Bollywood’s biggest (read ‘highest paid’) and brightest helplessly watched as their top projects failed to elicit any interest at the box office, including the always dependable Aamir Khan. Instead, it was the smaller films, with original storylines that won over the masses this year. There is a lesson to be learned here, and hopefully Bollywood big wigs (here’s looking at you, Khans) took notes for 2019.
1. Badhaai Ho
Here’s an example of how a quirky idea can give birth to a spectacular comedy. Indian National Award-winning actress Neena Gupta is in top form as an ageing parent who has to tackle an unexpected pregnancy in the sunset of her life along with her adorable husband, played by Gajraj Rao. Actress Surendra Sikri as the cranky mother-in-law mixes up things wonderfully. And, it’s not often that a Bollywood film trains its spotlight on a knocked-up couple in their late 50s, so ‘Badhaai Ho’ gives was a welcome distraction. Just like the miracle of birth, this film is gloriously messy and funny.
In his debut film, director Amar Kaushik combines humour and horror with great dexterity. This horror comedy, set in the quaint town of Chanderi in Central India, had the immensely talented Rajkummar Rao playing an expert tailor. Written by Raj and DK of ‘Go Goa Gone’ fame, there are some sharply written lines that evoke easy laughter and aren’t stale. The collective acting is top-notch from a handful of supremely talented actors such as Rao and Pankaj Tripathi. ‘Stree’ was a creative experiment that worked wonderfully.
There’s nothing more gratifying than watching an intelligent, emotionally complex thriller filled with deceit, betrayal and remorseless sociopaths. ‘Andhadhun’, starring a supremely set of talents including Tabu, Radhika Apte and Ayushmann Khurrana, is an unapologetic celebration of vitriol, darkness and mean spiritedness. It has a killer plot and some unsavoury souls thrown in for good measure. Everyone brings their dysfunctional best into this warped, plausible whodunit that veers into the bizarre territory. This murky tale of a blind pianist Akash (Khuranna) who stumbles upon a cold-blooded murder in sinister Simi’s (Tabu) household never dumbed down its viewers, making it a delightfully wicked watch of 2018.
4. Veere Di Wedding
Girl power was at its strongest in this cheeky romantic comedy. It’s like that guilty pleasure that’s usually derived after watching a glossy hit sitcom like ‘Sex And The City’. Plucky women, sassy attitude and their collective fabulousness made the women of ‘Veere Di Wedding’ instantly likeable. Starring Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar and Shikha Talsania this friendship romp was a fun watch with fabulous women who embraced their flaws. While this film isn’t going to make you any wiser in love or life, ‘Veere Di Wedding’ will go down as an engaging film that didn’t hurt to watch.
Director Meghna Gulzar comes up with a winner with this immersive spy thriller. Powered by brilliant performances spearheaded by Alia Bhatt and Vicky Kaushal, director Gulzar paints a riveting and tense portrait of a coltish Kashmiri bride Sehmat (Bhatt) who marries into an influential Pakistani household filled with honourable army men to distil sensitive intelligence information. Based on selected portions of Harinder Sikka’s novel ‘Calling Sehmat’, Bhatt is in total control here as a woman who is this waif-like Indian bride with steely resolve whose main aim is to ferret sensitive information from her Pakistani husband’s family. ‘Raazi’ stood out for its cerebral plot.
1. Race 3
Even Bollywood’s biggest box-office draw and matinee idol, Salman Khan, couldn’t save this doomed adventure directed by Remo D’Souza. Set against the murky world of arms and drug lords, ‘Race 3’ reeked of bad writing, terrible dialogues, pretentious acting and a lame plot. ‘Race 3’ had little going for it. It was also a classic example of how throwing wads of cash at an action thriller and dolling it up with snazzy cars or having its gorgeous but questionably talented stars do slow motion scenes cannot save any film. Even the allure of Khan going shirtless couldn’t lift this lame thriller from the depths of mediocrity.
2. Thugs of Hindostan
This was one of the rare instances where Aamir Khan disappointed his legion of fans with his questionable career choices. Dubbed as a poorer cousin to Hollywood’s hit fantasy epic ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’, director Vijay Krishna Acharya delivered a painfully predictable action adventure with this star-powered ‘Thugs of Hindostan’. Even Amitabh Bachchan’s act as a weathered warrior and Katrina Kaif as a seductive dancer couldn’t keep this ship afloat. What’s more: Khan also apologised to his fans for disappointing them and took responsibility for ‘TOH’s’ failure.
Starring Varun Dhawan and newbie Banita Sandhu, ‘October’ was one of those films that took pride in being pretentious, arty and hyperbolic. ‘October’ may have worked wonderfully as a short story, but it made for a laborious watch when translated on the big screen. Directed by Indian National Award-winning Shoojit Sircar, ‘October’ is a tale about Dan, in the throes of a grim quarter-life crisis. Everyone seems to be in slow-motion in this film and it’s often exhausting to wait for that elusive emotional punch. This film was as exciting as watching grass grow.
The film directed by Aanand L Rai was a creative gamble for the superstar Shah Rukh Khan as he played a dwarf for the first time in his career.
But grand ambitions don’t always translate to spectacular films. Despite solid performances from the lead cast including Katrina Kaif as a troubled Bollywood star Babita Kumari and Anushka Sharma’s cerebral palsy act, not much could salvage this film that had a fractured second half. While the film amassed Rs1.07 billion (Dh56.1 million) in its first week of its releases, it didn’t sweep anyone off their feet.
Director JP Dutta’s long-winded drama, ‘Paltan’, tried to prove that wars are exercises in futility. But the casualty with Paltan were the viewers who had to sit through this tepid war drama. It chronicled a skirmish between India and China and chronicled how a battalion of Indian soldiers saved the day. Starring talents such as Arjun Rampal, Sonu Sood, Harshvardhan Rane, Gurmeet Choudhry, Luv Sinha and Siddhant Kapoor, ‘Raid’ was unnecessarily dramatic and jingoistic.