'Of the countless protagonists I encountered at the movies in 2015,' says Sukanya Verma, 'these seven are enduringly unique and notable. They possess that extra something that's not always on paper but earns distinction on the silver screen.'
Every year around this time, I sit in front of my computer and reflect over the films I have watched and written about and rank them in my Best and Worst lists. (It's an entirely pleasurable exercise if you reconcile to the fact that a LOT of people may not agree with your humble opinion.)
Mulling over the releases of 2015, I found myself increasingly (and uncharacteristically) pleased.
The thing is, our filmmaking isn't just improving, it's evolving too -- a realisation more pronounced and refined than ever before.
Agreed, we're still looking Down South for kitschy remakes and inserting tacky item songs in dumbed-down versions of officially purchased Hollywood fare.
Still, you know what?
This year, a lot of our let downs were more of a failed experiment with more imagination than every second box office-eyeing bogus. Guess, sometimes, the quality of failure says more about the risk than only the inability to meet expectation.
Speaking of risk, it was most interesting to see the fallible side of the Hindi film 'hero.' None of the most memorable characters wore a cape or a mask or spread their arms wide open to welcome their simpering ladylove. And neither did the 'so-called' ladylove need any validation from her man to feel significant in the scheme of things.
Whether or not these fascinating studies in flaw become a reference point in pop culture legend, I don't know. But where triumph of characterisation, not to be mixed with performances, is concerned, they emerge on top.
Of the countless protagonists I encountered at the movies in 2015, these seven are enduringly unique and notable. More importantly, they possess that extra something that's not always on paper but earns distinction on the silver screen.
Sandhya, Dum Laga Ke Haisha
To get the audience to feel sorry for the underdog is foremost on the mind of most scripts revolving around one.
What I loved about Bhumi Pednekar's Sandhya in Dum Laga Ke Haisha is that the script doesn't discredit her headstrong personality to manufacture a heartfelt confection.
Sandhya is a newly married, overweight, teacher, but she's not overtly conscious about it. She naturally doesn't enjoy the jokes about her size, but it's not like she goes on a sobbing spree every time an insult is hurled her way.
Sandhya is capable of giving back as good as she gets. She'll even slap her husband in public view if need be. He asked for it anyway.
Respect is essential to her, but that doesn't mean she's squeamish about making the first move in bed.
It also doesn't mean she's devoid of tenderness.
Sandhya's range, and lovely portrayal by Pednekar, shatters several stereotypes and myths about strength and supremacy.
In Wake Up Sid, Ranbir Kapoor is clueless and drifting till he finds his calling in photography.
In Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, he's focused and living his dream as a travel journalist.
In Rockstar, his only ambition is to become a singer of repute and the sting in his heart only intensifies the soul in his song.
Career choices are once again at the heart of Ranbir's acute distress as Ved in Tamasha, but it's far too sophisticated in thought to be simplified as coming-of-age.
The way the story intercuts back and forth explains his original personality -- a sensitive imagination that has the gift of the garb and acute desire for roleplaying -- and the one he's adopted -- a stiff, distant, mechanical officer-goer going through life like a never-ending schedule.
He finally degenerating into an unstable, angry split personality unwilling to tame his wild impulses yet remorseful of all the complications they trigger.
Love is his breakthrough. And so is faith. One provided by a beautiful woman he met in Corsica, another by a nutty old storyteller from his native hill station.
Ved is a metaphor for free spirit, suppression, rebellion and nonconformity. And Ranbir plays out these intricacies with heft and heart.
Kusum/Datto, Tanu Weds Manu Returns
Every now and then, a character comes along that bowls us with their disarming ways and unique perspective of life. This year it's Kusum aka Datto from Tanu Weds Manu Returns.
Kangana Ranaut is supremely effective as both 'Reebok' and 'Reebokey', but it's the latter I found myself rooting for.
As the Haryana girl studying at Delhi University through the sports quota, Kusum is a outcome of sheer hard work and pure merit, the sort of independent, unsung, spirit we see little of in Hindi movies.
