The spectre of the Covid pandemic hung over the initial months, with the few footfalls echoing ominously in empty cinema theatres. Even after restrictions were relaxed, a series of big ticket flops at the box office with megastars like Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar unable to fill theatre seats had naysayers questioned Hindi cinema’s very future. But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, rumours of Bollywood’s death were vastly exaggerated. Fortunately, there were a few high points that have indicated a bright, albeit limited, reversal of fortunes.
The world over, sequels have proved to be box office heavy hitters with a built-in audience (think Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar 2) and Hindi cinema proved no different as vindicated by some of the biggest hits this year. The comedic Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 was released on the heels of several box office catastrophes yet managed to turn the tide. So much so that its lead actor Kartik Aaryan was pronounced “Bollywood’s saviour” by contemporaneous actor Arjun Kapoor in a tweet. Later in the year, Drishyam 2 proved to be a smash hit and even the biggest grosser of the year KGF: Chapter 2 rode at least partially on the coat tails of its popular predecessor.
The KGF: Chapter 2 phenomenon buttressed by the success of Pushpa (released in the last fortnight of the previous year) and RRR signalled a tectonic shift in the positioning of films dubbed in Hindi from various South Indian languages. While these tentpole pictures celebrated action sequences and hypermasculinity, audiences turned up for the more low-key Karthikeya 2 and Kantara too, indicating that regional films can now truly achieve pan-Indian success.
A still from Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 |
Superhero fatigue is not yet a thing — Brahmastra blazed through tepid reviews to score with its target audience, as did the sleeper superhit The Kashmir Files, which also grossed over Rs 200 crores. Rounding up the list of successes is the expensively mounted Gangubai Kathiawadi, which ensures that Alia Bhatt will deservedly bag most of the Best Actress trophies this year.
The race for the Best Actor trophy is more of a tossup with Ranbir Kapoor for Brahmastra and Ajay Devgn for Drishyam 2 being the most likely candidates with Kartik Aaryan being the outlier. At the venerable age of 80, Amitabh Bachchan headlined two empathetic character dramas made by two au courant directors — Vikas Bahl’s Goodbye and Sooraj Barjatya’s Uunchai. This career longevity is unprecedented in the annals of our cinematic history and though both films didn’t mint much coin at the box office, an acknowledgement at award time wouldn’t be amiss.
The year proved not so memorable for many A-listers. Ranveer Singh’s Jayeshbhai Jordaar didn’t live up to its titular adjective. Aamir Khan failed to attract audiences with Laal Singh Chaddha, Hrithik Roshan’s Vikram Vedha and Tiger Shroff’s Heropanti couldn’t make waves and the prolific Akshay Kumar’s Bachchan Pandey, Samrat Prithviraj, Raksha Bandhan and Ram Setu all ended up in the red. Ayushmann Khurrana had hitherto achieved something unique by not catering to trends but by converting the audience to his brand of cinema; but this year he too stumbled three times over at the ticket counter with Anek, Doctor G, and Action Hero.
A still from Doctor G |
Part of the 2022 story is also the films that are being readied for release next year … and it may well mean circling back to the tried and tested. After a four-year absence from the screen, Shah Rukh Khan returns with three films — Pathaan, Jawaan, and Dunki. The spate of sequels will continue with Tiger 3, Pushpa 2, and Singham 3.
Event films with ageing superstars are a staple now but what sounds promising is the audacious reform of the rom-com with Ranbir Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor in Luv Ranjan’s Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar and Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt in Karan Johar’s Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani. Maybe young heroes like Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra will do well to stop eschewing this genre. But who knows which way the winds will blow the next year?
At the end of the twenties, it will be interesting to work out a meta-commentary on 2022’s legacy in an industry where fortunes can change every Friday … and do.
(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here. To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)