Hits and masses: the best of Bollywood

What will we remember the industry for in 2015? The Hindu looks back slightly tangentially…

December 26, 2015 12:37 am | Updated December 05, 2021 09:08 am IST

Box-office bombs Not a spectacularly happy year when it came to moneymaking. Before the big clash of films on December 18, year 2015 was about Rs. 300 crore behind 2014 in earnings (according to Ormax Media); > Bajirao Mastani and > Dilwale wouldn’t have pulled back the deficit by much.

Islamist terror v. Bajrangi being humanBaby and Phantom both looked at Indian counter-intelligence agents planted in countries harbouring terrorists, both talked of killing them in their homes. Bajrangi Bhaijaan spoke pacifism instead. We know who won the hearts.

Queendom of Deepika, Kangana Even the most bankable Khan, Salman, delivered a mediocre Prem Ratan Dhan Payo after the biggest blockbuster of 2015, Bajrangi Bhaijaan . However, Bollywood women came into their own. Kangana Ranaut notched the quickest Rs. 100 crore earning woman-oriented film in > Tanu Weds Manu Returns and > Deepika Padukone worked her magic, critically as well as commercially, with Piku, Tamasha and Bajirao Mastani.

When the Khans turned 50 50 is just another number for them. At an age when some people would be making retirement plans, the Bollywood Khans — Aamir, Shah Rukh and Salman — continued to romance and dance with heroines half their age.

Debuts dhamaka

The future of Indian cinema looks bright with many award-winning debuts released in a single year: Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court , Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan , Avinash Arun’s Killa, M. Manikandan’s Kaaka Muttai , Kanu Behl’s Titli , Raam Reddy’s Thithi, Ruchika Oberoi’s Island City , Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s Asha Jaoar Majhe , Bhaurao Karhade’s Khwada

On-screen men with issues Irrfan Khan in Qissa as a man who is as much cussedly patriarchal as he is a victim of patriarchy.

Dum Laga Ke Haisha (DLKH) is about a man weighed down by complexes, including one of intellectual inferiority to his wife.

Kanu Behl’s Titli is a relentlessly downbeat, violent yet disturbingly persuasive portrayal of patriarchy with three brothers and a father at its core.

But there were a few good women… The lovely sorority of Tillotama Shome and Rasika Dugal in Qissa , rare for an Indian film.

A strong, financially and sexually independent woman, played by Deepika Padukone in Piku . Her sense of responsibility for a parent is well-matched with the exasperation she feels.

Honour killings, khaps, patriarchy and one woman, Meera (Anushka Sharma), trying to take the mickey out of it in NH10 .

The world of Laila (Kalki Koechlin) a girl with cerebral palsy, is as normal as it can get in Margarita With A Straw.

Dil Dhadakne Do offered an array of interesting women. All belong to the affluent strata, all complicated with their unique dilemmas, trying hard to rise above them.

In Pan Nalin’s Angry Indian Goddesses , we have a set of women friends –– Suranjana, Nargis, Joanna, Madhureeta, Pam –– who gather at their buddy Freida’s family home for her impending wedding. Each is battling her own demon.

Little-known faces we woke up to Sai Tamhankar in Hunterr: As the married neighbour fancied by the young protagonist, she is just the right mix of sexuality and vulnerability.

Spirited Shivani Raghuvanshi as Titli’s bride Neelu who may have been forced into a marriage but will resist sex with her husband. Gritty and dignified Sarita Sharma as Sangeeta, the wife of Titli’s elder brother Vikram, who too is blasé about having found another man “friend”.

Pavleen Gujral as the funny Punjabi girl Pam in Angry Indian Goddesses . You laugh with her and feel for her when she speaks about her hollow married life.

Courting controversy Pahlaj Nihalani, former Bollywood producer and chairman of the Central Board for Film Certification, kicked off a storm with his in-house diktat disallowing a clutch of English and Hindi cuss words and double-meaning dialogue. Later in the year he made a tacky video tribute for “Bapu Modi” much to everybody’s — including the Prime Minister’s — embarrassment.

