Delivering surprises every fretful Friday, 2016 was indeed an eventful year. While some of the most anticipated films tanked, a few others were surprisingly praiseworthy. VIRAJ SAWANT looks at the biggest head-turners of the year.
Starting the year at the box office was WAZIR, an out and out action film with some significant twists and turns in the story. With Amitabh Bachchan playing a wheelchair-bound mastermind – something that the veteran actor had attempted for the first time – and Farhan Akhtar trying his hand at playing a cop, the film was appreciated for its intelligent approach to revenge.
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Next up was a heavyweight. A Republic Day release and an ideal film to turn this date into gold… Akshay Kumar’s AIRLIFT brilliantly told the story of an Indian businessman and how he helps around 170,000 people return to their homeland India from Kuwait. This was the very first hit of the year and much appreciated by people of all strata.
February saw the failure of the much awaited FITOOR, which was based on Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations. While the audience had huge expectations from this film, it failed to last for more than a week. Neither Katrina’s red hair not Aditya Roy Kapoor’s newly toned body could make the film interesting in anyway. The only saving grace of FITOOR was Tabu’s role as Begum. Filmed at the serene locales of Kashmir and partly in Poland, the film cost a whopping Rs.70 crore but left UTV Motion Pictures weeping after its release.
Often hailed for her hi-fashion demeanour, Sonam Kapoor had never attempted a role of this magnitude before. Burdened with the entire film on her delicate shoulders, Sonam Kapoor was to play air hostess/ model Neerja Bhanot in her biopic, NEERJA. Not leaving any stone unturned, Sonam plunged into this opportunity with gusto. The results turned to be fantastic for both first-time producer Atul Kasbekar and his lead actress. Sonam won widespread appreciation. One review read, “Sonam Kapoor delivered her career-best performance as she assuredly plays an abused wife, a beloved daughter and a flight attendant caught in her worst nightmare.” Suddenly the fashionista was looked at with new respect…
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Another film that rocked the film world was ALIGARH. Everybody knew Hansal Mehta was making a film on a homosexual professor but no one guessed he was creating a landmark film. Casting two of the most talented actors in the industry, Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkummar Rao, Hansal Mehta touched a sensitive topic with astounding depth and searing honesty.
March saw the release of a film centred around a family with all too human flaws, starring Sidharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt, Fawad Khan and Rishi Kapoor. With a star-studded cast, and a story executed in a mature manner, KAPOOR & SONS is proof that Bollywood has graduated in the family drama genre, way beyond KABHI KHUSHI KABHI GHAM.
R Balki, known for his out of the box films, stuck true to breaking rules with KI & KA, the story of role reversal in a marriage. A boy, who prefers to do the household chores, while his wife, a successful businesswoman, runs the house, drafted the blueprint of this film on gender politics. While this premise raisedaudience curiosity, the film disappointed in its execution. Like critic Anupama Chopra put it, “One of the enduring problems with Balki’s films persists — his crackling concept runs out of steam.”
Next came FAN, which can also be called one of the biggest debacles of 2016. Unfortunately, the last time Shah Rukh Khan played a double role(RA.ONE), he ended up losing a lot of money and this time around it wasn’t any different, either. FAN explored the story of an obsessed fan of a Bollywood actor who has an uncanny resemblance to his God/hero. Shah Rukh Khan received huge appreciation for his performance as Aryan Khanna/ Gaurav Chandana in the film. Termed as his ‘acting comeback,’ FAN nonetheless failed to attract the audience to the theatres.
A refreshing yet deep film, NIL BATTEY SANNATA made for a welcome watch. Starring Swara Bhaskar, Ratna Pathak Shah and Ria Shukla, this film surprised everyone with its innocence combined with relevant message. Winning awards and accolades across the globe, the film released in India in 2016. It started off slowly but with significant word of mouth, business picked up in the later weeks.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that this was the year of biopics. Emraan Hashmi’s AZHAR was meant to be a positive biopic to repair the smudged image of Mohammad Azharuddin. The film created waves with its first look wherein Emraan perfectly aped the ex-captain of the Indian cricket team. He not only raised expectations but also the curiosity to know more about the cricketer. After the release however, the film couldn’t live upto the hype and director Tony D’souza did not hit it out of the stadium with AZHAR.
Another biopic, SARBJIT released in the very same month. This Omung Kumar directorial, starring Randeep Hooda and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, was based on the life of an Indian, who was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and spent 22 years in a prison across the border. While a lot of sincerity and dedication was put into the film by the cast, the treatment wasn’t upto the mark, which is why the film was given the cold shoulder.
Really stirring up the pot was the most controversial film of the year… Since the time of its announcement, UDTA PUNJAB was always meant to be a cult film. What happened during the release simply escalated its status. Firstly there was the cast, namely ex-lovers Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor Khan, besides Alia Bhattin a starkly realistic avatar, and Punjabi superstar Diljit Dosanjh. It told the story of four characters and a common thread that binds them together – the drug scene in Punjab.
The CBFC ordered 89 cuts in the film, the deletion of one song, and a demand for a change of the movie title because it purportedly showed the state of Punjab in a bad light. It was perhaps for the first time that the entire film industry came together so strongly to fight the conservative, dictatorial CBFC. The producers took the matter to the court and won the case eventually. The film released with just one cut and the title did not need to be changed either. This Abhishek Chaubey film went on to do good business besides breaking new ground by virtue of its subject.