Bollywood’s obsession with its heroes is well documented. The industry has grown up believing that women can’t make a poster or sell a movie.
This year, the myth was shattered. Be it Dedh Ishqiya’s sassy Munira, the troubled Veera of Highway, Hasee Toh Phasee’s misfit genius Meeta, Sunny Leone in Ragini MMS 2 or Rani, the Queen, the year belongs to our pataka guddis. In Queen, we also met up with free-spirited Bohemian single mom Vijaylakshmi, who is fearless and unapologetic about her choices. She has wild dance moves, hysterical outbursts and a penchant for belching when she’s drunk. Gotta love a girl like that.
Rise of the planet of the young
The biggest hits of the season — Ek Villain and Two States — do not star a 40-plus star whose last name is Khan. Instead, Sidharth Malhotra, Riteish Deshmukh and Arjun Kapoor entered the Rs 100-crore-club in style. Varun Dhawan’s Main Tera Hero, Tiger Shroff’s Heropanti and the Ranveer Singh-Arjun Kapoor starrer, Gunday, also clicked. Interestingly, even though compared to the first half of 2013, business dropped about 8 per cent this year, the industry seems pleased that the audience has given its approval to younger heroes. The young ones are putting up a big fight with the big daddies. Sure, Akshay Kumar’s Holiday and Salman Khan’s Jai Ho also made money, but it was a whimper of a profit rather than the expected bang. The change is here, folks.
Bollywood dared to tell bigger stories but toned down the telling. The big and the gaudy made way for the personal and the minimalistic. In Highway, Imtiaz Ali used a road trip to underline a kidnapped girl’s journey of self-discovery that enables her to confront the monster who abused her as a child. Abhishek Chaubey’s Dedh Ishqiya kept it subtle but the lesbian undertones added the dedh to the Ishq. Filmistaan married Bollywood with the India-Pakistan issue. In Queen, a jilted bride goes solo on her honeymoon to Paris and finds herself. Then there was Hawaa Hawaai, which asked tough questions about social inequality and aspirations, wherein a young chaiwalla wants to fly on his rollerblades, just like Krrish.
Babydoll sone di
The song might have made Sunny Leone a legit Bollywood star but Ekta Kapoor owns the words. As the busiest producer on the circuit, Ekta made a killing of all her four films — Shaadi Ke Side Effects, Main Tera Hero, Ragini MMS 2, Ek Villain — and proved that she’s the asli sone di babydoll. On screen, we got ourselves a new sweetheart and she goes by the name of Alia Bhatt. Karan Johar’s protégée wisely dropped her Kareena Kapoor-Pooh hangover and graduated with top honours in Highway and Two States. Low on affectations, Alia’s naturalness is refreshing. The camera clearly loves her. She has a certain je ne sais quoi and looks fetching with her co-stars. The woman is here to stay and it will be worth seeing how she picks her next few acting assignments. Parineeti Chopra and Deepika Padukone better watch out.
Everyone in Bollywood has a theory. Many times they have a theory on that theory, too. The best gossip goes unpublished because there is no way to verify it. The season’s biggest conspiracy theory surrounded Salman Khan’s Jai Ho. The film’s collections were underwhelming by Salman standards but trade tattlers don’t think it had anything to do with the film. If you believe the theorists, Jai Ho lost out because of the unforgettable photo-op of Salman flying kites with Narendra Modi. Some self-confessed B-town experts believe Salman’s bonhomie with Modi hurt his Muslim fans. While there is no empirical way to judge a star’s audience base, it is generally believed that among the Khan triumvirate, the Muslim community has always felt closer to Salman than to Aamir and Shah Rukh. Salman’s Muslim fans affectionately call him “Bhai” and the superstar returns their love by blocking Eid for his mega release — think back to Wanted, Dabangg, Ready, Bodyguard, Ek Tha Tiger, which were all blockbusters. While Salman has rubbished these claims, it has to be noted that the entire marketing vibe of his upcoming Kick is about him coming to take the Eidi of his audience. Kick’s makers have also incorporated a celebratory song titled “Jumme ki raat” to pump up the Eid release.
Heroes and villains
After the debacle of Himmatwala and the critical mauling of Humshakals, Sajid Khan still can’t catch a break. Riteish’s stature as a leading man is gaining more cred while Saif Ali Khan’s chips need to be resuscitated. Rajkummar Rao is the new Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Sidharth has the kind of charming dreamy screen presence that would make Shashi Kapoor proud. We’ve had a bit much of Madhuri Dixit. Kamaal R. Khan (KRK)’s reviews are the only reviews that really matter. Even A.R. Rahman can be average. If Highway was brilliant, Lekar Hum Deewana Dil was not even passable. We have a hero called Tiger and a heroine called Sunny, and they have both delivered hits.