2016 @ 24 Frames per Second


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Another year’s coming to an end, and here’s a sampling of moments from life that was in a cinema hall (or home theatre.) This isn’t a recommendations list, nor is it a ratings compilation. Just a random (but not exhaustive) snapshot of how 2016 rolled by at the rate of 24 frames a second.

The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Directors Ryan Murphy, Anthony Hemingway, and John Singleton and creators Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski showed the world how a mini-series is done. In ten gripping, drama-filled episodes, this TV mini-series shone light on the OJ trial in such a compelling, sweeping  fashion, you couldn’t help but attend the courtroom drama. Cuba Gooding Jr., Sarah Paulson, Courtney Vance, John Travolta, David Schwimmer, and others ensured top notch acting made this a 2016 highlight.

Airlift
airliftDirector Raja Krishnan Menon and Akshay Kumar scored an entertaining and moving winner with this movie. Based on the evacuation of Indians out of Kuwait after the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Airlift showcased Akshay Kumar’s ability to be understated yet intense. With the doughty Nimrat Kaur for company, this movie was in good hands. But the silent show stealer was Kumud Mishra as the joint secretary who unwillingly becomes involved in the evacuation effort. Mishra showed how onscreen brevity could translate into a powerful punch. (Read the review here.)

Wazir

Or, the art of predictability. Most folks were mighty miffed that director Bejoy Nambiar’s wazirthriller cast aside the reveal all too easily. Technically, though, Wazir landed a neat punch, alongside Amitabh Bachchan and Farhan Akhtar’s top-of-the-shelf performances. Plus, of course, Manav Kaul’s chilling turn as a sociopathic father and politician that made it worth the while. And, using Rahul Dev Burman’s Lakdi Ki Kaathi (Masoom) in a very, very scary scene featuring Neal Nitin Mukesh was a neat touch. (Read the review here.)

Oggarane

Director-actor Prakash Raj dished out a scrumptious, warm-hearted, and wholesome entertainer, answering life’s perennially perplexing conundrum – what’s love without food, oggaraneand what’s food without love, and what’s life without all these? Headlining the acting with Sneha, Raj ensured Oggarane was a feel-good dish, next only to home-made khichdi. And Mandya Ramesh with Achyuth Kumar added that smattering of tasty humour, while Illaiyaraja scored a winner with the title song and a lovely background soundtrack. (Read the review here.)

Spotlight

A compelling, tightly wound real-life drama based on the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team that exposed child abuse that was (and is) scarily ubiquitous and global in its reach across dioceses. Director Tom McCarthy directed this Academyspotlight Award winner for Best Movie, helped in no small measure by the stellar ensemble cast – there are scenes where you didn’t know whom to look at – that included Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, and Stanley Tucci. And of course, Howard Shore’s moody score added to the extra wattage of this powerful project.


Neerja

Director Ram Madhvani took the real-life story of braveheart neerjaairhostess Neerja Bhanot, and turned it into a breathless, tight, and moving experience. With a brave (yet mixed-bag) performance by Sonam Kapoor, and a sparkler of an act by Yogendra Tikku, Neerja also saw Shabana Azmi break your heart into uncountable pieces, making sure you wept copiously and in raw pain in the cinema hall.  (Read the review here.)

Fitoor

Adapting Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations to Hindi cinema isn’t a task for the faint-hearted. Neither was watching director Abhishek Kapoor’s Fitoor. Lavishly and richly mounting the cinema screen with lush and stunning hues of cinematic frames, this projectfitoor was let down by the meandering pace and Katrina Kaif’s extra-aloof demeanour. Aditya Roy Kapur was distinctly hardworking, while Tabu was chillingly magnificent. The highlight was Amit Trivedi’s harmonic music score, wafting out some real winners.  Read the review here.)

Bangalore Days
bangalore-daysDirector Anjali Menon used the trio of Nazriya Nazim, Nivin Pauly, and Dulquer Salmaan to whip up a frothy and fun movie. Basing it out of Bangalore, the movie also took a look at the aspirations of today’s youth, of marriages and expectations, and how to navigate your relationship when you have the dour-faced, superb Fahadh Faasil as spouse. Plus, it raised the nagging question – how in the name of the steel bridge did Menon manage to make Bangalore look so clean and green? (Read the review here.)

