Flashback-Bollywood 2015

Author: Dr. Mandar V. Bichu

As the first week of 2016 winds up, here’s a look back at last year’s Bollywood movies and the happenings surrounding them. The first thought that comes to mind is how few movies in 2015 made big money and how few were really worth watching. The next thought is about the unending ruckus created on social media about three high and nighty Khans, bashing Aamir’s ‘unsafe India’ comments, Shahrukh’s ‘intolerant India’ remarks and Salman’s acquittal in drunk driving manslaughter case.

Let’s steer clear of the controversies and just talk about the actual movies and their worth or worthlessness!  (You can click on the hyperlinks for full reviews.)

15 Take-Home Points about Bollywood 2015

1.      Salman Khan once again proved untouchable as Superstar No.1. Besides Bajrangi Bhaijaan, he also pulled off a hit out of an unbelievably naïve and run of the mill costume drama like Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo.

2.      Shahrukh Khan managed to add one more hit to his kitty. But his Dilwale (with his lucky partner Kajol!) was just a plush mass entertainer that mainly succeeded thanks to director Rohit Shetty’s amazing feel for box-office pulse.

3.      Aamir Khan did not have a release but remained in news for wrong reasons and the poor fellow faced rather unfair flak for speaking his mind!

4.      Akshay Kumar had a good year with Baby and Gabbar Is Back doing well at the cash registers but his Singh Is Bliing and Brothers flopped.

5.      Amitabh’s Shamitabh did not strike chord with audience but he was superb in Piku.

6.      Through his superb portrayals in Dil Dhadakne Do and Bajirao Mastani, Ranveer Singh gave ample evidence that he is not just a likable hunk but a capable actor willing to try out different characters.

7.      Ranbir Kapoor managed to salvage some lost ground with Tamasha but his forays in Roy and Bombay Velvet were disasters.

8.      While Varun Dhawan basked in the glory of Badlapur and Dilwale, actors such as Arjun Kapoor (Tevar), Shahid Kapoor (Shaandaar), Emraan Hashmi (Mr. X), Siddhart Malhotra (Brothers), Saif Ali Khan (Phantom) and Imran Khan (Katti Batti) flopped miserably.

9.      Deepika Padukone (Piku, Tamasha and Bajirao Mastani) and Priyanka Chopra (Dil Dhadakne Do and Bajirao Mastani-not to mention her Quantico!) were the top guns amongst ladies.

10.   Kangana Ranaut was too good in Tanu Weds Manu Again but had an ordinary outing in Katti Batti.

11.   Amongst these comeback queens, Vidya Balan stuttered once more (Hamari Adhuri Kahani); Aishwarya Rai did slightly better( Jazbaa) and Kajol (Dilwale) made the most.

12.   Success of small-budget films such as Hate Story 3, Pyar Ka Panchnama 2 and Hunterr showed that titillating urban dramas is a popular genre.

13.   Failure of big budget indulgent spectacles such as Roy, Bombay Velvet and Shaandaar is a reminder that just great cinematography, excellent technicals, lavish sets and exotic locations do not entice the audience.

14.   The reprises and franchises had a mixed bag experience. While Tanu Weds Manu Again and ABCD 2 succeeded, Ab Tak Chhappan 2 and Welcome Returns failed.

15.   Mass entertainers, period films, rom-coms, crime thrillers, spy thrillers, sex comedies, docudramas, slice of life films….Bollywood gave us a bit of everything in 2015. Forget classics, most of the stuff was plain but luckily we did get quite a few movies which were worth watching for various reasons. Here is a list in no particular order.

15 most watchable Bollywood movies of 2015

1.      Tanu Weds Manu Again: The second helping of Madhavan-Kangana’s Tanu Weds Manu with the leading lady’s double dhamaka role was another super portrayal by the actress who wowed us last year with Queen.

2.      Baby: This Akshay Kumar starrer about an undercover Indian anti-terror squad trying to nab a dreaded international terrorist was a pulsating edge of the seat affair.

3.      Bajrangi Bhaijaan: Syrupy at times but this well-made and touching entertainer about an Indian simpleton going all out to repatriate a lost Pakistani girl scored huge at the box office; with an obvious attempt to portray Salman as an innocent do-gooder!

4.      Bahubali-The Beginning: A dubbed from South movie made at an astronomical budget- every penny of which was put to great use for telling an epic mythological tale in a stunning special effects-driven manner. ‘A must watch in theatre’ kinda movie!

5.      Piku: This Deepika-Amitabh-Irrfan starrer was an example of how good direction and acting can make a simple slice of life film about an urban working woman and her old, eccentric father so watchable.

6.      Dum Lagake Haisha: This heartwarming film about a small town young man struggling to accept his overweight wife’s love was a triumph of good storytelling, realistic characters and natural performances.

7.      Talwar: Director Meghana Gulzar delivered a taut murder mystery based on the controversial Aarushi Talwar case.

8.      Detective Byomkesh Bakshy: Dibakar Banerjee’s attempt to bring the famous fictional Indian detective to silver screen was short on suspense but won kudos for its stylized story-telling.

9.      Drishyam: A remake of a South-hit, this Ajay Devgan thriller made you root for a man trying to hide his family’s involvement in a murder!

10.   Badlapur: Director Sriram Raghavan’s violent vengeance saga was notable for powerful performances (Varun Dhawan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and presented an interesting theme where a victim driven by rage and revenge turns into a heartless killer.

11.   Bajirao Mastani: Despite being riddled in pre-release controversies and protests, this Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s take on a fabled historic romance is a spectacular period film if you discount the cinematic liberties, historical inaccuracies and also do not mind the showmanship over soulfulness!

12.   Dil Dhadakne Do: Zoya Akhtar’s high society cruise ship drama was nowhere as classy as her brilliant ZNMD but had enough to keep you hooked!

13.NH 10: This violent film about a road trip gone horribly wrong featured a powerful performance by Anoushka Sharma.

14.   Maanjhi- The Mountain Man: Nawazudding Siddiqui was brilliant as ever in this docudrama on Dashrath Maanjhi, who singlehandedly worked to break a mountain to make a road.

15.Titli: The hard-hitting film portraying the warped lives of a dysfunctional family of lowly criminals was not for the squeamish.

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