Bollywood 2014: A Mid-Year Report Card
Here's what Bollywood got right, and wrong, in the first half of 2014.
We’re halfway through, ladies and gents.
We’ve grinned, we’ve groaned, we’ve applauded and we’ve attempted to escape theatres.
From January to June, it already feels we’ve come a long way.
Here’s a look at the first half of 2014, at what Hindi cinema got right and what it served up catastrophically wrong:
There haven’t been many great movies in the first half of 2014, true, but Bollywood has thrown up more of the “watchable” stuff than usual.
Films like 2 States, Highway, Hasee Toh Phasee and Main Tera Hero might not have been solid pieces of cinema, but at least they showed off a new-generation willing to take on acting roles.
Following these four films -- four flawed films which nevertheless have some merits -- we now know that Alia Bhatt can act, that Varun Dhawan is more spontaneous than expected, and that Siddharth Malhotra and Arjun Kapoor can prove strong when given little to do but scowl.
In the hands of the right directors, these kids could do a lot. (Fingers crossed.)
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Image: Nargis Fakhri, Varun Dhawan and Ileana D'Cruz in Main Tera Hero
Times have changed in Bollywood when you see the Bhatt camp constantly acknowledging their imported source material. The name of the Filipino thriller Metro Manila flashed several times over before Citylights, a film that puzzlingly chose to navel-gaze instead of thrill.
Similarly Satish Kaushik, who directed Gang Of Ghosts, an official remake of the Bengali hit Bhooter Bhobishyot from a couple of years ago, borrowed the crassness and amped it up, while leaving the cleverness behind.
Most recently came Ek Villain, which, as I’ve ranted, takes a shockingly violent and stylistic film and turns it to masala mush.
Why are we remaking these films if we continue to ignore their spirit?
Image: Shraddha Kapoor and Siddharth Malhotra in Ek Villain
Things are plummeting from bad to catastrophic when it comes to the bottom of the Bollywood barrel. This year’s turkeys include such unbearable groaners as these:
One By Two: An Abhay Deol romance which, instead of a heart, had a hero fart.
Heartless: A melodrama directed by Shekhar Suman. Yes, that’s right, directed by Shekhar Suman.
Gunday: A relentless celebration of mediocrity.
Fugly: Too amateurish a film to be released in theatres.
Humshakals: Sajid Khan’s latest and most loathsome, this is a film that proves he’s trying to kill us all.
Image: Ram Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan and Riteish Deshmukh in Humshakals
Yet there remains hope.
Forget the dull, the uninspired, the relentless, the needless, the depressingly successful.
A genuinely good film is worth a hundred bad ones, and this year’s given us three that are stellar. (And each of them, funnily enough, comes from a second-time director.)
Set in the bustling parking lot of a Mumbai office building, Amole Gupte’s delightful Hawa Hawaii takes off after-hours when kids strap on rollerblades and prepare to fly. A wide-eyed young chaiwallah notices and dreams, and with this film, crafted nobly and with tremendous heart, we cheer him on to soar.
Abhishek Chaubey’s Ishqiya was a pulpy, clever, too-twisty affair with some sex and smarts, but it was with the sequel that the filmmaker truly stepped into special territory. Dedh Ishqiya is a mostly Urdu film -- a film with dialogues made up of deliciously wicked, innuendo-honed arrows -- and it boasts of things too special to summarise.
Just pour it out on the rocks and let it go to your head.
Image: Naseeruddin Shah and Madhuri Dixit in Dedh Ishqiya
Film Of The Year (So Far)
It isn’t merely that everyone I know seems to love Vikas Bahl’s Queen -- they do, naturally -- but it’s remarkable how the Kangna Ranaut starrer has struck such different chords across its enamoured audience.
Folks like it because it’s smart, folks like it because of Kangna’s sensational performance, folks like it because the girl doesn’t go back to the guy, folks like it because of the awesome grandmother, folks like it because of the well-mannered stripper, folks like it because it has a defiant heroine, folks like her because she’s not trying to be defiant, folks like the warmth, folks like the music, folks like the way she finds her feet on her own, and folks love Rani, a special character.
It takes a lot for a film to connect with people like that, and Queen ticks most boxes.
People who don’t watch Hindi movies break into a mile-wide grin at the mention of Queen, and that is the very definition of the word Exceptional.
Image: Kangna Ranaut in Queen