Last year, we witnessed the rise of powerful independent films from a stream of emerging directors. And as an even more surprising consequence, the big-budget Bollywood productions paled in comparison. Yes, there were some big films that made even bigger money but in terms of quality and the sheer pleasure of engaging cinema, the smaller films stood out in 2010. So while the jury is still out on the best films of 2010 (you can still vote here), we look ahead to 2011 to see what awaits us. In a rough release order, here is our top ten picks of films to look out for:
No One Killed Jessica (Expected release: January 7)
January kicks off with this much hyped and equally promising film by Raj Kumar Gupta (who debuted with the impressive thriller, Aamir). Starring Rani Mukherjee and Vidya Balan, the film is a punchy look at the Jessica Lal murder case that rocked India in 1999. The music by Amit Trivedi is already a rage and a strong promotional campaign is ensuring that the film has quickly roused our curiosity.
Dhobi Ghat (Expected release: January 21)
The second January offering on this list is an eagerly awaited release from Aamir Khan Productions. Directed by his wife Kiran Rao, the film stars Khan along with Prateik Babbar, Monica Dogra and Kriti Malhotra. The film has already done the festival rounds, garnering a great response at Toronto. It tells the story of four ordinary Mumbaikars and their relationship to the city. Considering Khan’s last production Peepli Live became the talk of the town for its powerfully independent sensibilities, Dhobi Ghat comes with huge expectations.
7 Khoon Maaf (Expected release: February 18)
Vishal Bhardwaj has managed to attain a status where his every project gets film buffs’ tongues wagging for the sheer unpredictability of his stories, selection of actors and style. This time around, he presents a romantic thriller starring Priyanka Chopra who marries seven different men and then systematically finishes them all off. Among this (un)lucky squad of hubbies are John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Annu Kapoor and Naseeruddin Shah. The first theatrical trailer is very intriguing and presents a dark and creepy side to Chopra not seen before.
Tanu Weds Manu (Expected release: February 25)
This one snuck into the list simply because of a charming trailer that I just watched recently (first impressions do count). Directed by Aanand L. Rai, the film stars Madhavan as a straightforward NRI doctor, Manu, who returns to India to get married. He is arranged to Tanu, played by Kangana Ranaut, a feisty UP girl who shatters his perception of an innocent Indian bride. Both actors are usually associated with good films and the general feel comes off as a heart-warming romantic comedy about a dysfunctional wedding situation. It’s not entirely original but let’s hope its treatment is revitalizing.
Shorr (Expected release: April)
This film had its North American premiere at the MIAAC Film Festival to a great response. Directed by duo Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru, the film has an ensemble cast that includes Sendhil Ramamurthy, Tusshar Kapoor and Nikhil Diwvedi, and tells three parallel stories of different sides of Mumbai building up to the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi and how they eventually intersect. It’s a gritty film with great performances.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (Expected release: May)
Director Zoya Akhtar’s debut film Luck By Chance was an insightful peek into the big bad world of tinsel town. There isn’t much information on her second outing (except for the shoots in Spain) but with a diverse star cast that includes Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, Katrina Kaif, Abhay Deol and Kalki Koechlin, this one sure has our interest. We're expecting a film with lots of youthful camaraderie and self-discovery but we could be entirely wrong.
Rockstar (Expected release: May)
When a director like Imtiaz Ali firmly establishes his reputation for presenting refreshingly and honestly told love stories like Socha Na Tha, Jab We Met and Love Aaj Kal, it’s even more intriguing when he makes his next film about a rock musician. Starring Ranbir Kapoor in the title role, this film has been kept tightly under wraps but the combination of Ali with Kapoor in a new avatar, along with music by A.R. Rahman, is enough to place this film on our list.
Mausam (Expected release: July)
Veteran actor Pankaj Kapur makes his directorial debut with this film starring his son Shahid Kapur along with Sonam Kapoor. Not much is known about this film either except for leaked reports about numerous looks that Kapur goes through – Why? What? And where? We have no idea, but it’s the Pankaj Kapur touch that I’m most looking forward to.
Agneepath (Expected release: unknown)
Of all the big studios, this remake of the Amitabh Bachchan classic from Dharma Productions makes it to the list. This time, Hrithik Roshan will be playing the lead role of Vijay Chauhan accompanied by Priyanka Chopra and Sanjay Dutt as the villain. The remake, directed by Karan Johar’s former assistant Karan Malhotra, is reportedly going to be drastically different from the original. Remakes are always a dicey proposition and this film even more so since the original met with a strange response of National Awards for the actors but box office failure.
Agent Vinod (Expected release: unknown)
Bollywood goes Bond with this film produced by and starring Saif Ali Khan. The film reportedly crisscrosses globe with stylish action sequences and brings together Khan and Kareena Kapoor after the tepid Kurbaan. This film makes it to our list because of director Sriram Raghavan who has previously delivered the stirring thrillers Ek Hasina Thi and Johnny Gaddaar.
As a side note, 2011 will also witness a parade of sequels with Don 2, Dostana 2, Hera Pheri 4, Dhamaal 2, Partner 2, Race 2, Rock On!!! 2 and quite possibly the super elusive Dhoom 3. We may not necessarily look forward to all of them but they will very much define a large part of the film lineup this year.
Let us know what you’re looking forward to as well. So get the popcorn ready and happy viewing!