The 10 best films of 2003

Subhash K. Jha, IANS
12/28/2003 12:00:00 AM
Mumbai, Dec 28 (IANS) Here are the 10 best offerings from mainstream Indian cinema this year:

"LOC": Look at the sheer magnitude of J.P. Dutta's achievement! The volume of vibrancy he achieves in telling the tale of 30-odd Kargil martyrs and soldiers is breathtaking.
On the minus side the war scenes get tedious beyond a point. But Dutta scores eminently in making every soldier's tale a distinct microscopic tragedy. This film proves Dutta a movie mogul in every sense of the word. Anu Malik's songs and Javed Akhtar's lyrics were a special treat.

"Kal Ho Naa Ho": So cool, so urban. So slick, so chic. Karan Johar's Manhattan-manoeuvred love triangle was special for its extremely unusual narrative convention. Cut like an American sitcom, its screen humour had us in splits. The feel-good tragedy raced past the chic post to make a truly enchanting statement on the quality of cosmopolitan altruism.
The Shah Rukh Khan-Preity Zinta-Saif Ali Khan threesome created a svelte combustion. As for the other trio -- Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's music captured the spirit of ebullience.

"Pinjar": Debutant director Chandraprakash Diwedi's partition tale based on Amrita Pritam's novel ripped the screen apart with its poignant aestheticism.
The swirl of the ghagras and the flaming-yellow mustard fields merged in a melancholy embrace with the hefty wages and passionate pages of history. Urmila Matondkar, Manoj Bajpai and music composer Uttam Singh's proudest moment. Diwedi executed the tale at a technically lofty plane.

"Munnabhai M.B.B.S.": The therapeutic feel-good film was a smile-a-while marathon that comes once in a decade. Director Raj Kumar Hirani's ability to tell a simple story simply is the film's USP.
The basic premise (a mobster turns doctor), the great lines (by Abbas Tyrewalla) and the enrapturing ensemble cast (helmed by the inimitable Sanjay Dutt) ensured this benign comedy's smooth passage.

"Chokher Bali": Though not a Hindi film, Rituparno Ghosh's pulsating periodicity in this multi-layered adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore's novel guaranteed a passport to international festivals for Aishwarya Rai. Ghosh gave the nuanced tale a multi-layered screen life and a rich opulent look that belied the film's limited budget.

"Koi...Mil Gaya": The year's biggest money spinner about a repressed mentally challenged boy-man who befriends an alien by Rakesh Roshan attempted an unconventional theme and got away with it. But the film's biggest asset was the director's son Hrithik who quite easily gave the best performance of the year. This was one time when we didn't mind nepotism.

"Baghbaan": Veteran Ravi Chopra's narration lacked polish. But the film hit where it hurt the most. "Baghbaan" rejuvenated the theme of ungrateful children and grieving parents, thanks in no small measure to Amitabh Bachchan's towering performance and Hema Malini's dazzling presence.
The love and warmth for the spouse and the hurt when a progeny gets rude were mapped on the Big B's face. Aadesh Shrivastava's music was a great help.

"Joggers' Park": Another heart-warming autumn sonata, this one featuring the ever-likable Victor Bannerjee as a retired judge who suddenly finds adventure action and romance in his life in the form of Perizad Zorabian.
Producer Subhash Ghai made sure that the late Anant Balani didn't steer the theme into sensationalism. The film was fresh in approach and carried Indian cinema forward to the nuke millennium. After two polished performances in "Bhoot" and "Joggers' Park" in 2003, wonder why producers don't sign Victor more often.

"Dhoop": The story of what happens to Kargil martyr Anuj Nayyar's parents after his death was made permanently poignant by Om Puri's heart wrenching yet never over-sentimental performance. Revathi provided good support. Visuals of grief stayed with the audience months after the film came and went, and so did Jagjit Singh's pain-washed voice.

"3 Deewarein/Jhankar Beats": Nagesh Kukunoor and debutant Sujoy Ghosh made it jointly to the 10th position with their three-hero tales of tormenting redemption. Both featured a sparkling cast, which, to put it mildly, knew its job.
While Kukunoor's film was grim, song-less and elegiac, Ghosh's romantic comedy bled the blithe spirit in tones of rapturous self-mockery. These are breakthrough films at their saucy best.
And so is Ram Gopal Varma's "Bhoot" which comes at number 11.