A to Z of entertainment and pop culture in 2022: Alt Bollywood, superheroes, K-frenzy, OTT craze, Pan-India pitches
A glossary for the year ahead, of all that should shine in the world of showbiz and entertainment.
for Alt Bollywood
The B-Town alternative brigade of stars has never had it as good as over the past decade or so, and the year coming up will see Hindi filmdom’s offbeat lot continue pushing the envelope on content and characters. At the head of the list is Ayushmann Khurrana, who lines up three releases (as of now). While Khurrana's first look in Anubhav Sinha’s Anek has generated curiosity, the actor has termed it his toughest role yet. He also has Doctor G and Action Hero coming up.
Rajkummar Rao returns with Badhaai Do, Hit, Monica: O My Darling, and Bheed. Manoj Bajpayee fans can look forward to his new film Despatch, and announcement of The Family Man Season 3, besides a series created by Abhishek Chaubey. Expect a lot more, for Bollywood overall has realised it pays to act differently.
for Busy Weekends
The backlog of films delayed owing to COVID-19 is huge, and there is a surfeit of releases awaiting a date with the box office as theatres open up. Assuming Omicron does not wreak havoc, the ’plexes are raring to go. Multiple big releases in a week and big releases lined up on consecutive Fridays could be commonplace in the months ahead.
for Comebacks In Music
The year ahead has a few big comebacks lined up in the world of international music. The rock band Skid Row will release their first album in 16 years, titled United World Rebellion: Chapter Three, while Dolly Parton drops her first album in five years.
The heavy metal bands Anthrax and Avenged Sevenfold return with a new album each, both after six years. Other prominent comebacks this year include the heavy metal band Fozzy and the death metal band Obituary, both returning with their first works in around half a decade.
Social media platforms in general have become hotbeds for debates that are rarely logical and mostly mindless drivel loaded with trolling. In cyberspace, any random celebrity post on Twitter or Instagram will continue to be up for scrutiny. In India, normally anything is good enough to spark off social media war — from a new film or OTT release to a star kid’s debut to celebrity weddings, and even what name a celeb couple gives to their newborn.
for Event Releases
Big weekends boasting mega releases, or event films, are highlights for movie buffs the world over every year. For Hollywood addicts, this is the year when James Cameron finally releases Avatar 2, the long-awaited sequel of his 2009 sci-fi blockbuster Avatar. For many, the fact is a foregone conclusion that the new Avatar film will break all box-office records as well as change the sci-fi movie as a genre for good upon release on 16 December.
That apart, Marvel is set to unleash Morbius, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, Thor: Love And Thunder, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (Part One), and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever over the months on the big screen.
Rivals DC have lined up Robert Pattinson’s outing as The Batman on 4 March, and the Dwayne Johnson-starrer Black Adam, besides The Flash, DC League Of Super Pets, and Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom. DC and Marvel have event releases in the OTT space too.
Event biggies also include Jurassic World: Dominion, Tom Cruise’s new films in the Mission Impossible and Top Gun franchises, and Martin Scorsese’s Killers Of The Flower Moon, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. George Clooney and Julia Roberts return together for the fourth time in the rom-com Ticket To Paradise, while biopics of Elvis Presley and Whitney Houston are other films pitched as events on the Hollywood horizon in 2022.
Big-ticket debuts in Bollywood are invariably fated to come under scrutiny, and this year has a few newcomer acts lined up. Miss World 2017 Manushi Chhillar finally makes her debut opposite Akshay Kumar in the period biggie Prithviraj. The film, casting Chhillar as Raja Prithviraj Chauhan’s wife Sanyogita, is slated to open on 21 January.
Shanaya Kapoor’s debut in a yet-untitled Karan Johar production is bound to start the nepotism debate all over again. Already an Instagram star, Sanjay Kapoor’s daughter Shanaya was loved and trolled alike following her debut commercial a while ago.
Social media star Prajakta Koli enters Hindi films with the comedy Jug Jugg Jeeyo while Ajey Nagar, popular as Carryminati, takes a Bollywood bow with a role in the Ajay Devgn-Amitabh Bachchan starrer Runway 34. TV star Lakshya Lalwani makes his debut in Dostana 2.
