As far as formula films are concerned, this year hit the right note, but there were also some unusual Hindi films that tasted success

The year 2013 will go down in Bollywood history as one with perhaps the most surprising hits and misses, and it isn’t even done with, yet! What started out as a routine masala year with Race 2, Raanjhanaa, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Grand Masti, continued with the superlative successes of Chennai Express and Krrish 3. However, even films such as Ship of Theseus, Shahid, B.A. Pass, ABCD: Any Body Can Dance and The Lunchbox managed to surpass their expected returns! It’s heartening that the biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was also on the same finishing line. Unbelievable as it may sound, there is hope for smaller filmmakers and their unique tastes. Now, even at the bank.

Here’s a round-up of the usual, the different, and the why-at-all this year, with some existential questions on filmmaking.

The Formula

Or what really works in Bollywood?

Young, aimless, and in love with every second person — works perfectly. Aged 50, chased by goons on a train, and in love with a supremo’s daughter — definitely works. A skirt-donning masked superhero with a scientist for a father — oh yes. A stalker since childhood with a messy life — certainly does. Uncontrolled and inexplicable gun-toting clans and a forever sexually-potent lead pair — it works just right.

So, as far as formula is concerned, 2013 hit the right note. That Deepika Padukone has had a fantastic year is an understatement. She starred in Race 2, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Chennai Express and Ram-Leela. She is currently in the league of Rs. 100-crore actors, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Hrithik Roshan, Shah Rukh Khan, Ranbir Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan and John Abraham. Southern superstar Dhanush also proved his supremacy in Bollywood with the Anand Rai-directed Raanjhanaa. The southern influence caused a big uproar and an even bigger box office return, with Chennai Express crossing the Rs. 200-crore mark, the first movie to do so this year. Then there was the remake of the Malayalam film Pokkiri Raja, as Boss, with Akshay Kumar, that went on to become a hit though it couldn’t go beyond the half-century mark. Hrithik Roshan, too, got a reprieve from his disastrous form (remember Kites and Guzaarish) with the superhero film Krrish 3, which became the second film this year, and the fastest ever, to cross the Rs. 200-crore mark (while reports are still unclear regarding the final collections of the film).

Farhan Akhtar with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Abhishek Kapoor with Kai Po Che and John Abraham with Madras Café offered some unusual films, which gave the formulaic films a run for their money.

The Unusual

Or what doesn’t work in Bollywood?

That’s an easy one: Definitely not a film on intricate and thought-provoking concepts such as the Theseus’ Paradox. Not one sketching the romance between two middle-aged people via a lunch dabba. Not an erotic drama on male prostitution, and certainly not an uncomfortable biopic on a ‘slain’ lawyer. One on unknown street dancers? That too, in 3D? No way, sir. Well, think again, 2013 proved to be different.

Ship of Theseus by Anand Gandhi (budget Rs. 1.2 crore) made a collection of more than Rs. 3 crore. The Irrfan-starrer The Lunchbox, directed by yet another debutant, Ritesh Batra, made more than Rs. 20 crore (on a Rs. 10-crore budget) for its co-producers Guneet Monga, Anurag Kashyap and Karan Johar. The independent film B.A. Pass, with Shilpa Shukla of Chak De! India fame as its lead, was a surprise, with a business of Rs. 14 crore plus, on a budget of Rs. 4 crore. Hansal Mehta’s Shahid, with the backing of UTV Motion Pictures, did a business of more than Rs. 3 crore, that too, on a tight budget of Rs. 1 crore.

Each of these films had done the festival circuit, and had to wait patiently (understatement) for their India release. Ship of Theseus was reportedly waiting for almost three years before Kiran Rao showed an interest in the film and managed to create enough marketing buzz around it. Remo D’Souza’s ABCD: Any Body Can Dance netted Rs. 32 crore, as against a budget of Rs. 12 crore, it is learnt!

The Why-at-all

Or why do such films even get made in Bollywood?

Pelvic thrusts suit some people, but definitely not Ranbir Kapoor. A thousand-pots-in-the-background-song was okay in the 1980s Sajid Khan, but not now. With a name like Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, what did you expect Vishal Bharadwaj? Vidya dear, we think loud and garish just does not become you. At least, not always. And please stop trying too hard Imran Khan — dobaara. And yes, ditto for Shahid — it’s all R….Rong (oops, wrong).

(Note: All figures are approximate.)