DIn the song of the moment, Aankh maare from Simmba, producer Karan Johar unexpectedly trespasses into the on-screen action, breaks into a dance step, and interjects in mock horror, “Oh God, one more remix!” Yes, 2018 saw certain carry-forward trends, like the recreation of previous chartbusters, continue to gather steam… enough to warrant such self-aware in-jokes. Eternal earworms like Dilbar dilbar (Satyamev Jayate), Badan pe sitaare (Fanney Khan) and Ek do teen (Baghi 2) have all been rehashed this year.
Fortunately, however, there have been several successful films released this annum that also propelled Hindi cinema into exciting new directions, spinning off some novel trends. The most definitive trend of 2018 has been the firm establishment of the primacy of ‘Content’ over all other factors such as star cast and scale of production in the success of a film.
A long string of modestly-budgeted films such as Raazi, Stree, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Veere Di Wedding, Andhadhun and Badhai Ho have upturned many predictions and proved to be crowd-pleasers this year. Significantly, most of these films even managed to vaunt past the Rs 100 crore box-office landmark on the strength of their ability to appeal to the audience with their strong directorial voice and engrossing content. This is particularly impressive because none of these films were headlined by an A-list male star, hitherto considered indispensable for big box-office numbers.
The popularity of Raazi and Veere Di Wedding have finally let the belief sink in that women-propelled films can get both a thumping initial and do well at the turnstiles, thereby paving the way for next year’s Manikarnika (Kangana), Chhapaak (Deepika) and The Zoya Factor (Sonam). 2018’s many sleeper successes have also given rise to a trio of unconventional but saleable leading men whose draw is predicated predominantly on their talent – Rajkummar Rao (Stree) Ayushmann Khurrana (Andhadhun and Badhai Ho) and Vicky Kaushal (Raazi).
Almost simultaneously, the star system has faltered. Salman Khan’s sole release this year, Race 3, opened to critical pans and had to huff and puff at the box office but couldn’t replicate the blockbuster status of most of his movies in recent years. Later in the year, this was followed by Aamir Khan’s Thugs Of Hindostan and Shah Rukh Khan’s Zero, both of which were plundered by the critics and added little value to these superstars’ reputation.
This has excited some knee-jerk pronouncements but it would be foolish to sound the death knell of the star system which has been firmly entrenched in our cinema for almost a century now. The audience wants to continue watching its favourite superstars … provided they do something new. But at the same time, the narration should also be alluring; thematic novelty cannot be a film’s only distinguishing point.
While earlier superstars built their stardom around their personality cult – today’s emerging megastars have birthed an intriguing new trend for looking like their characters even if it entails almost burying their own identity. Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh are arguably the forerunners for the Best Actor trophies in the award season jamboree that will start soon; and other than their performances what is remarkable in Sanju and Padmaavat is that the leading man’s real-life looks were almost subsumed in their physical evocation of their screen characters – Sanjay Dutt and Alauddin Khilji respectively. Gratifyingly, there were few concessions for actorly vanity. Akshay Kumar in 2.0 was unrecognisable courtesy computer effects and the prosthetics. Shah Rukh Khan also gamely played a vertically challenged man in Zero. And there were few signs of the glossy Varun Dhawan of Judwaa 2 in Sui Dhaga.
There seemed to be a widely shared enthusiasm this year in Bollywood to burn through the thicket of taboos. Akshay Kumar in the hit film Padman plays a sanitary napkin innovator who is refreshingly outspoken about menstrual hygiene. Badhaai Ho showcased the travails of the leading man’s mother when she finds herself pregnant by her amorous husband. The film entertained the audience but also nudged them into accepting middle-aged sexuality on-screen.
In Manmarziyan, a young unmarried couple seem to have a relationship based on sex. In Veere Di Wedding, the four bold leading ladies talk sex with unprecedented frankness. Cinematic derring-do extended to other areas beyond the depiction of sexuality. In Raazi, the female protagonist steels herself and kills her adversary when the situation demands it.
Also gone with the wind is the age when actresses over 40 had to choose between premature retirement and playing mother roles. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (Fanney Khan), Kajol (Helicopter Eela), Rani Mukerji (Hichki) had a field day playing pivotal roles in their films but Tabu (Andhadhun) as an ice-in-her-veins murderer got her knife into the best role.
Business is booming in B-town as evidenced by the proliferation of sequels (2.0, Baaghi 2). And the love affair with biographical films continues after Sanju and Gold; Shah Rukh is supposedly doing astronaut Rakesh Sharma’s biopic and Deepika Padukone is playing Laxmi Agarwal, an acid attack survivor from Delhi in Meghna Gulzar’s Chhapaak. Women’s issues are being heard off-screen too. The #MeToo moment, spearheaded by Tanushree Dutta who cited Nana Patekar for harassment more than a decade after the incident occurred, gathered momentum and disbanded the careers of many well-established names.
On a happier note, the year saw three major actresses getting hitched amidst big fat wedding ceremonies. Sonam Kapoor married beau Anand Ahuja in Mumbai while Deepika and Ranveer chose to become man and wife in Italy! The weddings and the receptions sent fans into a tizzy. Deepika wore a Sabyasachi among other designers, Ranveer’s outfit was by “Sandeep Khosla and Abu Jani; No it’s by Rohit Bal”, the speculation was rife. The third angle of Deepveer’s Bajirao Mastani, Priyanka Chopra, brought home a young and famous American, Nick Jones, to the palace city of Jodhpur and made him don a silk turban and probably dance to “Say na Say na how you said it (I do) to me.” I have something to say too – Happy New Year!