Hindi cinema’s half-yearly report card, 2015: The good stuff

Half of 2015 has flown by, and it’s a good time to take stock of Hindi cinema and its latest shenanigans. Today, I’ll focus on the good stuff, the films and performers that have impressed us in these last six months — while keeping the red pen ready for tomorrow’s more ominous instalment of the report card.

nh10aThe best films

Piku: Without a doubt, this is the A+. Shoojit Sircar’s finely crafted and emotional film about a constipated father and his irritable daughter is something special, challenging and conceptually very ambitious indeed. The acting is top-notch, the storytelling is warm and relatable, and it is a film worthy of many a viewing.

Badlapur: Sriram Raghavan’s intense slow-burn drama about revenge is a compelling and visceral work of art, with an arresting, unpredictable narrative, heaps of style, and a deeply introspective core that lifts it above the genre.

NH10: We haven’t done many true slasher movies in India, and Navdeep Singh’s gritty tale of a woman on the run is made unforgettable because of how believable the whole nightmare seems.

The interesting attempts

Dil Dhadakne Do: Sure, it’s a bit too long and there’s that insufferable talking-dog voiceover, but Zoya Akhtar’s film does indeed feature some genuine and rather quotable gems.

Hunterr: Harshvardhan Kulkarni’s film about a horny hero never quite takes off, but has some seriously quirky stuff going on and is bolstered by its performances.

Dum Laga Ke Haisha: There is a lot of marvellous flavour to Sharat Katariya’s film which gets a lot of things right but ends up being a paean to arranged marriage and how we must all settle.

*Tanu Weds Manu Returns: I must confess I was travelling when this released and haven’t yet caught the film, but even trailer-length glimpses of the short-haired (and electrifying) Kangna Ranaut ensure it being ‘interesting.’

The best actors piku1

Deepika Padukone: Is Padukone our best leading lady right now? She’s certainly not playing it safe, pushing it with every role. Piku sees her flanked by two legendary actors, but she is, impressively enough, the one who shoulders the film.

Irrfan Khan: What can one say about the marvellous Mr Khan? Piku features him as the most wonderfully nonplussed leading man, and as always, he brings tremendous nuance to a role that would, in less capable hands, be a mere comic foil.

Anushka Sharma: Sharma is exceptionally good in NH10, stripped of makeup and believably panicked as she tries to survive a hellacious night. A powerful performance.

Anil Kapoor: Kapoor, one of our most consistent performers, rises to his belligerent best in Dil Dhadakne Do, steamrolling over the talented ensemble to ensure you go home wowed by him.

Radhika Apte: Does this actress know what a false note is? It sure doesn’t look like it, and Apte — who is superb in both Badlapur and Hunterr — is excelling with a truly eclectic filmography.

The big surprises ranveer1

Varun Dhawan: Dhawan, so spontaneous and buoyant in Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya just last year and, heck, bouncing off walls in ABCD2 a few days ago, dialled it all down and went gruff and bearded and mature for Badlapur. The gradual slide of man to monster is slow and challenging, and Dhawan nails it.

Ranveer Singh: Similarly, Singh, known for his far-out frippery and hammy flamboyance, peels off the moustache and swagger and plays it straight (and bemused) in Dil Dhadakne Do, giving us the kind of calm, internalised performance we really aren’t used to anymore. Bravo.

~

First published Rediff, July 1, 2015

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Hindi cinema’s half-yearly report card, 2015: The good stuff

  1. Khalil Sawant

    Byomkesh ? Intersting atleast ?

  2. Shashwat

    You are missing it big time if you haven’t seen Tanu weds Manu Returns. Catch it ASAP.

  3. Sudeep

    Ranveer was really good in Lootera as well. The “restrained” type of roles seem to suit him, contrary to his public image.

  4. salil

    I read both the articles, so I’ll provide my feedback for both, here itself.

    What I agree with:

    1. Piku: No doubt this is the best of 2015, yet.

    What I disagree with:

    1. Dum Laga Ke Haishaa: It is second only to Piku. In a country where love marriages are a manifestation of arranged marriage (cuz women actually filter out men, mostly, based on criteria their families would specify, this is actually a love marriage manifestation out of an arranged marriage. One, which encourages people like me who are going to get their marriage arranged, (in about an year) it asks us to celebrate the beauty of the ordinary, and, specifically, in this country, not everyone is *privileged* to get married to a person they love, or even find time or clarity to fall in love, even. And oh, there’s nothing wrong with a movie telling us — rather middle class people — that settling down, with a really ordinary woman, with whom your marriage is arranged isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as you say. Definitely, a lot more important thing instead of telling us that we must sympathize with jerks, even if they are facing some filmy Hum Saath Saath Hain, unrealistic Family issues. Speaking of which…

    2. Dil Dhadakne Do: This movie is bad. I don’t know why people seem to like it. It is a fake, shallow representation of insecurities. How difficult it is to accept people are going through an awfully sad time? Ask me. For I can’t seem to collate the background of a cruze with lavish, plush sofas, with people sitting on it and talking about morals and ideals. To be frank, the only person who could be sympathized with, is Rahul Bose… Ranveer Singh’s character was such a jerk that he actually was asking an old woman to commit real suicide? And then you talk about movies giving away wrong messages… well this one’s a pinnacle. Jerks are to be sympathized with, according to shallow Bollyland.

