The Best Bollywood Films Of 2015: Part 2
Shoojit Sircar’s Piku is so quiet (in spite of all its leads’ kvetching and quarrelling throughout the film) and so unassumingly, unfussily constructed that you might not even process, upon first viewing, all the cogent, witty things this film manages to say about ageing, gender roles, and family dynamics. It sidesteps cliche at each turn, resisting every urge to reduce its wonderfully fleshed out protagonists to figures of trite sympathy or to resolve things for them with pat conclusions.
Dil Dhadakne Do seems, at first glance, to be exactly the sort of film (rich, pretty people whining in fancy locations) that one can’t help but resent a little. But director Zoya Akhtar and writing partner Reema Kagti have something far more clever and subversive ticking under this gorgeous-looking ensemble vehicle’s sun-dappled packaging. Dil Dhadakne Do is full of keen, cutting commentary on how women (even very wealthy, ostensibly independent ones) are dismissed by the families they keep together; how the family, widely venerated as the cornerstone of Indian society, can become an increasingly desperate, repressive farce; and how keeping up appearances becomes much more pressing, alas, than truly knowing those we claim to love. Also, it is one of the funniest films I’ve watched this year.
Shonali Bose’s Margarita With A Straw makes poetry out of the anxious, tender, ferocious desires of her film’s protagonist, whose curiosity and willfulness are vivid in Kalki Koechlin’s performance, my favorite in any film this year. She plays Laila, a queer young woman with cerebral palsy, with such depth and electric, questioning intelligence that you wish you could step right into the screen and get to know her better.
Sriram Raghavan’s Badlapur plays with masterful sadism on our sympathies, and by the time the film draws to a close, we find ourselves repulsed by the man whose life was wrecked in the film’s opening scenes (Varun Dhawan, astonishing) and sorry for the murderer (Nawazuddin Siddiqui, hilarious). Badlapur’s setup hints at revenge thriller stylings, but it becomes something much more interesting. At once brutal and thoughtful, this film is a meditation on grief and its warping effects. It is also notable for the fact that almost every interesting part in it, aside from the lead protagonist and antagonist, is played by a woman. See, Bollywood? It can be done.
There’s been nothing like Bajirao Mastani at the movies this year, or in several years, really. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s epic romance is overlong and exhausting, and its relationship to historical fact is often tenuous, but it is a cinematic event that leaves you dazed with the force of its beauty and its bold emotional sweep. Its pleasures include two beautifully acted, complex female protagonists and a beast of a performance by Ranveer Singh that ought to herald his ascent into bona fide superstardom.
(. . . And one more!)
Dum Laga Ke Haisha assiduously recreates small-town India of the mid-Nineties and gives us another terrific leading lady in Bhumi Pednekar, who, as the no-nonsense, upfront Sandhya, refuses to suffer silently or be an object of either pity or ridicule. She is awesomely upfront about her desire for love, respect, sexual gratification, and professional success, and she doesn’t need anyone’s validation. The supporting cast is fantastic (Sanjay Mishra, Seema Pahwa, and Sheeba Chaddha are national treasures), and the closing credits number, a send-up/celebration of the flying-dupatta romantic duets from the 1990s, was a delightfully corny highlight of 2015.
That was Sal's list. Which ones were your favourites? Do let us know below!