The past 10 years in Bollywood have been defining ones for the industry, a time when content came of age and when larger-than-life made space for realism.
It was also the decade when the Khans of Bollywood dominated the box office and when heroine-oriented film finally found a voice.
This was a decade that witnessed major changes in terms of filmmaking as well as film-watching trends. Bollywood, which has had a history of worshipping superstars, has seen a re-haul of the term ‘star’ over the past few years, what with scripts taking precedence over everything else, including the faces on the posters.
True, the record-busters are still being driven by male superstars. But even among these films, only the interesting ones have emerged winners. So, while Aamir Khan reaped rewards with ‘Dangal’, ‘PK’ or ‘Secret Superstar’, his efforts failed when he tried the nonsensical ‘Thugs Of Hindostan’. Akshay Kumar was at his best in films with solid content such as ‘Special 26’, ‘Baby’, ‘Rustom’, ‘Pad Man’ and ‘Mission Mangal’. His ‘Housefull’ series on the other hand has come under flak with its latest release.
It was a decade when Salman Khan unleashed one of Bollywood’s most entertaining comic action heroes by way of Chulbul Pandey in the ‘Dabangg’ series before struggling to reinvent that super avatar at the end of the decade. Shah Rukh Khan also struggled to reinvent his superstardom after reigning at the box office over nearly a decade and half.
The rise of content-driven cinema has also created space for the stardom of ‘realistic heroes and heroines’. These include Ayushmann Khurrana, Vicky Kaushal and Rajkummar Rao. Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who were around before, found the right projects to come of age. Taapsee Pannu, Richa Chadha, Radhika Apte and Bhumi Pednekar are among actresses who have found a platform in this decade that would perhaps have not been possible earlier.
The late Sridevi, Rani Mukerji, Tabu and Vidya Balan found great roles in ‘Mom’, the ‘Mardaani’ flicks, ‘Andhadhun’ and ‘Tumhari Sulu’ respectively, to prove that the industry looks at senior actresses with a new regard.
The impact has affected New-Age mainstream stars, too. The likes of Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt, Kangana Ranaut, Ranveer Singh, Ranbir Kapoor and Varun Dhawan have been judiciously mixing their commercial ventures with offbeat performance-oriented projects that lets them garner histrionic appreciation and, who knows, the right award or two.
As we move ahead towards greater content in this New Year, those who want a taste of vintage cinema can wind down and find Netflix, Amazon and other streaming platforms of choice to relive the best films of the past decade in Bollywood. Here are the top picks.
The first film in the series introduced the lovable supercop Chulbul Pandey, who redefined the comic action hero and also made Salman Khan Bollywood’s biggest superstar. Although, over three films, the originality of entertainment has petered out, but the original film continues to be as popular as ever.
With the Vidya Balan-led film, filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh showed what he is capable of when it came to serving up a truly original and realistic Bollywood thriller. Popular Bengali actor Saswata Chatterjee left a mark as Bob Biswas, and a largely Bengali cast including talented names as Parambrata Chatterjee, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Indraneil Sengupta and Kharaj Mukherjee added authenticity to the Kolkata-based storyline.
THE LUNCHBOX (2013)
Ritesh Batra’s 2013 movie won the Viewer’s Choice Award at the Cannes Film Festival’s Critic’s Week section, besides many other global accolades. Starring Irrfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Nimrat Kaur, the film was extremely relatable as a middle-class story, especially for those residing in Mumbai. The phenomenal success of ‘The Lunchbox’ without the presence of an A-list Bollywood star came as a surprise to many. The small-budget film earned around Rs220 million (Dh11.3 million) at the Indian box office.
The Vikas Bahl directorial came as a slap on the face of patriarchal society. It showed the world that the days of the weeping hapless woman ditched by her groom-to-be were long gone. Kangana Ranaut showed the transformation of such a demure, conservative young woman to one who learns to live life on her own terms. Ranaut and Lisa Haydon won accolades for their performance while Rajkummar Rao impressed even in a small role.
DUM LAGA KE HAISHA (2015)
The romantic comedy with a strong social message broke all stereotypes with its subject and with debutante actress Bhumi Pednekar putting on weight for the role of an overweight bride. The Sharat Katariya directorial turned Ayushmann Khurrana into a star and established Pednekar as a talented actress in Bollywood.
The Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury directorial received widespread critical acclaim for touching upon the very relevant subject of sexual harassment of women in the present-day Indian society. The film established Taapsee Pannu as a bankable star in Bollywood. Even her co-star Amitabh Bachchan was impressed with Pannu’s performance.
This black comedy can certainly be counted as one of Rajkummar Rao’s best performances and was showered with love both by critics and audiences. Pankaj Tripathi, one of the finest actors Indian cinema has ever seen also grabbed eyeballs. The Amit Masurkar directorial made on a small budget collected Rs221.8 million in India.
The Sriram Raghavan film, which won Ayushmann Khurrana and Indian National Award as Best Actor, was the most unconventionally entertaining thriller of the decade. Tabu as the antagonist and Radhika Apte in a prop but interesting role were in superb form.
Another female-oriented script which stood out in an array of male-dominated movies was Amar Kaushik’s ‘Stree’. The horror-comedy with a strong social message starred Shraddha Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi and Aparshakti Khurrana in key roles. The film was an instant hit at the box office and collected Rs1.3 billion in India.
URI: THE SURGICAL STRIKE (2019)
2019 was another year which delivered so many good films that it makes one difficult to choose. Our pick from this year is Aditya Dhar’s ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’ which is based on India’s surgical strikes in September, 2016. The film starring Vicky Kaushal, Yami Gautam, Paresh Rawal and Mohit Raina received critical acclaim and love from the audience.