    3. Byomkesh Bakshy!: It is a horror to me that it finds a place in the list of movies most disappointing. Okay, Dibakar’s isn’t a great movie like his others. But no sir, you, are wrong! For all its shortcomings, DB’s DBB is a cool, sexy movie. One which hooked my cuz of its mood, and it is definitely better than NH10 (though I am OK with the fact that it finds its place here. NH10 had plot holes so big, that entire first half of the movie is ridiculously unbelievable. You just laud it for its craft and set up, but you can’t ignore its bad plotting.

    4. Bombay Velvet: If it doesn’t hold a place on this list, then it mustn’t land in the other list too. It’s an okay movie. And if you are comparing Kashyap with Luthria, well…its your loss to not see the good. Atleast Bollywood is trying. And in my book, Kashyap hasn’t failed. You have, instead. If you think the movie didn’t work for you, then that’s fine. But to say that audiences and critics dissed the film alike, well… then that’s a ridiculous metric you are using to convince yourself that you are right. You aren’t. It’s a decent movie, with decent acting, excellent look, scaled plotting (even though, it dulls a bit in between), and brilliant production values. I didn’t loathe the golds, for once. I am not saying its a great movie, but it isn’t a disappointment you are talking about. And if you say that people didn’t like it too, well, people don’t like a lot of things they should, and they love a lot of things they shouldn’t. So please, refrain from giving me that.

  5. Dil Dhadakne Do is “AWFUL.” I don’t know why does it even count, here? A film promoting jerks can never be good.

    And I don’t know why some points were taken off Dum Laga Ke Haisha just because it talks about goodness of “arranged marriages”. It is a beautiful film in a country where even love marriages are arranged marriages in disguise. Where girls and boys filter partners based on their acceptability in their families.

    Moreover, in a country like India, most of the marriages are still arranged, because in a poor country the first thing young men and women strive for is a better career for a better living condition which leaves little room for love to happen. Let alone love marriage.

    I think it is a better movie than Piku. Because it talks to me directly, and asks me to celebrate the ordinary without being preachy, ever.

  6. And oh, Deepika Padukone isn’t the best leading lady we have right now. Kangana Ranaut is.

  7. nishat eqbal

    margharita with a straw?

  8. Sridhar

    Salil, that is because he has not seen Tanu Weds Manu Returns. Kind of obvious right?

  9. Zoeb

    Don’t really get your ratings system thing, Raja, at times.
    Think about it- ‘Hunterr’ got 2 and a half ratings from you and yet it lands on the ‘Interesting’ list while ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshy’ and ‘Bombay Velvet’ had roughly the same rating and both of them missed it.

    According to me, Dil Dhadakne Do should not even be there on the list. It is so terrible that it could have been there below with ‘MSG’ in your other list. The way I see it- there is actual universal loathing for DDD rather than Bombay Velvet which still has a small group of ardent fans (including myself)

    And Piku is not really the best film this year. It has great acting, a very quirky and well-presented storyline and lots of charm but parts of it are too cheesy, and all the funny layering is eventually futile. Little is explored about the relationships and more emphasis is given on the hilarious angle of motions. No way a bad film, and very entertaining but ultimately nothing exceptional- deserves a slot in the Interesting category only.

    My lineup would be like this-
    1- Bombay Velvet (I would call it equivalent of Kashyap’s ‘Dune’- grandiose, misunderstood, a bit berserk, somewhat flawed but totally compelling)

    2- Badlapur- I agree with you on that- this is a fine little film that grows on you- not the action-packed revenge saga everyone expected but rather a fabulously sober meditation on good and evil with unexpected thrills, spills and sly wit.

    3- NH-10- A fine slasher film template given a very realistic and earthy feel and Anushka was spot-on really.
    Then come Piku, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, Dum Laga Ke Haisha and Bajrangi Bhaijaan.
    Finally, at the bottom will be Shamitabh, Roy and DDD- the really bad films this year…

  10. hmmm

    Find Varun Dhawan v limited as a dramatic actor & he has the Deepika Padukone affliction of really stilted dialogue delivery.
    Kareena, Kangana, and even your loathed PC are far more solid leading ladies.
    Also don’t get what’s really surprising about Ranveer Singh delivering an internalized performance, he already accomplished that with a far less forthcoming character in Lootera.

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