(Apologies to Get Filmy and everyone else who did the "long, specific, and funny category names" thing already. It's too fun to resist.)
Depiction of the Blight on Hindi Film Characters of 2012, aka Traffic Safety
Shanghai, Cocktail, Heroine, Talaash, and, I am told, Jab Tak Hai Jaan
Women Doing Stuff
SO MANY WINNERS THIS YEAR, both fictional and real! Female heroes. Directors. Music directors. Writers. Festival films. Mainstream films. Younger. Older. HURRAH!
The Unpopular Movie That Does Have a Few Supporters but We're Not Terribly Vocal about It, and I, for One, Do Not Need You to Love It like I Do
The Unpopular Movie That Has an Increasing Number of Supporters and We're Terribly Vocal about It
Possibly Worth It for the Significant, Unconventional Ending
Ek Main aur Ek Tu
Will You Please Just Stop Now/Lotus Rising from the Muck
Madhur Bhandarkar/Kareena Kapoor in Heroine
Can't Dance (or Act), So Don't Ask Her
Sonam Kapoor, most recently evidenced by Players
Sharman Joshi in Ferrari Ki Sawaari
Proper Grown-Up Role by a Proper Grown-Up Actor
Sridevi in English Vinglish
(Side note: I haven't seen Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi. Is it a contender?)
Surprisingly Shakespearean Inhabitation of a Villain
Rishi Kapoor in Agneepath
Brilliantly Understated Inhabitation of a Villain
Farooq Shaikh in Shanghai
Runner-Up: Adil Hussain in English Vinglish
On-Screen Story, and It Just Happens to Be True
Supermen of Malegaon
Deepti Naval and Farooq Shaikh, in person (Listen Amaya, which premiered at the 2012 Chicago South Asian Film Festival in September, and releases very soon!) and invoked as the epitome of non-filmi, soft, quiet, more subtle romance (Aiyyaa)
Overall Soundtrack and Music Director Zindabad
Gangs of Wasseypur I and Sneha Khanwalkar
"Pyaar Ki Pungi" from Agent Vinod
Character-Singer Harmoniousness (aka Keepin' It Real) Earworm
"Voh Dekhnay Mein" from London Paris New York
Earworm That Perfectly Suits and Captures the Film It's In
"Ami Shotti Bolchi" from Kahaani. It's chaotic and bipolar, Usha Utthup with hoarse metal. Read the translated lyrics if you haven't (here's one option; the internet seems to love to say that English can never express thoughts first formed in Bengali, but whatever, I gotta start somewhere). That song, er, tells the truth.
And Speaking of That, Calcutta, You Sexy; or, the Year Beth Finally Found Another World of Indian Cinema That Grabs Her Even 10% as Much as Hindi
Bengali Cinema of the late 1950s through mid-1970s
My Favorite Films of 2012
5. Agent Vinod
One of a few films this year that kicked up a fuss in one direction or the other with a vehemence I really do not understand, this was the most fun I had at the cinema all year, and that includes seeing two movies in Bombay. Duplicitousness is Saif Ali Khan's sweet spot (a trait I explored in a WSJ column here) and I loved seeing him employ it for the motherland. While acting his age. And wearing an impeccably tailored wardrobe. Too bad the ending(s) wasn't (weren't) similarly carefully trimmed.
4. Vicky Donor
I don't require every movie to be realistic (obviously), but smaller-scale—yet still well-developed and complex—characters are a refreshing change of pace, especially when portrayed so charmingly. The ethnography of regional cultures and the wedding (which for all I know are insultingly shallow and facile, but they don't scream as such) are unexpected additional pleasures.
At first I thought "Huh? This isn't the Dibakar Banerjee I know and love!" but then I realized it is, just employed in very different ways. The epic profile of this filmmaker by Jai Arjun Singh in The Caravan is just as masterful.
Through the shenanigans of various circumstances, I saw this three times in the cinema within about six weeks, and with each viewing it got stronger (except for one plot hole that presented itself to me almost immediately in my first viewing, which was even unsubtitled, so it's not like the problem is hard to spot), and different performances, visual details, and layers of the story came to the fore at different times. This film is not only very rewatchable but it morphs with each viewing—and how perfect is that in a film in which characters routinely state and experience that the world they inhabit is not what it seems.
The more I think about it, which is a lot, the more I'm calling it full-on revolutionary, in addition to fun, hilarious, clever, loving, and feminist. Watch this space, and several other blogs, for a podcast in the near future.