On the last day of the year, I’ve decided to chalk up a list of outstanding technical and artistic performances for the year in Hindi cinema. It has been a very good year for Bollywood overall, with a fair amount of content-driven stories going hand-in-hand with the obvious commercial potboilers. For every Bajrangi Bhaijaan, there has been a Piku. For every Badlapur, there has been a Masaan. And for every Baahubali, there has been a Bajirao Mastani.
The trend, however, has been slightly startling: Successful auteurs and directors like Dibakar Bannerjee, Anurag Kashyap and, to an extent, Imtiaz Ali, haven’t been able to replicate their previous success, while new filmmakers and writers have come in to take the year by storm. This is an encouraging sign, and proves that even the best of them can only be as good as their last film. Even the brainless Khan vehicles like Prem Ratan Dhan Payo and Dilwale haven’t exactly set the box office on fire, and have reiterated that it is important to put a little bit of heart into the blood, sweat and tears most teams work to make these movies. In between, however, silly erotic thrillers like Hate Story 3 and any Sunny Leone film continue to make money, solely on basis of the frisky college couples and frustrated men that fill the matinee shows on the weekend mornings.
Here’s a list of categories, along with the winner and a Special mention for each of them:
Best Screenplay: Vishal Bharadwaj for TALVAR
Special Mention: Varun Grover for MASAAN
Two of the finest Hindi films of the year have banked, first and foremost, on the written word. Scripts continue to make all the difference, as even proven by Juhi Chaturvedi’s uncanny texture-capturing lines in Piku, and Sriram Raghavan’s Tarantinosque subversions in Badlapur.
Best Editing: Namrata Rao for TITLI
Special Mention: Nitin Baid for MASAAN
Titli is much about what happens off screen as it is about the brutalities that occur on. A prime example is the unbearable wrist-breaking moment, where Rao cuts the scene into parts that make us cringe simply by the power of suggestion – finally showing a broken wrist in the end.
Best Sound Design: Subhash Sahu for NH10
Special Mention: Madhu Apsara for BADLAPUR
Both dark, twisted mainstream films are pretty much defined by the subtle variations in their soundscapes for each environment, and a good sense of how to mix a pin-threading background score to elevate the tension.
Best Cinematography: Sudeep Chatterjee for BAJIRAO MASTANI
Special Mention: Ravi Varman for TAMASHA
Bajirao Mastani succeeded at what it set out to achieve simply because of its vast imagery, well-lit slow-mo sequences and extravagant indoor flourishes. And Varman’s Corsica visuals in Tamasha play in stark contrast with the flashbacks and grey-blue indoor palette of corporate Delhi life.
Best Supporting Actor (Male): Ranvir Shorey for TITLI
Special Mention: Nawazuddin for BADLAPUR
Quite simply the antagonists of 2015, both in their own perverse ways.
Best Supporting Actor (Female): Richa Chadda for MASAAN
Special Mention: Radhika Apte for BADLAPUR
Chadda is the face of suppressed passion and ambition in small-town India, while Apte excels in her role as the frightened trophy wife of an ex-convict.
Best Actor (Male): Amitabh Bachchan for PIKU
Special Mention: Irffan Khan for TALVAR
It’s impossible not to empathize with Bachchan, who plays the greatest fear of every human: An old, crabby parent refusing to be independent. Irffan, meanwhile, defines the soul, pulse and stand that the brave makers of Talvar set out to capture.
Best Actor (Female): Kalki for MARGARITA WITH A STRAW
Special Mention: Deepika Padukone for PIKU
Kalki nails it as the cerebral palsy-afflicted young girl who has her sexual and spiritual awakening while studying abroad. Deepika, meanwhile, continues her hot streak by playing the exasperated titular daughter to Bachchan’s hypochondriac, stubborn ways.
Best Film: TITLI
The best Hindi film of the year is also the toughest to watch, and the most difficult to fathom. A far cry from the harmless, quirky dysfunctional Indian families we usually see on screen, Titli is a stellar debut by Kanu Behl.
Best Director: Sriram Raghavan for BADLAPUR
Special Mention: Kanu Behl for TITLI
Mr. Raghavan finally achieves what he perhaps always set out to achieve – a potent, pulpy, uncompromising package of visceral imagery, addictive sounds and driven, relentless characters, without having to worry about the commercial or entertainment aspect. Because, honestly, when is an all-out mainstream revenge saga not fun to watch? He turns Bollywood tropes on their heads, is crafty as usual and fashions quite an ode to his passion for the movies