Lala and Sapna are childhood lovers but Lala is delaying getting married to her because he promised his dying mother that he will settle after marrying his four sisters into suitable homes.
Raksha Bandhan brings back the lost essence in Bollywood which is the traditional and family values. What made my mind to add Raksha Bandhan to my watchlist was the plot that highlights a very critical social problem which is marrying your daughters, and your sisters in the best possible families. A responsibility, the heaviest in weight and socially one of the significant scrutinies that hold the most critical center of attraction. This a much-needed storytelling in today’s Bollywood to bring awareness of how tough it is for a father or a brother particularly in middle and lower-class families to search for the most suitable man and give their girl to him.
Raksha Bandhan was released with Laal Singh Chaddha on the same date and both failed to make any impression. On ₹70 crores of the production budget, the film grossed only ₹52 crores at home. Was the film that bad? It surely was a disappointment but I think the reason for failure was more political than economic.
One of the good aspects of the writing is that the story didn’t waste time in showing Lala and Sapna falling in love and dancing on the streets with all the pedestrians joining them in dancing in Sri Lankan rain, Swiss snow, Egyptian pyramids, Piccadilly Circus, or Time Square. Because it was unnecessary and better focused on the central plot.
Despite the fact that the film’s intention to showcase the social problem is in the right direction, the directional value rotates back to entertainment and misses a large part to emphasize. Three of the four sisters have particular traits. One is manly, the other is dark-skinned, and another is fat. The latter two carry critical concerns as a girl being dark or fat brings more difficulty in making her case acceptable to the boy’s family than the boy’s. And both the issues of color and weight surprisingly don’t get stretchy content in the film.
The problem with Raksha Bandhan revolves around screenwriting. It is a comedy-drama but a very important issue slips the element of realism due to its being too entertaining. And needless songs and story arc of Lala-Sapna eat the screen length.
Director Aanand L. Rai has a habit of running the film on a high musical score that disturbs the momentum and triggers the seriousness of the sequence. In the most shocking moment of the film, the death in the family, is madly ruined by loud music in the background. This was a jaw-dropping scene because development occurred out of nowhere and here, Aanand Rai must have collapsed the tone instead of making it a melodrama.
Raksha Bandhan confuses and messes with the story development. Lala goes physical on the harassers when they whistle his sisters but doesn’t even lift his hand on the in-laws of his sister. Sisters really don’t have much to add to the screen time. They are mostly together with typical dialogues and backing their brother. A film that is fully based on them fails to give them their screen importance.
And then Bollywood’s biggest predicament, fatal conclusion. Yet again, the writer-director fails to finish the film on a high note. Outrageous final fifteen minutes! And the final scenes that were about how the sisters progressed later were what should have been a significant portion connecting the main plot in the first place.
WHY ARE OLD LEADING ACTRESSES NOT CONSIDERED?
Although Bhumi Pednekar fitted into the role and did her part well. But a kind of story that followed with Lala keeping his girl waiting to marry for almost a decade. I wondered if 55-year-old Akshay Kumar can play the part of an assumingly fifteen years younger man, then why not the leading actress in the same capacity can get her role? After all, the role of Bhumi was of someone who was waiting for years. So she definitely wasn’t playing the role of a girl in her 20s but older than that.
And this is where Bollywood is beyond my understanding. How come the actors in their 50s and 60s get to play the role of the man in his 30s and 40s but actresses of the same age bracket mostly get ignored to fill in a young actress? Why the heroines of the ’90s are heavily ignored in Bollywood?
I thoroughly enjoyed the comedy. After a long time, I watched a film that really had funny dialogue and that too without making it sleazy. The collective performances were impressive, particularly Neeraj Sood, he was fabulous. Impressive anger and comic timing. Observe his performance when he humiliates Lala after his sister’s wedding.
The biggest plus of the film, the only reason for which I can easily recommend you to watch is Akshay Kumar. After so many years, I have watched that hilariously troubled Akshay Kumar of the old times making me laugh. And not just his comedy, this was an incredible performance.
