By – RAHUL RAUT
The year 2017 was one of the most disappointing for the Hindi film industry in recent times. Over 150 films released in 2017 out of which only a dozen performed well at the box office. The majority of films either flopped badly or did mediocre business at the ticket window, however, cinema isn’t just about the business but it’s also about the art nurturing new talent and creativity
2017 saw the release of some of the most diverse movies in a long time, with storylines, that were not just unconventional and away from the thumkas, but also more character driven rtaher than superstar driven. An impressive number of truly transcendent films that were fascinating and thrilling in their own way found and audience this year. Filmmakers experimented and dared to make films that have perhaps never been tried in Bollywood before. They made films on taboo subjects and succeeded both financially and critically, something which would have been rejected a few years back.
As this year comes to an end it’s time to look back at the movies and celebrate those that left an impact on not just the box office, but with the audiences too. Here are my ten best picks:-
Baahubali 2: The Conclusion:-
SS Rajamouli’s visual extravaganza came alive in its ambitious and stupendous vision to complete the unfinished story of 2015’s ‘Baahubali – The Beginning’. The second part of the big-budget adventure begins seamlessly just where it left in the first movie, upping the scale on many counts compared to the first instalment. The Conclusion traces the origins of Baahubali’s father, Amrendra Baahubali and also delves into the love story between Amrendra Baahubali and Dev Sena with an absorbing narrative.
Carrying the equity of The Beginning on its shoulder, this film is also a tale of good versus evil and refreshingly depicts the values and protection of family members. Most importantly, it answers a question that was plaguing everyone for last two years – “Why Katappa Killed Baahubali?”
‘Baahubali 2’ has created a new landmark for Indian cinema in convincing ‘Special Effects’, thanks to its over-the-top CGI and VFX that makes it a cinematic celebration that deserves to be watched on the largest screen possible. The well-defined characters, never-seen-before stimulating action choreography, compelling operatic plot, thunderous sound effects and visually stunning spectacle makes this Prabhash, Anushka Shetty and Rana Daggubati starrer the best film of the year.
India’s official entry to the Oscars in the “Foreign Language Film” category this year, Amit V Masurkar’s ‘Newton’ is one of the finest political satires we have experienced in Indian cinema in the last couple of years. Filled with deadpan humour and intricate visual details and combined with a subtle sound design, this film is about the difficulties of boots-on-the-ground democracy, an issue that India’s vast majority turns a blind eye to.
‘Newton’ depicts the story of Newton Kumar, a young, rookie government clerk bubbling with enthusiasm, honesty and integrity on his very first election duty in the conflict jungle of Central India which is infested with moist rebels. He tries his best to conduct a free and fair voting process in the region despite the odds stacked against him. Following a day in the lives of people involved in the conscientious of conducting elections, the movie raises questions about the importance of India’s elaborate electoral system.
The thought-provoking film shows the pitfalls of the democratic system and questions the politicians, political and administrative machinery and guerrillas making viewers aware with its ultimately uncontroversial central dogma, “It’s not how you vote but that you vote that matters.” The Rajkummar Rao starrer also talks about other socially-relevant issues such as child marriage, dowry, bribery, class divides, corruption and more.
Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi and other actors’ delivered brilliant performances, Amit Masurkar and Mayank Tiwari’s impeccably written script as well as thoughtfully structured and lovingly composed cinematography and unnoticeable music really set this film apart from other Hindi releases of 2017.
Lipstick Under My Burkha:-
Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ tells the stories of four different women who are fighting a male-dominated society and want to escape from their social, physical and cultural burkas in order to live the lives that they rightfully deserve. The film is about women, of any religious group, living in the shadows of absolutism and draws an inerrable picture of how women’s freedom is restricted by convention and tradition and how someone or the other is deciding how they should proceed with their life.
This is a bold film and talks of women’s sexuality and their desire and rights in the most glaring colours making the point clear that every woman has sexual desires – whether she is a college girl or someone old enough to be a mother. It brings in a lot of issues like: women are not only for men’s sexual satisfaction, there is nothing wrong in a 55-year old fantasising about someone younger than her as sexual fantasising isn’t something to be ashamed about and most importantly, sex desire, fantasy has nothing to do with sanskar and just because a girl is open about her sexuality doesn’t mean that she isn’t sanskari.
Presenting the truth that we know exists but are penitent to admit, ‘Lipstick…’ throws heavy punches at the questionable patriarchal shibboleths of Indian society and tries to start a subdued conversation ranging from women’s clothing to forced sex in a marriage. The film starring Konkona Sen Sharma, Ratna Pathak, Aahana Kumra and Plabita Borthakur, is a brassy and colourful drama which busts many a myth and redefines the female gaze without being preachy or polemical.
‘Secret Superstar’ is a story about 14-year old Insia Malik (Zaira Wasim), an ambitious school girl, her mother Najma and their dreams and aspirations. How Insia, with her talent, achieves her dream of becoming a singer using the Internet in the environment of domestic abuse is the crux of the story.
This a heartfelt film that inspires one to dare to pursue his/her dream, depicts a woman’s place in the male-dominated households and brings in the issue of violent marriage. It also shows the Internet’s transformation power through an adventurous narrative that keeps viewers rooted and guessing. The film has long drowned out storytelling, the simplistic, naive climax and high flown speech, something that has been tried many times before but still there is something that connects in more ways than one.
The deftly introduced and developed ingredients – such as a controlling abusive father, a meek mother, a loving little brother, a likeable school friend, and her beloved guitar – helps the viewers get invested in Zaira Wasim who has given her most winning ingenue performance. Special mention to Aamir Khan who plays a deliberately irritating, foulmouthed musician and helps Insia in getting her mother divorce her cruel father.
