How important is the climax of a film? In any storyline, why is it crucial for the ending to have recall value? If you think about it, sometimes, the ending is all that you remember about a film in the long run. It has the power to make or break a cinematic experience. An ending can elevate an average film and make it great… or it can go awry in a way that even a genuinely good premise can’t save its aftertaste.
Here are 15 movie endings from Indian cinema that could’ve served their otherwise promising plots better:
Rajnigandha (1974, Hindi)
This Basu Chatterjee film is remembered for several reasons. It had beautiful songs, it marked the debut of the gorgeous Vidya Sinha, and boasted of an opening sequence where the protagonist (Sinha) dreams of chasing a train… which at that time was a novel concept. But was it remembered for its climax? Unfortunately, not. Despite being highly educated and finding the job of her dreams away from her hometown and a seemingly negligent fiancé, she decides to let it all go – including her long lost, but ideal, first love – because that’s the ‘right’ thing to do. But really, was it?
Silsila (1981, Hindi)
Yash Chopra’s Silsila remains one of the biggest, most-controversial casting coups ever. Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan and Rekha (and some evergreen songs), this film could have been a game-changer when it came to addressing taboo concepts like infidelity. But the ending had it all messed up. Two very determined lovers decide to leave their marriages and run away from a society that judges them day in and out, only to have a sudden realization that they are… married? This is followed by a dramatic plane crash that has Amit (Bachchan) turning into a guilt-ridden firefighter.
Delhi 6 (2009, Hindi)
To have the hero murdered at the end was perhaps too pessimistic, and so Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, the writer-director, gave in to the commercial narrative trappings and completely turned upside down the hyper-realism of Delhi 6 into a climax with god and white-washed heaven. The spacial dissonance with the empty, dimensionless heaven contrasted with the cloistered, crowded gullies of Delhi 6 was out-done by the narrative dissonance. The hero was resuscitated by a miracle but what died was the possibility of a wrenching end to a wrenching film. This was even more odd considering Mehra’s last film, the rousing and successful Rang De Basanti ends with mass murder.
Beautiful (2011, Malayalam)
VK Prakash’s Beautiful, starring Jayasurya and Anoop Menon, really is a beautiful film. It has lovely moments, great scenes in the rain and a motivational spirit. But does the ‘twist’ ending disturb the beauty of this film? Was the turn unexpected? Surely. But does such a soft film require such an ending? Guess it’s more of an acquired taste.
Cocktail (2012, Hindi)
Was Cocktail a great film? Not really. But it was one of those overall packages – with a promising cast, stunning locations and catchy songs – that could have been great. It had been a while since a rom-com had come up that was not just modern and fun, but also had something new to say. Instead, the film’s ending went for the tried and tested Archie-Betty-Veronica story, making Saif Ali Khan’s Gautam entitled enough to ‘choose’ between the two women. This film could’ve been great had both the women decided to dump him instead.
Lingaa (2014, Tamil)
It would be hard to dramatically improve Lingaa even if its ending were fixed. But its climax prevented us from even appreciating it for its kitschy 90s sensibility. The film’s most impressive stretch features the swashbuckling collector Raja Lingeswaran (Rajinikanth), someone who could put down an English collector with an English punch dialogue. And he builds a dam for his people at great personal cost in impossible circumstances, in spite of numerous betrayals.
So it’s a bit difficult to be impressed when scenes of this epic sacrifice are followed by a daft climax: his grandson, Lingaa (also played by Rajinikanth), rides a motorbike up a mountain and jumps over a hot air balloon to save the heroine. The film goes South quickly: from grandfather Lingaa saving the country using all his money to grandson Lingaa saving his girlfriend using circus tricks.
Bhaskar The Rascal (2015, Malayalam)
Director Siddique’s Mammootty starrer was a lovely comedy that works even now. But like many previous films of the director, it’s the highly dramatic flashback that ruins a well-meaning rom-com. It takes leaf out of Parent Trap for it basic setting but it goes ahead and tires to pull off a wannabe James Bond movie at the end, with a silly ending, shot tackily. Sadly, the Tamil remake didn’t fix this either.