Rocky Handsome

A precocious child, a wooden-faced handsome hero, and a gaggle of villains screaming as ifrocky-h their entire fortune was demonetized, an Aspirin, and you. That was how director Nishikant Kamat’s movie played out for life in cinema halls. The movie was memorable for actor John Abraham’s knife fights, some throbbing action, and a throbbing temple – the last item belonging to the hapless you.  (Read the review here.)

Kapoor & Sons (Since 1921)

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A warm, funny, and touching fly-on-the-wall look at a dysfunctional family celebrating functions, shadow boxing with each other’s emotions, tip-toeing around the hurt lines in the family, and eventually getting the perfect family portrait. Director Shakun Batra directed this movie with the right amount of maturity and grace, while actors Rishi Kapoor (setting a new record for unrecognizable make up in Hindi cinema), Rajat Kapoor, Ratna Pathak Shah, Alia Bhatt, Siddhart Malhotra, and Fawad Khan added substance and polish to the venture. Just one question – why don’t we see Ratna Pathak Shah more often? (Read the review here.)

Experimenter

Based on the true life story of psychologist Stanley Milgram, this movie simply and quite experimenterbrilliantly introduced you to the scientist’s life and his experiments. Directed by Michael Almereyda, Experimenter used the docu-drama style, employing stunning visuals and some brilliant set pieces to map Milgram’s story. Peter Sarsgaard simply killed it, while Winona Ryder was her superbly controlled self. And yes, there was Bryan Senti’s haunting music score.

Truth

truthBased on Truth and Duty: The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power, written by Mary Mapes, the fire-brand producer of CBS’ 60 Minutes, this movie was her true story of her plan to expose President George Bush Jr. and his machinations to avoid getting drafted into the Vietnam War. The consequent consequences are scary, as Cate Blanchett, playing Mapes finds herself increasingly isolated, and realizes that not just she, but others around will pay a price for her crusade. Director James Vanderbilt helmed, along with Blanchett, actors Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Elisabeth Moss, and Robert Redford (as Dan Rather) to come up with this satisfying and gripping thriller.  (Read the review here.)

Jai Gangaajal

Director Prakash Jha directed Priyanka Chopra to let her police baton fly with vigor and jai-gangajalverve, and boy did she kick some villainous butts. And boy, did Jha hog the acting limelight as well. It was obvious that he loved acting, and it was also very obvious that he was rather good at it. (Read the review here.)

 

The Jungle Book

Or, the resurrection of 3-D cinema. Director Jon Favreau favored this medium, and did he knock it out of the jungle. Some breathtaking animation, shiver-me-all-over visuals, and a jungle-bookproject that ensured you remained frozen (no Disney-pun intended) in your seat, The Jungle Book got it right in all departments, including the inspired and superb voice overs by Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong’o, Bill Murray, and Idris Elba. (Read the review here.)

Fan

fanShah Rukh Khan fell in love with…..who else, but Shah Rukh Khan? With this fun conceit, director Maneesh Sharma gave us an actor who adored his own posters and portraits, but with so much of conviction, Shah Rukh Khan’s portrayal as the stalking fan was actually chilling and uncomfortable. All was well, until the movie slipped into the heydays of Darr. (Read the review here.)

 

Roomroom

A movie so harrowing, and yet so full of hope, it was simply an emotional feast. Director Lenny Abrahamson showed us how, in the end, love is all that matters. Actor Brie Larson showed just what a powerful performance can be. And young actor Jacob Tremblay showed us how children actors need not be grating and syrupy sweet to break our hearts. (Read the review here.)

Ki & Ka

Director R. Balki tried to break marriage stereotypes, ki-kamaking Arjun Kapoor the homemaker and Kareena Kapoor the ambitious career woman. Until jealousy sets in, and things go awry too easy, too soon. The movie had superb performances, especially by Swaroop Sampat, while the plot went around the globe and came back to a compromise. No, Arjun Kapoor doesn’t get pregnant, and Kareena doesn’t grow a…..moustache. The Amitabh-Jaya Bachchan cameo was the highlight. (Read the review here.)

The Stanford Prison Experimentstanford-prison

This was one discomfiting and gripping watch. Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez and headlined by Billy Crudup, the movie traced Professor Philip Zimbardo’s experiment in Stanford to see how, in a position of power, men behave, abuse, and torture fellow human beings, just so they can assert their authority. Harrowing and irresistible, all at once.

Traffic

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A gripping race against time to transport a heart from Mumbai to Pune involved top notch actors such as Manoj Bajpai, Jimmy Shergill, Divya Dutta, Sachin Khedekar, and  Parambrata Chatterjee. Part-thriller, part-drama, the late director Rajesh Pillai made you contemplate the two sides of harvesting organs. (Read the review here.)

