Article 15, Gully Boy, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, Sonchiriya: Best Bollywood films of 2019 so far
Our top seven picks of 2019 so far — Article 15, Kalank, Photograph, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, Sonchiriya, Gully Boy, and Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga.
(We're halfway through 2019, so what better time to take stock of what this year brought to us in terms of entertainment and pop culture? Firstpost is rounding up the best films, web series, songs and albums so far, and also looking at what else is in store for the rest of the year.)
If the first six months of 2019 are to go by, the year has been a mix of hits and misses as far as Bollywood films are concerned. The first half saw a few great films, a couple of which may go down in the anvils of Hindi cinema. But there were some hidden gems that did not perform well at the box office but were worthy of applause anyway.
Firstpost lists down seven of the best Bollywood films released in 2019 so far.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga
Shelley Chopra Dhar's directorial debut should be lauded just for the fact that it was the first film in mainstream Hindi cinema to address inclusivity and LGBTQ+ rights. Written by Gazal Dhaliwal, the film made for a lived-in experience of a lesbian woman trying to break out of a conservative society in Mogra, Punjab. Though Sonam Kapoor Ahuja (Sweety) was only serviceable in the lead role, the supporting acts by Rajkummar Rao (Sahil), Anil Kapoor (Balbir) and Juhi Chawla (Chatro) never let the conviction of the film to get diluted. The setting of a small town was an audacious move on the makers' part as they were clear about penetrating the thought behind their film to the remotest parts of India.
Ranveer Singh's performance in the titular role was as measured as Zoya Akhtar's direction. She brought to life quite tangibly, his journey from an introverted slum dweller to a breakout gully rap star. The coming-of-age film, however, did derail multiple times when it focused more on supporting characters. Also, the eye of scrutiny that made Zoya's past work memorable and nuanced was found missing in Gully Boy. However, fantastic performances by Ranveer and Alia, terrific direction out of her comfort zone by Zoya, and the game-changing music curated by Ankur Tiwari made this film a winner. It also felt deeply invested in geographical and socio-cultural details, thanks to the dialogues by Vijay Maurya, and creative inputs by rappers Divine and Naezy.
Abhishek Chaubey brought the sensibilities of new age cinema to the classic Hindi cinema genre of a dacoit film. His dacoits were not mere villains, but well-etched characters who exposed their vulnerability. Anuj Dhawan's skillful cinematography captured the Chambal valley, which reflected the barren lives of the various men, and a woman, who inhabited them. The entire ensemble cast, particularly Sushant Singh Rajput (Lakhna), did a stellar job of constructing a world that the audience loved investing in. Vishal Bhardwaj's haunting background score and Rekha Bhardwaj's felt vocals only added to the liberating sadness that looms large over the film. Months before Article 15 released, Sonchiriya was the first film this year to address caste dynamics.
Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota
Vasan Bala's film is a homage to the cinema of the 1980s. It's a clever spoof on action films of the yore, and boasts of a charismatic performance by the lead actor and debutante Abhimanyu Dassani (Surya). Radhika Madan's character (Supri) displayed both feistiness and vulnerability, and was part of Bala's attempt at a course correction of the cliched sexist action entertainers of those times. But the actor who stole the show was Gulshan Deviah, with his twin act of a miserable karatake (Mani) and his psychotic brother (Jimmy). Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota is an incredibly crazy and entertaining joyride but marred with an indulgent, inconsistent screenplay.
Ritesh Batra returned to Mumbai six years after his epistolary romance The Lunchbox when he explored the relationship of two oddballs in Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Rafi) and Sanya Malhotra (Miloni). As usual, Batra charmed the audience with nostalgia (old Hindi songs and street food) and silences. While this film could not replicate the organic warmth of The Lunchbox, it gave Hindi cinema one of its most empowered female protagonists in Miloni. She was a rare reserved leading lady who had a mind of her own and was also blessed with a character arc that did not come at the cost of an illogically drastic transformation in personality.
Abhishek Varman's period romance Kalank may be an unexpected entry in this list but the box office dud should be appreciated for the inherent poetry in its screenplay. Unlike Sanjay Leela Bhansali, whose cinematography and direction are steeped in poetry, Varman focused more on the screenplay and the editing to put together a poetic re-reading of the Ramayana through a cross-border Partition story. Accompanied by top-notch performances by Varun Dhawan (Zafar), Aditya Roy Kapur (Dev), Sonakshi Sinha (Satya) and Madhuri Dixit-Nene (Bahaar Beghum), Kalank was a romance for the ages, quite literally. The romance of Bahaar Beghum and Balraj Chaudhary (Sanjay Dutt) played out in a new era between Zafar and Roop (Alia Bhatt), and took a life of its own. Pritam's fabulous music served as a great additional narrative tool.
