Looking back at the highlights of the year is one of the favourite pastimes of journalists (and armchair critics) and I am no exception to that rule. For Bollywood, it was a promising year that brought heartening box-office success for both, mainstream as well as non-mainstream movies. There was no one particular success-formula that clicked at the box-office but this year strengthened the belief that the tinsel-town was slowly but surely moving away from clichéd repetitive plots and presentations. But as always the trash films far outnumbered the good films!
The loud bawdy comedies- like director Anees Bazmi’s Singh Is Kinng, Rohit Shetty’s Golmaal Returns and Tarun Mansukhani’s Dostana- got good returns at box-office, once again showing that audiences often seem to prefer leaving their overwrought brains outside the theatres and enjoy some crazy, mindless fun-rides. But other comic ventures like C Kkompany, Maan Gaye Mughale Azam, EMI and Ugly Aur Pagli badly bit the dust.
Yashraj tried its luck with a fairytale romantic comedy in Thoda Pyar Thoda Magic, an ambitious Disney-collaborated animated comedy- Roadside Romeo and a plush romantic comedy- Bachna Ae Haseeno. Only the last mentioned amongst them found audience favour. If one comedy that impressed with its subtle, intelligent and socio-politically conscious humor, it was director Shyam Benegal’s Welcome to Sajjanpur. But perhaps the most lovable film of the year (and also one of the top grossers!) was Abbas Tyrewala’s college buddy-film-cum-romantic comedy Jaane Tu Yaa Jaane Na.
Thrills and terror
Murders, mysteries and mayhem also got the audiences pulses racing- first with Abbas Mastan’s Race and then just when the year was coming to its end, with director A.R.Murgadoss’s remade from Tamil- Ghajini. These were stylishly made mainstream blockbusters, which successfully used every trick in the book to suit their commercial needs.
The ever-growing threat of terrorism on international and Indian soil, found an obvious expression in Bollywood movies and a spate of movies were released with terrorism-related stories. The mainstream movies from this bracket (like Mission Istanbul and Hijack) were forgettable affairs but the non-mainstream efforts like Mumbai Meri Jaan, Aamir and A Wednesday were some of the best films this year. Films like Dhokha, Anwar and Black And White also tried showing different faces of terrorism and despite having some debatable merits they did not succeed either cinematically or commercially.
Jodha-Akbar – Ashutosh Gowarikar’s portrayal of a Mughal era romance, Jannat- Kunal Deshmukh’s take on cricket-match-fixing and Fashion- Madhur Bhandarkar’s depiction of the glamorous fashion-world became major hits. Films like U Me Aur Hum- a love-story woven round Alzheimer’s disease, Rock On – a stirring, coming back to Rock-n- roots-story of four buddies and Dasvidaniya – a charming final goodbye-tale made good impressions. But a number of hyped mega-films crashed with a thud. Prominent amongst these disasters were a terrible sci-fi romance Love Story 2050, a horrible back-to-70s kind of masala film Tashan, a boring superhero-flick Drona, a badly made remake of Subhash Ghai’s 80s classic- Karzz and a badly made ‘Subhash Ghai original’ Yuvvraj!
Yashraj’s mediocre year was revived by the year-end success of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. In this film, Aditya Chopra had returned to the directorial helm after a long hiatus and he showed that he still understands the pulse of Indian audience quite well.
Akshay Kumar with his grand success in Singh Is Kinng proved that his box-office appeal has not waned a bit. Shahrukh Khan (Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi), Aamir Khan (Ghajini) and Amitabh Bachchan (Bhootnath) also showed that their star-presence can still pull audiences to theatres. Salman Khan seems to be slowly fading away and his only success this year was in a small role in the multi-starrer patriotic-themed Heroes. The year also was notable for public squabbles between all these major stars, who kept taking potshots at each other on one issue or the other. Industry-sons Hrithik Roshan (Jodha Akbar), Akshaye Khanna (Race), Ranbir Kapoor (Bachna Ae Haseeno), Abhiskek Bachchan (Dostana), Ajay Devgan (Golmaal Returns) and Saif Ali Khan (Race) kept themselves in the fray with a hit apiece and so did John Abraham with his body-show in Dostana.
Amongst heroines, Priyanka Chopra overcame the disastrous results of Love Story 2050, Chamku and Drona when she tasted big successes in Fashion and Dostana. With once-in-the-line contenders like Rani Mukherji and Preity Zinta doing little of note, Chopra seems to be the current queen of Bollywood. Kareena Kapoor (who had a hit in Golmaal Returns), Deepika Padukone and Bipasha Basu (who both impressed in Bachna Ae Haseeno) seem to be the only challengers to Chopra’s dominance in near future as Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan seems to be acting exclusive.
Newcomers like Farhan Akhtar (Rock On), Genelia D’souza (Jaane Tu Yaa Jaane), Anushka Sharma (Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi) and Asin (Ghajini) were appreciated for their notable performances.
So it is Good-bye 2008 and Welcome 2009 time now! Let’s wait for new films, new themes and new faces in the New Year!