As another year gets folded in the annals of cinematic history, here is a brief write-up of the good and the bad that characterized the year…
Looking back, 2022 was not a great year for Bollywood in terms of content as well as box-office hits. Over-publicized big-budget films turned out to be box-office duds and put a question mark against the pull and charm of the so-called superstars of the industry who could not even muster up a decent first weekend collection. The message is loud and clear: without a strong script, the audience is not going to be fooled by just a star name.
The year will be remembered primarily for the tough competition from the Hindi dubbed films of Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam industry, which created a big dent in the Bollywood’s collection. These superb Pan-India films from South hit Bollywood like a tsunami and engulfed the entire nation with their new ideas and novel ways of story-telling. RRR, Kantara, Pushpa, Karthikeya 2, KGF 2, 777 Charlie, Vikram, Major, Vikrant Rona, Ponniyin Selvan and Sita Ramam, were some of the films that turned out to be big blockbusters. By combining stories rooted in our culture with awesome visual effects they gave us cinema which was appealing and entertaining.
Further competition continued from the content on OTT platforms available in English, Hindi, and regional languages. As they are offering a lot of variety to choose from in terms of subject and treatment, people are not willing to step into cinema halls unless something different and spectacular is being promised. The craze for the first weekend rush is taking a backseat and people do not mind waiting for a few weeks to watch the same at their leisure. Moreover, several good films are nowadays getting released directly on OTT platforms and that has also altered the film’s collections.
Despite all these aspects, some films left their mark and made the year memorable.
Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali came up with the brilliant and heart-rending real-life story of Mumbai’s prostitute Gangubai Kathiawadi, which touched a chord in every viewer’s heart. The spectacular vision of director S S Rajamouli once again made cinema viewing an unforgettable experience and his mind-blowing RRR left the viewers spellbound. Kantara brought to screen a remarkable tale from the village of coastal Karnataka with emphasis on folklore and human vs nature conflict and swept the nation in its wake.
Badhaai Do was a thought-provoking take on the LGBTQ+ community and told a unique tale of a lesbian sports instructor and a gay cop who enter into a marriage of convenience to escape the pressures of society. In Drishyam 2, director Abhishek Pathak kept up the thrill and suspense of the first part and though it was a remake of the superhit Malayalam original, acting by the brilliant cast was a big plus point. Directed by Nagraj Manjule, Jhund was an inspirational sports-drama based on the heart-warming journey of a real-life school teacher who gets a football team ready by training talented slum kids.
Rocketry-The Nambi Effect was a touching tale based on the life of ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan. The film was written, produced, and directed by R Madhavan who also played the protagonist. Shabash Mithu also deserves a mention for bringing to life the difficult journey of Mithali Raj-one of our greatest names in women’s cricket who captained India from 2004-2022.
The year stood out for many thriller films and this genre seems to be gaining a lot of popularity as we had several films and web-series based on crime drama. Films like Monica O My Darling, Jalsa, Darlings, Blurr, Dobaara, Govinda Naam Mera, Freddy, Forensic, Hit: The First Case, Good Luck Jerry, Chup: Revenge of An Artist and web series like Criminal Justice 2, Delhi Crime 2, Mai, Fame Game and Mithya proved to be a refreshing change and all were enjoyable.
It was a good year for the female actors with many of them stepping out of their comfort zone and taking on a variety of roles.
Alia Bhatt cemented her position further with two incredible performances. Donning the role of a sex-worker in Gangubai Kathiawadi, she lived the role of the real-life prostitute on whose life the film was based. She followed it up with a very convincing act of an abusive wife in Darlings. With this film she also turned producer launching her own production company Sunshine films. Though it was small role, she also starred in the year’s two big blockbusters- Brahmastra Part 1: Shiva and RRR though the latter had her in a small role only.
The ever-dependable Shefali Shah had a brilliant year with top-class performances in the films Jalsa, Darlings and Doctor G as well as the two web-series- Delhi Crime 2 and Human. Vidya Balan came up with a scintillating act in Jalsa, Neena Gupta also had a great year with memorable roles in Uunchai opposite Boman Irani, Goodbye opposite Amitabh Bachchan, Vadh opposite Sanjay Mishra and was superb in the 2 web-series- Panchayat 2 and Masaba 2.
Taapsee Pannu had five releases and continued her success story by trying out a variety of roles. She was superb in the crime thrillers Blurr and Do Baaraa, as well as the biopic Shabash Mithu where she essayed the role of the Indian Cricket Captain Mithali Raj. Her outing in the time travel film Loop Lapeta was fun to watch but in Tadka she had a small role and somebody else had dubbed for her but her pairing with Ali Fazal was good.
Huma Qureshi who is becoming better with every film delighted the audience with her sensuous presence in Monica O My Darling. She was excellent in the thriller web-series Mithya, and as the lady politician in the web-series Maharani 2, and was seen in a light-hearted role in Double XL which is a take on the lives of girls who are overweight and undergo body-shaming. She also had a lovely song picturized on her in Gangubai Kathiawadi.
Tabu is indeed an actress nonpareil, and she proved it with her towering presence in Drishyam 2 and an interesting double role in Bhool Bhulaiya 2. The surprise packet of the year was the super talented Sakshi Tanwar stepping out of her usual goody-goody characters and donning the role of the avenging mother in the nail-biting web-series Mai.