Unconfirmed rumours continue suggesting there could be announcements in 2022 pertaining to the big screen debuts of Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter Suhana and late Sridevi’s younger daughter Khushi Kapoor.
What is showbiz without the essential PR tricks? Controversies, orchestrated trending, rumour-mongering, and media leaks — all smartly stage-managed by star publicists — have come to define how the media as well as fans perceive celebrities. Such gimmicks continue to be more original and imaginative than film scripts in Bollywood. The months ahead will see the B-Town PR machinery give new twists to such tricks.
for Horror With Humour
More than most other commercial genres in Bollywood, the horror film has been a subject to interesting experimentation as never before. Post Stree in 2018, the tendency for Bollywood horror makers has been to add a dash of comedy to the scares. While the formula is not new to Hindi films (think Bhoot Bangla in the '60s), new-age horror comedies have mixed laughs and scares with cutting edge finesse, at the same time adding a social comment or two. In 2022, Katrina Kaif, Ishaan Khattar, Siddhant Chaturvedi, and Jackie Shroff star in Phone Booth, while the Varun Dhawan-Kriti Sanon-starrer Bhediya is pitched as the third and final chapter of a horror-comedy universe that earlier saw Stree and Roohi.
America’s resurgent love for inclusivity has lately reflected in all that happens in showbiz, particularly in films and series. Plots, casting, and characterisation, as well as the topics of focus at live gigs, from the Oscars to music concerts, are influenced by the ongoing movement. Black Lives Matter continues to be the buzzword, and better roles for actors of colour continue to be created in Hollywood, even as African-Latino protagonist Miles Morales swoops in as Spider-Man of colour. LGBTQ+ themes, actors, and characters come to the forefront more frequently now.
In 2022, Trans actress Jamie Clayton plays a gender-swapped version of the demon Pinhead in Hulu’s reboot of the horror flick Hellraiser, while Jasmin Savoy-Brown essays a queer role in the new film of the Scream franchise. Adding a twist to Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice, the indie film Fire Island follows two friends on a gay escape vacation to Fire Island.
Peter Dinklage, best known as the dwarf imp Tyrion Lannister in Game Of Thrones, gives a new twist to late French dramatist Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, in the title role of the new Hollywood adaptation, Cyrano.
for Junk On Tv
There is not much happening on Indian television right now that demands or deserves attention, and most of what manages to guarantee ratings can hardly be classified as engaging. Jaded soaps that give a token nod to significant issues, ranging from women’s empowerment to casteism, and reality TV that qualifies as little else but junk, will continue to be unleashed on the desi couch potato.
The Koreans are here, and here to stay. K-pop bands such as BTS, Blackpink, Exo, and TXT are now as popular as (if not more than) most Western music stars. Thanks to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, the buffs cannot get enough of Korean soaps and action thriller movies. The sci-fi comedy Glitch, the zombie horror fest All Of Us Are Dead, the crime dramas A Model Family and Suriname, the relationship drama Our Blues, and a Korean remake of Money Heist are among top pick series set to drop in the year ahead. In music, BTS have hinted at a new album in the months ahead.
for Life Stories
Biopics have proved to be among the safest bets for producers, and this year too, a host of films are slated to open at the box office. Taapsee Pannu stars as Indian cricket star Mithali Raj in Srijit Mukherji’s Shabash Mithu while R Madhavan makes his directorial debut in the self-starring Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, based on the life of former Indian Space Research Organisation aerospace engineer Nambi Narayanan who was charged with spying. Ajay Devgn plays legendary football coach Syed Abdul Rahim in Amit Sharma’s Maidaan.
