Well, here is a shocker, after winning the worst actor award last year, Sidharth landed in the best Hindi movie (I think) of 2017. Not that he has become a better actor, he is just way way better cast this year than last year.
If I am looking for a film which was exciting, different, and perfectly put together frame by frame, it’s Ittefaq.
There were a lot of good movies this year, as I mentioned in my “surprisingly good movie of the year” post. But they were all small movies. There was no great grand massive film (yes yes, besides Bahubali). All the “big” films somehow failed. Some of them simply by becoming “big”. By adding on budget and expectations and everything else until the poor simple little plot was tottering under the weight of it all. But among the “little” films, there were many gems. Small stories about small people and their small lives, beautifully presented.
It is the presentation that sets Ittefaq apart. Good casting, sure. Great script, absolutely. Original idea, yes (I know, it’s a remake, but it’s an original way of attacking a remake). And even an interesting sense of place, that place being the mixed complex interactions of the wealthy Bombayites, the NRIs staying in luxury hotels, and the locals cleaning up behind them. But most of all, it is the brilliant camerawork, editing, and overall direction of it. This is a very confident debut film.
The other interesting film that keeps coming up this year is Bareilly Ki Barfi. Which was also produced by BR Chopra films, along with this one. It’s an interesting combination, two very different films, both with a strong director’s hand guiding them, and a complicated original story that is hard to sell in one sentence. Bareilly could have won my “best of”, if it had been a little wilder, a little stranger, a little more different. Maybe Ashwiny’s next film will be that different kind of film. Now that producers have slightly more faith in in her, they may take a bigger risk.
(This song, for instance, was all chopped up and moved back to the start of the film instead of after Ayushmann’s introduction. Why? Probably wouldn’t have happened if Ashwiny had total control top to bottom)
Abhay Chopra, he lucked out, he was born into people having faith in him. His best friend Ranbir Kapoor, his cousin Aditya Chopra, they weren’t officially involved, but they certainly helped to arrange the meetings that got this film made, got Abhay in to present his story to Shahrukh, who agreed to produce, and Karan Johar, who co-produced and helped coordinate the publicity campaign.
Yes, he was lucky, it is a little unfair. But the talent shown in this film, that’s more than just being “lucky”. Heck, it’s more than just talent! This is precision, perfection, hard work. He had a great idea for a story, and then he worked and worked and worked, every shot at just the right slightly off-kilter angle, every scene lit in the perfectly disturbing manner, every line of dialogue written and delivered in just the right way.
Abhay was a little lucky in one other way, in getting Akshaye to be in his movie. I already talked in yesterday’s post about how Akshaye was so good in this role, he almost won best character of 2017. And he really does make the movie. Without him, it would be unwatchable.
But then, the film was designed around his character being there, like that. It was supposed to be Shahrukh originally, which tells me that Abhay always knew the detective was the most important piece. That’s the key to these mystery stories, the most important key, knowing that the audience wants to know more about the victim, the murderer, and the suspects. But they have to love the detective. If it wasn’t Akshaye, it would have been someone else, Nawazuddin or Irrfan or any other not-quite-star who is still a brilliant actor, and a charming presence onscreen. Heck, Anupam Kher could have played it!
(See how Akshay is the center of the poster?)
And once Akshaye was in place, the other pieces settled around him. A young actress with a pretty face that could be modeled into an off-puttingly fake look. A young actor who is perfectly handsome in a way that makes you want to trust him. Fill in with a few more good character actors for the police officers and the other suspects. And you have all the ingredients that could make a good film.
After that, it was just a matter of making the best film they could, without over doing it. Putting in just enough, but not too much. You know how when you start college and your teachers tell you that it is harder to write a short paper than a long one and you think “yeah right”. And then you come to realize that they are absolutely right, it is much harder to leave things out than put things in?
That’s what this film is. The paper that is just the right length, even though it would have been a lot easier to make it longer. Abhay could have added more songs, costume changes, more scenes with Akshaye at home, maybe a subplot or too. But he resisted. It is an aggressively stripped down and simple film, with every small part of it perfectly done, no corners cut.
That’s why it is the my winner for the “best” film. There were other movies that did other things better. Tumhari Sulu has stronger relationships. Bareilly Ki Barfi has a more complicated plot. Raabta has a better love story. A Gentleman is a lot funnier and has better songs. Jab Harry Met Sejal has better acting. But this is just a perfect little movie, start to finish.