From female bonding to brave new movies, there was a lot to celebrate in Bollywood this year
Maybe it was the celebration of 100 years of Hindi films, but the first 6 months of 2013 gave us some of the year’s biggest hits and a few good movies (no relation between the two) – Jolly LLB, Fukrey, Special 26, Kai Po Che, YJHD, Raanjhanaa, Aashiqui 2 and Bombay Talkies. In comparison, it’s been a pretty damp 2014 for Bollywood so far. Here are five good things that happened in Hindi cinema this year (in a separate article, we also bring you the worst of Bollywood):
Bollywood has loved celebrating male friendships – from Ramesh Sippy’s Jai-Veeru to Zoya Akhtar’s Arjun-Kabir-Imraan, not to forget Akki-Saif, the bromance that positively crackled with chemistry. But when was the last time you saw a normal female relationship in Hindi cinema? As we pointed out earlier, our movies fare abysmally on the Bechdel Test - last year’s YJHD took baby steps towards depicting a friendship between two girls who, surprise, did not love the same guy.
So we were delighted to watch not one, but two movies that ticked off the numero uno item on our 2014 Bollywood wishlist. Despite the presence of a marquee cast led by Madhuri Dixit, Dedh Ishqiya did not achieve commercial success – but the MBRB editors thoroughly enjoyed the irreverent scheming of Begum Para (Dixit) and her assistant Muniya (Huma Qureshi). The warmth and bonhomie between them formed the nucleus of the movie, and Chaubey’s discreet suggestion of more than just friendship between the two is to be applauded in an industry that is in the habit of making a caricature of “gay” love.
Queen succeeded where Dedh Ishqiya failed, with Kangana Ranaut’s Rani wowing the critics and audience alike. Ranaut is one of our favourite Bollywood actresses (we loved her honesty about commercial cinema and marriage on Anupama Chopra’s show), and she was due for a makeover after spending years playing the suicidal tragi-heroine or the gangster’s moll. She was almost spot on in her portrayal of a Rajouri Garden girl, but would Rani have found herself without Lisa Haydon’s Vijay? The friendship between Rani and Vijayalakshmi forms the heart of Queen, and we are indebted to director Bahl for allowing Rani to remain single and for not killing off Haydon (we will never forgive Homi Adajania for turning a promising movie into a regressive Cocktail ).
We hope this trend continues, and if the casting of our desi Sex & the City is driving K Jo or Adi up the wall, here are some handy suggestions.
Of journeys and highways
That Imtiaz Ali loves journeys is evident from his movies – from Socha Na Tha to Highway, his protagonists need to run away to find themselves. With Rockstar and Highway, Ali graduated from breezy romances to soul searching self discovery. Psychology notwithstanding, the story of an impressionable young woman who falls for her captor always makes us uncomfortable. But Highway compelled us to let go of our logical and judging self. The unusual casting was spot on, the visuals breathtaking and the music touched the right notes. Yes there were flaws in its reasoning, but the story came straight from the heart of a die hard traveller.
Main Teri Scientist
Whether her leading man is 15 or 50, a Bollywood heroine can play only the following roles : a spoilt college girl, a bubbly college girl, a tomboyish college girl, a sexy college teacher who acts like a demure college girl. So forgive our exhilaration at finding a leading lady playing the role of a scientist in a Hindi movie (yes Gracy Singh was a doctor in Munnabhai MBBS, but the movie was about Munna & Circuit). Not only that, the hero is not a 40 year old who’s still in college or an industrialist’s scion – he’s someone who is confused about what he wants to do with life but has enough jugaad to earn a decent living. Just for giving us the first believable couple in Hindi cinema (and Sidharth Malhotra in formal white shirts – can he please not drop his shirt and do drop the glossy pink lipstick), we can’t stop raving about Hasee Toh Phasee. The movie wasn’t without its flaws – Meeta’s ticks were somehow hard to believe and the story pretty much unravelled in the second half. But it’s a start, and all we can do is pray for more nerdy female engineers who do not need to grow their hair long (or lose a game of basketball) to capture their hero’s love.
Brave New World
In an industry that can’t stop talking about the 100 crore club and that seems to reward predictability over originality (hiding behind Our audience is not ready for a change), trying to create something new or eccentric can appear to be a Sisyphean task. So kudos to Rajat Kapoor for persisting with unconventional tropes with Ankhon Dekhi, one of the best films of the year so far; to Amul Gupte for continuing to delve into the hearts and minds of children with Hawaa Hawaai; to Mrityunjay Devvrat for exposing the price that war extracts on women and children with Children of War; and to Nisha Pahuja for exploring the aspirations of Indian women with World Before Her.
And so the movie that we are most excited about in the second half of the year is not one of the well buffed, beautifully decorated and professionally marketed packages from the Khans, Johars or Chopras. We can’t wait for September 12 to watch NH10 – the second directorial venture by Navdeep Singh after the brilliant Manorama Six Feet Under, one of the few genuine noir movies to come out of Bollywood. And there’s something else to celebrate – lead actress Anushka Sharma is also co-producing the movie.
Unlike Hollywood, where leading stars often take on singing roles in musicals, Bollywood has lost the tradition of actresses who could earn their chops by means of their voice. Yes, Sridevi tried to impersonate a girlie girl in Chandni that still makes us shudder, and Madhuri Dixit recited poetry in Devdas, but neither act classifies as singing in the true sense (We are studiously and deliberately ignoring PeeCee’s pop star pretensions). So hats off to Alia Bhatt and Shraddha Kapoor for lending their voices to Sooha Saha (Highway) and Galliyan (Ek Villian), and coming out with flying colours. May the music never stop for the new breed of Bollywood’s leading ladies!
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