Women shone in Hindi cinema, the Khans sobered down, solid scripts made their mark, and character actors rocked big along with stunning lead performances in 2018.
Returning to mainstream with a solid presence, women made ample use of significant screen time devoted to them. Six movies with female-driven plots made it to top ten performers at the box office including Padmaavat (#2), Hichki (#6), Badhaai Ho (#7), Pad Man (#8), Raazi (#9) and Stree (#10). Be it lead or supporting roles, they left their stamp.
Alia Bhatt got to play a female spy with Raazi, Deepika Padukone and Aditi Rao Hydari stood strong against Ranveer Singh in Padmaavat, Rani Mukherjee excelled as a teacher with Tourette syndrome in Hichki, Neena Gupta was most graceful as a pregnant woman at 59 years, and Surekha Sikhri the pluckiest grandma in Badhaai Ho.
Tabu was in fantastic form, sinking her artistic teeth into quirky Missing and Andhadhun. Radhika Apte had an interesting year with distinctive parts in Pad Man, Bazaar, Lust Stories and Andhadhun. Anushka Sharma explored supernatural realms with Pari and got in touch with her submissive self in Sui Dhaaga. Kajol found her groove as a single mom in Helicopter Eela. Nandita Das dabbled with the greys of troubled writer Manto, who sought dignity and voice for women in his writing. Stree pulled the safety net off men, throwing them to danger against the ghost of a woman.
There were also those that balanced entertainment with critical beautifully. Manmarziyaan, written by Kanika Dhillon, was director Anurag Kashyap’s sobering foray into a woman’s heart and dilemma. Veere Di Wedding registered itself as the first movie on female friendships with foursome Kareena Kapoor, Swara Bhasker, Sonam Kapoor, and Shikha Talsania; and notched its first female masturbation scene in Hindi cinema. Vishal Bhardwaj’s Pataakha unleashed female anger and energy with gusto.
The Khans appeared shaky with mediocre films but still pulled in the audiences. Salman’s Race 3 (#3) and Aamir’s Thugs of Hindostan (#4) raked in respectable sums at ₹303 crore and ₹262.97 crore. Shah Rukh’s flight of ingenious fancy Zero opened to mixed responses, cruising along a decent 59.07 crore in the first 3 days. The daring Saif Ali Khan superbly experimented with black comedy Kaalakandi and a shaded role in commercial flick Bazaar.
His daughter with Amrita Singh, Sara Ali Khan, made a spirited debut with Kedarnath. Iconic female actor Sridevi, who died in an accident earlier this year on February 24th, missed her daughter Janhvi’s sparkling debut in Dhadak by five months.
Tiger Shroff scored again with his mindless masala franchise Baaghi 2 (#5). Varun Dhawan experimented with October and Sui Dhaaga. Ranveer Singh had a thundering turn in Padmaavat as Alahuddin Khilji. His Simmba with director Rohit Shetty looks like a sure-shot box office winner. Ranbir Kapoor clawed his way back to success with an ace performance in Rajkumar Hirani’s Sanju (#1), the year’s top grosser with ₹586.85 crore.
Supporting actors made a big impact: Gajraj Rao in Badhaai Ho, Abhishek Banerjee & Pankaj Tripathi in Stree, Jim Sarbh in Padmaavat, Vicky Kaushal in Raazi and Sanju. His crazed lover performance as second lead in Manmarziyaan was simply superb, he also starred in Love Per Square Foot and Lust Stories. Rajkummar Rao had a few releases, his Stree with Shraddha Kapoor (whose Batti Gul Meter Chalu with Shahid Kapoor tanked) was a sleeper hit with ₹180.76 crore.
The dark horse of the year turned out to be Ayushmann Khurrana with two movies, Andhadhun (₹111 crores) and Badhaai Ho (₹221.48 crores), ringing loudly at the ticket windows.
Here are my top ten, chosen mainly for their content, uniqueness, and repeat value, not necessarily indicative of box office results.
5. Sanju: If it wasn’t for Ranbir Kapoor’s maverick performance, Rajkumar Hirani’s white-washed portrayal of Sanjay Dutt may not have made it. It looked like Hirani wasn’t able to get over his love for Sanjay and make an honest movie. Ranbir is flawless as Sanju though… missing out on the magnificence of his genius would be a crime.
4. Badhaai Ho: What sheer brilliance of finding comedy in the mundane. Amit Sharma executes pure entertainment on screen with the material that writers Shanatanu Srivastava, Akshat Ghildial and Jyoti Kapoor deliver on paper. Neena Gupta excels as a mother who finds herself pregnant in a mature age and decides to keep the baby, blaming husband Gajraj Rao for the predicament. People react to the news in hilarious ways. Son Ayushmann Khurrana is highly embarrassed. A fresh perspective to the vagaries of life. Do not miss.
3. October: Writer Juhi Chaturvedi’s tale about a man’s journey of unconditional love was the most remarkable movie of 2018. Director Shoojit Sircar tiptoes his way around her beautiful writing with an ultra-sensitive touch. Varun Dhawan is a revelation. In the crazy hustle bustle of life, this one way track of quiet love is sure to survive the test of selfish times. It’s an experience worth living.
2. Raazi: Director Meghana Gulzar delivers one of the highest-grossing Indian films featuring a female protagonist at ₹194.06 crore. What an inspiration that her story is based on a real events from the life of a female spy. Alia Bhatt’s turned in a fantastic performance. In her sixth film, Meghana gets the balance right between commercial and critical, making it a clear winner. Watch it.
1. Andhadhun: What’s not to love about this complex web of deceit and black humour? Ayushmann Khurrana and Tabu are top notch, not one scene where either of them are slacking off. The piano playing, the rabbit, Anil Dhawan, the sleeping crab, the blindness, the actors, the props. Five writers, Sriram Raghavan, Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti, Yogesh Chandekar, Hemanth Rao, and yet they don’t spoil this innovative sleuth broth. Director Shriram Raghavan is perfection personified. Ignore at your own risk.
Numbers six to ten were love spectacle Manmarziyaan (6), breezy Veere Di Wedding (7), fiery and racy Pataakha (8), horror comedy Stree (9) and hard-hitting Mukkabaaz (10). What’s Mukkabaaz? It was Anurag’s first release in January 2018, starring Vineet Kumar Singh. Trust me, it’s a little gem you do want to discover.
This story also appeared on indiacurrents.com.