The Best & Worst Movies of 2015

The overarching note of 2015 was ‘Woman’, says Anupama Chopra. Here’s her list of the top and bottom 5 films of the year

The year was filled with amazing female characters. It started in January with Taapsee Pannu playing a special ops agent in Baby. In one of the film’s best scenes, she kicked and punched a man into submission.  It ended with Bajirao Mastani, in which we had two unconventional, strong, unfettered women – Mastani and Kashibai.

In between, we got Meera, the avenging angel with a rod, in NH 10; the confident and unapologetically over-weight Sandhya in Dum Lagake Haisha; the acidic and affectionate Piku; the unforgettable Datto in Tanu Weds Manu Returns; Neelam and Ayesha Mehra in Dil Dhadakne Do – a mother and daughter who learn to ask for more; Devi in Masaan, a woman who stumbles but she refuses to cow down to her suffocating surroundings or let us judge her: Tara in Tamasha, a solid, sorted woman who helps her lover discover his inner artiste; and even Laila, a differently-abled bisexual Hindi film heroine.  Did you ever imagine you would see those words in the same sentence?

It’s been a great year for women. The men had their highs and lows.  Here’s our list of the top and bottom 5 films of 2015.  It comes with a caveat – I took over as director of the Mumbai Film Festival this year so I stopped regular reviewing for several months and missed many titles.  But here’s the best and worst of what I saw.

BEST:-

At number 5 is Tanu Weds Manu Returns

Director Aanand L Rai’s sequel was overtly entangled and clunky but Kangana Ranaut held it together.  As both the rebel without a cause Tanu and the Haryanvi sportwoman Datto, Kangana was pitch-perfect. One request for Aanand – let part three in the series be the story of Datto.

At number four – Piku

Above all, Piku was a triumph of writing.  The film had very little plot but Juhi Chaturvedi’s characters were so finely etched that they stayed with us.  Watching Piku was like eavesdropping on our own family – on their hopes, fears and frustrations.  And of course their bowel movements.  I think Piku is shit’s most shining moment in Hindi cinema.

At number three – Bajirao Mastani

Sanjay Leela Bhansali gestated this project for 12 years.  He finally delivered a soaring, visually sumptuous epic that reimagined the life of the 18th century warrior and his two wives.  Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra were magic.

At number two – Masaan

Masaan was a tapestry of bruised and broken lives set against the 5000-year-old backdrop – the city of Varanasi.  Debutant director Neeraj Ghaywan and writer Varun Grover created multiple narratives that merged seamlessly.  Masaan was a quietly devastating experience.  It also featured the male debutant of the year – Vicky Kaushal.

And the  number one film of 2015 – Court

Court was the story of a poet, singer and social activist who is charged with inciting a sewage worker to kill himself.  It is alleged that the sewage worker listened to a particular song, lowered himself into a sewer without safety equipment and willed himself to die by inhaling noxious fumes.

What follows is a Kafkaesque theater of the absurd. Court was a severe indictment of the Indian judiciary and of the several schisms in our country – class, money, caste, religion, region.  Incredibly, the film was made by a 27-year-old debutant director, Chaitanya Tamhane.  Court was brutal but required viewing.

Special mentions:

Baahubali, which was powered by the incredible imagination and courage of S. S. Rajamouli. Baahubali had scale, power and a killer cliff-hanger at the end.  I can’t wait to see the sequel. And Dum Lagake Haisha, which was intimate, charming and worked its magic quietly and unassumingly. Director Sharat Katariya proved yet again that stars and scale are secondary. What matters is storytelling.

WORST:-

How do you pick the worst films in a year that includes Messenger of God part 1 and 2? A year in which Sunny Leone gets to play a Rajasthani village belle in colonial India – remember Ek Paheli Leela. Or the even more mind-numbing Kuch Kuch Locha Hai, in which Ram Kapoor plays a gujju bhai lusting for Sunny. These films have scarred me for life.

The truth is there are no limits to how awful Hindi cinema can get. But for me the real disappointments are the ones that have promise. The films which have directors, actors, budgets and yet they fall apart.

At number 5 – Bangistan 

Debutant director Karan Anshuman had an idea for a smart religious satire but his execution was so bewilderingly inept that little of it came through. What I remember from the film are the locations in Poland and Riteish Deshmukh’s sincere performance.

At number 4 – Hamari Adhuri Kahani

More than 30 years ago, Mahesh Bhatt made Arth, the story of a woman who discovers her inner strength after her husband leaves her. This year, he wrote Hamari Adhuri Kahani, the story of a woman who refuses to abandon her husband even though he is abusive and absent for five years. Her own mother-in-law asks her to throw away her mangalsutra, to which our heroine replies: is mangalsutra ko uttar phenke ki himmat nahin mere main. Hamari Adhuri Kahani also featured my favourite dialogue of the year  – the hero takes the woman he loves to see his mother. The mother turns around and says; yeh banjaran kaun hai.  Priceless.

At number 3 – Shaandaar

Shaandaar was the anti-Queen. If Queen was authentic, emotional and gripping, Shaandaar was phony, lazy and just plain boring. It’s hard to imagine that the same director Vikas Bahl made both these movies.

At number 2 – Dilwale

I converted to the cult of Shah Rukh Khan after watching Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge twenty years ago. I wrote a book on the film and another one on Shah Rukh. Like millions of smitten admirers, I worshipped at the altar of Rahul and Raj. So this cynical, hackneyed attempt to cash in on our affection for DDLJ, really broke my heart. Even in the context of Rohit Shetty’s oeuvre, this film was a new low.

And the award for the worst film of the year goes to Roy!

Roy was a painfully affected and spectacularly tedious drama about a filmmaker and his struggle to create.  Arjun Rampal played the rockstar, playboy director, Jacqueline Fernandes played a filmmaker who becomes his muse – the director Vikramjit Singh claimed that the characters were inspired by the love affair between Quentin Tarantino and Sofia Coppola. And the icing on the cake was Ranbir Kapoor in, and I’m quoting from the film’s credit here, a dynamic role. I don’t know what that means. And I didn’t get much of this film either. It was an unintentionally funny train-wreck.

Which films did you love and which ones did you hate? What have I missed here? Comment below and let me know.

Happy 2016!

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