Last year was a very dry one for the Hindi film industry, not only in terms of box office revenues but also quality cinema. Very few films could be deemed as “good” or better and even fewer were commercially successful. As with each year, we all look forward to the films that seem interesting, which of course says nothing about what they will actually be like. Regardless, I have compiled my list of upcoming films in 2010 that seem to be promising. I’ve tried to steer clear of simply listing all the big budget/big banner films that dominate other lists such as this. Of course, some did make it onto my list, mostly for intriguing casting choices or potentially unique stories. This list is also based on the information that is currently available for upcoming releases, keeping in mind that many films are not yet on the radar.
Ishqiya (Expected release: January 29)
Vishal Bhardwaj has established a solid reputation for delivering thoroughly entertaining quality cinema. With Ishqiya he takes the reins of producer and writer, presenting the directorial debut of his protégé Abhishek Chaubey. Starring Naseeruddin Shah, Vidya Balan, and Arshad Warsi, this film is about two thieves who are on the run as they come across a feisty femme fatale (alliteration not intentional) who draws them both into a complex web of passion, greed and betrayal. The soundtrack and trailers of the film already promise an edgy rustic tale, and the casting is just too intriguing to ignore. Lots of excitement for this one!
Road to Sangam (Expected release: January 29)
This film already has garnered several awards from international festivals and is all set to release theatrically at the end of January. Directed by Amit Rai, it tells the story of a devout Muslim mechanic, Hashmat Ullah, who is entrusted to repair an old V8 Ford truck, not knowing that it is the same truck that once transported Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes to the holy Sangam (confluence of the rivers). At the same time, a bomb explosion results in the marginalization of his community, and as Muslim leaders call for a strike, Hashmat must decide if he will support the protest or continue his task and ultimately uphold the Gandhian principles that the truck comes to symbolize. Muslim identity in the current world order has become a hot topic for recent films, and this looks like a film with a powerful message.
My Name is Khan (Expected release: February 12)
Okay, so I gave in on this one. It’s the biggest film on the list and for some reason I just couldn’t ignore it. I wasn’t a fan of director Karan Johar’s last outing Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, but the return of the SRK-Kajol pairing is what got this film on my watch list. Backed by Fox Searchlight Studios, My Name is Khan tells the story of a Muslim man with Asperger’s syndrome whose perfect life with the woman he loves, a Hindu single mother, is crudely interrupted when he is made the victim of humiliating profiling in post-9/11 America. He then goes on a journey to meet the President of the United States to clear his name. I expect high production values and lots of crying by various characters, and Johar’s usual stamp of highly charged drama. However, I really look forward to seeing SRK and Kajol back in action together.
Road, Movie (Expected release: February 26)
Abhay Deol is steadily building credibility for being associated with refreshing stories. The films may not be big, but they sure attract word-of-mouth attention and the vast majority of his films have been a good watch. Helmed by Dev Benegal, this film tells the story of Vishnu, a young man who seizes the opportunity to escape his father’s clutches by volunteering to drive an antique Chevy truck across the desert to a local museum that has purchased it. On his journey, he soon discovers that he is actually delivering an old touring cinema. He also reluctantly picks up a trio of eclectic characters, and the group go on a journey with numerous obstacles where showing good films, from the truck’s collection and through its aging projectors, ensures survival. Road, Movie already has some nods from festivals around the world. It sounds like a quirky road film with ample doses of cinematic tributes. And who doesn’t like that?
Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge (Expected release: February 26)
Directed by Ashwini Dhir and backed by Warner Bros. Pictures India, this film sparked my interest primarily because of the casting. An unwanted guest – Paresh Rawal – comes to the home of a married couple – Ajay Devgan and Konkana Sen Sharma – and creates all sorts of messy situations as he continuously overstays. While the makers have denied any resemblance to Owen Wilson/Matt Dillon/Kate Hudson starrer You, Me and Dupree, I won’t be convinced until I actually see Dhir’s film. The interactions between Rawal, Devgan and Sen Sharma – all three accomplished actors and known for good comic timing – should be an entertaining watch.
Paan Singh Tomar (Expected release: March)
It’s hard for me to imagine Irfan Khan running at all, let alone playing a record-holding athlete for the steeplechase event. That is precisely why this film intrigues me. Directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia and produced by UTV, this film looks at the life of a renowned athlete hailing from Madhya Pradesh who eventually turned to banditry in the Chambal Valley. Khan is a very consistent actor who brings a rare sincerity to his roles. If this film is his vehicle, it should give him plenty of space to provide a memorable performance yet again.
Peter Gaya Kaam Se (Expected release: March 26)
Rajiv Khandelwal sure seems to be taking it slow and steady. After his debut in Aamir, he can now be seen again in director John Owen’s film Peter Gaya Kaam Se, also produced by UTV. Khandelwal plays Peter, a motorcycle taxi rider in Goa who decides to quit his job until his incredibly shady boss Bosco talks him into one last job. Hmm, I see a trend developing here with Khandelwal’s choice of characters so far – an unwitting nobody who is stuck in messy situations. But that’s okay, we’ll let that go if Peter proves to be as good as Aamir.
Kites (Expected release: May)
Now, who hasn’t heard of this one? The frequency of Hrithik Roshan films is decreasing, but he certainly manages to stay in the limelight for one reason or another. Since the day Kites was announced, it has maintained a steady presence in film news (and gossip). Directed by Anurag Basu and produced by Rakesh Roshan, the film is about a wounded man who is left for dead in the Mexican desert and his quest to find the love of his life. Somewhere in there is some salsa dancing and lots of Latin passion. That’s what I can scrape together from the tidbits of information about the film itself. This production has been in the news for everything from its ambitions to be a grand international release to the rumored affair between Hrithik and leading lady Barbara Mori. I, however, am just interested in what the Roshans, known for going all out, serve up this time.
Rajneeti (Expected release: May)
Kudos to director Prakash Jha for assembling the most random array of actors that ranges from ultra commercial stars to the more “arthouse” character artistes and those in between. This political saga, about the ultimate cage fight that is the Indian elections, stars (get ready for it) Ranbir Kapoor, Ajay Devgan, Nana Patekar, Katrina Kaif, Naseeruddin Shah, Manoj Bajpai and Arjun Rampal. Kaif’s role is supposedly based on Sonia Gandhi, so I’m very curious about how she will dial down her bubbly persona for this one. With so many different possible permutations and combinations of class actors interacting (and clashing) here, I expect explosive drama from this film.
Ravana (Expected release: June 18)
I am aware this film is big for many reasons but it makes it to my list due to director Mani Ratnam. This is a modern day adaptation of the Ramayana, starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan with hubby Abhishek, and Govinda essaying a role based on Hanuman. Of course, being a Mani Ratnam film, the story is being kept under tight wraps even though there is a lot of speculation floating around. The icing on the cake will be the music composed by A.R.Rahman, who has consistently bolstered Ratnam’s films with some of his best work.