As 2016 draws to a close, Indians can’t stop talking of money or, more often, the lack of it. But someone who can’t complain about not drawing enough dough is Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan whose December 23 release Dangal is estimated to already be racing towards the Rs 200-crore mark. Aamir’s success rivals Salman Khan’s, whose summer release Sultan is said to have crossed Rs 300 crore. Both hits are based in the wrestling world. Perhaps the viewers loved them even more for take-away tips to tackle the rough-and-tumble of those ATM queues.
But happily, Bollywood is getting more real. Its hits this year have been firmly located in the hurly-burly of reality. Dangal itself is a biopic, the genre that ruled hearts. Viewers cheered Sushant Singh Rajput’s MS Dhoni biopic while Sonam Kapoor’s Neerja, the story of brave air stewardess Neerja Bhanot, moved many to tears. Akshay Kumar saw successes with Airlift and Rustom, both based on real people, real life. Airlift transported onto screen a new section of the Indian diaspora — not wealthy Punjabis bhangra-ing with American twangs, but migrant labour in the Middle East, caught in the Iraq war with nowhere to go. In Rustom, Akshay recreated the Nanavati case, set in the bedrooms and ballrooms of a glassily beautiful 1950s. There wasn’t beauty, just hard reality in Pink, which exploded with decades of anger, decrying a male sense of entitlement to women’s bodies and dignity.
Not everything burst with a bang; some films flopped with a tired whimper. The fatigued Rock On 2 did everything but rock the box office. Katrina Kaif went from flaming red-head to bespectacled brunette; neither helped Fitoor or Baar Baar Dekho, which not too many chose to dekho at all. A Flying Jatt couldn’t take off, despite the thrills of cherubic Tiger Shroff sporting a beard. Even Hrithik Roshan’s epic Mohenjo Daro sank without a trace. Although, if released now, it might have endeared. After all, Mohenjo Daro recalls a time before ATMs.