Our movies never had it so good. Our movies never had it so bad. Everyone pushed the envelope, but forgot to address the target audience.
Just look at the fare on display in 2007 - 'Dus Kahaniyan' gave us 10 fast-paced, sensitive and stirring stories about love, sex and sin in rapid-fire rhythms.
I heard people in the audience grumble, 'We hardly get into one story, and it's time to move into the next.'
At the beginning of the year we had another fine episodic film 'Salaam-e-Ishq' which all the knowledgeable critics slammed for no reason - 2007 wasn't a good year for the letter 's' in the entertainment industry. However, this one was cursed for the opposite reason.
'So many stories and such lengthy ones. Shucks, who has the patience? '
My favourite episodic film of the year was Vikram Bhatt's 'Life Mein Kabhi Kabhie'. A quaint yet powerful story of five young friends who follow different paths in life, the transition from script to film wasn't as smooth as we'd have liked it to be. But what the heck! This one deserved better.
It's strange and curious, how different films in similar predicaments generate different reactions among the country's opinion makers. And yet filmmakers continued to push the envelope in big and small ways throughout the year.
If Sanjay Leela Bhansali abandoned his trademark operatic style to make the symphonic 'Saawariya', Sanjay Gupta gave up guns for the roses in 'Dus Kahaniyan'.
And Sudhir Mishra, known for his hard-hitting intense political sagas, suddenly went moist-eyed and romantic in 'Khoya Khoya Chand'.
Yes, 2007 marked the year of uncharacteristic outbursts from the silver screen. Who would have expected Samir Karnik, the guy who made the super fiasco 'Kyun...Ho Gaya Na', to emerge with the neglected 'Nanhe Jaisalmer', a film that delineated a dark yet light-hearted relationship between a little Rajasthani boy and a film star, played by Bobby Deol.
Critical for exploring, albeit lightly, the age-old star fan relationship, 'Nanhe Jaisalmer' was completely ignored by both critics and audiences. Sad.
Sadder still was the plight of Manish Jha's second film 'Anwar'. Going from the brutality of his first film 'Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women' to the elegiac tone of this Hindu-Muslim love tale, Jha fell flat on his face, probably because he 'dared' to release alongside Mani Ratnam's 'big' 'Guru'.
In 2007 I also loved Milan Luthria's episodic 'Hat Trick'. It was funny and insightful and had some terrific performances from the ever-dependable Nana Patekar, Danny Denzongpa and Kunal Kapoor.
Gosh, how they booed this innocuous little brew-hot-brew-cold out!
From 'Ta Ra Rum Pum' to 'Aaja Nachle', it was a tame year for the illustrious Yash Raj films.
I'm still wondering why the Saif Ali Khan-Rani Mukerji marital drama 'Ta Ra Rum Pum' didn't work. Was it because the film's concept of poverty - kids in Manhattan unable to afford pastries - didn't jell with Indian audiences?
And why did Yash Raj's 'Laaga Chunari Mein Daag' get the thumbs down from one and all? Didn't like a nice middleclass girl getting into prostitution, eh?
Sure, these things don't happen in real life, do they? Of course not! Nice girls in our movies get burnt to death and resurface in their next birth as bubble-gum popping bimbos.
Robbie Garewal's 'Mera Pehla Pehla Pyaar' and Bhavna Talwar's stunning 'Dharm' came on the same Friday. Robbie made a cute modern day 'Bobby' with very real moments between the puppy lovers.
'Dharm', according to me, was the most neglected film of the year. And to even mention it in the same breath as 'Eklavya - The Royal Guard' for the Oscars was utterly ridiculous. I suggest the entire nation go back to Talwar's film one more time. We owe it to her and ourselves.
And 'Gandhi My Father'? When I saw it for the first time I found it dry, staccato and over-formal in treatment. A second viewing made me aware of the skills that underlined this hugely moving story of the 'Father Of The Nation' who couldn't be a father to his own son.
Vishal Bharadwaj's 'Blue Umbrella' - what were we thinking when we decided we didn't went to see this nascent nugget? What goes wrong with a film that's as delicately perched on the edge of divinity, craning its neck out to make its presence felt among the works of art that touch the soul.
Pritish Nandy Productions' (PNC) 'Bow Barracks Forever' with riveting performances by Lilette Dubey and Victor Banerjee stunned me with its portrayal of dereliction. My vote for the production company of the year goes to PNC for constantly striving to better their score.
And would someone please tell me what was so wrong in Willard Caroll's 'Marigold'? Maybe we as a nation dislike cross-cultural relationships where a 'gora memsahib' steals one of our 'bhola bhola chokra'? Remember how we booed Subhash Ghai's 'Kisna - The Warrior Poet' out of the theatres?
So, the two genres of cinema that are strictly no-no are episodic dramas and cross-cultural romances.
(Subhash K. Jha can be contacted on [email protected])