Dil Dhadakne Do (2015, Hindi)
A Hindi film about a typically dysfunctional and wealthy Indian family on a European cruise ship simply has no business ending with one of the brats jumping into the ocean – and surviving – with a horribly film-school metaphor of a life-boat taking the now-united family to shore. It’s like Zoya Akhtar ran out of time and mental bandwidth after fashioning such a wicked and witty portrait of a First-World-Problems universe – choosing to turn the climax into a slapstick Priyadarshan comedy in the hope that viewers who’ve enjoyed the film up until the end might perhaps read between the lines and understand the stress of shooting overseas (quite literally).
Pyaar Prema Kaadhal (2018, Tamil)
When Sree (Harish Kalyan) confesses his love to Sindhuja (Raiza Wilson) in Pyaar Prema Kaadhal after they’ve just slept together, she tells him that what happened between them was casual and he shouldn’t make a thing out of it. Director Elan keeps steers clear of gender stereotyping right until the end when he capitulates to social mores. He makes Sree a coward and his parents get their way with him at Sindhuja’s expense. They do realize Sindhuja’s value in the end, but only after their first daughter-in-law doesn’t work out for them.
Even though Sree and Sindhuja end up together in the end (and this was probably the only socially acceptable path towards that), the ending of Pyaar Prema Kaadhal kills a lot of the film’s easy charm.
Article 15 (2019, Hindi)
Anubhav Sinha’s Article 15 was a very good film. It had a plot that was much-needed. It even had characters that were strong enough to make the film great – if they had utilized them in the climax, that is. The problem with the film was that while it was based on the prevalent caste politics and divisions, it ultimately fell towards the familiar grounds of savior complex where an upper caste, privileged hero saves the day, while the lower cast Dalit activist succumbs to his struggles. If only there could be a U-turn.
Popcorn Monkey Tiger (2020, Kannada)
Killing off a lead character requires gumption and Kannada filmmakers regularly do that. And in Duniya Soori’s Popcorn Monkey Tiger, the climactic pay-off appears delicious, but it somehow doesn’t sit well within the story it charts. The movie has too many things going on from the beginning – it has a non-linear narrative, too. So, the ending which involves the killing of Tiger Seena (Dhananjay) seems more like a cop-out than a fitting finale with a bow on its head.
Kappela (2020, Malayalam)
The reason why this 2020 thriller didn’t become ‘great’ is its watered down ending. Up until then, the twists work perfectly and we witness a role-reversal unlike any other with too many spoilers to elaborate. But with its ending, this thriller recedes to become just another cautionary tale for women, advising them to stay at home to be safe, rather than to encourage them to venture outside boldly, despite one wrong turn.
Gatham (2020, Telugu)
Gatham mostly stars newcomers. And everything about the film seems new – be it the storyline, or the locations. It’s an indie thriller that succeeds in surprising the viewers with its sharp twists. But the movie’s full-stop comes at a conventional pace. The protagonist triumphs over the antagonist after putting up a fight, but the wickedness of the screenplay doesn’t last till the final stretch. This happens in Sailesh Kolanu’s HIT: The First Case (2020) also.
Uppena (2021, Telugu)
Uppena is a romantic drama where the leads belong to different castes. Their caste hierarchy is pretty much what the movie openly stands on, but director Buchi Babu Sana takes a deviation in the end and makes the young woman give a speech on the subject of love and masculinity. The filmmaker doesn’t make his characters question the crimes that are committed by the upper-caste villain. This is atrocious.
Hero (2021, Kannada)
When you watch Hero, you’ll laugh a lot and wince from time to time to register your displeasure when it comes to the scenes that depict domestic violence. What pulls down the film, however, is the lengthy segment that arrives in the climax where the Hero (played by Rishab Shetty) indulges in a game of hand-to-hand combat with another man. It doesn’t elevate the characters and their foolhardy nature beyond a point. It simply becomes an extension of an extension of an extension of a worn-out theme.
(Contributed by Ashutosh Mohan, Debdatta Sengupta, Karthik Keramalu, Prathyush Parasuraman, Rahul Desai and Vishal Menon)