dated defence.
3. Teri Meri Kahani
Red And White Bravery Awards need to be handed out to producers who continue to finance films featuring many shades of Priyanka Chopra. She’s pretty decent when in a normal, singular role, but more than one PC never ever works. And yet we continue to be struck by films featuring her in multiple avatars, laying it on as thick as the director allows. Kunal Kohli’s film is a terribly hacky bore, but it is Chopra who must be looked on — quite literally — as the repeat offender.
2. Dangerous Ishq
Karisma Kapoor. In 3D. Past-life regression never felt like this much of a “what were we thinking?” hangover — as in, what were we thinking when we watched movies like this, back in the worst of the 80s? Or what were we thinking when we made women like this film’s leading lady, making her comeback after ages, a star? Tackiest film of the year, no question.
The year’s biggest culprit, the abominably regressive Ishaqzaade was decried by a horrified friend on Twitter as “a rapey romance.” Habib Faisal’s (finely crafted and mostly well performed) film typifies the most irresponsible kind of our cinema.
The film creates a genuinely spunky heroine, then has the ‘hero’ coerce her into marriage and consensual sex before doing an about-face, and then humiliating her by telling the world he ‘took’ her virginity. The girl justifiably sets out to kill the man who wronged her, only to then be bound and gagged by his mother, and told that she’d be better off marrying him instead. Which the hero grudgingly accepts, scowling like he’s being made to eat green vegetables. He then takes her to a brothel, and ties her up again while golden-hearted prostitutes wonder why she’s so angry.
What happens to this captive girl? Ah, she falls in love with the boy, because under all his ruggedness, he is a nice guy after all. (In sum: Yes, Romeo did trick me into sleeping with him, but at least he looks good in stubble, that jawaan chhokra. Aww.)
Faisal defended the film lamely saying that’s how things happen in various parts of the country, but the way his film continued to exult in its hero’s neanderthal mindset, celebrating him like he was blameless and naive, and essentially charming, showed clearly what side the director was on. Tying a woman up till she submits isn’t what we should even momentarily call love, and sending that message out to easily misled masses looking to cinema for role models is an absolute shame. At a time when we are finally, belatedly, definitely looking at ourselves and questioning the sexism in our society, it is films like this that need to be beaten down.
First published Rediff, January 1, 2013