Right before the end of last year, we asked our readers to vote for their pick of the best films and soundtracks of 2011. You spoke loud and clear, and we now have our results tallied from the various social media platforms. So as the hundreds of award ceremonies take off in tinseltown, felicitating the same big stars and the same big blockbusters, our people's choice best films and albums of 2011 is a far more eclectic and deserving bunch.
BEST MUSIC OF 2011
A surprise entry in our top five, this album by Pritam had the requisite love songs, bhangra number and qawwali. Come to think of it, it was also probably the best thing about the film as a whole.
(4) No One Killed Jessica
Composer Amit Trivedi and lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya have now become synonymous with snappy, clever and incredibly imaginative film songs, thanks in large part to the brilliant Dev D album and now No One Killed Jessica. They also made sure that every time you see the name of India's capital, it must be uttered as 'D-D-D-Dilli'.
(3) Delhi Belly
If the previous entry was snappy, this one is just filthy. Filled with sexual innuendoes, cuss words and oodles of raw energy, this album by Ram Sampath and lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya (we're noticing a trend here) was too hard to ignore. Whether it's the incredibly catchy 'DK Bose' or the hilariously bitter 'Jaa Chudail', the album is an incredibly fun listen. And whether or not that qualifies as "good" music can be left to debate.
(2) Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
This one wasn't a particular favorite of ours but our readers seem to disagree. The album by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy was light and mature, going along well with the themes in the film.
Here's something we do agree on with our readers, wholeheartedly! A.R. Rahman's brilliance manifested itself once again, this time in the form of the album for Imtiaz Ali's Rockstar. Using the genre of sufi rock, Rahman took the influence and ran with it, creating one glowing track after another. It's not only the best album of 2011, we would say it also falls under Rahman's best work to date.
BEST FILMS OF 2011
(10) I Am Kalam
This simple, unassuming and un-jaded film about a boy's quest for learning shows that you don't need big money or big stars to tell an honest, effective story. Director Nila Madhab Panda tells a compelling story that is local and at the same time global in its appeal, channeling the inspiring efforts of former Indian president APJ Kalam to encourage education for everyone.
(9) I AM
Director Onir and producer Sanjay Suri's crowd-sourcing experiment came off with flying colors. Onir effectively weaves four distinct stories into one continuum of humanity and the most fundamental search for identity, in whatever way, shape or form it may be. The film's success at a wide range of film festivals around the world also proves that good stories backed by crowd funding can create good, meaningful cinema.
(8) Shor in the City
This edgy multi-narrative film about the trials and tribulations of a bunch of characters in Mumbai was definitely one of the highlights of 2011. Directors Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK bring a good dose of realism into the stories, making the characters very relatable and their situations right out of life. This is also the first of two films under Ekta Kapoor's ALT Entertainment banner that have made it to this list.
(7) Stanley Ka Dabba
In the same vein as I Am Kalam, director/writer Amol Gupte's wonderfully simple film tells the story of a school boy's desire to belong. Using such a basic slice-of-life element as a lunch box, Gupte has crafted a heart-warming story that leaves you thinking even after it's over.
This one's a slightly controversial entry on our list. While it did well commercially and is already on several award nomination lists, and its music (as we've discussed earlier) is truly deserving, Imtiaz Ali's film received a very mixed critical response. In our opinion, it's a clunky script that is salvaged only by Ranbir Kapoor's performance and the great music.
(5) No One Killed Jessica
It says a lot when one of the first releases of the year stays in the minds of people long enough for them to still see it as one of the best films of the year. Director Raj Kumar Gupta's film is gutsy and provocative but also somewhat commercialized. Regardless, it tells an already fascinating (true) story in just as gripping a way.
(4) The Dirty Picture
Producer Ekta Kapoor and director Milan Luthria struck gold with their last release, which was also one of the last films of 2011. It's an incredibly brave and bold film, with an outstanding performance by Vidya Balan, that ensures that female-centric narratives can be just as commercially viable and just as entertaining as macho masculine masala (forgive the alliteration) flicks.
(3) Delhi Belly
An unashamedly dirty (and naughty) comedy was one of the most loved films of the year. Producer Aamir Khan took a gamble by backing a truly adult comedy that didn't even attempt to be worldly or distinguished. Director Abhinay Deo tells the story of three hapless friends and their spiral of blunders with aplomb. A well-timed, cleverly promoted, and hilarious script? Definitely. Masterpiece cinema? Maybe not.
(2) Dhobi Ghat
Clearly Aamir Khan Productions had a successful 2011, settling comfortably in both the third and second spots in our reader list. Director Kiran Rao's debut film was the extreme opposite of its kin Delhi Belly, but just as intriguing. Rao meditates on the city of Mumbai as an organism that makes and breaks lives, and sees so much. The film drew mixed reactions but certainly represents a much welcomed style of filmmaking in Hindi cinema.
(1) Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
The winner of our readers' poll is Zoya Akhtar's calm and mature sophomore outing about three friends coming of age. The film not only proved once again Akhtar's refined storytelling skills (after her impressive debut Luck By Chance), but it also asserts the growing clout (and deservedly so) of female directors in Hindi cinema.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this list of top ten films of 2011 is the substantially increased presence of women or women-centric films in Hindi cinema. While the top two films (Dhobi Ghat and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara) were directed by women, three other films on the list (The Dirty Picture, No One Killed Jessica, I AM) had women-centric narratives and were appreciated immensely for it. We take that as a very positive sign of how the film industry is evolving and with that optimism look forward to what 2012 has to offer. Thank you to all our readers who voted and happy viewing in 2012!