The best and worst of Bollywood in 2014

December 30, 2014

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

By Shilpa Jamkhandikar and Anupriya Kumar

For all its talk of looking for a “hat ke” (different) film, Bollywood proved in 2014 that it prefers to go with the tried and tested and experimenting with subjects and themes is not a game that the big, established stars prefer to indulge in.

The gap between what the audience wants and what the world’s largest film industry by output dishes out widened this year, so not too many films hit the right notes. Here is our list of films that managed to strike a chord and the ones that were wide of the mark.

The Good

Highway – Imtiaz Ali’s unconventional kidnapping saga was a breath of fresh air, not just because of its treatment but because leading lady Alia Bhatt turned in a performance that lifted the film several notches up. Randeep Hooda as the gruff kidnapper who finds a friend in his captive also did an excellent job, and the pristine landscapes of Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh made for some lovely frames. Ali said he wrote the film as he shot it, often on the day of the shoot, because he wanted to capture the true emotions of the characters’ journey. That unusual style paid off.

Hasee Toh Phasee: Inspite of some rough edges, Vinil Mathew’s debut film was memorable because it had some of the best comedy scenes in a Hindi film in a very long time. Mathew’s love story about an eccentric scientist and her sister’s fiancé was peppered with scenes that referenced Indian pop culture favourites like CID and Indian Idol. Sidharth Malhotra, who plays the lovable loser who does everything he can to keep up with his demanding fiancé, and Parineeti Chopra made for an odd but fun couple. The ensemble of characters around them, especially the ones played by Manoj Joshi and Sharat Saxena, were the icing on top.

Dedh Ishqiya: Almost three years after Ishqiya, Abhishek Chaubey’s “Dedh Ishqiya” re-united one of Bollywood’s most underrated pairs – Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi. The duo were, however, trumped by leading ladies Madhuri Dixit and Huma  Qureshi in this film. Chaubey’s depiction of homosexual love without being overt was more effective than many others that seek to state the obvious.

2Queen: Most Bollywood films end with the wedding and the happily ever after. Vikas Bahl’s “Queen” turned that around and chose to tell the story of a meek woman who finds her voice and confidence after she travels to Europe alone after being ditched at the altar. Kangana Ranaut was perfect as Rani, and she used her comic timing perfectly to deliver a light-hearted message about women’s empowerment that couldn’t have been timelier.

Aankhon Dekhi: Director Rajat Kapoor’s intimate portrait of a joint family and its quirky head made for some lovely moments on screen. Bauji wakes up one day and declares that he will refuse to believe anything that he doesn’t see for himself. This weird decision leads to much difficulty for his bewildered wife (played brilliantly by Seema Pahwa) and children, affecting all their lives in ways they couldn’t have imagined.


The Ugly:

Action Jackson: If you thought Prabhudheva’s dance was provocative, wait till you watch his films. The choreographer-turned-director went one up on last year’s disaster “R… Rajkumar” and subjected the audience to the travesty that is “Action Jackson”. Sonakshi Sinha plays a woman who believes that looking at a man’s private parts will bring her good luck, and Ajay Devgn plays a man who lets her. Enough said.

5Humshakals: There are bad films and then there are films that, while watching them, make you wonder whether your bad karma has finally caught up with you. “Humshakals” was a cinematic nightmare – a horrifying blend of everything bad in a Sajid Khan movie. It was consistently vulgar, sexist, homophobic and, for a comedy, resolutely unfunny. It was also devoid of any semblance of a script, making fairly competent actors such as Saif Ali Khan and Satish Shah look like a bunch of annoying, clueless novices. The movie was flogged by critics and on social media but sadly raked in enough moolah at the box office to prevent Khan from considering hanging up his boots any time soon.

Happy Ending: Saif Ali Khan clearly didn’t have the best year. In Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K.’s film, Khan plays a writer who has just one book under his name and is accosted by women even at busy traffic signals in Los Angeles. It must take a special talent to make an exhaustingly boring film even when you have Govinda playing a self-obsessed Bollywood star.

Lakshmi: This was one of those films afflicted with the holier-than-thou disease. Director Nagesh Kukunoor wants us to think that he is making a visceral film about trafficking, but he does it with the sensibility of Prabhudheva. There are sordid rape and castration scenes and enough titillation to put off even the most hardened of audiences. The message, unfortunately, is lost amid the stomach-churning violence.

Gulaab Gang: This film could be called the anti-Queen. Soumik Sen claims to deliver a message-oriented movie about a group of women who form a vigilante gang to protect other women from atrocities, but the film does not achieve its objective, nor does it entertain. Instead we see Madhuri Dixit flying through the air with a scythe in one scene and dancing with a posse of women in the next. In trying to say something about women’s empowerment, “Gulaab Gang” ends up conforming to every female stereotype.

Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar and Anupriya Kumar; Editing by David Lalmalsawma; Follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay, Anupriya @anupriyakumar  and David @davidlms25 | This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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