2015 was a mixed bag of a year for Bollywood. On one hand, we saw a lot of new-age filmmakers come up with some really off-beat stuff, while on the other, we were subjected to some same old, regressive, masala films.
The classic confusion that every movie critic faces in picking the top films of the year is whether to go with flicks that have Box Office tills ringing or go with movies that set one’s own heart fluttering.
I have simply avoided the whole dilemma by including both. So without any further ado, here are the top five popular movies of the year:
1. Tanu Weds Manu Returns: Banno tera swagger is the sexiest!
As the old age saying goes,
“Marriages are made in heaven, but so are thunder and lightening.”
Around five years ago, Tanu Weds Manu hit the silver screens recording the unlikely union of its titular characters Tanu (Kangna Ranaut) and Manu (R Madhavan).
Fast-forward four years in reel-time and the fairy-tale ending of the prequel quickly turned into a grim nightmare.
The opposites in Tanu and Manu attracted initially but would they live and grow old with each other? Well that’s the amusing question that is explored in the sequel.
Tanu Weds Manu Returns is a funny as hell rom-com and has a plot to match the hilarity. Just like the original, the authentic portrayal of a middle-class family in a small town of India gives the sequel its distinct flavor that adds to its allure.
The movie is undoubtedly a showcase for the massive talent of Ranaut, who sinks her teeth into a double-role challenge this time around, and is ably assisted in performance by a superb ensemble cast.
TWMR is the kind of cinema that the Indian and Pakistani masses crave for. A formula with wedding and marriage at the heart of it simply cannot fail in the subcontinent.
If you love Bollywood, you surely would have loved the film and even if you don’t, this movie shows how terribly entertaining B-Town flicks can be.
2. Bajrangi Bhaijaan: The cross-border Bhaijaan!
If Bollywood is a film genre then Bajrangi Bhaijaan is arguably one of the best in this category. With a massive superstar in bhai aka Salman Khan, a ravishing eye-candy in Kareena Kapoor and a powerhouse performer in Nawazuddin Siddiqui, you can hardly go wrong with the masses.
Throw in a chart-busting musical score, some extremely hilarious light moments and well-choreographed action sequences for good measure, and you would be laughing all the way to the bank.
But wait, even the yummiest of film cakes require a sweet cherry on top as a metaphoric coup de grace to go for the total kill at the Box Office. And this elusive ingredient proved to be a cute mute; the adorable little kid, who was an absolute show-stealer.
Long story short, Bajrangi Bhaijaan is highly entertaining with a gripping storyline and as a bonus the cross-border comedy drama doesn’t even paint Pakistan in a negative light.
3. Prem Ratan Dhan Payo: Sanskaar rules! (And so does Salman Khan)
What’s better than one Salman Khan?
Two Salman Khans, but with Sooraj R Barjatya’s signature sanskaar (family values) to woo the family audience.
It took more than 15 years for the super hit jodi (pair) of Salman Khan and Sooraj Barjatya to reunite but it took less than 15 days for the duo to cross the double-century mark at the Indian Box Office with Prem Ratan Dhan Payo.
But much to the chagrin of serious cinema lovers, PRDP is as typical as Bollywood can get. At times, one wonders whether he is actually watching a movie from the 80s.
But negative nostalgia aside, the movie is a fine, family-oriented fare.
A typical Bollywood masala flick is usually expected to aid the audience in experiencing a host of emotions; namely laughter, sigh, gasp, and tears and Prem Ratan Dhan Payo makes us undergo all of the aforementioned variety and then some.
4. Dilwale: Nostalgia manipulation!
The idea was to make the iconic jodi of Bollywood dance around the world, do some stunts and earn a couple of 100 crores.
Dilwale might be a hit at the Box Office but it lacks brains, has low-IQ humour and an underwhelming and trite plot.
The license of getting this timeless duo back on silver screen should’ve been left to Karan Johar or Aditya Chopra, who know how to make best use of the pair. Rohit Shetty needs to make a note that ritzy cars that fly cannot make his film an interesting affair.
He is like a sleight of hand magician, who has been coasting on just a couple of tricks. But that’s the thing with a limited number of acts, when the audience gets used to them, you are yesterday’s news in no time.
Dilwale was insanely popular prior to its release but couldn’t live up to the hype. The iconic tinsel town jodi is promising when it comes to their on-screen chemistry but this time a terribly impotent script held them back.
5. Bajirao Mastani: Poetry in motion!
More than a decade in the making, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus finally hit the theatres this year. Bajirao Mastani explores the forbidden love between the 18th century Maratha general Bajirao (Ranveer Singh) and warrior princess Mastani (Deepika Padukone). To complete the tempestuous triangle, we also have Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra), Bajirao’s wife.
They say ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ and while all three of the leading actors are sizzling in their roles, it is Chopra who raises the mercury with her scorching and nuanced performance, perfectly exhibiting the insecurities of a spurned consort.