Being an athlete, she doesn't colour her thoughts with fancy words and is least conscious of her furious accent. She is someone who knows the hard life first hand and is extremely assured of her capabilities, enough to give a bitter earful to anyone who tries and suggests otherwise.
And so while the end to her love story seems a bit unfair, it's also a blessing in disguise. Kusum deserves way, way, better.
Bhaskor Banerjee, Piku
Bhashkor Banerjee's obsession with his bowel movements is not for the faint hearted.
No matter what hour of the day or how inappropriate, a peevish Bhashkor will invariably highlight his constipation grievances to anyone who cares to listen.
More often than not, that person is his indulgent but exhausted daughter, Piku.
He is old-fashioned, yet liberal, fussy to a fault, yet quite a sight when he's drunk and dancing to Bangla music or trying new methods to curb down his constipation woes.
More than a one-note, batty old boy, Bhashkor is full of layers and rough edges that are part of his collective appeal.
Despite his nagging traits and quirks, Bhashkor endears because Amitabh Bachchan portrays his whims and worries so masterfully.
He's just the sort of esteemed figure you wouldn't associate with such flippancy, but after viewing Piku dare not imagine anyone else.
Chand Nawab, Bajrangi Bhaijaan
Loosely modelled on a real life Pakistani reporter of the same name, Nawazuddin Siddiqui's Chand Nawab appears only halfway through Bajrangi Bhaijaan.
But once he comes in, aiding hero Salman Khan in his quest to get a lost kid home, the narrative turns into a rollicking ride.
Full of delicious quips and spontaneous schemes to hoodwink the cops, Chand Nawab is a curious personality, a witty but pushover journalist no one is willing to take seriously.
This journey provides a much-needed breakthrough when he takes charge to fulfill a decidedly refreshing dynamic -- Nawaz to Salman's rescue.
Ultimately, it's Chand Nawab's brilliant idea to generate a viral video on YouTube that brings Bajrangi's magnanimity to public attention in both the nations and renders the climax its epic finish.
Kashibai, Bajirao Mastani
One doesn't see enough strong-willed modern women in our movies. And so it's gratifying how Sanjay Leela Bhansali builds the emotional core of his period drama around Peshwa Bajirao's first wife, Kashibai.
She starts out as doe-eyed, duty-bound wife content to bask in her warrior husband's shadow and glory. Except when he betrays her trust and wounds her pride by falling for another woman, Kashi doesn't camouflage her pain to ease his guilt.
Instead, she humiliates him further with her grace, upholding his decision in the public eye despite severe social backlash, before eventually shutting him down completely.
Given this is a 18th century woman we are talking about, Priyanka Chopra's pluck and grit as Kashibai deserves a wholehearted bravo!
Kabir Mehra, Dil Dhadakne Do
A lot happens in Zoya Akhtar's Dil Dhadakne Do -- wealthy dysfunctional families on a lavish Mediterranean cruise, celebration of milestone anniversaries, loveless marriages, forbidden romance, gossiping aunties, braggart uncles, astute dogs, bhangra and jazz, coming-of-age... a WHOLE lot.
But Zoya has the gift to examine the chaotic, complex being that is man in a manner so amused and relaxed, it underlines the humour in it even more.
Many a times, I found a pitch-perfect Ranveer Singh's Kabir Mehra an extension of her disposition. On others, he struck as a delightful combination of Akash's privilege, Sid's vulnerability and Sameer's froth.
Kabir has his romantic thing going on, but all this time he never ceases to be the observer, more so than his tediously philosophical pooch Pluto, using wit as a shield to enjoy the farce his family has become.
He's tickled at the irony but also audacious enough to demonstrate the silliness in it all.
In the film's most hilarious scene, he tells his folks about the woman he's dating and realises it's best to blast all shockers at once by emphasising on the technicalities -- dancer and Muslim.
- Now check out Raja Sen's Most Memorable Movie Characters, 2015