‘Article 15’ to ‘Kalank’, the Best and Worst of Bollywood In 2019

If there is one thing that we know sitting on the halfway mark of 2019 it is that the election year never did any good for film aficionados. At least that’s what we have had to learn the hard way. This was the year of the general election, and it almost seemed like all campaigning was happening in the cinema hall near us. Propaganda films, films pandering to one ideology or person, with a slant or hue of one party or the other - we saw it all! Frankly some of these movies one might even have enjoyed depending on which side of the political spectrum one is on and if the film shares the same worldview but cinematically most of these were way below average.

Films That Missed it

There was PM Narendra Modi, Modi Ji’s biopic which was basically singing paeans of our PM with little on display in terms of craft. Made us grateful for Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Thackeray that although completely glossed over so many aspects of such a divisive figure but at least had Nawazuddin giving crackling performance. Accidental Prime Minister had Anupam Kher nailing the “look “ and demeanour of the ex PM but inspite of its pacy edit, thanks to poor CGI, the film almost came undone.

There was PM Narendra Modi, Modi Ji’s biopic which was basically singing paeans of our PM with little on display in terms of craft.

It hurt more when our expectations from some of the much awaited big releases came crashing down. Manikarnika - Kangana Ranaut ‘s first directorial venture for which she was credited alongside Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi. Kangana the actor, as usual, didn’t disappoint but as director, it’s important to lift up every aspect of film- making . That’s where the “queen” lost out. Manikarnika never really come together as a composite whole.

Kalank, produced by Karan Johar and with a whole constellation of stars from Alia Bhatt to Varun Dhawan to Madhuri Dixit and Sanjay Dutt remained only a dazzling affair with costumes and jewelry doing the heavy lifting .

2019 also made us ask the important question - when will Tiger Shroff stop getting launched? His first film came out in 2014. 5 years on he remains the favourite star kid still being featured in show reels! SOTY 2 launched Chunky Pandey’s daughter Ananya Pandey and Tara Sutaria. Another PPT presentation for star kids rozgaar yojna! No respite in sight ! Sigh!

And finally how do we recuperate from the assault of Kabir Singh? Shahid plays the titular character which is a remake of the 2017 film Arjun Reddy. Reinforcing dangerous notions of love which border on abuse and misogyny even in 2019 we have a film that celebrates an abuser’s sense of entitlement and justifies it in the name of passionate love. Hugely problematic !!

They Ruled the Box-Office

However, all was not lost.

Gully Boy also gave us one of our favorite characters MC Sher that Siddhant Chaturvedi excelled at playing!

Time aagaya for Gully Boy which from its onset gets us into the mood. The infectious tempo slowly growing on us as Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti’s screenplay plunges headlong into the lives of Murad (Ranveer Singh) and Safeena (Alia Bhatt). Also giving us one of our favorite characters MC Sher that Siddhant Chaturvedi excelled at playing !

The taut screenplay and Aditya Dhar’s superb direction ensured that Uri rose to the challenge of keeping the audiences hooked even when the trajectory of events was well known. Vicky Kaushal imbues his role with just the right amount of vigour and vulnerability to give us a solid performance .

The best thing to come out so far is how brave new ideas executed well have made a special place in our hearts. Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota- director Vasan Bala’s hold rarely slips as he creates a fan boy’s tribute to the iconic films he seems to have grown up watching From Bruce Lee to Manmohan Desai they are all in here. Radhika Madan and Gulshan Devaiyya are exceptional while Abhimanyu Dassani’s self assured debut shows that sometimes nepotism isn’t all that bad !

Ek Ladki ko Dekha to Aisa Laga is a Bollywood film that talks of love in all its glorious complexity and the shackles that society binds it with. Be it about nursing an impossible dream or to find love a second time around or even to let desire be understood without sitting on judgement about what cast, class or gender they belong to . The subtext and message that comes across isn’t force fit allowing us to get acclimatized to the intent and letting the characters themselves breathe. The nuanced performance by Anil Kapoor and Raj kumar Rao add to its beauty!

Article 15 doesn’t shy away from going into the murky malfeasance of upper caste hegemony and the social injustice so rampant that both the victim and the perpetrator have internalized it unquestioningly.

Article 15 doesn’t shy away from going into the murky malfeasance of upper caste hegemony and the social injustice so rampant that both the victim and the perpetrator have internalized it unquestioningly. The depth of insight the film boasts of thanks to director Anubhav Sinha and co writer Gaurav Solanki’s screenplay along with the pitch perfect casting make it a powerful and engaging watch. Ayushmann Khurana , Sayani Gupta, Kumud Mishra, Manoj Pahwa are all terrific in their respective roles.

Final verdict - it’s been a tough year with more misses than hits. Big names have bombed and the off screen politics has somewhere dwindled our cinematic pleasures but here’s hoping that the worst is over and these next few months rewards us with some memorable characters and films. God knows we deserve a happy ending!

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