The Top 5 Songs of 2012


It is that time of the year when we take upon us the onus (and the impending possible brickbats) of compiling various lists of things that were Totally Top in the year 2012. It was (to clear it up front) not much of an year when it comes to Filmy Music, there were no awesome soundtracks in their entirety, and even the combination of Gulzar Sa'ab and ARR did nothing of note, (we know that ARR's songs grow on you, but nothing about Jab Tak Hai Jaan grew on anyone).

When we look back, we see a trend that some of the best songs came from 'smaller' films, written and sung by 'off-beat' artists, and most of them fulfilled their utility of adding to the over all beauty of the film. A Filmy song cannot be a stand-alone entity, for it to be awesome it has to gel well with the visual on-screen, and using the above criteria here is a list of the top 5 songs of the past year

Films like these

5. Paani Da Rang (Vicky Donor)

Singer - Ayushman Khurana
Written and Composed by - Ayushman Khurana and Rochak Kohli

John Abraham made up for a lot of bad acting in a lot of bad films by producing this gem of a movie. It was a movie which nobody expected to do well, since it starred a 'Roadie' (and we all know of the filmy success of Rannvijay and Raghu and Rajeev) and was about a subject that most people might cringe about while talking.

And the quality of music matched the novelty of the film. The lead actor used one of his self-comps, and strummed his guitar straight into our hearts. The lyrics are simple, and the music too is 'easy'. And that made the song a deserving hit, perhaps other film-makers too would be willing to take a chance and give Ayushmann some more chances of playing his compositions for us.

4. Aami Shotti Bolchi

Film - Kahani
Singers - Usha Uthup, Vishwesh Krishnamurthy
Written by - Vishan Dadlani
Music - Vishal Shekhar

There are two things that we love a lot about this song, one is Usha Uthup, one of the most under-rated and under used kick-ass voices in our film industry. She has a special love for the city, and it becomes evident from the way she has sung this paean. And the second thing is the cinematography. After making a couple of truly horrible films, he crafted a taut thriller which had memorable characters as well as served as a love poem to Kolkata, a beautiful city caught in a time-warp of its own.

The song's position in the film serves as an introduction of the city for both the lead character Vidya as well as the audience. Its chaotic interludes mirror the state of Vidya's mind, and Usha ji's bluesy voice connects you immediately to the ethos of the metropolis.

Kahaani had another good song, 'Ekla Chalo', which is already a part of lok-sangeet but Amit ji's soothing baritone presents a nice fresh take on it.

3. Bharat Mata ki Jai (Shanghai)

Singers - Keerthi Sagathia, Vishal Dadlani
Composed by - Vishal-Shekhar
Written by - Dibakar Banerjee, Vishal Dadlani

Shanghai was a good film which could have been better, it was a political film which talked about an issue from a perspective which films generally avoid. Although it had not much of a soundtrack otherwise, but this song was the song of raw protest, of satire and anger, of shattered hopes and of a sorry state that we see no chance of changing.

And like a lot of good things, it courted unnecessary controversy.

Dibakar Banerjee has previously written the lyrics of the songs of his film - Love, Sex aur Dhokha. Sample this - 'Tasveer utaarunga, mele mein dikhaoonga, jo dekhega uski ankhiyan nuchwaoonga'

And now the lyrics of this song - 'Sone ki chiriya, dengue malaria, gur bhi hai gobar bhi...Bharat Mata ki Jai'

The song, and the movie were important. And perhaps in due time will gain the cult status that they deserve.

2. Ala Barfi - Barfi

Singer - Mohit Chauhan
Composed by - Pritam (yes, Pritam)
Written by - Swanand Kirkire

It's a popular running joke that Barfi was directed by Pritam and its music was given by Anurag Basu. While we would not use this particular post to comment on the various merits/de-merits of blatant plagiarism of scenes from famous movies and using them to make a 'critically acclaimed' film, we would agree that the music of the film was top-notch.

This particular track was quite un-Pritam-esque, and since no one has yet been able to find out the original Korean/Indonesian/Middle Eastern version, we will have to admit that Pritam did a good job. It evokes memories of the golden age of hindi music. It has strains of this song -

and several other songs of the era, and made for a tasty wholesome dish.

