2009 will be remembered as the year the small film died. The two-month strike led to bundling of big releases with most stars having more than a release in a span of weeks and small films went straight to DVD.
Incidentally, many small films (including Gulaal and Chintuji) did not even release in Chennai and the ones that managed a remote single screen release (Sankat City and Aagey Se Right) barely lasted a week.
The Best of 2009
1. Dev D: For the sheer audacity of Anurag Kashyap's vision. He not only interpreted a classic that's been remade a few times but also dared to change the ending while staying true, and probably more faithful, to the spirit of Devdas than the other remakes. ‘Emotional Atyachaar', overnight, became the anthem for an entire generation of degenerates and Amit Trivedi arrived as a composer.
2. Kaminey: Dhan Te Nan! Tarantino met Manmohan Desai, Guy Ritchie met Mukul Anand and Coen Brothers met Vishal Bhardwaj in this neo-noir masala film that broke fresh ground in storytelling. Shahid Kapoor finally came of age and broke out of the Shah Rukh Khan mould at least temporarily. It helped that Priyanka and he scorched the screen with the kiss of the year.
3. Rocket Singh: This is a film that could've easily been right at the top of the list by making itself a little more audience-savvy with a little Rod Tidwell-esque energy. But Shimit Amin and Jaideep Sahni chose to keep it real, gave space for their characters to breathe and stayed clear of crowd-pleasing gimmicks, practising every value it stood for. Ranbir Kapoor arrived as an actor, with a hat-trick of solid performances after Wake Up Sid and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani.
4. 3 Idiots: Yes, it maybe the most popular film of the year and at the top of the list for many. But it's just impossible to ignore the similarity of the moralistic tone, the theme and characters that give you an overall Munnabhai déjà vu. It was Munnabhai Ban Gaye Engineer with Boman Irani as Director and Parikshit Sahni as strict Dad. But the Hirani magic and the performances by the fantastic ensemble led by Aamir Khan saw it through.
5. Luck By Chance: What a debut by Zoya Akhtar! Not only is this an honest bird's eye-view of the film industry, it's also one of the most balanced tight-rope walks on the subject. While it does take many digs at the system, it's also sensitive to the plight of those responsible for the mess and unearths a system within the chaos — one that restores the balance between luck and talent. Farhan Akhtar and Konkana Sen carried this film.
6. Love Aaj Kal: But for a scene or two that resorted to drama and absolutely silly violence, Imtiaz Ali's romance drama was a refreshing take on modern day relationships, one of the rare films that actually examined the state of the heart in a cynical world separated by the long distance between lovers chasing different dreams. Totally lost on the cynics, this film was all heart.
7. Wake Up Sid: What a relief to see a coming of age film that didn't really feel the need to take its protagonists to the heights of Leh or the depths of depression. The lack of Lakshya is not always a bad thing and Ranbir Kapoor really came of age in this film that chose to focus on the love story between the slacker and his alienated parents doing their best to understand him.
8. Delhi 6: A hugely underrated film because of its sloppy finale but dismissing an entire film because of a couple of excesses in melodrama would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water. Rakeysh Mehra revels in political filmmaking and he gets to the root of the problem here exposing a nation's need for the boogey-man. A.R. Rahman produced one of the finest albums of the year.
9. 99: This delightful crime thriller by Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru turned out to be half as fun as Kaminey, even if it was shot at one third the budget. With its edgy characters, smart lines and genuine comic touches, this was an immensely likeable ensemble film set in the year 1999 — when the world was at the cusp of the mobile revolution and coffee pub culture.
10. Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani: Yes, it wasn't Andaz Apna Apna but the celebratory irreverent tribute to Hindi cinema over the years made it absolutely endearing. Ranbir played the quintessential Bollywood hero and Katrina, the gorgeous damsel in distress, and we wanted to sign up for membership to the cornball Happy Club.
Those That Just Missed The List:
Gulaal — Only because it was Paanch all over again and desperately needed trimming.
Paa — Let's not forget Amitabh Bachchan dressed up as a Zoozoo.
Kurbaan — Entertaining? Yes. Riveting? Yes. Convincing? Hell No!
New York — How can we take a film with non-actors seriously?
Quick Gun Murugan — The film works but only as a string of fun gags.
The worst of 2009
1. Kambakkth Ishq: For defaming Indian cinema in Hollywood
2. Radio: Himesh Bhai would be more convincing playing puppy than yuppie
3. Luck: Cheesy rip-off of 13 Tzameti and they didn't know what to steal
4. Tasveer 8x10: Kukunoor cheated the audience by introducing a new character in the last act of his Whodunnit and Akshay jumped off assorted locations, probably for his Thums Up?
5. Blue: This most beautiful, gorgeous looking bad film sank and the only treasure we liked underwater was Lara Dutta.
6. Acid Factory: Rip-off that insisted it was original, plagued with bad actors from the Sanjay Gupta factory
7. Main Aur Mrs Khanna: Proof that Salman should not act with his shirt on. And Sohail just shouldn't. Why so serious, boys?
8. Dil Bole Hadippa: Why should women play in the men's team? Rani made a comeback to imply that the women's team sucks?
9. What's your Rashee: Long, long, ago a TV series called Mr. Yogi came up with a much shorter version.
10. Kal Kissne Dekha: Wrong question. Right one would be? Yeh Kissne Dekha.
Hero of the Year: Ranbir Kapoor – With three films in the Top Ten
Zero of the Year: Akshay Kumar – With four (if you include Chandni Chowk) duds.
Superhero of the Year: Spider-Man with guest appearances in Kaminey, Paa and Rocket Singh