8 game changers of Bollywood that wowed us in 2018

Published: December 26, 2018
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With quirky scripts being enough to keep the audience entertained, this year proved there's far more to Bollywood than we think.

The year 2018 has been one of the most surprising ones in recent Bollywood memory, for it has been one where content ruled above all other elements in films. This year in particular, movies with unique content found solidification in Bollywood. While big-budget films (those with a lot of expectations associated) tanked at the box office, smaller films with lower budget and lesser known faces triumphed massively.

One of the most shocking things about this year was that films with massive stars such as Salman Khan and Aamir Khan underperformed against the hopes and excitement of their fans, while lesser known faces like Rajkummar Rao, Vicky Kaushal and Ayushmann Khurrana emerged successful and catapulted these actors towards stardom.

Additionally, the year also worked out really well for women-centric films such as Hichki, Raazi and Veere di Wedding. It was astounding to see that films with out-of-the-box thinking, never-experimented-before concepts and quirky scripts were enough to keep the audience entertained, reflecting the changing notions and preferences of South Asian society. Neither a big budget nor an ensemble cast mattered, because this year it was solely the script that ruled our hearts.

The following are just eight of the best films this year that changed Bollywood movies as we know them.

1. Badhaai Ho

This year, Badhaai Ho set the silver screen completely on fire with its unique and interesting plot. The comedy family saga is based on an old-age romance between a couple in which the woman becomes pregnant again, leading to much embarrassment for their grown-up children. The pregnancy causes strained relationships at home as well as criticism and gossip from outsiders.

Sex is the reason for all of our existence but in our part of the world, it is one of the biggest taboos and a forbidden topic of conversation. In such a situation, where an elderly couple with children (one of whom is of marriageable age) finds out they are once again going to become parents, the situation is immensely awkward for the parents and especially for the children. The film successfully tears apart the disgrace associated with the pregnancy with a light-hearted approach, highlighting the idea that people should deal with such situations in a balanced and rational manner.

2. Andhadhun

Andhadhun, essentially a dark comedy, connected with the audience right away with its crisp storyline. Khurrana plays the lead role of a gifted, blind pianist who gets involved in a murder, but the plot is not as simple as this sounds.

The freshness of the film comes with how it is neither a mainstream Bollywood film capitalising on romance or high-flying action sequences, nor does it radiate a slice-of-life based aura. Another fascinating thing about the film is that it has an open-ending that keeps the audience engaged long after the movie has ended. In addition, the identity of the killer is not concealed from the audience throughout the film, which stops the creation of mystery just for the sake of it but also generates the required thrill. With these unique elements and a very different subject, Andhadhun proves to be another exceptional game-changer for Bollywood and has made 2018 a big year for Khurrana.

3. Sanju

This biopic traces the life of Sanjay Dutt from the time of his debut film through his days of drug addiction, his relationships and his womanising ways, and also the time he was labelled a terrorist and then ultimately acquitted; the film takes you through his entire life journey.

Apart from its success at the box office, Sanju culminated in an important discussion, particularly on social media, with some alleging that the purpose of the film was to attract masses by blending controversial and empathetic elements. In contrast to recent biopics on Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Mary Kom that showed their struggle towards achievement, Sanju was intended only to give a positive image to Dutt. The film is undoubtedly able to exonerate Dutt by evoking a sense of sympathy in the people, mainly because it is a very well made and well-acted piece of cinema.

4. Stree

Stree is another seemingly unanticipated film that triumphs as an enthralling cinematic experience despite its unusual plot. Stree is a horror-comedy and is among the very few films that dare to tread not-so explored territory, simultaneously managing to be scary and hilarious. Genres of such nature have not received much acclaim in the past, as even horror could not find much concrete space in Bollywood. Hence, to experiment with a concept that is an amalgamation of both horror and comedy, revolving around the ghost of ‘Stree’ who kidnaps eligible bachelors with her charm, is risky to say the least.

It is interesting to see how the content of the film, despite it being so different, resonates with the audience so brilliantly. The power of the script is such that it makes the concept of the film more appealing. It’s certain that the influence of the film will inspire many others, and horror-comedy could potentially become an established genre in the future.

5. Hichki

Hichki, starring Rani Mukerji, is one film that Bollywood absolutely needed, given how it deals with the topic of disability with the utmost sensitivity. This is perhaps the first Bollywood film that has Tourette syndrome as the central concept.

In the past, we have predominantly seen films portraying such illnesses in a matter intended to provoke either humour or empathy. In Hichki, it is heartening to see that the protagonist suffers from Tourette’s but is still driven by her passion to pursue her goals. The audience is made to understand that impediments should never lessen the determination to achieve one’s dreams. The film importantly opens new doors to awareness and starts the discussion on speech impairments.

6. Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety

After films like Pyaar Ka Punchnama and its sequel, Luv Ranjan once again endeavours to present gender stereotypes in present-day relationships, making the battle between genders a genre of its own. The captivating element of the film is its refreshing take on the subject of romance versus ‘bromance’. In Bollywood films, it is typical to see love win over everything else. However, in Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, viewers witness how love is sometimes put to the test along with friendship.

Many felt that the film had a stereotypical, misogynistic nature; in typical Ranjan fashion, the man was shown as helpless while the woman was seen being manipulative. Nonetheless, the way the film provided a new take on love managed to strike a chord with cinephiles.

7. Padman

Padman focuses on another important yet unspoken issue; that of menstrual hygiene. Similar to sex, menstruation is another, perhaps even more forbidden topic in this part of the world. Fighting the taboos of patriarchy, the protagonist of the film goes against the norms of society by creating a machine to make sanitary napkins. The film pays attention to the stigmas, humiliation, sexist behaviours and troubles that women face on a daily basis.

The film is a dauntless, issue-based commentary that talks about a subject never before seen on the big screen. By dealing with a topic that is not even a part of normal discourse, the film gives a great message and opens a public discussion about the significance of menstrual hygiene. This is particularly significant for South Asia, where many fatalities occur every year owing to a lack of awareness and unhygienic practices during the menstrual cycle.

8. October

October lets the audience ponder over its subtle details, which is something not many films do. The novelty of the film lies in the fact that unlike typical Bollywood love stories, it is extremely simple on the surface but deep down portrays a nuanced story of a profound relationship. There are no larger-than-life choreographed romantic scenes, no hard-hitting soundtrack, no overly acted performances and no heavily embellished dialogues in the film (as seen in most love stories), and yet the intensity remains intact. The film beautifully and simply reflects pure, selfless and unconditional love in an unconventional but compelling way. The ultimate strength of October is evident in its simplicity and spontaneity, making it a welcome change for the audience.

Here’s hoping Bollywood continues producing films with unconventional and inspiring stories in the coming year as well.

Happy New Year!

Mehrooj Rai

Mehrooj Rai

The author lives in Lahore and is studying English Literature from University of London. Writing is her passion and it gives her an opportunity to not only escape but create her own world of ideals and notions. She tweets @mehrooj_rai (twitter.com/mehrooj_rai)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.