In 2012, the best films emerged from the least expected quarters. Caveat emptor: The list had to be limited to those that have had a nationwide release and were released in this part of the world. So, some fine gems such as Supermen of Malegaon and Miss Lovely were left out. SUDHISH KAMATH ranks some of his favourites…

1. Gangs of Wasseypur: The first part was just an extended prologue and warmed up to the second. I still feel that the Wasseypur films with a total duration of 320 minutes could have been trimmed by half the length and made for one explosive, riveting gangster film. So why is this on top of the list? For the sheer audacity, vision, scale, originality and disregard for the market. We haven’t seen anything like this out of India. So rooted, yet so stylish, blatantly cool (that it could put you off) and dripping with attitude. The sum adds up to a lot more than the parts. Bravo, Anurag Kashyap.

2. Vicky Donor: Who would have thought that a mainstream film in India would be allowed to talk about sex so openly? Hats off to Shoojit Sircar and writer Juhi Chaturvedi for making a film that so subtly examines relationships and meaning of family in the context of infertility, caste, community and sperm donation, with every sub plot driving home the same point — that we, whether Bengali or Punjabi, aren’t all that different. It may have been commercially successful but this is an underrated social extremely relevant to our times that needs to be watched for the right reasons.

3. Oh My God: This wildly entertaining comedy is almost blasphemous and we do wish it had gone all the way. Though populist, it does make significant points by asking the audience not to believe in symbols or anthropomorphic images of Gods. Which is why it seemed like too much of a copout when the makers felt the need to produce a miracle to convert the agnostic protagonist into a believer. Full points to Paresh Rawal and director Umesh Shulka for going this far and to Akshay Kumar for taking it to the masses.

4. Kahaani: Sujoy Ghosh’s delightful suspense thriller would have ranked higher if not for that last minute reveal ripped off from Taking Lives. But this shouldn’t take anything away from the fact that Vidya Balan took on the Khans and shot herself into the 100-crore league and proved that you don’t need stars, you just need a good film to make the country rush to the cinema. The film made up for songs with unforgettable characters (Bob Bishwas has become an iconic character with ads to his credit).

5. English Vinglish: The queen returned to the big screen to show the girls how it’s done. Sridevi portrayed the unspoken angst of the housewife with restraint and sensitivity rarely seen on the Indian screen and dished out a master class in histrionics. While the film itself treads a predictable course — a spoken English course – to be specific, it’s Gauri Shinde’s treatment that makes English Vinglish one of the best films this year. One you could take your Mom to. And there are not many of those made these days.

6. Shanghai: Dibakar Banerjee’s adaptation of Z, the 1966 novel by Greek writer Vassilis Vassilikos, is that rare uncompromising political thriller, where the subtext and the context are more relevant and significant than the text. The refined sensibility and subtlety in storytelling meant that the film would only find takers in multiplexes. Maybe Banerjee should take a leaf out of Prakash Jha’s book and go all out commercial when the idea is to reach out to the people at the grassroots. But had he done that, maybe he wouldn’t have featured on this list.

7. Paan Singh Tomar: As if we needed more proof of Irrfan Khan’s abilities! Tigmanshu Dhulia’s biopic on how we treat our sports heroes was an eye-opener not just on the state of affairs in the country but also on how much we care for cinema made on issues, the kind that may have just got unnoticed a few years ago. The success of Paan Singh Tomar is indication that we are finally smart enough to bet on the dark horses.

8. Talaash: Reema Kagti’s dysfunctional relationship drama masquerading as a suspense thriller with a twist shows us why realism is over-rated. The film soaks us in its atmospherics and crafts a sophisticated tale that’s best watched with an open mind and without a clue of the ending. The film belongs in this list, not because of the twist that you can see coming from a mile, but because of what the makers turned this story into. One of loss and coping. One of faith or the lack of it.

9. Jab Tak Hai Jaan: Yash Chopra’s swan song is everything romance in Hindi cinema used to be, until the nineties. Old-fashioned, sentimental, eternal. It was about faith and the power of love. We don’t make that kind of cinema anymore. Certainly not with the conviction of the veteran filmmaker. Also, Jab Tak Hai Jaan is probably the last we will see of Shah Rukh Khan in the avatar he was known for in the nineties. The incurable romantic.

10. Barfi: This film made it to the list only for one man. Ranbir Kapoor. The young actor gives every plagiarised scene or homage sequence a new twist. Anurag Basu’s bittersweet take on life, heavily influenced from the best of world cinema, does strike a chord with its music and spirit. Barfi works as a collection of great sunny moments, a contrast to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s wintry Black. A celebration of disability that we would have loved a lot more, had it not been for Basu’s inability in coming up with an original film.