Notable biopics coming out of Hollywood include Elvis, starring Austin Butler as rock ’n’ roll god Elvis Presley, and I Wanna Dance With Somebody, which casts Naomi Ackie as late pop diva Whitney Houston.
for Masala Bollywood
Talk of change if you will, but traditional Bollywood masala never goes out of vogue. All-out commercial fare lined up this year includes the Akshay Kumar-starrers Bachchan Pandey and Ram Setu. Rohit Shetty directs Ranveer Singh in Cirkus, while Dhamaal maker Indra Kumar casts Ajay Devgn, Rakul Preet Singh, and Sidharth Malhotra in his comedy Thank God.
for Nationalism Mantra
Pop patriotism has always reaped it rich for the moneybags in Bollywood. Tricolour hues, backed by a strong societal message, prop the Kangana Ranaut-starrers Tejas and Dhaakad, the war drama Pippa, starring Ishaan Khatter, Yodha featuring Sidharth Malhotra, and the late martyr Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s biopic Major, besides Mere Desh Ki Dharti, which is set against the backdrop of the farmers’ community.
for OTT Craze
Subscription revenue across streaming or Over The Top (OTT) media services in India currently stands at Rs 19 billion, and the figure is expected to rise to Rs 46 billion by the fiscal year 2022, reports the international consumer and market data company Statista.
The year ahead promises to be bigger for viewers, too. OTT debuts lined up include top stars such as Ajay Devgn, Madhuri Dixit, Sonakshi Sinha, Shahid Kapoor, and Juhi Chawla, and nearly 10 hit shows could see new seasons in the coming months.
Entertainment, as we perceive it, changed with the advent of OTT. Last year, propped by COVID-19 lockdown, saw a growth of over 200 percent in Indian original content across platforms, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar, ZEE5, SonyLIV, and MXPlayer. Importantly, regional players such as Hoichoi, Aha, Sun NXT, Koode, Planet Marathi, Addatimes, Hungama, CityShor, and Manorama Max emerged as household names too.
Globally, OTT services are estimated to see a 26 percent growth by the end of 2022, reports streamingmedia.com, and the international market for streaming services, pitched at US$77.1 billion in 2020, is projected to scale US$217.5 billion in five years’ time.
for Pan-India Pitch
Regional superstars suddenly have a new mantra to court the all-India audience. Smart marketing and PR strategy calls it the Pan-India film. It is simple. Regional superstars, notably of the Telugu and Tamil industries, no longer hanker after the big Bollywood break. Instead, they make films with universal appeal primarily in their language and for their own markets, but ensure a wide release across multiple languages, including Hindi. If it worked for the Baahubali films, it can work again.
The new year kicks off with Baahubali maker SS Rajamouli directing Telugu stars Ram Charan and Jr NTR in RRR. The expensive period action drama also features Alia Bhatt and Ajay Devgn. Baahubali star Prabhas returns in Radhe Shyam, Salaar, and Adipurush, all of which are slated as multilingual releases, while another Telugu superstar, Vijay Deverakonda, makes his pan-India debut with the boxing drama Liger, which incidentally flaunts an extended cameo by Mike Tyson.
Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu co-produces Major, a biopic in Telugu and Hindi that casts Adivi Sesh as 2008 Mumbai attacks martyr Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan.
for Quick Returns
Filmmakers aiming to make profits within the first three days is nothing new, and with the threat of fresh closure in the wake of a resurgent COVID-19 wave, producers realise the importance of wide release to ensure quick returns more than ever before. The battle for the largest number of screens possible will grow intense among producers over the next months.
for Repeats, Reboots, Returns
Bollywood sequels lined up this year include Badhaai Do, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, Heropanti 2, and Ek Villain Returns while Hollywood has Avatar 2, Jurassic World Dominion, Top Gun: Maverick, Mission: Impossible 7, and Creed III. Remakes lined up in Bollywood include Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha (based on the 1994 Hollywood hit Forrest Gump), and a Hindi retelling of the Tamil hit Vikram Vedha, that is slated to star Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan.
The superhero game moves to its next level in 2022, what with a new band of caped crusaders closing in on the screens. Social media is already abuzz with the old school versus new school superhero debate, as Marvel get set to launch Morbius, She-Hulk, Groot, and Moon Knight across screens big and small. DC introduces Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam on the big screen, besides The Flash and the DC League of Super Pets. Their OTT roster includes Peacemaker, The Sandman, and Naomi.
