2015 was rather fine for a Hindi film enthusiast. Scripts tried to push boundaries, explore new spaces in human relationships and inject the screen with invigorating ideas and wit.
And while some of these haven’t made it to the final list, I must mention the impact of the ‘almost’ –the gritty, terrorizing tone of NH10, the heartfelt idealism of Bajrangi Bhaijaan, the nifty action in Baby, the super cool concept of Shamitabh, the magnificence of Bajirao Mastani, the blithe humour of Dil Dhadakne Do and the no-holds-barred girl bonding in Angry Indian Goddesses.
Here then, without further ado, my Ten Favourite Hindi films of 2015 in no particular order.
Films can be manipulative. Films can be ambitious. Films can be exhausting. But when a film is as warm and well written as Piku, stroked in the brilliant chemistry of Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone and Irrfan Khan, the experience is tangible and comforting.
I thoroughly enjoyed Shoojit Sircar’s road trip from Delhi to Kolkata, its motley of travellers – subtle, sensible, silly — and the expressive range of their potty-themed conversations, the fascinating metaphors it conceals and ultimately, how letting go is life.
Indeed Piku affected me deeply enough to write it a fond, fond letter.
Talvar is creativity at its most sly, sharp and sublime no matter what one’s ideology about the high-profile 2008 Noida double murder case is.
Another commanding performance from Irrfan Khan, the actor allows us to absorb the proceedings from his perspective, even when the narrative moves to and fro to accommodate several points of views. All intriguing, all distorted.
The upshot is frustrating, unsettling but favourable in what Talvar is out to achieve. What lingers on for long is chaos of the mind, a train of thoughts, mostly questions, which have no conclusive replies.
Dum Laga Ke Haisha
Sharat Katariya’s Haridwar romance between a bitter underachiever and accomplished but overweight girl offers a rich glimpse into the lives of small-town dreams, where compromise is inevitable and the face of aspiration isn’t always glamorous.
To spot a ray of light amidst such squashed hopes is tough but not impossible if one makes a little effort is what the title alludes to and the story highlights in a manner most appealing and amusing through its terrific supporting cast and compelling leads – Ayushmann Khurrana and newcomer Bhumi Pednekar.
What’s truly unique about Dum is the feisty spirit of its straightforward heroine. Not one false note, ever.
Even if you strip Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha of all its sheen and gloss, it’s about that constant, tireless voice that resides in our head and suggests brave new ideas to rebel against the order of things.
In essence it’s not a love story but Deepika Padukone’s feverish luminosity, one uses that word frequently (and fittingly) in her context, insists it be perceived as one. Like a friend said, this is not acting. This is not how we’ve known it to be in Hindi cinema. Indeed, DP is spectacularly pure as Tara, the die-hard romantic.
Any other actor would’ve been outclassed in the presence of her overwhelming grace but that’s the thing. Ranbir is not any other actor. His monologue towards the end reminded me of a diary I wrote more than a decade back. RK Jr’s played many varieties of Peter Pan but this one in denial has got to be my favourite.
I watched Masaan long after the hullaballoo had quietened down but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have any reservations. Not all films that do well in the festival circuit turn out to be as persuasive as they’re marketed.
To cut a long story short, Masaan is not a gob of pretentious, overrated ode to world cinema. It’s a confidently made feature by director Neeraj Ghaywan, where the convergence of two parallel stories is momentous but not as significant as the journey it undertakes to get there.
Of these two lyrical Benares tales, one is defined by Richa Chaddha’s quiet melancholy while seeking outlets for closure; the other breaks caste-barriers to engage in a tender, poetry-laced romance around Vicky Kaushal and Shweta Tripathi. So-called period films don’t transport into their worlds as the freshness of this first love high on QSQT’s breezy melody Gazab Ka Hai Din.
Tanu Weds Manu Returns
I had a ball watching her incorrigible antics in Tanu Weds Manu Returns. If they ever decided to make another Dabangg starring a woman as Chulbul Pandey, I’d pick Kangana Ranaut without batting an eyelid. Especially in her Datto avatar.
The other ace in TWMR is of course, Deepik Dobriyal. Fake heart attack was never this side-splitting.
More often than not, sequels feel like a forced attempt to cash-in on the original’s success but TWMR never feels like a project made for the heck of it. It’s actually far more realized in its irreverence and ridicule for the mercurial nature of marriage as well as it its madcap characters; judge them for all they care.
All right so, technically, it’s not a Hindi film. But, hey, I saw a dubbed version and I loved it immensely. More importantly, there’s no way I will not have it on my favourite films list.
The year is about to end and we still don’t have the faintest idea why Katappa killed Bahubali. At a time when trends come and go like changing menus on a blackboard, this question (to be revealed in a second movie) still holds weight and curiosity.
Why wouldn’t it? S S Rajamouli’s Bahubali is so mega in its construction of fiction and fantasy through incredible visuals burning in enchantment and bravado. Except it’s not just CGI-loaded opulence but the larger-than-life emotionality of its lively protagonists that we root for and against.
When I walked out of Sriram Raghavan’s Badlapur, I felt troubled by its negativity and unconvinced by Varun Dhawan.
But it’s the only film that kept nudging my peace like few have because of the conflict Raghavan’s trying to establish, of the psychological conditioning he’s trying to shatter and the rules of vendetta he’s reinventing.
At times distractingly stylish, Badlapur treads the science of long-running blind, brutal rage and pits it against a spontaneous impulse for crime. Dhawan is in control of one half — impressive in endeavour, feeble in texture but Nawazuddin Siddiqui reins in the rest and evokes sheer awe.
If Badlapur is black, Kanu Behl’s Titli is so dark; it takes a while to adjust back to light.
It’s not so much about the plot but the manner in which the promising filmmaker Behl creates a bunch of messed-up people, their messed-up family, their messed-up goals and their sincerely sick schemes as a casual way of life.
What’s frightening is when (or that) we start to see past the nihilism and understand the person.
There’s a scene I really liked that sort of sums up Titli’s triumph for me. The one where Shashank Arora injects anaesthesia in wife Shivani Raghuvanshi’s willing arm and then breaks it so that she doesn’t have to give her money to brother-in-law Ranvir Shorey but Arora and be reunited with her married boyfriend.
I felt pity for them — couldn’t look at it, and couldn’t look away from it.
I am in striking minority in my appreciation for Vikas Bahl’s Shaandaar. But here’s the thing — I quite relished its ‘bonkers’ attitude that celebrates the merriment in madness so effusively.
Here’s what I wrote in my review: There’s much fancy and enchantment in Shaandaar’s universe to trifle in intense stuff like reality and convention. If life’s moments were but an endless session of think out loud and each scene a comic book panel expressed in stickers and speech balloons where trouble is at worst a smiley wearing a frown.
It’s the kind of experience that thrives not on story but telling. Shaandaar’s charm lies in Bahl’s treatment, employing SFX and animation in abundance, which is perfectly timed and enhances ordinary seconds into attractive ones.