The year has been an interesting one so far, with many medium-budget, content-driven films working beyond the conventional urban markets. At the other end of the spectrum, superstars and studios, too, finally seemed to realise that it would take much more than a few action scenes and item songs to go past the 100 crore mark, and it looks like the remake mantra is officially on its way out.
But while rehashes of Southern hits might have gotten boring, a dubbed Telugu flick came, saw and conquered the Hindi box-office like no other regional film ever has, thus making Bahubali the biggest surprise blockbuster of the year. Bahubali along with Jurassic World and Furious 7 (which incidentally was 2015's first 100-crore-club entrant) made all of Bollywood sit up and take notice of the serious competition it faces in terms of storytelling and technology, and how language is indeed no longer a barrier for big-screen entertainment.
"[W]hile rehashes of Southern hits might have gotten boring, a dubbed Telugu flick came, saw and conquered the Hindi box-office like no other regional film ever has..."
The last quarter of 2015 has begun on a promising note with the taut Talvar and slapstick Singh Is Bling. And things only get more exciting from here on as the next three months will see a film each from Imtiaz Ali, Rohit Shetty, Sooraj Barjatya and Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
Apart from the cred these filmmakers enjoy, the upcoming biggies also present an interesting mix of stars from different generations. Salman Khan (Prem Ratan Dhan Payo) and Shah Rukh Khan (Dilwale) will be looking to smash some more records this festive season, while on the other hand Ranbir Kapoor (Tamasha) and Ranveer Singh (Bajirao Mastani) will face the box-office test with their biggest and most anticipated solo releases. And the fate of these films will in many ways impact the perception of their star power in the eyes of the trade and media.
So while one awaits the return of Prem and the reunion of the Dilwale Jodi, here's a throwback to the best films of 2015 so far.
The promos had prepared us for a different Salman Khan, but no one expected the emotional quotient to be so high! Bajrangi Bhaijaan touched hearts across the world and emerged as the most feel-good-film of the year. Shot lavishly and packed with crowd-pleasing plot-points that would make Rajkumar Hirani proud, the movie made fine use of the superstar's tough-yet-innocent persona, complementing it with a line-up of solid supporting actors. With characters that you could not help but fall in love with, Bajrangi Bhaijaan was a refreshing change from Bollywood's jingoistic Indo-Pak template and a welcome message about love, peace and the importance of being human against all odds.
Dum Laga Ke Haisha
The sleeper success of the year, Dum Laga Ke Haishawas the celluloid equivalent of #ThrowbackThursday for anyone who has grown up in the 90s. This little gem of a film from YRF signified the true victory of content as it arrived with minimal promotion and nearly zilch face value. But word of mouth spread quickly and this bittersweet, small-town romance about a docile Kumar Sanu fan and his overweight but supremely confident and educated wife, portrayed brilliantly by Ayushmann and Bhumi Pednekar respectively, gave us a couple that broke every Bollywood stereotype.
Essentially a slice of life flick about three borderline dysfunctional characters who come to terms with each other's quirks in the course of a road trip from Delhi to Kolkata, Piku did not have much of a plot. But sharp, witty dialogues and natural performances from a stellar cast (Amitabh Bachchan, Irrfan, Deepika Padukone) made it a worthwhile cinematic journey with moments that were straight out of our lives. Fifteen years after K3G, this film in its own sweet way reminded us that it's all about loving your parents!
"Bajrangi Bhaijaan was a refreshing change from Bollywood's jingoistic Indo-Pak template and a welcome message about love, peace and the importance of being human against all odds."
Akshay Kumar began the year on a solid note with the no-nonsense, intelligent, Argosque thriller that made everyone sit up and take notice of the powerhouse of talent beneath the superstar veneer. The actor got fine support from a diverse mix of talent from different film industries with every actor playing to his or her strengths. Shot across breath-taking locales, a focused screenplay and the fast-paced direction made this song-less flick a must-see on everyone's watch list.
Tanu Weds Manu Returns/Badlapur
Though diametrically opposite in terms of theme and tonality, both these films gave us terrific ensembles and a bouquet of interesting characters and one-liners that made up for all the gaps in the plot. Kangana Ranaut was in prime form in an author-backed double role that is bound to fetch her all the awards next season. But the impact of Tanu and Datto was further elevated by fine performances from Deepak Dobriyal, Jimmy Shergill, Zeshaan Ayyub and the ever so dependable R Madhavan whose characters nicely mixed humour with emotion and made us identify with the unpredictability of falling in love with these two remarkable women. In a similar way, Badlapur, despite being centred on Varun Dhawan's revenge, presented contrasting perspectives of good and bad through the characters of Vinay Pathak, Radhika Apte, Huma Qureshi, Divya Dutta, Kumud Mishra and above all Nawazuddin Siddiqui who pretty much like the Joker made evil look deliciously cool and at some level got us to empathise with his imperfect love story and underlying struggle for redemption.
Postscript: Other notable films which just about fell short due to inconsistencies in the narrative were Dil Dhadakne Do, NH 10, Masaan, Gabbar Is Back and the hilarious but lazy Welcome Back.