The age of relevance

Bollywood buzz

The age of relevance

As a filmgoer and a follower-cum-permanent student of Hindi cinema, how would one size up 2015? In a nutshell, it was about extremes — and no, we are not talking business when we say that, because money has often had little relevance to the genre of cinema being watched.

Films that stayed with you

Over decades of watching movies from childhood, we realise that the films that truly stay with you (in trade parlance it is called “repeat value”, which means that you like watching them over again a second or more times) are those that touch one’s heart and — maybe — uplift us in some way. In other words, without trying or seeming to do so, they leave either a long-lasting or unforgettable imprint on the psyche, and possibly a valuable message, making you truly glad that you invested time in experiencing them.

It is also axiomatic that when you repeat such films, you discover something new — a line of dialogue or lyrics, a nuance, a hint that makes you a better person in some small or big way, and a shade or layer you missed earlier in script, direction, music or performances. In almost all such cases, we notice that the technical side is keeping pace, unless there are budgetary constraints.

And so, we would take the liberty of including, right at the beginning, a film that was actually made in Telugu but dubbed also in Hindi — Bahubali-The Beginning. Written and directed with so much passion that it crossed all regional and linguistic barriers, it was a classic entertainer that blended content and spectacle seamlessly. The technical side was magnificent, but it only served as the stage on which the mega-emotional drama of a royal family and palace intrigues unfolded. In short, the story and script were its true heroes, and they were written by director S S Rajamouli’s 70-plus father V Vijayendra Prasad!

And we mention this man only to spotlight that he was also the story writer of that heart-tugging pure Hindi film — Bajrangi Bhaijaan. So universal was the impact of this story of a simpleton who was a Hanuman devotee and made it his mission to take a lost mute child from Pakistan back to her home and country against all odds that a mega-star like Salman Khan playing the role almost seemed incidental to the plot.

Long after the Kabir Khan-directed movie was over, even in a repeat watch, Salman’s effortlessly sincere performance and those of Harshali Malhotra as the kid and Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the golden-hearted Pakistani scribe, continued to haunt along with so many sequences, lines and visuals. In other words, this was the epic that no viewer could honestly speak ill about. And in passing, let us also mention that the passion to excel paid off — these two films were, respectively, the biggest Indian and Hindi hits of the year.

Sriram Raghavan’s Badlapur, on the surface, was a dark thriller about a man (Varun Dhawan) whose wife and young son were murdered, and who went in for ruthless revenge when he came to know of the perpetrators some years later. But deep within, the film highlighted how such brooding revenge could rot a man’s soul, and Varun and one of the killers — Nawazuddin Siddiqui — who actually evolves as a human being, made the searing narrative unforgettable.

Piku, the Shoojit Sircar-directed family comedy, was a breezy yet warm satire on the kinks, complexes, follies and endearing qualities of normal human beings. After eons, Amitabh Bachchan got a role worthy of his calibre, and Deepika Padukone and Irrfan also made this experience unforgettable. The dialogues (Juhi Chaturvedi) were simply amazing.

We have avoided ranking these films to leave the order of merit to the readers. Up next is Tanu Weds Manu Returns, which proved that sequels can be better than the originals, if devised and executed with passion. After the first part (in 2011) that was a turbulent love story, the introduction of discord in the protagonists’ marriage and a Haryanvi lookalike of the heroine whom the hapless hero falls for on the rebound, was nothing less than a master-stroke.

Add authentic local small-town touches and a light look at the dark side of regressive social practices, and we had an entertainer that rocked from the first frame to the last — literally. And Kangana Ranaut was stunning as the Haryanvi lass.

Yash Raj Films was at low-key this year. Yet they gave two vital messages — that size does not matter in love but heart does, and that education was paramount for all — in this delightful saga of an undergraduate being forced to marry an oversized girl in the Sharat Katariya-directed Dum Laga Ke Haisha. We would definitely rate Bhumi Pednekar, ex-staff at YRF, as the discovery of the year.

And let us be optimistic enough to say that the late December biggies, at different levels, will both have takeaways from them—Rohit Shetty’s extravaganza Dilwale and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s dream opus Bajirao Mastani.

Those pleasant moments

There were other films that we also enjoyed in different ways. We loved the desperate family united in adversity and also felt the pain of another bereaved family in Nishikant Kamat’s Drishyam despite some script glitches. We felt for the dysfunctional clan that finally chose unity over wealth in Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do. We also thought that, however overlong and in parts stretched in logic, Sooraj Barjatya’s Prem Ratan Dhan Payo also demonstrated that happiness within a family had to be worked at selflessly.

We could identify with the distraught mother (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), the lonely cop (Irrfan Khan) and the character of Shabana Azmi in Sanjay Gupta’s Jazbaa, and with that cheerful, cerebral palsy-afflicted girl who wanted to explore her sexuality in Shonali Bose’s sensitive Margarita With A Straw. A thumbs-up was also in order for Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s tour-de-force in Ketan Mehta’s Manjhi — The Mountain Man, a simple but riveting biopic. Another sensitively-treated film was Meghna Gulzar’s Talvar.

We got instant gratification when we had real life mirrored in the larger-than-life story of vigilantes decimating social evildoers in Krish’s Gabbar Is Back — and Akshay Kumar’s diversely tough and unflinching characters in this film as well as in Baby won us over.

...and the unpleasant ones

Here, we will not include unapologetic masala entertainers like Welcome Back and Singh Is Bliing here, as they satiated aficionados of what is known as time-pass fare. We would, honestly, want to include two pretentious films — the loophole-ridden youth-centric Tamasha and the arty-somersaulting-to-potboiler-later tale of losers, NH10.

But, when it comes to the very worst, we had a huge assembly from which to choose. Frankly, the crown was shared jointly by four cinematic catastrophes that we sat through only because we were hoping for some redemption in the end — Mohit Suri’s aberration Hamari Adhuri Kahani, the rudderless ‘journey’ film All Is Well, Anurag Kashyap’s horrendous Bombay Velvet and Nikhil Advani’s insufferable Katti Batti.

The rest in the ‘roll of dishonour’ included the sleep-inducing Hawaizaada, the messy Hero (a touted remake of the 1983 classic!), the absurd Shamitabh and those twin horrors that defied all description, Welcome To Karachi and Bangistan, which were films made under the delusion that the audiences were cretins.

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