8 things we’ve learned from Hindi films in 2015

1. Zayed Khan is alive. 

As demonstrated by his role in the long-in-the-making, Delhi-based film called Sharafat Gayi Tel Lene, which looks like it was made ten years ago and conceptualized twenty-three years ago, Mr. Khan is still at it. He plays a simpleton in the movie, and gets smarter as he discovers a scam – like most viewers, when they watched him on screen more than a decade ago. Rannvijay Singh out-performs him here. Anupam Kher out-performs him too. The scam outsmarts him as well. His Maruti car out-looks him too. 

2. Unfortunately, so is Sonam Kapoor. 

In Dolly Ki Doli, Miss Kapoor plays a con artist who fools men into marrying her so that she can drug them on wedding nights and escape with their money and hearts. The movie never considers the possibility that perhaps some people in the family – including the pets, servants and drivers – may not like drinking milk after a celebratory night. But we digress. Sonam is as believable as this scheming smooth operator as she was as a physiologist in Disney’s Khoobsurat last year. Make of this what you may. 

3. Just when you think it can’t get any worse…

Bollywood proves you wrong. Despite the presence of formidable contenders like MSG, Dirty Politics, Barkhaa, Dilliwali Zaalim Girlfriend, Alone, Mumbai Can Dance Saala, Hey Bro, Badmashiyan, Monsoon, Ek Paheli Leela, Hum Baaja Baja Denge, Ishq Ke Parindey, Mr. X, Kaagaz ke Fools, Paisa Ho Paisa, NH8 Road to Nidhivan, Extraordinaari (that’s right), Gabbar Is Back, Kuch Kuch Locha Hai, Hamari Adhuri Kahani, Thoda Lutf Thoda Ishq and Sabki Bajegi Band – I’ve watched them all – the award for the WORST Hindi film of 2015 goes to a little-known biopic on Lal Bahadur Shastri called Jai Jawaan Jai Kisaan. This movie was so bad that I went back to school and apologized to all my history teachers for not paying attention in class. Their monotonous voices and lessons were absolutely riveting compared to this D-grade exercise in un-filmmaking. 

4. Rajkummar Rao is our only hope.

Rajkummar Rao has appeared in two unpalatable mainstream Hindi films this year – Dolly Ki Doli and Hamari Adhuri Kahani. He stood out in the former, and hammed away to glory in the latter. Still, he remained the only remarkable presence in both movies. He is the finest young actor in India, but hasn’t been too wise with his choices lately. Maybe Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh will bring some sanity back to his life, and ours. 

5. The Bollywood game of Chinese Whispers continues. 

After Gabbar Is Back, which was remade into three Indian languages by the SAME director (God knows he must feel passionately about dumbed-down corruption and vigilantism), Drishyam – starring Ajay Devgn and directed by Nishikant Kamat in a hurry – was also remade twice from an original, which was already inspired by a book. By the time it reached the Hindi-speaking audiences after being desensitized, grated and cleaned, it was 80 minutes too long and nearly unwatchable, if not for Tabu. Also, something just doesn’t sound right when you hear Ajay Devgn after the names of Mohanlal and Kamal Haasan, who acted in the Malayalam and Tamil versions respectively. 

6. South India continues to imagine bigger and better. 

First it was Shankar’s absolutely audacious Beauty-and-the-Beast-meets-Hunchback-of-Notre-Dame “I” starring Vikram, and then Baahubali, which pushed the limits of imagination and compelled viewers to just sit back and laugh at how brave they’ve been. They’ve been corny and cheeky, but have overawed with sheer scale and Tim Burton-esque treatments. Meanwhile, Bollywood continues to operate on formulaic and tried-and-tested scales. Perhaps the sensibilities are different, but that in no way is an excuse to not use the medium as a canvas for creation. 

7. Versova has conquered the industry. 

Both ‘Court’ and ‘Masaan’ – arguably the best Indian films of the year so far – have indirectly originated from the by-lanes of the Mumbai suburb of Versova. The young filmmakers Chaitanya Tamhane and Neeraj Ghaywan – though from completely different backgrounds and schools of thought – are a product of this independent and brave vibe. There seems to be a new-wave movement brimming on these shores, with more to come. 

8. Start small, dream big.

The first official Hindi film of the year starred Shakti Kapoor as a gay stylist and Rakhi Sawant as a bar-girl mentor, and called itself ‘Mumbai Can Dance Saala’. As has been evident, the only way to go from there is upwards. 

 

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