Some of these films might not have been box-office hits but have made their genre proud.
By Vikrum Mathur
In retrospect, many say that 2015 was not a great business year for Bollywood movies. Films like Bombay Velvet and Tamasha, made by excellent filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap and Imtiaz Ali, tanked at the box office. Similarly, the long awaited Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, starring superstar Salman Khan and directed by the legendary Sooraj Barjatya, although a good film, did not reach the business level expected of it.
However, business is not an indicator of the quality of a movie. There are a myriad of movies historically which have been disasters at the box office, but today, are regarded as some of the best movies ever made. Take for instance Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker (one of my all-time favorites), which till date is unparalleled in its romance, emotions, and performances. However, being one of Raj Kapoor’s most ambitious, costly, and personal films at the time, was such a huge disaster, that Kapoor had to mortgage everything to make his next (the highly successful Bobby). Keeping this principle in mind, I have picked what I view as the best films of the year. This is not reflective of their business, but rather if the films delivered what they promised or more.
If you missed any of these, don’t wait, go ahead and see these films today!
- Bajrangi Bhaijaan
In my opinion, this was the best film of the year. The film told the story of a mute 6 year old Pakistani girl separated from her mother in India. How she meets the large hearted Bajrangi Bhaijaan and how he takes her back to her home, forms the crux of the story. It effectively combined emotions and performances, and received a treatment which also made the proceedings incredibly entertaining. A long film at nearly 3 hours, Bajrangi Bhaijaan never felt that length. Each and every person I was with at the theater was riveted by the film and a handful, including myself, were sobbing at the end of the movie. In these tough times, a film like this which preaches love and selflessness was the need of the hour, and director Kabir Khan (New York, Ek Tha Tiger), did it marvelously. The little girl, Harshaali Mahotra, stole hearts all around the world and superstar Salman Khan proved that he is more than just an action hero. Here he showed his emotional side, to the point where even I converted into his fan. He proved through this film, that he is also a man of the people.
A film which took me completely by surprise, Badlapur ranks high on my list of great revenge dramas in India. Directed by Sriram Raghavan (Johnny Gaddaar, Ek Hasina, Agent Vinod) one expected a different kind of film, and boy did he deliver. When I heard about it, I was not surprised that he cast Nawazuddin Siddiqui in one of the main roles, but it was rather his other choice of Varun Dhawan which had made me skeptical. Varun is a wonderful actor, but I had wondered whether at such an early stage in his career if he would be able to pull off such an intense role of a man seeking to take revenge against his wife’s killer. Varun not only did an incredible job, but in some ways, even upstaged Nawaz in the film, proving that a good director and sincere performance go a long way when making a film. The film is quite dark and gritty, so don’t expect a BAAZIGAR type of film or one that you can watch with the family. Highly recommended!
- Tanu Weds Manu Returns
A sequel to the 2011 smash Tanu Weds Manu, expectations were really high for this one, given leading lady Kangana Ranaut’s recent dream run at the box office. Kangana once again stole the show not in her role as Tanu, but rather as the Haryanvi girl Kusum “Datto”. Her performance was so endearing, and her Haryanvi accent so realistic, audiences forgot that this was the same glamourous actress from Krrish 3 and Fashion. Director Aanand L. Rai also scored a hattrick of success with this movie after Tanu Weds Manu and Ranjhanaa, and he is now known as the director who can depict “small town India” the best. A fun film for the whole family that will make you laugh and cry, this is my pick for the best rom-com of the year. R. Madhavan co-stars as Manu.
- Dil Dhadakne Do
Somewhat underrated as a film, Dil Dhadakne Do could not have been a more accurate representation of India’s elite. Taking place on a cruise ship, the movie showcases the torrent of emotions that flow out of a dysfunctional family, featuring actors Anil Kapoor, Shefali Shah, Priyanka Chopra, and Ranveer Singh. Truthfully, the elite depicted in films like Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham are not what affluent families in India are like. Many are caught up in status, showing off, lying, gossiping, and even indulging in behavior at the cost of the happiness of their own children, the main point of the film. In a reverse of sorts, the movie is told more from the perspective of children as opposed to the parents. Gone are the days when touching parents’ feet and obeying orders blindly were considered “the right way”. This film preaches that parents should let their children be independent and not be used as pawns in the game of life. Writer-director Zoya Akhtar also happens to be one of the best filmmakers India has today, and her work also is generally underrated. Each one of her films, whether it was this, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, or Luck By Chance are so true to life and represent an era of progressive filmmakers. The same can also be said about her brother Farhan Akhtar. Aside from the great dialogues and storyline, Ranveer Singh’s performance is a real highlight in the film. The actor is so natural, that it is unbelievable. He is undoubtedly the new superstar of the Hindi film industry, an inspiration for all aspiring actors.