1. Jiya ho Bihar ke Lala (Gangs of Wasseypur - 1)

Singer - Manoj Tiwari
Composed by - Sneha Khanwalkar
Written by - Varun Grover

This is By Far THE MOST AWESOME Song to come out of Filmistan this year. The moment when the bass drum kicks in, you realize that you are about to hear something epic. When I first heard it in the trailer, delighted by the use of Manoj Tiwari's voice, I loved how the editor of the trailer had synced it perfectly, especially when the 'Tani Naachi Ke, Tani Gaayi ke' portion comes.

And so I was a bit apprehensive on whether the song will have the same impact on me when I watch it on screen, since Trailer songs have a way of sounding better in the trailers and not in the film.

However, I was thankfully proved wrong.

At the end of the film as Manoj Bajpayee is gunned down in his car (ala James Caan), he steps out defiantly even though he is riddled with bullets. And then the song hits the background, making it a perfect match for the scene. While the movie ends and Manoj Tiwari's wonderful voice fills the theater, we get up and clap, amazed at the feeling.

PS : There were several other songs of GoW 1 and 2 that perhaps deserve a mention here (especially Chhi Chha Lether and Aabroo), apart from these, the songs of Dabangg 2 were also good, carrying over the rustic flavour of the first part perfectly.

The Legend of Vijay Benedict


My job as a travelling salesman takes me on a regular basis to places where Mumbai ends and Thane, Dombivli, Kalyan etc begin. These smaller towns are microcosms of humanity in themselves, quite far removed from the 'Bambai' of the Western Lines (there is a cinema hall in Thane called 'Ashok Theater' which features only Bhojpuri films, and there are single-screens in Kalyan and Ulhas Nagar where you can catch an old Prabhu ji film like Gunda or Prem Pratigya), in fact it was on one fine warm winter morning that when I alighted on the Ulhas Nagar station, I was pleasantly surprised to see this poster fluttering above at some height -

The two words in bright yellow immediately caught my attention and brought a smile on my face. I was looking at the poster of a Vijay Benedict concert. For those of you who haven't heard of his name before, he has sung one of the most popular songs of this filmy year, specifically this song -

Even the original video is awesome (as things which feature Mithun da often are)

And to add to his 'cred', he has sung a song which everyone of us (including you, admit it) have danced to in our childhood -

For a long and trippy decade, Vijay Benedict was the voice of Mithun da (and Bappi Lahiri, whose own voice has improved in the past few years, but was a quite an ear-sore in the 80s), check out another dance number sung by Mr Benedict

Vijay Benedict sang for only around 40 films, before a tragedy in his life made him turn to religion, there are a lot of Gospel songs available on youtube, and it is appreciable how he has retained his love for singing. Perhaps if someone gifts him a DVD of GoW, he would smile pleasantly at his song being used with such awesomeness.

Sardar Khan Naam Hai Humara


If you didn't already know it, Katrina Kaif, during the premiere of Prakash Jha's Rajneeti, walked  up to Manoj Bajpai and touched his feet to show her appreciation for his brilliance in acting. She did so in front of all media and Manoj's wife, when they were called in for a group photo. A man who enjoys such powerful influence on his co-stars, based purely on talent is sure a man to look out for.

So since the world did not come to an end, I thought of putting my idle time to use today. I wanted to write on Manoj Bajpai for long now, but I had to delay it so that I did not use Gangs of Wasseypur dialogs all over the place, but well, I was helpless with the Title. This man here has impressed me with everything I learned and witnessed about him, from his filmography, to the roles he has done, his portrayal of those characters and also his views and interviews. Talking of which, when asked how he feels on increased use of "foul language" in Hindi movies, he said - "as an actor, you are not supposed to have any morality of your own. You are there to put to life, the vision of the director. Morality ghar pe rakh ke aaiye." And then he supports Anurag Kashyap's argument that this use of foul language is seemingly odd because Indian cinema has had for too long, very flowery and literature-heavy dialogs, far away from reality, sentences you would never imagine saying in real lives.

Yes, he was born Bihari in Belwa village near Narkatiyaganj (a town very infamous in history for smuggling across Nepal border, the name also suggests some history of violence) town in Bettiah, West Champaran. His roots still show in his down-to-earth manner and his originality as a person, as TOI's Sandhya Iyer calls him - "asli ghee ka paratha that your mother cooks" in her 2003 article. He recalls to have been mesmerized by Zanzeer as a child, and on expected lines, had found his favorites in the likes of Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Pankaj Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan. He still emphasizes that he has never looked to be a star, but an actor and his desire to convert his passion of acting into a career was helped when he saw Naseeruddin talking of NSD (National School of Drama) in an interview. He used the fact that NSD offers a diploma for what his parents discounted as "nautanki", to convince them.

