A year-end list for best Hindi film trailers? One might balk at the idea, but the well-made trailer was something of a rarity in 2018. From never-ending ones that gave away so much that they made you wonder if there is anything left to be seen (Sui Dhaaga, Soorma, the list can go on) to ones that looked like they were put together by an unimaginative intern in two days (Namaste England), the year certainly had better films than trailers (Stree calls to mind).
Trailers, of course, are a marketing invention. One should go to a movie with as little information about it as possible – and that’s why film festivals are often the purest cinema experiences. But we live in a far less ideal world, where not only are there multiple trailers, there are trailers of trailers.
I’ve picked ones that deviate from the norm in some way, play it smart, have fun with the pacing and the cutting, and in the process become a little art form in themselves.
Here are five of the year’s best Hindi film trailers, in no particular order.
The Andhadhun trailer makes great use of Amit Trivedi’s score. It’s like a jazz piece, kicking off with fast drumming and settling into soft classical notes before it ends with the bang of a gunshot. It makes sense given the protagonist (Ayushmann Khurrana) is a blind pianist who goes through a darkly comic adventure after he witnesses two murders. The editing is frenetic, and texts, in bold, red font, splash over the screen. We are introduced to Sriram Raghavan’s gallery of vivid characters: the hero’s love interest (Radhika Apte), a femme fatale housewife (Tabu), a washed-up movie star (Anil Dhawan), and Raghavan regulars like Zakir Hussain. A brief moment teases us about the prospect of an unreliable narrator: is Khurrana’s blind man really blind? Andhadhun wasn’t a movie, it was a game with the audience. And it had begun with the trailer.
Bhavesh Joshi Superhero (Teaser)
The teaser for Vikramaditya Motwane’s homegrown vigilante flick opens with classic superhero movie stuff – a hooded figure walking the streets of Mumbai as a voiceover plays over: Hero paida nahi hota… banta hai (Heroes are not born… they are made), and quickly subverts it: Woh andhero mein darta nahin (He isn’t scared in the dark), Deewaro mein jaake rukta nahi (He doesn’t stop at walls). It’s a sly at the DC and Marvel icons. Bhavesh Joshi is no Batman or Spiderman; he could be anyone who wants to do the right thing. We get the training montage and the chase sequence and the unveiling of the superhero suit. But the voice that speaks from inside the mask isn’t booming, or gruff, but a meek, funny-sounding one. The one-minute teaser did a far better job than the competent but long and expository trailer in setting the stage for the film’s anti-superhero-movie ambitions. It’s another thing that the film – or, at least, a large part of it- turned out to be such a damp squib.
Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota
The trailer of Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota takes the format of a Public Service Announcement and turns it into something impossibly cool. The young, baby-faced hero with a rare disorder walks and talks to the camera, about daydreaming, about the need to take sips of water at regular intervals, and as things on the road just drop at him or hit him accidentally, he tells us about Congenital Insensitivity to Pain. The action sequences – clean, shot in glorious slo-mo and set to a funky soundtrack – look beautiful. Subtitles play over a VHS tape cover. Gulshan Devaiah makes a last-second appearance as a delightfully deranged villain. Vasan Bala’s ode to martial art movies and Matunga looks irresistible.
For an anthology film on the theme of lust, with such names as Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee on the directors’ list, you’d expect something dark and edgy. But the trailer of Lust Stories plays out like a warm, fuzzy rom-com. And this effect is achieved almost entirely by the use of music; a breezy indie song by an unknown artiste plays over the images, with smattering of dialogue and bits of scenes featuring the film’s eclectic cast: Radhika Apte, Sanjay Kapoor, Manisha Koirala, Vicky Kaushal, Akash Thosar. Is Lust Stories a warm, fuzzy rom-com? Far from it. But what it does here is normalise a taboo: Why should lust be any different from love? Special points for not mentioning which director directed which segment.
The general grouse about trailers nowadays is that they show too much, taking us through the emotional beats of the story in a hurried manner. The trailer of October doesn’t go by the lesser-the-better rule either; it shows a lot, but gives away little. The big, spoilery scenes are avoided; instead we get minutiae of the life of a five star hotel management staff: the film’s protagonist Dan (Varun Dhawan) swatting away with a mosquito killing racket, or explaining his subordinates why pressing guests’ underwear is a bad idea. With Shoojit Sircar’s eye for details, a Tupperware bottle here, a room heater and a pickle jar there, it is never boring. Even after two-and-a-half minutes, we don’t have a real idea what the film is about. All we know, and all we need to know, is the unusual question that lies at the heart of the film: moments before she lost her consciousness and was admitted in the ICU, why did Shiuli call for Dan?