Anubhav Sinha's call-for-action was a rather brave attempt at touching upon the taboo of caste discrimination. He took into account not only recent instances of heinous crimes stemming from caste discrimination (Badaun gangrape incident, flogging outside temples) and weaved them with a suspense thriller. Through a plethora of characters, he presented multifarious perspectives on the issue but also ensured his voice was heard loud and clear. Ayushmann Khurrana led a pack of powerhouse performers to make this film even more nuanced and hard-hitting than what it was on paper.
Note: This writer has not watched Uri: The Surgical Strike, Kabir Singh, Total Dhamaal, De De Pyaar De, Luka Chupi and The Tashkent Files yet.
What to expect from 2019 ahead
If 2019 has proven anything so far, it is that the year will continue to surprise us with a diverse range of releases. Here's a list of exciting upcoming films in 2019.
Judgementall Hai Kya
There has been a lot of debate around whether this film will depict those batting mental health sensitively and accurately. Going by the trailer, the whodunit is sure to be a thrilling ride with layered performances from Rajkummar Rao and Kangana Ranaut, two fantastic actors reuniting five years after Vikas Bahl's 2014 coming-of-age film Queen. Also, Manmarziyaan writer Kanika Dhillon has already proved she gets the pulse of the conflicted rather well.
Akshay Kumar leads a pack of female actors in Mission Mangal, which is sure to pull audiences to theatres. After all, Vidya Balan, Taapsee Pannu and Kirti Kulhari would not have agreed to be a part of the film, that chronicles India's Mars Orbiter Mission, had it not been for meaty roles.
Good directors extract great performances out of Sushant Singh Rajput. No brownie points for guessing that Dangal director Nitesh Tiwari is good to say the least. Eyes keenly set on his next directorial.
Ayushmann Khurrana's first look, as a cross-dressing character in Dream Girl, along with the premise of a male theater artist aspiring to play Sita in the Ramayana, is as wacky as it can get.
Nagraj Manjule created a pan-Indian stir with his Marathi film Sairat. With Amitabh Bachchan fronting his Hindi directorial debut, he is sure to present a compelling grassroots drama.
The Zoya Factor
Just two words. Dulquer Salmaan. After a promising Bollywood debut in Akarsh Khurana's road movie Karwaan last year, one cannot help but look forward to the Malayalam superstar's next Hindi film.
The Sky Is Pink
Priyanka Chopra Jonas returns to a Bollywood screen three years after Prakash Jha's cop drama Jai Gangaajal. What makes this film more alluring is that it will be Zaira Wasim's last project before her self-imposed Bollywood exile, and it will be directed by Margharita With A Straw director Shonali Bose, with dialogues by Vicky Donor, Piku and October-fame Juhi Chaturvedi.
Saand Ki Aankh
The title sets the tone for a film with two powerhouse performers in Taapsee and Bhumi Pednekar, who bring forth the inspiring tale of India's eldest sharpshooters from the countryside.
Bhoot: Part One - The Haunted Ship
Karan Johar's Dharma Productions is venturing into the horror genre with a trilogy. But what we are most excited to see are the scares Bhumi Pednekar has in store for Vicky Kaushal within the confines of a haunted ship.
Ayushmann will reunite with his popular co-stars, Bhumi (after Dum Laga Ke Haisha and Shubh Mangal Saavdhaan) and Yami Gautam (after Vicky Donor) in this desi comedy. Stree director Amar Kaushik is all set to tickle the funny bone with his protagonist who suffers from baldness.
Salman Khan-starrer Dabangg is a cop franchise that keeps on giving. Renewed for its third instalment, the Dabangg franchise has been made immensely entertaining by Khan's antics and Sonakshi Sinha's good ol' nakhre. Dabangg 3, since it is directed by Prabhu Deva, may be no different.
The final release of the year will see the exciting combo of Kareena Kapoor Khan and Akshay Kumar return to the screen. The lighthearted urban comedy has an interesting premise of a couple trying to have a baby, and also has Diljit Dosanjh and Kiara Advani sprucing up the star cast.
All images from Twitter.
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