His Delhi chapter didn't start very well as he was rejected at NSD four times straight but he studied History at Ramjas College under DU and joined Barry John's theater group with SRK (yes, our very own The SRK) as a classmate. He was praised by John and also assisted in direction which fetched him his first salary of Rs. 1200 per month for working from early morning to midnight. He had married and also founded a theater group Act One and got decently famous in the Delhi theater circle around 1990 but then came the Mumbai chapter.

Shekhar Kapur (who, according to Manoj Bajpai is the best director alive in India, second only to Satyajit Ray) picked Manoj Bajpai's photo from among 100 others, while looking for new faces for his Bandit Queen and interestingly, he picked Manoj because he looked like Naseeruddin Shah. Kapur convinced him to move to Mumbai and Manoj Bajpai was stupendous in that role of dacoit Maan Singh in 1994 released Bandit Queen. Then started his share of the struggle in the "city of dreams". He shared a chawl with 6 others, was ill, was divorced from his 2-year marriage, and was penniless. He shyly mentions that he spent days without food, and would try to meet up with well-off friends to get a meal a day. He did what every other acting aspirant does, travelling to major production houses in hopes of having eye contact with known directors, dreaming that Subhash Ghai walked into his chawl with a role for him (he actually said he imagined so), and finally he got his role in the mega-hit daily soap Swabhimaan (which is to be thanked for launching Ashutosh Rana, besides this man) in 1995 and recalls - "I was never fully out of money since then".

He played some small roles in Droh Kaal (1995) and Dastak (1996). He was picked by Mahesh Bhatt for a role in Tamanna (1997) before he was about to meet the man who will stage his arrival - Ram Gopal Verma. He met RGV for a small role in Daud (1997) and on learning that this was the man who played Maan Singh, Ramu offered him Bhiku Mhatre from Satya and insisted he doesn't do insignificant roles like the one in Daud. Manoj Bajpai convinced him to keep his role in Daud and admits that was the only time he was so desperate for money that he would take up any offer, since many directors had promised him big roles which never materialized. 1998. RGV. Satya. Bhiku Mhatre got him the National Film Award for supporting actor and Filmfare Critics Award for best actor.

The 9 awards and 4 nominations do not tell the whole story of the man who still thinks the industry keeps him at home most of the time, and that only his 25% potential has been utilized by the industry. There has not been a single appearance of this man on the silver screen which has not been acclaimed critically. From inspector Samar Pratap Singh in Shool (1999), the random creepy guy Sameer Puranvale in Kaun (1999), the dark character of Rakesh Ghadge in Aks (2001), the psycho Babu in Road (2002), the super-praised role of Rashid in Pinjar (2003), he had made his mark as a brilliant actor and a one who prefers meaningful cinema (call it parallel if you may) over money-guzzling starrers. Just looking at the pictures I have compiled here gives you an idea on how deeply this man understands and indulges himself into a character.

He had a quieter phase of a few years where he got married to Neha (Shabana Raza) and settled down and then came Veerendra Pratap in Raajneeti (2010) which made Katz touch his feet (Tabu did the same to show her appreciation to Manoj a few years back after his performance in Satya). 2011 release Aarakshan had him in a negative role and Mithilesh Singh literally personified the so many of our modern tutors and teachers who look at teaching as a business and a profession more than a responsibility. Though I haven't seen any of those movies, his roles in some Telugu films like Vedam are also very highly praised.

Gangs of Wasseypur came his way when Anurag Kashyap (who wrote both Satya and Shool) looked to sort out the problems (seeking help from the script of GOW and a bottle of red wine) they had for nearly 10 years of no-talking-terms after they had become almost-room-mates earlier. Sardar Khan couldn't do a thing wrong in the movie and Anurag Kashyap was usual in his immaculate presentation. The movie also marks a significant change in non-commercial movies, with serious actors and realistic story-lines gaining commercial success. Manoj Bajpai also regrets that he would have replaced Abhay Deol in Dev D (playing a role of Devdas has been his dream) had Kashyap and himself been on better terms.