Raman Raghav 2.0raman-raghav

Where director Anurag Kashyap threw away all semblance of big-budget accoutrements, switched off the lights, and went dark again. Causing some really fun chills in the process. With Nawazuddin Siddique playing a copycat deranged killer and Vicky Kaushal an equally unstable cop in hot pursuit, this movie had possibly one of the most blood curdling chicken-cooking scenes ever. MasterChef classes will never be the same again. (Read the review here.)

Udta Punjab

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Director Abhishek Chaubey’s darkly comic, maddeningly addled and ultimately shocking journey of drugs in Punjab. Backed by the high-on-energy Shahid Kapoor, devastatingly powerful Alia Bhatt, inescapably likeable Diljit Dosanjh, and the very in-character Kareena Kapoor, this movie took you high and dropped you to the ground with a big thwack, making you realize the rotten and highly political world of drugs and dealers. (Read the review here.)

Madaari

A socio-political thriller that had you rooting for the underdog, played with aplomb by the madaariirrepressible Irrfan Khan. Director Nishikant Kamat’s entertaining and eye-opening project also had a superbly controlled and assured performance by Jimmy Shergill. And yes, it was extremely timely, zooming into the rot of infrastructural and political corruption that’s all around us, while also highlighting the zeitgeist of viral videos becoming accurately breaking news.  (Read the review here.)

Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu

godhi-bannaDirector Hemanth Rao made you feel uncomfortably at home with this Kannada feature. Landscaping the turmoil of non-communicating relationships and a dreaded disease, the movie’s highlight was a stellar performance by Anant Nag . Also turning up very effectively onscreen were Rakshit Shetty, Vasishta N Simha, Ravikiran Rajendran, Sruthi Hariharan, and the irrepressible Achyuth Kumar. (Read the review here.)


sultanSultan

Director Ali Abbas Zafar tread all the clichés possible in this love-sports story. And, gave us the conceit of being Salman Khan. The actor wore his usual attitude of “What me, wrong?” in an enterprise that was ultimately, another marriage in crisis, but this time on the wrestling mat. Anushka Sharma gave a powerful performance of an ambitious woman, until her character gets married, that is. And suddenly, woman power was on the mat, waiting for the man to win the medal. (Read the review here.)

Rustom

Or, how to turn a real-life murder story into a courtroom farce. Director Tinu Suresh Desai rustomsnuck in espionage and other obtuse angles into the Nanavati murder case, making Rustom a what-could-have-been enterprise rather than what-an-enterprise. The highlights of this wistful project were Akshay Kumar’s balancing act of upright honesty and anguish of betrayal, and Pawan Malhotra’s vulpine cop act. (Read the review here.)

Jason Bourne

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Or, why we should sleeping Ludlums let be. An unmitigated 3-D disaster of sorts, the usually magical combo of Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon failed to rise above the hand-held, eye-hurting gimmick of skullduggery and dreary action. (Read the review here.)

Banjo

Director Ravi Jadhav plotted a predictable plot of music and romance, and yet made you banjothink about the plight of street musicians in India. He also made you think about his plight in directing the very flat Nargis Fakhri, while also showcasing the extremely likeable Riteish Deshmukh’s winning act. (Read the review here.)

Pink

pink
This was the year that metamorphosed pink from a sweet, cuddly colour to a powerful message from women to all men looking to interpret their choice of clothes and choice of fun as an invitation for a romp in the bed. This was the year when the urban legend of “ladki ki naa mein haan hai” (‘when a girl says “no”, she actually means “yes”’) was demolished in one fell swoop. That demolition team comprised of director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, writer Ritesh Shah, and actors Amitabh Bahchan, Tapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, Andrea Tariang, Angad Bedi, and Piyush Mishra. And that movie was – what else – Pink. (Read the review here.)

Sully

Director Clint Eastwood flew this true story of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and his flight into the Hudson Bay with amazing grace sullyand dignity. With actors Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart at the controls and Laura Linney long-distance on the phone, this was an IMAX experience of drama and courage like never before. (Read the review here.)

Akira

akiraSonakshi Sinha’s karate chops and Anurag Kashyap’s acting chops couldn’t raise director AR Murugadoss’s venture from the tepid into the intrepid. And Rani’s character had to be one of the most grating characters in 2016. (Read the review here.)

