With Bollywood producing over 1000 films per year, there are bound to be some duds in the mix in addition to winning entertainers. Here are some of the best and worst Bollywood films of 2013.
Cool guy Bunny, played by Ranbir Kapoor at his charming best, reunites with his nerdy classmate Naina, portrayed by Deepika Padukone who is at amazing ease with her character, on a mountain-climbing adventure. Although sparks fly, Bunny’s ambition and acceptance to journalism school in Chicago stops their love story in its tracks, only for it to be rekindled years later at the wedding of one of their mutual best friends.
Bollywood romcom king Karan Johar’s production of Ayan Mukherjee’s follow-up feature to Wake Up Sid entertains the audience without a hitch. YJHD has all the key components that classic Bollywood romcoms require: an amazing soundtrack, from the soulful “Kabira” and “Subhanallah” to the catchy “Badtameez Dil” and “Balam Pichkari;” beautiful cinematography including shots in Kashmir and Udaipur; awesome choreography, particularly Madhuri’s “Ghagra” number and “Balam Pichkari;” and lastly a great cast with seamless chemistry between all the characters, barring a couple of overwhelmingly annoying minor characters — Evelyn Sharma as Lara ruins almost every scene where she opens her mouth.
I was lucky enough to take in this movie in during a sold-out showing at Mumbai’s historic Regal Cinema. Spicy corn in hand, I watched intently as this heist film began with criminal mastermind Ajay Singh, played by Akshay Kumar, my childhood crush winning me over again and again, conducting a fake CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) raid with his accomplices P.K. Sharma (Anupam Kher, at his comedic best), Joginder (Rajesh Sharma), and Iqbal (Kishore Kadam). This would be the first of multiple capers that play out in the movie, with real life CBI officer, Waseem Khan (Manoj Bajpai, in his element), perpetually playing catch-up.
The entire cast does a great job, from the scheming characters played by Kumar and Kher to the earnest, albeit unsuccessful efforts of the law officials played by Bajpai and Jimmy Shergill. Based on a real-life heist in 1987, where a group posing as CBI officers raided a notable Indian jeweler, Special 26 keeps you enthralled from beginning to end.
This movie is an over-the-top, action-packed Bollywood masala flick that tells the tale of Mumbai-based Rahul Mithaiwala, played by Shahrukh Khan, overacting his way through the entire film, and the misadventures that lead him deep into the world of Meenalochni Azhagusundaram, the daughter of a South Indian mobster of sorts. Deepika Padukone plays the daughter, nailing her performance through the entire film.
Being a die-hard SRK fan, I had to include this movie as one of the best of the year. Although, that being said, this is the first movie where SRK’s performance has disappointed me. But Chennai Express won me over because of the music (“Titli” and “Tere Rastaa Chhodoon Na” being my two personal favorites), Deepika’s performance, and the multiple Bollywood spoofs hidden throughout the film. I don’t think this movie is worth any re-watches, but for what it was, it was definitely enjoyable and worth seeing at least once.
Set in Ahmedabad against the backdrop of pivotal events in Gujarat’s history, including the devastating 2001 earthquake and the horrendous 2002 communal rioting between Muslims and Hindus, this film tells the story of three friends and the damaging effects of politics and society on their friendship. The story of Ishaan, played by Sushant Singh Rajput, my favorite of the three new actors, Omi (Amit Sadh), and Govind (Raj Kumar Yadav) as they go from friends to business partners to enemies carries Kai Po Che from beginning to end.
This movie stands out because of its ability to demonstrate the power of human relationships through the character development that is so often missing in many other Bollywood movies. Catch this one while it’s still available on Netflix streaming!
Touted as Bollywood’s modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, this film tells the so-called love story of Ram (Ranveer Singh) of the Rajari clan, and Leela (Deepika Padukone) of the rival Saneda clan. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s directorial follow-up to 2010’s Guzaarish was a complete and utter disappointment. All glitz and glam with no substance, I couldn’t believe this was the same man who gave us the modern day recreation of Devdas.
Why do these two star-crossed lovers even fall in love? Beats me.Bhansali put so much effort into his enchanting cinematography and elaborate sets, that he failed to even create a believable love story between the two lead characters. There’s much unnecessary demonstration of passion between Ram and Leela without any other development of their relationship. It’s unfortunate that Deepika’s powerful performance, Ranveer’s unrelenting six-pack, and even my current favorite track “Laal Ishq” couldn’t redeem this abysmal film.
Goofy Jaipur tour guide Raghu (Sushant Singh Rajput) meets the free-spirited Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra) on the way to his arranged wedding to Tara (Vaani Kapoor). In awe of Gayatri’s independence and scared of his impending nuptials and the subsequent end to his bachelor life, Raghu leaves Tara at the altar and starts a live-in relationship with Gayatri. Shuddh Desi Romance then takes so many unnecessary tangents that I’m not even quite sure what story the film was trying to convey. There was such an overwhelming lack of substance to this film that there’s very little to even critique. I went to see this movie because I had high hopes for Sushant Singh Rajput’s first movie as a solo hero after Kai Po Che, but even his endearing presence couldn’t save this flop.
Growing up together in Banaras, Kundan — played by Bollywood newcomer, but famed Tollywood star, Dhanush — and Zoya (Sonam Kapoor) have always been friends, but for Kundan their relationship has always been about something much deeper. Zoya briefly reciprocates his feelings due to his unrelenting pursuit during their early teen years, but her character subsequently moves on when she goes to college. Kundan, however, never grows out of his childhood crush. The story has multiple different twists and turns that I won’t bore you with in this review, but suffice it to say that at every turn, Kundan is usually tracking Zoya down, much to her chagrin.
Both Dhanush and Kapoor give powerful performances, A.R. Rahman’s soundtrack has standouts such as “Tum Tak” and the title song “Raanjhanaa,” and the scenes shot in Varanasi are great. But at the end of the day, very little about this film stands out other than Kundan’s persistence in his quest to prove himself to Zoya. Every year Bollywood takes it upon itself to release one blockbuster film that highlights stalking as the epitome of true love. For 2013, this film was Raanjhaana.
Small-time car thief and auto mechanic Babli — played by Ranbir Kapoor, in his first disappointing role since his debut in Saawariya — unwittingly steals the car of the girl he is madly in love with, the ambitious and head-strong Tara (Pallavi Sharda, in her Bollywood debut). Now let’s throw Inspector Chulbul Chautala (Ranbir’s dad, Rishi Kapoor) and Head Constable Bulbul Chautala (Ranbir’s mom, Neetu Singh) into the mix so that we can get into the chaos that is the entirety of this movie.
What’s really besharam (shameless) about this film is that the filmmakers actually thought this movie was worth making. Cheap humor, over-acting by the entire cast, and an awful soundtrack comprise this complete failure of a film. There’s no real plot and the jokes are so bad that Besharam can’t even generate any laughs the way traditional Bollywood slap-stick comedies do. Do not watch this movie. Ever.
Farah Naz Khan is an internal medicine resident at Emory University. After graduating from college in Boston, she returned to her Alabama hometown to attend medical school, and was reunited with the mix of Southern hospitality and South Asian flair that had shaped her childhood. Follow her on Twitter @farah287 or read some of her thoughts at farah287.blogspot.com.