With Bhansali at the helm, one always expects a breath-taking production design but the magnificence displayed through the dazzling costumes and the opulent sets is easily matched by the jaw-dropping choreography of the battle sequences.
Whisper it quietly, but the sheer epicness of this cinematic extravaganza has some of the film critics calling it the modern day Mughal-e-Azam.
While there are some movies that top charts, some are just unforgettable and leave a mark. Here are the top five movies of the year that were quite impactful in my opinion:
1. Bombay Velvet: A magnificent disaster!
Bombay Velvet is rigmarole of an ordinary man going against all odds to become a big shot for his love Rosie – an aspiring jazz singer – and how their hopes and dreams collide with their individual realities as they survive in a newly independent India that struggles to find its feet.
The movie was an amalgamation of earnest performances and a done-to-death story format. It can pass as a pastiche of Hollywood gangsterism bearing imprints of Martin Scorsese’s style but it was the art direction that recharged the otherwise lacklustre yarn.
Any cinephile who is a sucker for a period-costume piece would immediately fall in love with Anurag Kashyap’s chef-d’oeuvre. With swish vintage cars, glinting guns, infrastructure of the city and carefully draped evening gowns with equal attention to the earthy Eastern remnants of a place that had not yet become a metropolis, Kashyap left no stone unturned to take the audience back into the India of 60’s.
Rajeev Ravi’s moving cinematography, Amit Trivedi’s beautiful background score and Thelma Schoonmaker’s top class editing ameliorated the film which ultimately is one-dimensional in its philosophy.
2. Hunterrr: Hunting down taboos!
In a film industry where item number peppered fares are masqueraded as family entertainers, Hunterrr manages to be a non-vulgar, sex comedy.
Despite belonging to the same genre as movie franchises Grand Masti and Kya Kool Hain Hum, the Gulshan Deviah starrer does not qualify as a raunchy adult comedy. If anything, it’s more of a ‘coming of age’ flick (no pun intended) which has shades of Steve McQueen’s Shame and Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Don Jon.
The movie chronicles the sexual exploits of a male nymphomaniac in a middle-class urban Indian milieu.
Long story short, Hunterrr is a must-watch for anyone who wishes to see true love grapple with irrational male libido in a seamless recreation of a period sub continental setting.
3. Manjhi: The Mountain Man: A chiselled love story!
Shah Jahan, your act is up! Make way for Dasarth Manjhi, the new lover extraordinaire in town. Taj Mahal might be universally lauded as the ultimate symbol of love but it’s not a patch on a road chiselled and hammered through a hardy mountain with the iron will of a single person.
Despite the recent glut of biopics hitting the Indian screens, Manjhi manages to inspire like no other. The movie narrates the true story of Dasarth Manjhi, who out of love for his deceased wife carves a way through a rugged mountain using only a hammer and a chisel.
The movie rests on the shoulders of Nawazuddin Siddiqui who plays the titular character. The powerhouse performer could read the label from back of a ketchup bottle and still have all of us mesmerised and he doesn’t disappoint playing the protagonist this time either.
Manjhi had the potential of becoming a masterpiece but average storytelling, under-baked subplots and less than stellar production values took away from the potential of the premise.
But make no mistake, the film still has more soul than your typical Bollywood pieces and is sure to warm even the coldest of hearts through this tragic romance-tale of an inspirational individual.
4. Masaan: Fly away!
There are films that are supposed to be watched and then there are movies that are meant to be experienced. Masaan falls in the latter category.
Masaan (Crematorium in Sanskrit), narrates two parallel story in the holy Indian city of Varanasi where lives of the principal characters unfold against the backdrop of the Cremation ghats on the banks of river Ganges.
The protagonists of both narratives are unwilling to sacrifice their happiness by adhering to the primitive societal barriers of gender and caste. It is all the more ironic when you consider that these main characters are denied life freedom in the holy city where Hinduism promises soul liberation from the cosmic life cycle.
Packed in a mere 109 minutes, the movie doesn’t just touch upon the universally enduring theme of life and loss but it additionally talks about redemption and repentance amongst others without being overtly melodramatic, due in no small part to some amazingly nuanced acting.
The evocative cinematography and production design, along with a soul-stirring musical score combine together to create this delirious, melancholic concoction that is sure to leave every single viewer liberated.
5. Tamasha: A conformist rebel!
Tamasha, a story that was simple but intricately executed. A non-linear narrative that was haphazardly treated but yet it was alluring in its form.
It was yet another one of Imtiaz Ali’s mind-jolting ventures of self-discovery. The movie transpired subconsciously as it progressed, leaving the viewer in a vortex of emotional conflict. It makes one question the complexities of a tedious life and to question the inhibitions that leave a person unable to chase his dreams.
Through commendable acting skills of Ranbir Kapoor, Ali was triumphant in opening a window to soul-searching and stirring the urge to channel all energies in discovering the purpose of being.
In the lyrical words of the protagonist, aided by none other than the maestro AR Rahman,
“Dil ka bhanwar kahe sun saathiya, chup na dupatte me tu o chhaliyaa”