Year 2018 has been remarkable for Bollywood. Directors, producers and actors alike got more bold, more inventive and willing to experiment with subjects and genres which are so off the beaten path that had it been the 80s or even the 90s, they would have fallen flat. After all, can you imagine Jumping Jack Jeetendra and leading lady Jaya Prada in October, a songless serenade about love? Varun Dhawan, that intrepid actor who takes on a Badlapur with equal ease as ABCD 2 and Badrinath Ki Dulhania, did just that and very convincingly.
We take a look at Bollywood films that offered the belief that all is not lost, that it is worth one’s while to put in the effort that goes into trying, that hope is just within reach, all one has to do is take the next step despite the uncertainty. Of course there were the Rs 100 crore club of movies—Padmaavat, Sanju, Baaghi 2, 2.0, and many more, but these won’t find place on this list which focuses on the ones that inspired belief. The list is alphabetical.
Badhai Ho: All seemed to be going well in 25-year-old Nakul Kaushik’s (Ayushmann Khurrana) life till he finds out that his mother Priyamvada (Neena Gupta) is pregnant with her third child. Priyamvada is unable to give up the unborn child and chooses instead to face the inevitable consequences. The two Kaushik sons, the younger one still in high school, rebel at the thought. The middle aged parents face taunts and sniggering, Nakul’s relationship with his colleague Renee (Sanya Malhotra) becomes strained to the point of breaking altogether. How does the ageing mother-in-law react to all this as both the sons rebuke their parents and the society takes it upon themselves to pass judgement? Yes, it is predictable, but the fine performances and the unusual story line make for a Rs 221.4 crore hit. For a film made on the budget of Rs 29 crore, minus the Khans or the Khiladi, that speaks for itself.
Hichki: Frankly, before Hichki very few would have had any inkling of the Tourette syndrome. Yash Raj Films’ adaptation of Brad Cohen’s autobiography Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had, saw the return of Rani Mukerji in the lead after a hiatus as an aspiring teacher troubled by the syndrome. The challenge? A To Sir With Love twist where a batch of underprivileged students from a nearby slum are put in the same class with well-to-do pupils, albeit in another section, and the new teacher has to prove her mettle by taming the seemingly difficult students. Another small budget film (Rs 12 crore) that gave big returns (Rs 239.79 crore).
Manto: Actor-director Nandita Das’ Manto began a season of biopics in Bollywood anew. This is Das’ third outing as director and reimagines the life and times of Urdu author Saadat Hasan Manto. Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays Manto with a conviction that is unnerving. The emotional journey takes the viewer from pre- to post-Independent India as Manto, that unafraid voice, resounds with spoken and some unspoken anguish, ecstasy and pain.
Mulk: Director Anubhav Sinha delivered a critically acclaimed film that walked the tightrope of religious bigotry with aplomb. That Mulk is based on a true story makes it more relevant. Rishi Kapoor as lawyer Murad Ali Mohammed and Taapsee Pannu as the Hindu lawyer daughter-in-law, fighting to regain lost honour of the Muslim family after a family member takes to terrorism, weave the narrative of prejudice, delicate nature of relationships and more importantly, the definition of patriotism. Definitely a must-watch.
October: Shoojit Sircar’s romantic drama is not so much a love story but about the intangible emotion itself. Varun Dhawan does not baulk from playing non-mainstream lead roles once again and this time registers another critically acclaimed restrained performance, which some would argue is one of his finest till date. Dhawan’s innocent Dan is well-matched by Banita Sandhu’s Shiuli, the hotel intern whose life comes to a standstill after an incident at the hotel the two work in. What flowers between the two thereafter is the crux of the story. It is a film that grows on one.
Padman: R Balki teams up with Akshay Kumar to explore another social issue, that of menstrual hygiene. The title rightly raises expectations from an unlikely superhero inspired by the true story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social entrepreneur from Coimbatore, the brains behind low cost sanitary napkins’ invention in India, who rose above opposition, rejection and humiliation to soldier on towards his purpose. Radhika Apte and Sonam Kapoor Ahuja gave commendable performances though the storyline sometimes does get preachy, but the effort is praiseworthy.
Soorma: If there was ever a tale of one man’s struggles against the slings and arrows of fortune so outrageous that it seems incredible, then hockey player Sandeep Singh’s true story is one that surely makes the cut. Left paralysed by a gunshot, the true mettle of the story is that of Sandeep (played by Diljit Dosanjh) overcoming physical disability and mental anguish and digging deep within to find the flame to carry on and achieve his desire to reach the peak of his sport.
Also worth mentioning were Amitabh Bachchan-Rishi Kapoor starrer 102 Not Out and Onir’s Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz. That rounds up this year’s list. Do let us know your choices and if you think we can add to this.
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