Among established caped crusaders, DC’s big salvo is The Batman, Matt Reeves’ reboot starring Robert Pattinson, besides Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom. Marvel’s line-up includes Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, Thor: Love And Thunder, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (Part One), and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
For Toon Tricks
Hollywood’s toon gala never ends, and 2022 has a rich lineup of animated films catering to every age group, capturing subtexts beyond uncomplicated fun. Across theatres and OTT space, there are films like Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Pinocchio, The Ice Age Adventures Of Buck Wild, Minions: The Rise Of Gru, Hotel Transylvania: Transformania, DC League of Super-Pets, Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, The Bad Guys, The Bob's Burgers Movie, Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, Sonic The Hedgehog 2, Scoob! Holiday Haunt, and Tom And Jerry: Cowboy Up!.
Fans are particularly excited about Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (Part One), which brings back African-Latino teenager Miles Morales as the new Spider-Man.
for Unconventional Roles
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi has Alia Bhatt playing a young girl sold into prostitution by her lover, who eventually uses her connections with clients from the Mumbai underworld to rise to the position of a godmother in the red-light area of Kamathipura. Based on real events, the film lets Bhatt play out a larger-than-life protagonist not usually reserved for the commercial Bollywood heroine.
Unconventional characters in the mainstream space will also be evident in Badhaai Do, starring Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar. The film is billed as a comedy about a marriage of convenience meant to conceal sexual orientation of the partners.
In 2022, the concept of hero will continue to be reimagined, too, with films as varied as Brahmāstra (where Ranbir Kapoor plays a young man with superpowers), Bhediya (Varun Dhawan’s tryst with the werewolf folklore) and Jayeshbhai Jordaar (Ranveer Singh takes up the cudgels for equal gender rights).
for Viral Trends
Stardom is hardly about what celebrities do in the professional space anymore. Rather, popularity rides the number of followers, likes and shares one enjoys on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and through WhatsApp forwards. The name of the game is to go viral, and 2022 shall see celebrities continue to go all out for social media-propped fame.
for Women Power
Women-centric films are in, and female characters are largely more fleshed out and stronger in our stories, on screens big and small. In 2022, watch out particularly for Alia Bhatt in Gangubai Kathiawadi, Kangana Ranaut in Dhaakad and Tejas, Taapsee Pannu in Shabash Mithu, and Rani Mukerji in Mrs Chatterjee V/s Norway.
Ultimately, it is the one thing that rules. Every writer out to create a remarkable screenplay, every filmmaker out to set up a cinematic vision, and every actor out to impress with a dash of magic before the camera, would only click if their effort has that elusive quality that fans look out for. When it comes to X-factor, newcomers set to make a debut this year will particularly be under the scanner. At a time when change is the only constant, established names will also strive to hunt for the quality through image makeover.
for Yesterday Once More
Historicals, mythological tales, and period dramas never go out of fashion in Indian cinema. In 2022, Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior helmer Om Raut gets going with the ambitious task of reinterpreting the Ramayan in Adipurush, which casts Prabhas, Kriti Sanon, and Saif Ali Khan in central roles based on Lord Ram, Sita, and Raavan. Akshay Kumar plays king Prithviraj Chauhan in Chandraprakash Dwivedi’s historical drama Prithviraj while Karan Malhotra’s Shamshera, starring Ranbir Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt, picks a slice of history to narrate a fictional story about a dacoit tribe in Pre-Independent India that fought the British. In SS Rajamouli’s RRR, the first major Indian release of the year, Telugu stars Ram Charan and NTR Jr respectively feature as revolutionaries Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem, who fought against the British and the Nizam of Hyderabad.
for Zoom Culture
Life for celebrities changed in the post-COVID phase, with most among our film folks now preferring to attend events ranging from live gigs to media interactions the virtual way. If 2021 saw Zoom culture grow phenomenally in the way films are promoted, and also the way stars reach out to fans, the year ahead will only consolidate the trend as the new normal.
Vinayak Chakravorty is a senior film critic, columnist, and film journalist based in Delhi-NCR.
'One of my biggest motivations while working on Escaype live has been my meetings and interaction with Siddharth Kumar Tewary', says Siddharth who plays the role of a content moderator in the series.
"Getting Aashram was more of a gift from the universe," says Esha Gupta as she gears up to play the glamorous Image Maker in the show.
Directed and Written by Siddharth Kumar Tewary, the show stars Siddharth, Jaaved Jaaferi and Shweta Tripathi Sharma, among others and is now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.