BollyBrit 2018 Year In Review
2018: A year within the Hindi film industry, that was so densely populated with strange and alarming events and stunning revelations, that one has to seriously consider the possibility that somebody was putting LSD in our water supply. Or theirs. A breakdown.
Amidst a myriad of controversies and an unending political storm, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s much maligned Padmaavat finally saw the light of day, and despite its numerous flaws set the box office alight. Not only did the beleaguered epic take an earth-shattering initial at ticket windows, it turned out to be Shahid Kapoor, Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh’s biggest box office success ever bringing respite especially to Kapoor’s dwindling career, who subsequently couldn’t quite replicate the crowds later on in the year with his well-intentioned dud, Batti Gul Meter Chalu.
Either way, one can hardly attribute the success of Padmaavat to Kapoor. It’s not as if his one note take on the valiant Rajput ruler Ratan Singh that attracted the hosannas was it? The unanimous consensus was that it was the barbaric antagonist played to kohl eyed perfection by Singh who single-handedly rescued the film and gave us a villain for the ages, however questionably the character was written. And it was Padukone, to her credit, who sold the film, given that it was her face that was plastered all over the publicity campaign, even if this was by no means her best work.
It wasn’t just the success of the film that was cause for celebration for the on and off-screen couple though. A steady courtship that began in 2013, during the filming of Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (a tale of star crossed lovers, the irony), finally culminated in marriage at a secluded, private ceremony in Lake Como, which was out of bounds to the media and members of the film fraternity alike. Of course, they more than made up for it at the subsequent wedding receptions, which were all the rage this year – and unless you’ve been living under a rock, there’s wasn’t the only we had to endure-I-mean enjoy during the social media frenzy that ensued.
Their Bajirao Mastani co-star Priyanka Chopra tied the knot too and unlike ‘DeepVeer’ both her wedding and groom of choice came as something of a surprise – it wasn’t a homegrown Punjabi munda, or a foreign doctor, but rather an American pop star, Nick Jonas, whom she met at the Met Gala last year where they both modelled for Ralph Lauren. The grapevine had it though, that things literally only got serious this year, and after being spotted hobnobbing at various happening joints in the US, Jonas finally popped the question on Chopra’s 36th birthday, inside a Tiffany’s of all places! The subsequent engagement in India and the ostentatious weddings that ensued literally caused a social media meltdown, whereby both Jonas and Chopra were trending for days on end.
Of course their wedding didn’t come without its share of detractors. There was much debate over their ten year age gap (Chopra is 36 and Jonas is 26), and Chopra even walked out of Salman Khan’s Bharat only to be quickly replaced by Katrina Kaif. Then there was that god awful damning article in The Cut magazine which literally went on a (mostly unfounded) tirade against Chopra, and issued an apology quicker than you could say ‘quick before they sue you misogynistic asses.’ Ultimately, all’s well that ends well and despite the backlash both Chopra and Jonas seem happy as Larry.
That wasn’t it for the weddings though. Isha Ambani, the daughter of India’s richest mogul, Reliance Industries Chairman, Mukesh Ambani and Nita Ambani, tied the nuptial knot with Anand Piramal, son of Ajay Piramal and Swati Piramal, toward the end of the year too. Film and sports icons, business tycoons, political bigshots, celebrities and a host of others attended the ‘royal wedding’ of the scions of two top business conglomerates, but the icing on the cake was a performance by diva Beyonce, who’d been flown in all the way from the US – what was that about money making the world go round? Literally, in this instance.
While these high profile weddings happened literally back to back towards the end, another lead actress took her vows earlier on in the year. Sonam Kapoor married long time beau Anand Ahuja amidst much fanfare and now shuttles between Mumbai and London consistently (Ahuja is based in London).
Kapoor, like Padukone, too had much to celebrate personally as well as professionally. Her home production Veere Di Wedding was one of many films this year which literally ran on the back of an actress’s popularity (the film top-lined Kapoor herself, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Swara Bhaskar and Shikha Talsania) marking an exciting (and most welcome) change in an industry that has literally always considered women’s roles something of an afterthought rather than actually being integral to movie plots.
Veere Di Wedding wasn’t this year’s only surprise though. Rani Mukerji reliably delivered with Hichki where she played Naina Mathur, an aspiring teacher suffering from Tourette syndrome. Alia Bhatt made the trade pundits sit up and take notice (again), when she shouldered Raazi, an adaptation of a novel, Calling Sehmat, to box office success that was anything but moderate.
Anushka Sharma continued to push the envelope albeit with middling success. While she knocked the socks off of discerning viewers with her supernatural act in Pari, the film failed to take flight at the box office. Similarly, her brilliant scientist suffering from cerebral palsy in Zero, drew more flak than praise, but she balanced those blemishes out with her meek housewife act in Sui Dhaaga, and the film proved to be a success too, so her diversity as an actress didn’t go unnoticed.
While we’re on how certain women are consistently pushing the envelope can a mention of Tabu be far behind? Having been in the film industry for nearly 25 years, Tabu continues to wow in performance after performance which is no mean feat in an industry that usually ostracises an actress as soon as she hits 30. Andhadhun which top-lined her (along with Ayushmann Khurrana), saw her in her element in what is hands down one of the best films, if not the best film of the year, would have drawn a blank if it wasn’t for her portrayal of the wily, cunning widow who will stop at nothing to cover up the heinous crimes she commits after she brutally murders her husband. Or does she?
New Age Actors
Andhadhun of course, didn’t just benefit with having Tabu though. Khurrana matches her step for step, and given his genius film choices especially in recent times, it’s no wonder he’s currently tinsel town’s blue eyed boy. And why not? Both of his films Andhadhun and Badhaai Ho which released back to back had the distinction of being contrastingly different in subject matter AND scored at the ticket windows too.
