A still from 'Hichki' Image Credit: Supplied

It has been a bleak year for Bollywood in 2017, barring a few hits such as Tiger Zinda Hai and Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. But don’t give up hope yet.

2018 has a string of promising films under its belt with actors pushing the proverbial envelope.

While Akshay Kumar doesn’t flinch from wearing a sanitary pad to push his menstrual hygiene agenda forward in his next release, Shah Rukh Khan plays a dwarf in director Anand L. Rai’s directorial venture. Actress Kangana Ranaut slays her detractors by taking on a role of a warrior queen and Padmavati is likely to be rolled out in February. Here are our top picks of what’s in store for Bollywood movie fans next year …

Pari

Anushka Sharma as a friendly ghost didn’t rock our existence in Phillauri, but she’s moving to the dark, sinister side in Pari. The teaser, which shows her playing a scary ghost, sends a tingle down your spine and that’s always a good thing for a supernatural thriller. It’s scheduled to release on February 7 in the UAE.

Aiyaari

This thriller is directed by Neeraj Pandey, who has interesting films such as A Wednesday, Special Chabbis and MS Dhoni under his belt. Aiyaari, starring Sidharth Malhotra and Manoj Bajpayee, takes a swipe at the corruption in the Indian army. Malhotra, an honest army officer, goes rogue when he discovers the dirt behind some of his colleagues in uniform. The release date, January 25, on the eve of India’s Republic Day, is also good timing.

Simba

Two words: Ranveer Singh. One of Bollywood’s most energetic stars will slip into a police officer’s uniform and takes on the bad guys as he balances his swanky aviators precariously. That’s not all. Director Rohit Shetty, who is riding high after the success of his Golmaal instalment, promises to make Singh execute a slew of death-defying stunts. It’s loosely based on South Indian hit Temper, but Shetty maintains that it isn’t a remake.

“I am doing a film with Ranveer which will be full of action. This will be the first time people will see him performing so many action sequences. He has great energy and after working with him in a commercial, even I believe so,” said Shetty.

Hichki

It’s a classic underdog tale. Rani Mukherjee, who impressed us in her role in Mardaani two years ago, plays an inspiring teacher suffering from Tourette’s syndrome (a disorder marked by vocal and motor tics). She’s called on to educate a class of underprivileged children in her school. They are rakish children who are often sidelined by their peers in the posh school and she’s determined to bring them back on track. Even Amitabh Bachchan couldn’t help but react to the trailer and tweeted: “A link to the creative agenda of this generation… of doing different, working different, achieving different… From a generation that thinks different!” The film is scheduled to release on February 27th in the UAE.

The Sanjay Dutt biopic

Biopics can be tricky and it can be trickier if it’s on a living person. Ranbir Kapoor, who brings to life the tumultuous life of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt who was in prison for his alleged involvement in the Mumbai bomb blasts, is firing from all cylinders for this role. From beefing up to growing a beard and spending time observing Dutt, Kapoor is leaving nothing to chance. He’s prepping like a boss for this Rajkumar Hirani directorial. The film is scheduled to release on March 29 in the UAE.

Raazi

Bollywood powerhouse performer, Alia Bhatt, plays a Kashmiri spy married to a Pakistani man in this thriller, directed by Meghna Gulzar. Watch out for Vishal Kaushal’s performance, too. The filming began in July this year and is expected to release in May next year.

Padmavati

This controversial epic about a 14th-century Rajput queen and the Muslim emperor Alauddin Khilji has faced its share of troubles, with Hindu groups and Rajput cast organisations calling for its ban. Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali was even roughed up during its filming as the extremist groups alleged that the movie depicts a romantic slant between the princess and the Muslim ruler. The makers have categorically denied any such twists, but the movie is yet to be cleared for release by India’s censor board. Here’s hoping that we get to see Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh’s labour of love in all its glory.

Pad Man

A Bollywood superstar wearing a sanitary pad in a film is usually not the stuff of Hindi films. But Akshay Kumar soldiers on and takes on the subject of menstrual hygiene. It’s the fictionalised story of real-life activist Arunachalam Muruganantham, who revolutionised menstrual hygiene by creating a low-cost sanitary napkin machine in rural India. The drama, releasing in the UAE on January 25, also features Radhika Apte and Sonam Kapoor in important roles.

Shah Rukh Khan’s untitled film

India’s biggest star going out on a limb and experimenting with a role is always welcome. In director Rai’s yet-to-be-named feature, Khan plays a dwarf. Katrina Kaif has recently joined the cast.

Mukkabaaz

Actor Vineet Kumar Singh put in 700 days of training and survived multiple injuries to play the role of a professional boxer in this Anurag Kashyap film. Set against the pugilist world, the film is the tale of Shravan whose boxing dreams go awry when he falls in love with a high caste, mute girl who happens to be the niece of his arch nemesis, the head of the state boxing federation Bhagwandas Mishra (Jimmy Shergill).

Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi

The Indian National Award-winning actress Kangana Ranaut plays the warrior queen, Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, in this period epic and unites with another National Award-winning director, Krish, in this film. It’s schedule to release on April 26th.