Those of you regular to Rediff Movies must have surely made the acquaintance of our newest -- and decidedly most attractive -- regular contributor, Ms Bolly Woods. Bolly's columns -- out every Wednesday -- make for much insight, hyperlinking and, of course, humour: hell hath no fury as a sarcastic woman forced to watch bad film.
I must say, however, that I don't entirely agree with her latest column. And I'm not just saying this because her number was harder to get than Amitabh Bachchan's. Her column, despite being written after an RGV double-bill -- not the finest 2007 idea -- cogently argues against this year's Bollywood crop, saying we've hit stasis after a great 2006.
Sure, 2006 was an insanely good year. That was the exception, not this. I mean, we had Lage Raho Munna Bhai and Omkara -- both among the finest Bollywood films ever -- in the same year. We had Khosla Ka Ghosla, the finest comedy in over a decade. We had Rang De Basanti, which created immeasurable youth-awakening waves. So yeah, it was a pretty phenomenal year, and much success was had. Hooray for Bollywood and all that jazz.
Thing is, I think this year's been pretty darned fine too. Films might not have made much actual money, but there's been some bloody crisp writing.
Johnny Gaddaar came and stunned, and -- along with Manorama Six Feet Under -- suddenly showed us that we could capably tackle the crime genre, without stealing from a DVD. Loins Of Punjab Presents proved comedy works -- indeed, layered comedy at that -- without having to be stupid or sleazy. Jab We Met and Cheeni Kum, like Shah Rukh Khan's hockey movie, were masterclasses in dialogue writing.
We finally had a fine multi-narrative film in Metro and heartfelt college feel in Dil Dosti Etc. Why, even the usually underutilized Amitabh Bachchan got a credibly creepy role, and, in a film that was a visual spectacle, he got to be, for one shot-in-the-dark moment, Tarantinoey.
And hey, an oft-banned filmmaker even got to make an experimental film nobody understood.
The failures this year have been the big films. Outside of that fine hockey film, Yashraj turned out bloated turkeys of unbelievable vintage, all proving patently unwatchable. Nikhil Advani's marathon multistarrer was trimmed randomly by 50 minutes by Jaipur exhibitors wanting to fit in more shows, and we were all envious. Directors like Ram Gopal Varma, Mani Ratnam and Abbas-Mastan all showed signs of cinematic exhaustion, putting it most mildly. And that's cool; we all have our off days.
But despite there being two months still to go and megahyped products yet to release -- including an SRK film and a Madhuri Dixit film -- it has been a year of the underdog, of a Vinay Pathak film raking in the moolah and a baseball-capped non-actor making a bannerless debut and outdoing the superstars.
It is a year where audiences have shunned formulaic cinema, regression and repetition. A year when cinema didn't work purely on the strength of two dozen stars filling the same screen. A year when plot became important, and word of mouth promotion made tiny films run far longer than their estimated shelf-lives.
While there is much to applaud, the successes are modest. A lot of the products on offer didn't exactly meet expectations, and genuine brilliance only shone through in rare patches. But there was effort. Smaller films -- that bigger actors seem now too glad to be a part of, at least from time to time -- made an impact and showed off both heart and cojones, both self-indulgence and sincerity. But all things said, small shone.
2006 might have been a year of rare, mega greatness. But I still feel this is a far more critical year, in Bollywood's ongoing coming-of-age phase, money be darned.
2007 is when we forgot entirely about that 'art movie' bias, and India went indie.