Cinema In the 100th year of Indian cinema, Hindi films tried to come to terms with the inherent contradictions in tastes and taboos.
In 2013, Hindi films reflected an increasing urge to coexist. The heroine returned from the margins and in the haze of formula fare, some fresh perspectives shone through. If a neglected middle class housewife found a voice in “The Lunchbox” and “B.A. Pass”, the teenagers got their say in “Sixteen”. If “Ship of Theseus” asked us probing questions on our existence, “Bombay Talkies” took the veneer off of decked up Bollywood.
If the offbeat space was accessible to the layman, mainstream cinema showed a desire to embrace the other. It reflected in Shah Rukh Khan taking the “Chennai Express” and the way “Madras Café” brewed a heady concoction on covert war on the southern borders of the country. “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” turned the “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge” staple on its head and “Shuddh Desi Romance” found fault with phony customs. It was a year when Shahid Azmi got a hearing at the box office and Milkha Singh found a young audience to cheer.
There is an aspiration to revisit and rediscover the past through different genres as seen in “Lootera” and “Special 26” and to present India as a modern power in geopolitics, as mirrored in “Vishwaroop”, “Madras Café” and “D Day”. Of course some of the changes seemed cosmetic, governed purely by business interests — as seen in “Satyagraha”. Corporate houses still lend a helping hand to independent voices only after they complete the film with foreign collaboration, and the lack of original writing is still a concern. Indeed, the controversies around India’s Oscar entry and “Vishwaroop” were avoidable, but there seemed an increasing intent not to play safe, for a film on dance without any known faces proved that “Anybody Can Dance” at the box office.
Here is a lowdown on the good, the bad and the ugly side of 2013:
Formula foments, offbeat pounds
The year saw a peaceful cohabitation between the mainstream formula fare and what is casually described as offbeat space. When “Chennai Express” bulldozed its way to 200 crore rupees worth of business, “Shahid”, made in around 84 lakhs, also found enough audience to advocate his case. The heartening factor is that even in the archetypes and exaggeration there is an increasing urge to find a layer of detailing, a dash of nuance. We found it in “Special 26”, “Kai Po Che”, “D Day” and “Aurangzeb”. But the blend has to be just right to make an impact, otherwise the result could be as bland as “Bullett Raja”. Be it “Besharam” and “Singh Saab The Great” or “Go Goa Gone” and “David”, half steps and faux emotions didn’t find an audience on both sides of the spectrum.
Hail the heroine
Powerful performances by the leading ladies marked the year. Deepika Padukone led the way with three heart-felt performances — “Chennai Express”, “Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani” and “Ram-Leela” — where she outshone her co-star. Sonakshi Sinha and Parineeti Chopra did something similar in “Lootera” and “Shuddh Desi Romance” respectively. Mind you these were not heroine driven subjects! However, the performance of the year came from debutante Nimrat Kaur who cooked up a delicious storm with Irrfan Khan in “The Lunchbox”. Shilpa Shukla was not far behind as an ageing housewife in search of fulfilling her desire in “B.A. Pass”. Even in writing out-and-out formula stuff, writers are showing some newfound concern for female characters. We found it in “Gori Tere Pyaar Mein”, a generic romantic comedy otherwise, where the heroine is not concerned about strands of grey hair.
Diminishing returns for bawdy stuff
The audience is increasingly turning allergic to the crudeness of masala flicks as shown by the limited appeal of “Boss” and “R…Rajkumar”, which had pronounced misogynistic undertones, and the failure of “Besharam” and “Himmatwala” despite the presence of Ranbir Kapoor and Ajay Devgn, who were having a great run at the box office till they signed these damp crackers.
“Ranjhanaa”, “Lootera”, “Ram Leela”, “Aashiqui 2”, “Issaq”: Romance returned to its roots in Hindi cinema with tragedy as the leitmotif of most love stories. If the nature of romance was primitive in “Ram Leela”, in “The Lunchbox”, the protagonists used a primitive tool to express love and longing in an increasingly lonely world. Even the rom coms that made the cut had more substance than froth and surprised with their stance on love and liberty. “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” was about the return of free spirit to the family and “Shuddh Desi Romance” was a comedy on romance.
Sequel, the saviour
The year saw a flurry of sequels and triquels. Some carried the story forward but many tried to exploit the goodwill generated by the original. Without experimenting much “Krissh 3” continued the superhero’s hold on kids. With “Dhoom 3”, Yash Raj managed to deliver an emotional kick proving that the franchise is not just about stunts. Early in the year “Race 2” continued to provide cheap thrills and Vishesh Films once again proved lucky with “Murder 3”. However, the biggest surprise came with “Aashiqui 2” which garnered 100 crores on the basis of its lilting sound track and the innocence of Shraddha Kapoor. The Deols didn’t prove as lucky with “Yamla Pagla Deewana 2” and Milan Luthria’s golden run at the box office ended abruptly with “Once Upon A Time In Mumbai Dobaara”. In between, sex comedy got a new lease of life with “Grand Masti” raking in 100 crores despite a resounding thumbs down by critics.
When Woody Allen refused to release his film “Blue Jasmine” in India because he felt that the anti-smoking film and warning that precedes every film with a smoking sequence spoil the movie-viewing experience, Indian filmmakers who find the government’s anti-tobacco stand as stifling of creativity got an opportunity to express themselves. While Tigmanshu Dhulia wiped out all the smoke from “Bullett Raja” so that he didn’t have to carry the strident warning, Anurag Kashyap preferred to keep his “Ugly” in the cans and adopted the legal route to take on the government decision. The best came from Vishal Bhardwaj, who subverted the whole idea by inserting his own warning on how excess of everything is bad before “Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola”. Unfortunately, he could not sustain such creativity in the rest of the film.
Performances of the year: female
Nimrat Kaur in “The Lunchbox”
Deepika Padukone in “Ram-Leela” and “Chennai Express”
Sonakshi Sinha in “Lootera”
Shraddha Kapoor in “Aashiqui 2”
Top 5 (Box office)
Chennai Express by Rohit Shetty
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani by Ayan Mukerji
Dhoom 3 by Vijay Krishna Acharya
Krissh-3 by Rakesh Roshan
Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela by Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Top 5 (Critics)
The Lunchbox by Ritesh Batra
Shahid by Hansal Mehta
Ship of Theseus by Anand Gandhi
Bombay Talkies by Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap and Zoya Akhtar and Dibakar Banerjee
Special 26 by Neeraj Pandey
Top 5 (Flops)
Himmatwala by Sajid Khan
Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 by Sangeeth Sivan
Ghanchakkar by Rajkumar Gupta
Zanjeer by Apoorva Lakhia
Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola by Vishal Bhardwaj
Performances of the year: Male
Irrfan Khan in “The Lunchbox”
Raj Kumar Yadav in “Shahid” and “Kai Po Che”
Dhanush in “Raanjhanaa”
Farhan Akhtar in “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”
Aamir Khan in “Dhoom 3”
Nawazuddin in “The Lunchbox”
Neeraj Kabi in “Ship of Theseus”
Richa Chadha in “Ram-Leela”
Divya Dutta in “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”
Anupam Kher in “Special 26”
Find of the year: Tamil star Dhanush showed his mettle as he charmed us as an incorrigible small town lover in “Ranjhanaa” and Sushant Singh Rajput made a smooth transition from small to big screen with two eye-catching performances in “Kai Po Che” and “Shudh Desi Romance”. With films lined up with Dibakar Banerjee and Shekhar Kapur, Sushant is the boy to watch out for.