Are we approaching a new era? Have we finally given up on testosterone fuelled big budget, bogus bonanzas headlined by the Khans in favour of content driven films that have a story to tell? It certainly seems that way – what with all three Khan ventures (Race 3, Zero and Thugs of Hindostan) falling like nine pins, and audiences instead flocking towards stories that were a little out of the box, featuring accidental heroes like Rajkummar Rao (who scored with what was probably one of the most original films of the year, Stree), Khurrana of course or Vicky Kaushal, with his show-stealing turns in two of the year’s biggest hits Sanju, Raazi or the woefully underrated Manmarziyaan.
It wasn’t just the newbies though. There were several good ol’ reliables that came through too. Ranbir Kapoor finally wiped out his duds and was stellar in the woefully flawed Sanju — that it smashed a few records only helped his cause and then some. Varun Dhawan continued to diversify too. His October landed with a mixed reception, but his lovable Mauji in Sui Dhaaga while predictable, stitched up the allegations that he was beginning to get a tad repetitive. Akshay Kumar added yet another socio-drama to his repertoire but for what it was worth Pad Man was an enjoyable yarn. Tiger Shroff became a force to reckon with even if Baaghi 2 didn’t interest me in the slightest. And Ranveer who already started the year with a bang ends it at the polar opposite of the spectrum with his cop with a golden heart act in Simmba which is enticing crowds in droves, even as we type.
It’s just the Khans, who surprisingly laid a trio of eggs this year. Of course there will still always be huge audiences for the country’s biggest stars – and who can take that away from them? Each of them have solid careers behind them, but maybe, just maybe, they need to stop taking their stardom as well as their audiences for granted.
I read this somewhere and I couldn’t help but regurgitate it here. While we’re on the Khans, perhaps the only one to not fall flat on their face this year was the youngest one of them all. Sara Ali Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh’s daughter, after much dilly-dallying made her foray into the movies right at the end of the year, (whether it was a strategy is unclear), but both of her films, the romantic weepy Kedarnath, and action cop drama Simmba hit the bulls eye and heralded the dawn for a new czarina in filmdom. That she has her head firmly screwed on her shoulders is inevitably going to work in her favour if her fortunes continue to shine.
The other notable debutants this year of course were Ishaan Khatter and Janhvi Kapoor, who also scored with their sleeper hit, Dhadak, a remake of the far superior Marathi film Sairat. Of the two, Kapoor, like Sara, seems to be playing her cards right and also has a delicious line-up of films in her kitty, even if she isn’t as polished.
The Loss Of A Legend
What perhaps works against her is the inevitable comparison to her formidable late mother Sridevi, an actress who inspired and continues to inspire many wannabe actresses who can only but hope to reach the dizzying heights that the stellar actress did in her hey-day.
Sridevi, considered by many, to be the last female superstar was pronounced dead on 24 February 2018 in her hotel room in Dubai where husband Boney Kapoor found her.
The film industry, friends, and fans responded to her death with shock through social and other media outlets. Boney wrote: “To the world, she was their Chandni, the actor par excellence, their Sridevi, but to me, she was my love, my friend, mother to our girls, my partner. To our daughters, she was their everything, their life. She was the axis around which our family ran."
The passing of the stellar actress was perhaps the biggest loss to the film industry this year, more so perhaps because she’d just started working on projects which would have inevitably benefited from her presence.
On a personal note, it felt as though a part of my childhood had died, and here’s hoping that her legacy carries on through Janhvi in the coming years.
Even as the industry mourned the death of an icon, things took an even more bizarre turn, where piggybacking on the Hollywood ‘Me Too’ movement, several relative unknowns came forward only to name, shame and claim to have been assaulted by leading actors, producers and directors. The industry has long been known by its murky underbelly and many tales of the ‘casting couch’ have been alluded to, but it was only this year, rightfully, that the likes of Nana Patekar, Sajid Khan and Alok Nath were exposed by women they’d worked with in the past. Surprisingly, none of the prominent stars have been named and there’s always the fear, that some opportunists (Rakhi Sawant), may make a mockery of the movement as a whole, but for what it’s worth, rest-assured, this one aint going anywhere for a while.
Flash Forward 2019
What’s in store for us in 2019 then? Waves of change? Apparently. Scandals and shocks aplenty? Inevitably? A Ranbir Kapoor-Alia Bhatt wedding? When hell freezes over.
Looking solely at the movies though, personally, I have a few that are on my red hot watch list. There’s the same gender romance Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, which features Anil Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor. The Zoya Akhtar Indie romance Gully Boy top-lining Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh (insert heart emoji here). The Farhan-Priyanka biopic tentatively titled The Sky Is Pink. The Indra Kumar laugh riot Total Dhamaal which I’m on board for, especially if Anil-Madhuri saw something in its script. The period drama Kalank, with beefcakes Varun Dhawan and Aditya Roy Kapur opposite Alia Bhatt and Sonakshi Sinha. The icing on the cake? Madhuri stepping into Sridevi’s role in a part opposite Sanjay Dutt of all people. There’s the sci-fi fantasy Brahmastra, which sees Ranbir Kapoor-Alia Bhatt with the Big B and helmed by Ayan Mukerji. A few strays, besides but these are the ones that already have my attention.
Of course it’s likely that all of the above will be utter shite, and/or I’ll end up missing most of them as I’m away travelling for nearly a quarter of the year. Needless to add you will still be privy to my rants so you’re not getting rid of me that quickly!
Go on now. Have a happy 2019. Or at least try.
Much love and see you at the movies and/or rant with you next year,