The first quarter of 2015 is already behind us and Bollywood is yet to see a blockbuster this year. But while the 200-crore-club may have to wait a little longer for a new entrant (the Khans do not have a release till the second half of the year), it's been a good year for plot-driven-movies. And like always, there are already many lessons for the trade and stars about our ever-so-unpredictable ticket-paying janta.
Small is beautiful
When the number of good films is greater than the number of months that have passed in a year, then you can safely say that acchhe din are back for moviegoers. While Akshay Kumar's Baby proved that content and budget need not be inversely proportional to each other, 2015 has largely belonged to the underdogs. Middle-of-the-road films that successfully married content and commerce gave the trade as we all critics enough reason to cheer. Badlapur, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Rahasya and NH10 were smartly-packaged, tackled unconventional subjects and managed to draw repeat audiences with their targeted promotion and strong word-of-mouth. As Anurag Kashyap tweeted, "What's amazing is that the films, that the trade for many years said 'wouldn't work/shouldn't be made' are the ones that are really working now." While every year has its share of surprise successes (Kahani, Vicky Donor, Bheja Fry, A Wednesday, etc), this year's earners are significantly darker in theme and tonality. And that in itself is a reflection of evolving viewer preferences, not only at premium multiplexes but also in sub-metros and towns.
Melody needs matter
We shall be eternally indebted to Aashiqui 2 for ending the reign of item-numbers and bringing melody back into our music! However filmmakers seem to have forgotten that it takes much more than an Arijit Singh ballad to keep audiences glued to their seats. And that a soundtrack can never be a substitute for the story. Alone, Khamoshiyan and Roy were just some of the films that learnt this lesson the hard way.
Even Masala needs a bit of craft
The failure of Tevar has more or less spelt game-over for lazy remakes of Tamil and Telugu blockbusters. Despite its ambitious scale and lavish production values, audiences were just not in the mood to check out yet another wannabe Dabangg. Ironically it was Boney Kapoor's 2009 hit action-entertainer Wanted which triggered the trend of South remakes... but six years later with Tevar (produced by the same banner), the formula seems to have exhausted its appeal.
Make way for Bauji
He won the hearts of masses with his deliciously evil turn as Salman Khan's antagonist in Kick. In Badlapur, he managed to make the audiences root for an unapologetically negative character. The face of offbeat cinema, Nawazuddin Siddiqui has proven his mettle as a crowd puller. Next up is Bajrangi Bhaijaan with Salman Khan, followed by Raees where he will share screen space with Shah Rukh Khan. Now that's one face-off worth waiting for. If Nawaz is busy ruling the dark side, then at the other end of the spectrum we have Sanjay Mishra. Having wowed everyone as the lovable patriarch in Rajat Kapoor's Ankhon Dekhi, he came out tops once again as Ayushmann's strict father in Dum Laga Ke Haisha. Mishra, who has been a part of several ensemble comedies, has finally broken into the big league with parts and lines being specially written for him. Bollywood has found a new Bauji, and we are definitely going to see a lot more of him in the months to come.
Why should guys have all the fun?
Female power continued to shine at the box office with women venturing into brave new territories and pushing the boundaries both in terms of look as well as characterisation. If Dum Laga Ke Haisha's Bhumi Pendekar broke all rules by playing the confident, small-town-girl who is not at all conscious about her weight, then Radhika Apte and Huma Qureshi also added a lot of depth to Badlapur as women who have no qualms standing by the men they love despite the latter's questionable actions. The women in Hunterr got a raw deal in the script, but Sai Tamhankar surely managed to stir up some conversation as the attractive housewife who is not sorry about her sexual desires. The "Zakhmee-Aurat" premise (a staple of B-grade potboilers in the 80s) got an edgy, new-age-spin in NH 10. Seeking revenge for her husband's murder, Anushka Sharma used the rod to great effect to instill the fear God in the badlands of Haryana. And then of course there was Taapsee Pannu who had the most kicka$$ 60 seconds in Indian cinema. Literally kicking butt as the under-cover-agent, she came out as the scene-stealer in Baby, thus proving yet again that a character's impact is not necessarily a function of screen-time.