2016 was not exactly a great year for fans of Hindi cinema – with the year dolling out more disappointment than joy. That is exactly what happens every year, you may say. This year, however, the number of films that found their way into the audience’s heart were lesser in numbers. Unlike last year, where we had two films taking the box-office by storm, this year had Salman Khan featuring in just one film which, needless to say, did thundering business at the box-office. Shah Rukh Khan, who occupied the number one slot half a decade back, had just one release in ‘Fan’ (not taking into account the films like ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ and ‘Dear Zindagi’ which he had a cameo or a supporting part in) which could not even garner 100 crores at the domestic box-office. Aamir Khan, whose last film had arrived two years back, ended the year on a high with ‘Dangal’ which is winning hearts all over the world.
Akshay Kumar had a great year with three consecutive hits (‘Airlift’, ‘Housefull 3’ and ‘Rustom’) but the very selective Hrithik Roshan had a disappointment in store as his film ‘Mohenjo Daro’ failed to woo the audience. Just like last year, smaller/medium-budgeted films continued to make their presence felt what with ‘Pink’ and ‘Neerja’, among others doing stupendous business at the box-office. Of course, films like ‘Aligarh’ and ‘Jugni’ deserved a better fate at the box-office but one can seek solace in the fact that newer or alternative content is slowly being accepted.
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Feminism, as a term, has acquired more importance than it had ever in India. A lot of filmmakers have tried to put forward the importance of gender equality in our society but most of them play safe when it comes to portraying the victim or the issue in a certain manner, so that their films would adhere to the sensibilities of a largely conservative audience. This is exactly where Pink had an edge over these films. The three female protagonists in the film were progressive, independent and not bound by the shackles of a patriarchal society. The courtroom drama hit the nail on the head and did not mince words when it talked about the atrocities a society, deeply rooted in patriarchy, inflicts upon women.
2. Udta Punjab
Dark humour has played a very important role in all of Abhishek Chaubey’s films. In ‘Udta Punjab’, too, he uses humour as an effective plot device while bringing to one’s attention the grim realities of a part of the country grappling with drug abuse. The makers faced several hurdles while releasing the film but they managed to put it out, without being forced to make too many alterations and one can only be grateful for that. A wildly entertaining, message driven film laced with some of the finest performances you will see in a long time, that is ‘Udta Punjab’ for you.
3. Kapoor & Sons
Shakun Batra has made a very confident debut with ‘Ekk Main Aur Ek Tu’ – a film which I loved and which also left me pleasantly surprised with its unconventional ending. But, the promos of ‘Kapoor & Sons’ made it look like just another urban family drama. My apprehensions were put to rest as I watched the film with a friend who could not stop sobbing as the end credits rolled. The film boasted of top-notch writing (Shakun Batra, Ayesha Devitre) and the director, a self-confessed Woody Allen fan, showed remarkable maturity in which he dealt several issues neatly wrapped in this seemingly happy film.
In an industry where your talent is judged by how successful you are, Sonam Kapoor has often been at the receiving end of people who question her potential as an actress. I have always thought Sonam to be a fine performer ever since I saw her in her debut film ‘Saawariya’, but it took the actress almost a decade to silence her detractors by doing an author backed role in ‘Neerja’, a film based on the life of Neerja Bhanot, an air hostess who lost his life while trying to save the passengers on a hijacked flight. The film, shot in just 32 days, stood out for its authentic portrayal of the real-life incident.
‘Dangal’ turned out to be a watershed in the career of director Nitesh Tiwari who had earlier helmed two moderately successful films (‘Chillar Party’ and ‘Bhoothnath Returns’). The film, based on the life of wrestler Mahaveer Phogat and his two daughters Geeta and Babita, is a highly engaging and inspiring film that talks about issues in a very subtle manner and sends across a strong message without indulging in chest-thumping, preaching or any kind of self-assertion exercise.
Last year, ‘Baby’, starring Akshay Kumar, released during the Republic Day weekend and this year another film released around the same time that invoked the patriot in you. ‘Airlift’ was a well depicted account of an important event that inspired awe and respect. The film was bereft of clap-trap moments and the realistic narrative was filled with several engaging sequences which made it a believable affair. Those looking for a raw and gritty thriller that also serves up enough entertainment, should not give this film a miss.
While India still considers homosexuality to be a crime, several filmmakers make sure that the voice of several people fighting for their basic right to love someone, is heard. This year, even a mainstream commercial film like ‘Kapoor & Sons’ dealt with the issue in a very sensitive manner. ‘Aligarh’, led by powerhouse performers like Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkummar Rao, saught to make people realize that morality is a subjective term the meaning of which is interpreted differently by different individuals and thus, it would be wrong to judge people by guidelines set by certain individuals.
8. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
Karan Johar’s ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ did not strike a chord with me the first time. After my second viewing, my opinion about the film underwent a massive change. Like most people, my thoughts about a film evolve with time. The more you watch a film, the more you understand it. Having said that, my basic opinion (whether I liked it or not) about a film seldom changes. In that regard, ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ was certainly an exception. The unfeigned emotions lying beneath the surface of a marginally superfluous plot, were one of the highlights of this musical-emotional-drama, with a strong message delivered to the audience. It is mature story which needs time to be appreciated. Pritam’s music deserves full credit for taking the story forward.
9. MS Dhoni: The Untold Story
The film was more of a tribute to Mahendra Singh Dhoni than one which helped you get a deeper insight into the man. Dhoni deserves all the success he has received as a sportsperson but instead of a hero-worshipping vehicle, one was expecting a film that would, apart from highlighting his achievements, explore a more vulnerable side of his personality. Despite the film not delivering all that one would have liked it to, it still turned out to be a largely engaging fare.
‘Sultan’ had all the commercial ingredients that you look for in a Salman Khan starrer. The basic plot might come across as too simple but one must give credit to the director incorporating emotions, drama, humour, music and action seamlessly into the narrative and making the film an engaging affair. Salman Khan immersed himself completely into the role and for once, you felt that he actually submitted himself to the vision of his director. His physical transformation is impressive but what really surprises, is the ease with which he performs some highly dramatic scenes.
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