2017 is most likely to be remembered as Bollywood's annus horribilius or horrible year – with films flopping, stars flopping and the Padmavati release being stalled. But despite the doom and gloom there were at least a few things to celebrate. Here are 8 things to be grateful for in 2017.
1. Ratna Pathak Shah in Lipstick Under my Burkha
Chances are that like me, you've never seen or expected to see a middle-aged woman masturbating in a Hindi movie. With Lipstick Under My Burkha, we finally acknowledged that age and desire are not mutually exclusive. Ratna gave Buaji sensuality but also grace and humanity. She was unforgettable.
2. The success of Newton
Amit Masurkar's modestly budgeted film about an election in the jungles of Chhattisgarh released on the same day as two Bollywood biggies – Bhoomi, starring Sanjay Dutt and Aditi Rao Hydari and Haseena Parkar starring Shraddha Kapoor as an underworld don. Newton soared while the other two tanked, establishing that eventually storytelling trumps stars.
3. The Baahubali phenomenon
If stardom is defined as bums on seats, the Baahubali franchise proved that a filmmaker's imagination is the biggest star. Baahubali: The Conclusion became the first Indian film to gross over 1000 crore. It also helped to rescue the flailing Hindi film industry – the dubbed Hindi version grossed approximately 500 crores. The film shattered Bollywood's hubris – suddenly Hindi cinema seemed smaller – in scale, passion and courage. Director SS Rajamouli and the film proved that big thinking can lead to big results.
4. Censor board chief Pahlaj Nihalani got fired
On August 11, a ripple of happiness swept over Bollywood – Pahlaj Nihalani was given the boot. In his tenure as CBFC chief, Nihalani had trimmed a kissing scene in Spectre because apparently Indian audiences aren't capable of handling kisses that last beyond a few seconds; his board had denied a certificate to Lipstick Under My Burkha because it was too 'lady-oriented;' and he had refused to pass the word 'intercourse' in the trailer of Jab Harry Met Sejal. Mr. Nihalani said in an interview: CBFC is part of the government, the responsibility of which is not only limited to issuing certificates to the films but also to preserve the culture and tradition of the country. So what did he do after being sacked? He distributed Julie 2 – a B-grade film about the casting couch. The perfect landing!
5. Pankaj Tripathi and Seema Pahwa
Pankaj Tripathi and Seema Pahwa are exquisitely effortless actors. In films like Newton, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Gurgaon and Fukrey Returns, you delight in their work but you can't see the strain of acting. In 2017, Tripathi and Pahwa shone brightly and finally got the accolades they deserve. Now we can only hope that directors find new ways to use their dazzling talent.
6. The break-out success of Angamaly Diaries
It's probably safe to assume that before this year, most people outside Kerala had never heard of a tiny town in the state called Angamaly. But director Lijo Jose Pellissery put it on the map with a strikingly original, high-energy, eccentric and utterly compelling film about crazy gangsters. Angamaly Diaries, which ends with a masterful 11-minute one-shot sequence, became a box office and critical hit. Angamaly Diaries showed us that you don't need a big budget or big stars, just a whole lot of imagination and courage.
7. Taboo Topics
Did you ever think you would see toilets or impotence play starring roles in Hindi movies? In 2017, films like Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan redefined what were acceptable topics for Hindi movies to address. The success of these films was evidence that Indians are willing to listen to any story as long as it's told well!
8. Rajkummar Rao
The actor had 5 releases in 2017 – including the commercial hit Bareilly Ki Barfi and Newton, India's official entry to the Oscars. Somehow, he also managed to play Subhas Chandra Bose in a web series, whose creative producer is Hansal Mehta. While every film wasn't a success, each performance proved the versatility and genius of Rajkummar Rao. Mehta said that an actor like him inspires directors to think of unusual subjects. We can't wait to see where Rao goes next.