Irrfan Khan and Saba Qamar star in this Saket Choudhry directorial. The film is a satire on the admission process in Indian schools and deals with a very relevant subject of class struggle. The movie shows how parents grapple to get their children admitted to reputed English medium schools, how they suffer from a fear of not fitting in the ‘class’ and how education has shockingly turned into a business in India.
Through its thoroughly enjoyable writing and great performances from actors, ‘Hindi Medium’, at the core, highlights the issue of how language divides our society. It lands a tight slap on the face of the society where so-called ‘class’ is determined by proficiency in the language. It demonstrates “India is English, English is India” logic taking jibes at a hypocritical, prejudiced society where English-speaking people are considered to be ‘premium class’ while those who don’t speak English aren’t taken seriously and mocked and laughed at.
‘Hindi Medium’ brilliantly exposes the inadequacies and loopholes in the Indian education system through the dramatised-but-scarily-close-to-reality plot with which every Indian students and parents will be able to relate. The film also glorifies government schools which are looked down upon in Indian society and shockingly also points out that the major concern of government schools isn’t just the lack of infrastructure and facilities but also the lack of students. The film beautifully delivers the much-needed serious social message in the garb of perfectly pitched humour and comedy.
Toilet: Ek Prem Katha:-
Shree Narayan Singh’s debut directorial is a satirical take on open defecation which is considered as a socially relevant but not widely discussed topic in Indian living rooms. The Akshay Kumar and Bhumi Pednekar starrer addresses the issue of the age-old tradition of seeking fields to relieve ourselves in a very entertaining manner.
‘Toilet Ek Prem Katha’ is about a newly married rural-ish Indian couple whose marriage meets a roadblock when the wife walks out of her husband’s home within days of her marriage as they don’t have a toilet at home and she refuses to deficit in the open with the other women gang of the village. Writer duo Sidharth-Garima brilliantly highlights the disadvantages of open defecation through a dramatic conflict between the lead couple and against the society.
Around 58% practice open defecation in India, in the name of traditions and so-called Indian culture. Director Shree Narayan Singh intelligently holds up a mirror to society and fights with the local civility showing how this superstition in local people, lazy administration and corrupt politicians have converted into the world’s largest shit-pond. The well-scripted film backed by hummable soundtracks and power-packed performances by the actors leaves audiences with a food for thought about the much-debated topic like open defecation.
Shubh Mangal Saavdhan:-
This is a family drama based on erectile dysfunction – a type of sexual dysfunction characterised by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis during sexual activity. This issue is taken as a serious, debilitating condition which everyone has heard of but very few talk about. The inability to get or keep an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse, also referred to as impotence, has caused stress, affected self-confidence and altered relationships of many, and this film also tackles the same. However, in a hilarious way balanced with sincere comedy, clap-worthy dialogues and effective ensemble.
‘Shubh Mangal Saavdhan’ is a love story of middle-class youngsters in their mid-20s planning to get married. But their simple love story turns into a tragedy when the girl discovers that he suffers from erectile dysfunction. The R.S. Prasanna directorial portrays sex as a familiar concern and deals with such a ‘private gents’ problem (as called in the film) without being vulgar.
Adopted from the superhit Tamil film, ‘Kalyana Samayal Saadham’, this movie depicts a wonderful view that love is even beyond the physical compatibility. It carefully balances the comedy and correctness to tell a story of a disorder that is a soft topic in sexually-represented India and keeps it a clean family entertainer despite explaining something very adult.
At the time majority of comedy films made in Bollywood annually are male-centric, Vidya Balan’s ‘Tumhari Sulu’ busts that myth prevailing for about three decades in Hindi film industry. The film which is about a happy-go-lucky Mumbai suburban housewife talks about the Indian housewives who, despite being ambitious, have put their dreams on hold because of their family.
Directed by Suresh Triveni, this comedy-drama brings out various shades of women and makes some important observations about how their husband, son and immediate family get affected when they decide to have a career. It deals with real conflicts and dares to question the mentality that restrains a woman to just a housewife and family’s glorified minder and keeper. Balan’s top-notch performance, solid writing and well-woven songs make ‘Tumhari Sulu’ refreshingly unfamiliar ensemble.
Bareilly Ki Barfi:-
This Ayushmann Khurrana, Kriti Sanon and Rajkummar Rao starrer is a sweet, innocuous romantic comedy set in a north Indian town. This is a light-hearted comedy that excels in every major department – whether it’s direction, writing, acting or music. The hilarious one-liners, flawless writing and magnetic performance by each and every actor makes this romcom much more effective. It gives you ample laughs throughout, which brings a satisfied smile on your face.
Sanjay Gupta’s ‘Kaabil’ is one of the best revenge sagas made in the recent times. It’s an overwhelming, magical and feel good film that is rich in content and touches your heart.
The film stars Hrithik Roshan and Yami Gautam and is a story of a visually-impaired married couple whose lives turn upside down when the girl (Yami Gautam) is raped by a local goon along with his friends. The girl commits suicide making the condition even worse and leaving her man (Hrithik Roshan) helpless. On the core, ‘Kaabil’ depicts how specially-abled people often struggle with the system, particularly societal justice and apathy.
Though the film is not extraordinary and has a predictable plot, the cat and mouse game still makes it thrilling to watch. Roshan has delivered a first-rate performance as a vulnerable lover in the first part and as a killing-machine post interval.