A cute film that legendary director Hrishikesh Mukherjee would be proud of, Piku is one of the most unusual success stories of the year. Featuring an all-star cast of Amitabh Bachchan, Irrfan Khan, and Deepika Padukone, the film tells the story of the relationship between a constipated old man and his strong headed daughter. Deepika is a lethal combination of beauty and talent, and Piku puts her on an altogether different pedestal. No one is more deserving of “Best Actress” this year than her. Director Shoojit Sircar is also now a name to reckon with, with movies like Vicky Donor and Madras Café under his belt. Expect Piku to sweep all awards this year!
- Dum Lagake Haisha
Ayushmann Khurrana and newcomer Bhumi Pednekar star in this rom-com from Yash Raj Films directed by Sharat Katariya. This movie tells the story of the reluctant marriage between a music store owner and his overweight wife. When their relationship reaches a point of near divorce, both decide to try and salvage the marriage by participating in a contest where husbands have to carry their wives on their back and reach the finish line. Does this contest bring the couple together? You have to watch the film to find out! It is one of the sweetest and most unique films I have seen. Completely worth your time, especially with its tribute to the 90s featuring singer Kumar Sanu!
A Hitchcockian thriller, this film stars Ajay Devgn and Tabu. The movie tells the tale of a family trying to conceal a crime. Will they be successful or will the law catch up to them, the answers to these questions form the backbone to the movie. The film’s manner of storytelling is so unique and different, I had to include this on the list. It is really a novel film, and the story is filled with so many twists and turns, audiences cannot possibly predict what would happen next. It was nice to see Ajay Devgn do a non-masala film after a long time. Director Nishikant Kamat (FORCE) also proved that he is a wonderfully talented filmmaker with this piece. On a dark and stormy night, this would be my movie pic.
- Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon
Comedian Kapil Sharma debuted in this hit comedy, which reminds everyone of the days Govinda-David Dhawan ruled the comedy roost. It is fast paced, funny, and surprisingly witty. Telling the story of a man caught between 3 wives, and a potential 4th, the film is directed by thriller directors Abbas-Mustan (Baazigar, Race, Humraaz), and this truly marks a new page in the filmography of these talented directors. Also great fun for the whole family, have a good time with this one! Watch out for a stellar performance by Jamie Lever, daughter of Johnny Lever.
Another quality thriller from director Neeraj Pandey (A Wednesday, Special 26), Baby will be considered as one of the best films in the long career of actor Akshay Kumar. A socio-political thriller, Baby received both box office and unanimous critical acclaim upon release. If you are looking for something with substance and a fast pace, see Baby.
- Prem Ratan Dhan Payo
Many may disagree with my choice here, but it was nice to see a very Indian family oriented film after a long time. It was grand, unabashed in its emotions, and a perfect example of what Bollywood cinema is all about – heart. Salman was great again in a restrained performance, while Sonam Kapoor looked every bit the princess in her role. Music by Himesh Reshammiya was a chartbuster, and will be played at all weddings from now on. Sooraj Barjatya once again did not disappoint as a director, and proved that despite directing after a long time, he has not forgotten his craft. Being the man who launched Salman in 1989’s Maine Pyar Kiya, and then gave Salman his biggest blockbuster in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Sooraj Barjatya’s name will remain immortal in the canon of great Indian filmmakers. See this with not only immediate family, but extended family as well.
(Vikrum Mathur is an actor, and avid film buff who resides in Maryland.)
More from Vikrum Mathur:
- Bollywood 2016: A guide to the most awaited films of the year (January 1, 2016)
- The Modern Saint: a tribute to filmmaker Ramanand Sagar (December 29, 2015)
- Vinay Pathak sparkles in brilliant play ‘Nothing Like Lear’ staged in Maryland (September 22, 2014)