2018 was the year of the quiet blockbuster—gaudy films with big names fell at the box office, while quiet movies which arrived without much fanfare went on to break records. 2019 looks set to be another interesting year for Bollywood—actors from Ranveer Singh to Sonam Kapoor headline movies that have kickstarted conversations much before their release. And then there’s Rajkummar Rao, who features in not one, not two, but three of the movies on this list. Here’s what’s on our watchlist in 2019.
Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota - Release date TBD
The whimsical, fantasy thriller, which opened last year’s Mumbai Film Festival, is an ode to cinema by a hardcore cinephile, director Vasan Bala. Starring Abhimanyu Dassani, Radhika Madan and Gulshan Devaiah, who delivers a knockout performance in the action drama, MKDNH has already wowed festival audiences across the world, even winning the People’s Choice Award: Midnight Madness at the Toronto Film Festival.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga -1 February
While LGBTQ representation in Indian cinema has only been explored by a few independent filmmakers, here’s a mainstream film starring Sonam Kapoor that unabashedly looks at same-sex romance which unfolds in a small-town in Punjab. Also featuring Anil Kapoor, Juhi Chawla and Rajkummar Rao, the film, directed by Shelly Chopra Dhar, releases on 1 February.
Gully Boy - 14 February
After exploring the haughty and hedonistic lifestyle of the uber rich in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Dil Dhadkne Do, Zoya Akhtar is training her lens on the gritty lanes of Mumbai’s Dharavi, a ghetto from where local hip-hop emerged out of, much like Bronx, NY.
Fresh off the success of the very problematic Simmba, Ranveer Singh plays a drifter who finds his calling in street music. Akhtar, who has managed to tread the middle-of-the-road path between commercial and art-house, is at the helm, and we cannot wait to see what she does with Gully Boy, which also features Alia Bhatt in a pivotal role.
Sonchiriya - 8 February
This Abhishek Chaubey-directorial features an ensemble cast in Ranveer Shorey, Manoj Bajpai, Bhumi Pednekar and Sushant Singh Rajput. Set in the dusty heartland of Chambal, a notorious dacoit-town in Madhya Pradesh, the film, going by its trailer, takes on national politics (it is set against the backdrop of the 1975 Emergency), caste issues, and brutal gang wars. Like a Twitter user pointed out, the film could’ve as well as been called Gangs of Chambal.
Mental Hai Kya - 29 March
The biggest reason to be excited about Mental Hai Kya is Kanika Dhillon. The Manmarziyaan and Kedarnath writer has aced the game by consistently bringing out well fleshed out female narratives within the paradigm of Hindi commercial cinema. In Mental Hai Kya, her writing is backed by the acting talents of Rajkummar Rao and Kangana Ranaut, both of who play neuro-atypical characters in the comedy drama.
Made in China - August 15
Yet another Rajkummar Rao-starrer, Made in China sounds super promising, at least on paper. The story of an ambitious Gujarati couple who take a stab at opening a business in China, the film also features Mouni Roy, and is slated for an Independence Day release. The film has been directed by Mikhil Musale who made the National Award-winning Gujarati film, Wrong Side Raju.
Brahmastra - 20 December
Ayan Mukerji, who broke on the scene with Dharma’s ‘indie’ project Wake Up Sid, hasn’t made a film in 6 years, since Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani.
The reason? He has been apparently polishing the script of Brahmastra, a superhero fantasy drama, starring real-life couple Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt.
The film has been planned as a three-part trilogy but one can safely assume that the other two will be made depending on the fate of the first one (let’s not forget, Bombay Velvet was also planned as a multi-film franchise). Also featuring Amitabh Bachchan and Mouni Roy, the Karan Johar-production is slated for a 20 December release.
Dream Girl - Release TBA
Very little is known about Dream Girl, other than the fact that can-do-no-wrong Ayushmann Khurrana is playing the titular character. Could this be a watershed moment in Hindi cinema where we get to see a trans character as a leading hero? A cross-dresser? As conversations around intersectional feminism gains momentum, it will be interesting to see how debutante director Raaj Shaandilyaa’s Dream Girl turns out to be.