More than the pandemic it was mediocrity that kept audiences away from the theatres in 2022.
Trade pundits and quick think piece experts can speculate all they like but what works at the box-office is a mystery as always.
Some remakes clicked (Drishyam 2) while others (Bachchan Pandey) did not.
Some biggies worked (Brahmastra) while others (Shamshera) did not.
Stars soared (Alia Bhatt) and stars crashed (Ranveer Singh) as Hindi movies delivered more misfires than knockouts.
Sukanya Verma's review of the best and worst in 2022.
The Best of 2022
From my review: This is Alia Bhatt's show, one hundred percent.
Alia looks like Nanda in Prem Rog, but there is Amitabh Bachchan's swagger in her head-on attitude and Rekha's oomph in her saucy seduction.
If it feels like she is role playing Gangubai, it is because she IS role playing Gangubai.
Living an inglorious life on her own terms, refusing to let anyone see through her pain and loneliness, exhibiting effrontery and maturity as a defence mechanism, her emotions are visible in fits and bursts.
She feels in control only when she is pushing the envelope and herself out of her comfort zone. Working on a movie so intensely can transform an actor.
Something in Alia has surely changed after Gangubai. Her entire performance is about proving to herself and not to the world what she can do. And there can be no better artistic evolution than that.
From my review: Only a man who has Mera Baap Chor Hai tattooed on his wrist in his childhood can understand where the adolescent anguish of 'Gutter Ki Naali Se, Public Ki Gaali Se, Raaste Pe Aaya Yeh Jhund Hai' is coming from.
In Jhund, Amitabh Bachchan leads a ragtag team of underdogs to victory.
He IS Vijay after all.
And writer-film-maker Nagraj Popatrao Manjule magnificently manifests his fanboy nostalgia towards Bachchan's zeitgeist alter ego and anger into a winsome movement championing the cause of football-playing slum kids.
From my review: Futility of violence and power of pardon are powerfully enforced in Gandhi's beliefs that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
But should magnanimity always be the burden of the marginalised?
The question looms large in Suresh Triveni's Jalsa, which has the air of a thriller but is really a politically-driven movie, offering a great allegory for the times we are living in.
From my review: Sexism in academic choices is a reality that's rarely in focus in Hindi films but Director Anubhuti Kashyap examines it to great lengths in her sparkling debut chronicling a doctor's coming-of-age.
From my review: Love Hostel stays focused on the murky present and revelling in its increasingly dark outcome.
Despite the reach of social media and technology, this isn't the cushy, liberal India of mainstream culture. It's a lawless, ruthless, endless minefield where uncertainty and bigotry go hand in hand and patriarchy is a foregone conclusion.
Amazing that Shah Rukh Khan chooses to back a project baring this discrimination of which he is a target too.
From my review: Abuse and absurd don't mix, but Darlings pulls it off by asserting humour as the other side of pain.
Monica, O My Darling
From my review: Few film-makers wink at their audience like Vasan Bala.
Fewer have the nerve to embrace their madcap energy. A delightful discipline in his whimsical ideas is as certain as the element of surprise. High on offhanded humour and nasty surprises, Monica, O My Darling evokes Sriram Raghavan and the Coen Brothers.
From my review: Luxury enjoys a powerful presence in Zoya Akhtar's cinema too, but Shakun Batra's gaze is distinctly cynical. For all the posh and gloss, there's a heavy price to be paid for lifestyle and big stakes when pitted against human emotions and vagaries.
From my review: A screenplay and superstar in perfect tandem, it doesn't get better than this.
Pushkar-Gayathri's entertaining remake is in complete possession of its two sides of the same coin tussle but smartly leaves the onus of figuring out the outcome of its final catch-22 on the audience.
From my review: From 'is gay' to the difficulty of 'being one' in a terribly repressive society, Badhaai Do takes a baby step forward in queer-themed stories.
An Action Hero
From my review: While reviewing In Bruges, late film critic Roger Ebert wrote, 'a film that seems to happen as it goes along.'
It's what Anirudh Iyer's directorial debut fancies itself to be as the action shifts from a small village in Haryana to south of England. Except in place of gangsters caught in an existential crisis, An Action Hero swings back and forth between a black crime comedy and a spoofy satire on the media's self-appointed moral police as well as the business of manufacturing and marketing news.
The Worst of 2022
From my review: Ever wondered how it feels to be inside a washing machine? I regrettably found out while watching Heropanti 2, which treats your brain like laundry and subjects it through all the stages of a washing machine cycle -- soak, wash, rinse and spin.
Dho daala, as they say in Bollywood masala speak.
From my review: Raksha Bandhan is like Lalita Pawar.
Remember how she would do all sorts of torturous things to her bête noire bahu throughout the movie?
But in the end, she would come to her senses and throw herself at the daughter-in-law's feet begging for forgiveness and turn into a shining beacon of love and peace.
Three fourths of Aanand L Rai's so-called social drama glorifies misogynistic objectives and regressive ideals for the sake of fun and jokes.
Only at its fag end, Raksha Bandhan changes its tune and atones for its previous mindset like a shoddy public service announcement whose only agenda is to put Akshay Kumar on a pedestal.
From my review: Call him Cyrus, Rustom or Freddy, Kartik Aaryan playing Parsi is as wrong as butter chicken sushi.
Ek Villain Returns
From my review: Mohit Suri's movies are a baffling beast.
Though his world may deceptively resemble ours, look a little closer and it's an altogether different universe run over by aliens.
I underwent multiple migraines making sense of his utterly daft, warped and awful Ek Villain Returns.
From my review: Bushy-haired, bearded caveman of contemporary era leaping in air to the sound of deafening drums and pummelling half a dozen ruffians while the birdbrained heroine claps her hands in glee, Liger and its moth-eaten ways show little regard for its craft, cast or the cringing-by-the-second audience.
As if a corny, clueless plot of this simultaneously shot Telugu/Hindi bilingual isn't embarrassing already, Director Puri Jagannadh's off-putting humour and ridiculous ambitions ensure Liger is a dead duck from the word go.
From my review: Over a course of one false alarm after another, until the film runs out of suspects and has nothing but the stupidest explanation as motivation to offer, Forensic emerges as one of the dumbest movies of the year so far.
Jahan Chaar Yaar
From my review: A silly flick that wants to say something meaningful in the support of women's empowerment yet cannot resist being flippant at every given opportunity.
From my review: It takes special talent like Director Madhur Bhandarkar's to treat a nightmarish, medical and social phenomenon that brought the world to a standstill like a hurdle in the path of people dying to get laid in his horribly oversexed script.
Govinda Naam Mera
From my review: To name your movie after Bollywood's most dhinchak hero and craft something so dull is sacrilege.
From my review: Over populated, over the top, extra bright, super loud beasts happy to laugh loudest at their own jokes, Rohit Shetty's formulaic entertainers act and sound the same. Cirkus is all that and, also, remarkably boring and puerile.
From my review: Cuttputlli's absolutely absurd climax and super amateurish execution will have you rolling on the floor in unintended laughter.