Other actresses who deserve a mention are Nimrat Kaur as the illiterate politician in Dasvi, Bhumi Pedenekar as the closeted lesbian in Badhaai Do, Kiara Advani in Govinda Naam Mera and Radhika Apte in the two crime thrillers Forensic and Monica O My Darling. Yami Gautam was also good in her roles in Dasvi and A Thursday. Madhuri Dixit could not have asked for a better OTT debut than the intriguing web-series The Fame Game, and she was wonderful.
Two beautiful and talented actresses from North-East made their presence felt with their acting and yet not much was written about them. 21-year-old Andrea Kevichusa from Nagaland made her debut in Anek opposite Ayushmann Khurrana and Chum Darang from Arunachal Pradesh acted as Bhumi’s lesbian partner in Badhaai Do. Youngsters who deserved a word of appreciation were Tripti Dimri in Qala, Jahnvi Kapoor in Good Luck Jerry, Alaya F in Freddy and debutante Avantika Dassani in the web-series Mithya.
Among the heroes, Akshay Kumar delivered five flops in a row creating a record of sorts-Prithviraj Chauhan, Bachchan Pandey, Raksha Bandhan, Ram Setu and Cuttputli. Today the term superstar is being used very lightly for anyone who gives one hit per year and incidentally the current self-proclaimed superstar Ranveer Singh ended up giving us two of the worst films this year- Jayeshbai Jordaar and Cirkus. He has concentrated more on endorsing several brands and being part of energetic promotional events.
Aamir Khan spent many years getting the rights of Forrest Gump and toiled hard in making Lal Singh Chaddha but the audience was not in a mood to watch the saga and it became a total disaster. Salman Khan had a poor outing with a cameo in the Chiranjeevi starrer Godfather and Shah Rukh Khan had a cameo in a few films of which his performance in Brahmastra won him appreciation. Ranbir Kapoor was terrible in Shamshera and though his Brahmastra was a hit, there were many factors which went into getting those numbers and he was certainly not the primary reason. Ayushmann Khurrana came up with average films like Anek, Doctor G and An Action Hero. Varun Dhawan was good in Bhediya but annoying in Jugjugg Jiyo. The duo of Saif Ali Khan and Hrithik could not recreate the magic of their counterparts Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathy in the Hindi remake of Vikram Vedha and the film fell short of the Tamil original.
The older guard on the other hand fared much better. Amitabh Bachchan had five releases this year and he was brilliant in all of them – Uncchai, Jhund, Runway 34, Goodbye and Brahmastra and a cameo in Chup: The Revenge of an Artist. Each film had him playing a different character and his zest for experimenting with new characters continues unabated. Anupam Kher had a good outing with The Kashmir Files, Uunchai and Karthikeya 2, and Anil Kapoor was in full form in Jug Jug Jiyo. Abhishek Bachchan was appreciated in Dasvi and Pankaj Tripathi gave winning performances in the film Sherdil-The Pilbhit Saga and the web-series Criminal Justice Season 2.
Ajay Devgn delivered a super-hit in Drishyam 2 and was appreciated for his small but important roles in RRR and Gangubai Kathiawadi. His directorial venture Runway 34 was also good. Raj Kummar Rao fared well with Badahaai Do and the crime thriller Monica O My Darling. Karthik Aryan was brilliant in Freddy and Jim Sarbh was good in Gangubai Kathiawadi and the web-series Rocket Boys. Vijay Verma was the surprise packet of the year with his superb act in Darlings. It was a pleasure watching Akshaye Khanna’s polished act in Drishyam 2.
Film songs which had been such an integral part of Hindi cinema have over the last few years taken a complete backseat and songs are incorporated only as dance numbers to create a buzz before the release of the film. Look at what the makers of Pathan have done. Publicity negative or positive will keep the audience in the loop and the first released song from the film which created quite a stir has received record-breaking viewership hits on YouTube.
There were rare films like Gangubai Kathiawadi and Brahmastra where all songs were melodious and picturized well. Our Southern industries are still giving a lot of importance to music and songs and their picturization as could be seen from RRR, Kantara, Ponniyin Selvan I, Pushpa and Sita Ramam. This is one area which really needs attention, if we don’t want to lose out on our distinct identity.
Here are a few of my favourite songs from 2022:
‘Jab Saiyaan…’ from Gangubai Kathiawadi
‘Kesariya tera…’ from Brahmastra
‘Varaha roopam…’ from Kantara
‘Naacho Naacho…’ from RRR
‘Yeh Ek Zindagi…’ from Monica O My Darling
‘Waqt ke jungle…’ from Do Baaraa
‘Hindustan Meri Jaan…’ from Shabash Mithu
2023 beckons us with lots of hopes and expectations for the film industry. The past year had many learnings for Bollywood but how much would be put into action remains to be seen. Will we continue to pander to the star system or will the actors playing strong characters take charge? Will the big names continue to fight for the festival weekends or will they have the guts to take on the industry with just their talent? Will the regional films continue their pull and give Bollywood a fight? Will Hindi cinema also give supreme importance to script and story or just continue with their run of sequels, remakes and biopics? Let us wait and watch…