FTII Arun Jaitley promised it the status of an institute of national importance in his budget speech last year. But crushed it in one stroke with the appointment of a small-time film and TV actor Gajendra Chauhan, best known for playing Yudhishthir in Mahabharata , as the chairman of the governing council. The purportedly ‘saffron decision’ made the students go on a protest strike.

National anthem A family was heckled and asked to leave a Mumbai cinema (PVR Kurla) hall for not standing up when the national anthem was being played. The video turned viral leading to online furore.

Intolerance When SRK and Aamir spoke on these contentious issues, the brickbats and trolls were bound to follow. Anupam Kher rallied and railed against them.

No crime, no misdemeanour Salman was exonerated in the hit-and-run case. Bollywood and fans were happy, others not as much.

Premium on production design

> Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! : The cigarette packs and matchboxes, the cut­lery, trams and cars, the advertisements and the magazines, the dhotis and the brooches of 1940s Calcutta.

> Bombay Velvet : The art deco Bombay of yore.

DLKH: The music cassettes, nylon saris and the socks worn with chappals, the door latches, Harrison locks and Limca, pineapple pastries to cream rolls. All of the ’90s Haridwar.

Court: Maximum City portrayed in a non-Bambaiyya, non-bhidu/tapori way—the world of Dalit activists and sewage workers. And pitch-perfect detailing, be it the stenographers, peons, lawyers or appellants in court or life in slums and chawls.

Titli’s Mandawali showed the underbelly of Delhi you would have perhaps seen only in a Ravish Ki Report (Ravish Kumar of NDTV). The Delhi of the outliers.

> Talvar : Be it the residential colony, the flat or the cop station—Noida felt utterly real.

Set in small-town U.P.

Tevar in Mathura/Agra. DLKH in Haridwar, Masaan in Varanasi, Meeruthiya Gangsters in Meerut and Noida, Talvar in Noida and those famous laddoos from Sand­ila in Hardoi in Piku. Bollywood warmed up to Akhilesh Yadav’s Ulta Pradesh like never before.

Lines of the year

Amitabh Bachchan’s character in Shamitabh says of his own baritone: Ye awaaz ek kutte ke moonh se bhi achchi lagegi (This voice would sound good even on a dog).”

A cop talks about the ever-expanding, crime-prone Gurgaon in NH10: “Badhta bachcha hai, kood lagayega (It’s a growing kid, it will jump).”

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy in the film of the same name: “Sach ke aas-paas wala jhooth pak­adna mushkil hota hai (The untruth lurking around truth is difficult to spot).”

A mot­her telling her daughter to watch English films for stimulation on the first night out with her husband, in DLKH: “Mahaul banega, kranti aayegi vicharon mein (It will create the right atmosphere, will revolutionise thoughts).”

> SRK in Dilwale : “Hum shareef kya hue poori duniya hi badmash ban gayi (When we turned respectable, the whole world turned dishonest)” and Varun Dhawan in the film: “Zindagi ne itni pulling ki, kabhi striling nahi mili (Life gave me so many lemons that I never got a woman)”.

Spectacular Scenes

The sadness and frustration of Raghav’s (Varun Dhawan) loss in the film is juxtaposed against his parents’ banal talk of idli-dosa and juice in Badlapur. The cut, from the Mexican meal of Raghav to the jail ka khana of Laik—we still remember.

Many scenes in DLKH: The families of the boy and the girl meeting each other the first time, the cussed boy being coaxed into marrying a girl he doesn’t fancy, the long conversation on why the boy threw up on his wedding night....

Talvar: Long, riveting scene towards the end where two sets of CDI officials defend their own line of investigation into the double murder case, while trashing the other’s account. Crackling writing by Vishal Bhardwaj and compelling performances by Irrfan Khan and Prakash Belawade on the one side and Atul Kumar and Sohum Shah on the other

The glisteningly-oiled Ranveer Singh, all rippling muscles, bathing away in Bajirao Mastani. A scene that should have gone on and on…


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