Surprisingly though, he is not flooded with offers after GOW and believes that directors like Anurag Kashyap, who can do justice to him knowing his strengths and weaknesses, need to gain more success for actors like him to get more movies. He says he just doesn't get different roles whereas he is open for even a David Dhawan mindless comedy. He is a man interested in the reality of the script, his role must be believable, must look like a real man in a real world. He is still a simple man with simple dreams and simple views, and good ones at that. He says he is torn into three by his dreams - one, to settle down in Bihar with a small piece of land and some money, in his village; two, to settle in London for the education of his daughter; and three, to move back to Delhi and settle down with his parents and siblings. For Filmistani's and Bollywood's sake, I hope selfishly that none of those three dreams of his, come true.

Chittagong and Chakravyuh didn't do much to utilize this man, but what he has done with Sardar Khan is brilliant beyond discussion, and he still feels that he has not arrived, yet. Actors like Manoj Bajpai, to me, still define the meaning of "being true" in your profession. Here's hoping we see a lot and lot more of him, and in meaningful roles like we have known him for. As a suggestion from my side, just go to youtube and watch all the scenes of GOW you can find - worth it, truly.


The Cult of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (Part 2 : Vinod Chopra)


In a previous article, we discussed about one of the two ADs of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (and as mentioned before, the name of the two lead characters were taken from the two ADs), so after a small discourse about Sudhir Mishra, we present to you a post about Vinod from Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron

Presently one of the richest men in the film Industry
Although Sudhir Mishra did not have a formal film education, Vinod is a graduate from FTII. Early in his career he had a penchant for thrillers, and he made his first feature film called 'Saza-e-Maut' with his awesome FTII classmate (Naseeruddin Shah). He has directed 6 films and produced some of the most successful films of all times. Off the screen, he had a huge role in the creation of Suketu Mehta's book Maximum City. And keeping in with the format of the previous article, we would like to introduce Vinod Chopra the director (and not just the producer of one of the most heart-warming feel good film franchise of our country) using his films

1. Khamosh

Personally, this is my favourite Vinod Chopra film, but then I am partial to thrillers and murder mysteries.
This is one of the stories where all the major players are sequestered together in an idyllic location which is kind of isolated from the rest of the world, and hence makes the elimination (literally) of the victims and suspects more intriguing.

Another interesting aspect of the movie was that Amol Palekar, Shabana Azmi and Soni Razdan played fictitious versions of themselves, as in Amol Palekar was 'Amol Palekar - the actor', which added a layer of meta-humour to the story. Besides, the movie also starred Pankaj Kapoor, Pavan Malhotra and Sudhir Mishra. It was a taut thriller of roughly a 100 minutes, and the best part is that it is available in its entirety on youtube (to reveal more about the plot would be to reveal too much)

2. Parinda

If you haven't watched Parinda yet, you have missed out on an important chapter of underworld films. This was one of first films to de-glamourise the 'gangsta life', and showed gangster bosses to be what they were truly in real life, medium level businessmen who ran factories and lived in cramped houses in Dadar's Kabootarkhana area (instead of living in huge mansions with sliding doors and pool tables and lava lamps, although that is awesome too)

Parinda was a critically and commercially successful film, it won numerous filmfare and national awards. Three mustachioed men together in a film have not been able to replicate its awesomeness since, and despite the somewhat flawed ending, this is one of the best and realistic movies about the mid-level echelons of Mumbai Mafia.

Also, you can watch it for this song -

3. 1942 A Love Story

This film was set in a kind of parallel universe pre-Independence India, almost in the same vain as the swash-buckling 'Mard', but this film was not about a one-man's superhuman struggle against the gora log. It had a well etched out story set in those troubling times.

Although this poster made no Goddamned sense
Vinod Chopra was adept at creating a period piece, and succeeded admirably in perfecting the 'look and fee' of the locations and blending the story with the tiring times that the protagonist faced. There was an amount of in-your-face patriotism, but I guess it is excusable in a movie that portrays a very stark picture of 'noose happy' gora log.

Also, this was the last film in which RD Burman provided the music.

Sadly, none of the films directed by Vinod Chopra have had the impact that these three have had. Kareeb was a flop in every sense of the word, Mission Kashmir was a film which could have been good, and Eklavya was made with the sole intention of the director to cast Amitabh Bachchan in a lead role.

PS : Coming soon - Part 3 : Pankaj Kapoor