10 hot films of 2004
Some made a mark with their sensitive themes while failing at the box office. Others were smash hits in every which way. Here are 10 hot films of 2004:
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
"The Passion Of The Christ": A saga of sublime suffering told by Mel Gibson in excruciatingly graphic descriptions of Jesus Christ's final days on earth as he's taken to the cross to be nailed. Conveniently enough, this work of timeless art and over-brimming heart was sneeringly dismissed as a paean to masochism and sadism. What Gibson does in his masterly study of pain, suffering, redemption and atonement is to resurrect the spirit of humanism in ways that cinema had forgotten.
"Morning Raga": Shabana Azmi once again blew the screen apart with yet another powerhouse performance. This time she played a retired, mourning Carnatic singer who's pulled out of a past tragedy by two vivacious students (Prakash Rao and Perizaad Zoarbian). Thematically, Mahesh Dattani's was by far the most powerful film of the year.
Bringing together various layers and levels of cross-cultural images, fusing raga sounds with modern elements, "Morning Raga" eminently took on the age-old conflict between tradition and change.
"Yuva": The most underrated and misunderstood film of the year, "Yuva" brought together the lives of three young men in search of truth and motivation. Their lives crisscrossed on Kolkata's Howrah Bridge in ways that reminded some critics of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Spanish-language film "Amores Perros". But to punish "Yuva" for adapting Inarrritu's narrative format was to equate the specific work with art for the genre.
Expertly cut, and with stand-out performances by Abhishek Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Rani Mukherjee and Sonu Sood, "Yuva" is a film that begs to be revisited.
"Dev": Govind Nihalani's dark and ominous film inspired by the Gujarat holocaust crept up on us with force, compelling us to think when we would rather go to the movies just to have fun. The dialogue between a communal and a non-communal cop played by Om Puri and Amitabh Bachchan was inter-cut by a tender love story between two Muslim youngsters, Fardeen Khan and Kareena Kapoor, torn apart by the savagery of communal riots. While gripping our senses the film raised grim issues like the hand of police in instigating communal animosity.
"Maqbool": Vishal Bhardwaj's relentlessly dark tale of ambition, lust, crime and retribution was inspired by Shakespeare's "Macbeth". Shakespeare met Ram Gopal Varma in "Maqbool" and then they both met a stirring nemesis in a swoop of echoes that reverberated across a tale that was both shocking and redemptive. Three very strong central performances by Pankaj Kapur, Tabu and Irfan Khan held the powerful plot together. You couldn't take your eyes off these tainted souls.
"Khamosh Pani": So what if they spoke in Punjabi in Pakistani director Sabiha Sumar's big-little film? They spoke Latin and Hebrew in "The Passion Of The Christ", didn't they? It didn't make a jot of difference to the film's universal appeal. Taking us into the life of a historically challenged woman (Kirron Kher) who finds her present obviated by her past, the film portrayed the trauma of the partition without actually reliving the historical accident visually. Kirron Kher's charged performance brought a whole ethos to life. The physical and emotional details were impeccable.
"Mughal-e-Azam": The colour-revised edition of K. Asif's time-less romance was surcharged with emotions soaked and saturated in the finest traditions of romantic cinema. Cynics said the experiment with renewed glory won't work. But what do you know! Madhubala looked doubly glamorous in colour. Naushad's music, newly re-recorded in Dolby stereophonic added to the lure of nostalgia. And the chaste Urdu dialogues which many experts thought would go right above today's youngsters' heads had them spellbound. Lesson number one - never underestimate the audience. Lesson number two - they still prefer Madhubala to Mallika.
"Monster": If one performance can hold a film together, then let's all join hands to celebrate Charlize Theron's theme-defining performance as a lesbian hooker in this relentlessly dark and disturbing film that graphically portrays the degradation of a social outcast. Theron transforms herself for a performance that screams for attention...and gets it.
"Swades": Ashutosh Gowariker's elegiac back-to-the-roots tale of patriotism unfurled like a lingering flag. So what if the film didn't make as many waves as it was expected to? "Swades" offers us a chance to sink into a comforting level of sincerity.
A complete absence of cynicism gives Ashutosh Gowariker's film a feeling of fresh idealism, singularly lacking in films today. Then there's Shah Rukh Khan in by far the best performance of his career. Gowariker's "Swades" had all the solutions.
"Veer-Zaara": Yash Chopra's purported love legend didn't quite touch legendary heights. But on the thematic level the story of man who waits for two decades to get back his love was as poignant as its gets. The poetry, music and romance of Yash Chopra's cinema were all there in this engrossing film about the unfinished business of love.
And the other notables: Sudhir Mishra's "Chameli", Revathi's "Phir Milenge", M.F Husain's "Meenaxi: A Tale Of 3 Cities", Gurinder Chadha's "Bride & Prejudice", Pamela Rooks' "Dance Like A Man", Rituparno Ghosh's "Raincoat" and Farhan Akhtar's "Lakshya".