First, remember this is a “to you” award! So something that was disappointing to me may not have been disappointing to you. Or something that I felt had a big build up may not have felt like a big build-up to you.
Let me go through all the ones I considered and rejected first so you can better appreciate why I picked my final contender. Jagga Jasoos, the thing is, it didn’t really get a build up. Sure there was a decent ad campaign, but what with the last minute song changes and the constant filming delays, there was never really a momentum built up for it. Unlike Rangoon which had a carefully planned and carried out campaign, up to and including Hrithik putting off dealing with Kangana until post-release since it was clearly such a careful release.
(Teaser came out on time, but remember how often the release date was changed before then?)
Tiger Zinda Hai is in an odd position. On the one hand, it is very much not the movie that I myself wanted. I found an enormous lack of imagination and outside of the box thinking. But on the other hand, I can see that it is a good solid film. There are moments even I enjoyed, and as a whole, it is a well-made picture. And it also kept the build up low. A teaser, a trailer, and two songs. All of them released within two months of the film. There wasn’t this massive trailer after trailer after trailer thing. There weren’t any planted news stories or sudden controversies by political groups trying to cash in on the publicity. So less of a build up, and also a qualified disappointment. Unlike Rangoon, which I personally saw the trailer for many many times (I think because I just happened to be watching a lot of movies in the months leading up to it), and which just generally had a creative group involved who seemed like they would lead to something pretty special. And then they didn’t. And it wasn’t a qualified “it was well done but just not what I wanted” failure, it was a straight up “no, this is just a strange kind of a mess” failure.
And finally Tubelight. Oh Tubelight! Another good director, and a major star, but then the cast always seemed a little shakey, and the story idea was a disaster start to finish. And the publicity campaign was a little half-baked. It was a Salman film, so everyone was talking about it, and it had trailers and songs and all of that. But it just didn’t feel quite so overwhelmingly huge as some of the other marketing campaigns this year. Mostly though I think what made the difference was the experience of watching it. Rangoon started with this huge high as the production values washed over you. Followed by a crushing low as the actual quality of the script and characters became apparent. But Tubelight, you knew what you were getting right from the start. There was no “high” moment, it was all just crushing lows.
(Okay, the Shahrukh moment was a high. Not because I am a Shahrukh fan, just because it was really neat seeing the two Khans onscreen together)
But here’s the final real big reason Rangoon wins out: Nadia Wadia. It’s probably only a small segment of the audience that cares about her, but I am part of that small segment and by golly I CARE!!!!! I read Rosie Thomas’ book, I watched clips of her films, I want to be her for Halloween! I have been looking forward to a movie about her for years and years, and Rangoon was that movie. And it was TERRIBLE!!!!! In many ways, but primarily for what it did to the “real story” it was claiming to tell.
It’s not just that I found it disrespectful to the memory of the real people it was showing, it made for weaker characters by changing them around. The “real” Rosie Thomas was a strong independent woman who made her own way and stood on her own two feet. The “real” Homi Wadia, the man who fell in love with her, was a supportive and respectful and thoughtful partner. They were an unlikely pair who loved each other despite huge divides. And who grew to love each other slowly over time. (more info in my post here)
The “real” involvement of the film industry in the Quit India movement was through risking censorship and punishment by sneaking messages into their films. The idolized the “real” freedom fighters, it just came up in Dilip Saab’s autobiography, he talked about how proud he was to have been mistaken for a “Gandhiwalla”. Being a movie star was nothing compared to that.
That would make a great movie! A troupe of movie people including a stuntwoman who eagerly volunteer to help in the freedom movement and are starry-eyed over the “real” freedom fighters while the rest of India is starry-eyed over movie stars. And a movie in which the woman takes the lead, is the action hero who rides to the rescue, while her men follow behind her (as Nadia did in real life, and in all her films).
(Okay, it’s sort of To Be Or Not To Be, but that was a great movie! It should be remade more often!)
But instead Bhardwaj looked at that, the real story, and rejected it. He turned the woman into a damsel in distress who is torn between two men, the older intellectual and the young hot one. He turned the movie people into a band of weaklings who never seemed to have a thought in their head. And he moved the whole film into a war zone instead of keeping it in Bombay where all the uniqueness and fun of the movie/freedom fighter/spy connection could be explored. No, let’s put them all in a war zone and turn them all into combatants by location.
And now we will never get another chance at this kind of period story! Bhardwaj has scuttled that possibility, shown it to be unprofitable and, well, stupid. Just as he has blown the only chance for Kangana, Shahid, and Saif to work together. And for them each to work with him. It was an amazing cast, an amazing director, an amazing idea for a film, and then the script was just baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad.
(I still say sex in the sand is not sexy, just itchy)
Maybe that’s the biggest thing that makes it the biggest disappointment. Tubelight had a bad cast, a bored director, and a bad script. Jagga Jasoos had a flawed director, a so-so cast, and a bad script. Tiger Zinda Hai had a solid director, a solid cast, and a solid script (just not brilliant, any of them). But Rangoon, it had all the best possible ingredients and then the recipe failed it. Like taking the most beautiful perfect tomato and bacon and mayo and lettuce and bread, but then throwing everything else into the mayo jar and turning it into mayonnaise soup instead of a BLT. And no one wants mayonnaise soup.