Mirzya

Stunning visuals and a likeable debut by Harshvardhan Kapoor didn’t do much for this very predictable and run-of-the-mill venture. Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra focussed on the Rang De Basanti story-telling technique, forgetting he had a powerful folk tale to narrate. Even Daler Mehndi’s regular hollering of “Mirzyaaaaaa!” didn’t shake him – or you – up. (Read the review here.)

Eye In The Sky

Director Gavin Hood directed this top-of-the-charts thriller that was as intelligent as it was taut. A superb discourse on the use of drones and the legal and moral implications of collateral damage, this movie had beautiful performances by Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, and Alan Rickman (heartbreakingly, his last appearance.)

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Inferno

Director Ron Howard didn’t quite crack this thriller, though he made it up with pace and dark cinematography.  Tom Hanks and Irrfan Khan stole the show with their act, though. (Read the review here.)

Sairat

With debutantes Akash Thosar and Rinku Rajguru, director Nagraj Manjule directed this powerful Marathi feature that made you smile, well up in emotion, fall in love, fall out love, fall in love again, and then in a swift stab, snuffed out a part of you with its climax. (Read the review here.)

Shivaay

A slow pace and a melodramatic story didn’t take away the breathtaking action and cinematographical impact that director Ajay Devgn made in his directorial outing. A nifty edit would’ve made this breathless entertainer. (Read the review here.)

Dr. Strange

Or, the second resurrection of 3-D. Psychedelia met superpowers met responsibility met some deep questions about mankind’s survival in this breathtaking venture. Director Scott Derrickson, along with actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, and Chiwetel Ejiofor took the superhero movie template to another level. (Read the review here.)

Ventilator

Director Rajesh Mapuskar gently pumped up the quality of Marathi cinema with this one. ventilatorA moving, comic, and ultimately introspective look at relationships, families, festivals, and death, Ventilator had a terrific ensemble cast, each cracking their respective roles with aplomb. Time for Ashutosh Gowariker to get into full time acting? (Read the review here.)

Force 2

Director Abhinay Deo showed us what a slick thriller can do for life in a cinema hall. Lots of fun, good action, a believable John Abraham and a very effective Sonakshi Sinha. But if there was someone having more fun than you, it was Tahir Raj Bhasin with his villainous act. (Read the review here.)

Dear Zindagi

With an unusually light, gentle, and yet meaningful look at love, longing, and careers for young women, director Gauri Shinde traipsed into psychological territory with a warmth that made you overlook the liberties she took. That, and Alia Bhatt’s winning and winsome performance. And with Shah Rukh Khan as the twinkling, charming, yet understated shrink, how could you – or Alia – resist? (Read the review here.)

Kahaani 2

A cousin to Wazir in predictability, director Sujoy Ghosh, however, took a brave look at child abuse and its ramifications. What kept you hooked to the movie, then, was the moody atmosphere, Vidya Balan’s powerfully rock-solid act, Arjun Rampal’s suave and smooth turn, and  – if you are a fan – Rahul Dev Burman’s songs that the director used to colour the mise en scène. (Read the review here.)

La La Land

Director Damien Chazelle, in a bizarre act of mellifluous bravery, used a musical to top the charts in movie making. Doffing his hat to yesteryear musicals of merit, and yet straddling it with the modern-day stress and strain that career aspirations wring out of relationships, this movie boasted of some lovely songs by Justin Hurwitz, long-time-not-seen in la-la-landHollywood movies – City of Stars being the caressing salve to melt all your modern day worries. And with the sparkling, dancing, singing, and magical pair of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone dissipating everyday charm from the screen, there was only one thing left to do – fall in love, all over again. (Read the review here.)

Concussion

In arguably his career- best performance, Will Smith broke dignified and powerful ground – in this true story – as Dr. Bennet Omalu a forensic pathologist, who discovers a connection between NFL players’ deaths and  chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).  A riveting and horrifying watch, Concussion raised some very pertinent and life-altering questions about American football. Director Peter Landesman scored a goal all the way.

Dangal

Based on the true story of Mahavir Singh Phogat and his manic focus on training his daughters to become gold medal-winners in wrestling, director NItesh Tiwari made dangalDangal work on multiple levels, infusing the story with humour, love, human foibles, strength, and ultimately, triumph. He also introduced some supreme and amazing talent in the form of Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra. And of course, Aamir Khan put on not only extra weight, but also such understated yet heavyweight gravitas that all you could do was stand up with him and salute the enterprise with salt and water in your eyes. (Read the review here.)

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