My top 10 films – Vikas Sethi


HE MAY have starred in a string of successful TV serials, but talented actor Vikas Sethi is a big film fan and selected 10 big screen favourites. He said: “Love for film is an essential part of any actor’s life. But it is quite a dilemma choosing my all-time top 10 favourite movies because I don’t want to leave out any obvious ones, and at the same time one cannot contain all their choices in just a list of 10. So, heavy heartedly, I enumerate my top 10 choices, listed in no particular order.”

On The Waterfront: This heart-wrenching tragedy is an old classic with the incomparable Marlon Brando in absolute raw form. It was a breakout performance on various levels since it shifted the medium of acting towards a more authentic realism. This movie seems relevant. The story resonated universally, wherever there were workers oppressed by factory owners and the authorities had dug deep into the trenches of corruption, power and influence. One underdog stands against the status quo, against his brother and yet it is grounded in its storytelling. Avoiding the cliché melodrama makes this bold movie a class apart.

The Godfather: Another classic which one can never forget. The story is so simple, yet it forms the base for complex characters to rise into enigmatic performances. The transformation of Michael Corleone, from a naïve, Ivy League, war veteran to the successor of his father’s fiefdom is stellar. The whole ensemble of actors leaves a long-lasting impression and each scene in itself is an acting lesson. Plus the direction of Francis Ford Coppola, blocking of the scenes to the narrative pace is simply iconic.

The Godfather Part Two: This sequel is one of those rare second instalments that have been a level up to its predecessor. In this one, we have acting legends Robert De Niro and Al Pacino playing off at each other, although they never come face to face in a single scene. We see how a blood legacy is only marred in more blood as we see Vito Corleone’s rise from a lowly bread earner to the head of one of the biggest mafia families in America. We see Michael carrying his torch further, plagued by paranoia and power.

Sholay: Any Bollywood fan cannot miss Sholay. It may not comply with your neo-realism sense of cinematic grammar, but it is enthralling to watch Dharmendraji and Amitabhji (Bachchan) play Jai and Veeru, with their ragged and rustic charisma. Sanjeev Kumar’s performance as revenge hungry ex-cop pulls the story together wonderfully well. Add to that Hemaji’s (Malini) Basanti and a rather restrained performance by Jayaji (Bhaduri). Two hustlers fight an ultimate battle of revenge against the notorious Gabbar Singh played masterfully by Amjad Khan.

Maine Pyar Kiya: The first film of Salman Khan as a lead, introduces him as this innocent son of a wealthy businessman. This movie laid the foundation of what we would see. It has sparks of innocent romance through the perspectives of our protagonists played by Bhagyashree and Salman Khan adorning their own natural personas as the characters they play. No one can escape the boyish charm of Salman’s performance as Prem, whose innocent journey through the various melodramatic familial dramas still retains its magnanimity. If nothing else, this movie reminds you of the first time you fell in love.

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge: This movie redefined romance and that’s why it’s one of my favourites. It is purely about love in an Indian way, but in a foreign land. It ventures into various aspects of courtship, played wonderfully by Kajol, who evolves from the usual traditionally wound-up girl to an idealistic dreamer who finally falls for the flirtatious, but good-hearted charm of Shah Rukh Khan’s Raj. It is juxtaposed in the backdrop of Indian orthodoxy, and is the
struggle of a young couple who want to change mind-sets rather than flee in raw rebellion. You can win over people if you just try and that is what makes DDLJ stand apart from conventional romances.

Hum Aapke Hain Koun: Introducing the Indian joint family system in mainstream Bollywood, this movie became the most relevant of its time. It includes the ethos of traditional Indian culture mixed with innocent modern romance between Nisha and Prem, who on both sides play the younger siblings of the bride and groom set to be married. Madhuri Dixit as Nisha introduces audiences to a young, smart and charismatic heroine, an archetype that was not emphatically present in Indian movies at that time. This movie worked wonderfully, despite its lack of conflict and endorsed the Indian family unit in a light that never had been done before.

The Silence Of The Lambs: One of the most engaging horror-cum-thrillers gives an uncanny insight into averse aspects of the human condition. It explores deviancy to its basest form through the sophisticated interactions between Anthony Hopkins, whose chilling portrayal of Hannibal Lector raises the hair behind your neck, and agent Clarice Starling. Her journey leads us into the maze of serial killers and FBI profiling techniques. New but bold, she cuts through the manic psychosis of Lector and grabs the killer she has been tracking with his help. The Silence Of The Lambs set the tone for many future psycho-thriller horror films. But in it’s own right, the performances simply shook the audiences to their very core.

The Untouchables: An epic directed by Brain De Palma shows 1930s Chicago ravaged by the notorious Al Capone in the prohibition era. This movie consists of an ensemble cast one just cannot afford to miss. Robert De Niro plays Mafioso Al Capone astoundingly well. Then you have Jimmy Malone, a small-time beat cop played by the amazing Sean Connery, who gathers up the stones to defeat the city’s big devil. Andy Garcia’s performance as Peter Stone sets forth a promising career and how could one forget the no-bullsh*t attitude of Eliot Ness who leads the pack, played wonderfully by Kevin Costner.

Taxi Driver: The neurotic journey of Travis Bickle captures the decadent slurp of New York’s shiny urban landscape. It exposes the underbelly of the purposeless, nihilistic scourge of the American Dream of post-Vietnam war 1970s. The whole movie is a character study of war veteran Travis Bickle, who cannot sleep at night, so he takes up moonlighting New York City as a taxi driver. Robert De Niro who engages us in every single frame with an iconic performance. His gradual journey from a well-wishing New York citizen to a psychotic disgruntled plotter makes you question the fundamental aspects of a society.

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