Just watch him when he gets the news of his sister’s wedding. His reaction and the entire walk of honor, pride, and joy. And then when he gets the shocking news that makes him leave the house and cries in the first fifteen seconds of running on the streets. And then the scene after the funeral after he opens the shop and goes mad. Raksha Bandhan is definitely Akshay Kumar’s best performance since Pad Man and one of the best of his career.
Raksha Bandhan is a missed opportunity that couldn’t do justice to a social message due to bad writing and unimpressive aesthetics. The film relied on Akshay Kumar instead of a promising plot. It is a one-timer but a blessing for the eyes of Akshay Kumar fans.
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Saira and Rajhri are two plus-size women from different backgrounds wanting their careers to hit the road for good. Somehow these women cross the path and find a common purpose that takes them to London.
I am glad that the social issue of plus-size women has been raised in Bollywood. The industry did raise the issue several years ago when Bhumi Pednekar made her debut in Dum Laga Ke Haisha. But that film had the story and did justice to the issue. And Double XL for all plus-size women is a complete disaster.
Why? Because there is not so much for plus-size women at all. For more than half of the film, the size is not the subject, life-changing opportunity is. When the film kick-started by showing us the problems these two women were facing in their lives, it really grabbed our attention. And when Saira and Rajshri joined hands for the project, I wanted to see where this story goes with their thickness. The follow-up after their first meeting to their London tour was so stereotypical and cringy.
The story proceeded somewhere else and I began to question myself, was this film about the traumas and ill-fates due to their size, or was that idea just a foundation on which a typical entertainer with cheesy dialogues and boring humor will spoil the enthusiasm and drain our brain.
The name of the film was just a title for having two central characters being plus-size. I feel like the makers didn’t care to dramatize the issues we need to understand about someone. The story of the film should have been about their personal or physical problems and how they have to tackle society with courage. Instead, our eyes were tortured with toxicity.
There was just one scene where Saira and Rajshri sit together and point out how the world is so mean and materialistic and addresses many social incidents about physical size.
As much as I liked the casting of Sonakshi Sinha and Huma Qureshi for the leading roles, they were nowhere close to giving a shot at the performance or raising questions about the credibility of the story to the director which led to nowhere when it came to health.
Double XL is a chance wasted and also, my two precious hours of life.
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Police officer Shardul (Rajkummar Rao) and physical education teacher Sumi (Bhumi Pednekar) are homosexuals. They are fed up with their families who pressurize them to marry someone. Shardul and Sumi happen to meet somehow and after knowing their sexual orientation, they decide to marry to silence their concerns. But the matters get worse and they keep hiding from their families.
Badhaai Do is considered a ghost sequel to Badhaai Ho so a sexual issue is addressed to ‘perhaps’ continue the series and commercialize the awareness. Two factors play important role in such an impressive story. One, South Asian families are too demanding to their young ones and strictly make their life decisions and believe they are right and the young ones are opposite. Why their wishes and ambitions are never asked? Why their future is decided by the elders? Only they can explain this but this matter is wonderfully exaggerated in Badhaai Do. Two, the existence of homosexuality is almost impossible to express for the LGBTQ community, and unfortunately have to lie all their lives to avoid any social havoc. Because of their being homos, the balance of life hangs around whether the family and society will accept them or not. And this also is brilliantly picturized in the film.
If these two central characters are played by Rajkummar and Bhumi, more than half of the film is guaranteed either commercial success or acceptance by the general public. These actors along with Ayushmann Khurrana have successfully addressed social issues existing in India that need the audience’s attention.
Badhaai Do is quite a lengthy film for the subject. Because the story didn’t have enough detailing to make it to 147 minutes. Around half an hour is spent on the songs out of nowhere. Besides the tracks, a lot of the film’s screenplay is written about Shardul and Sumi struggling to escape from the whys and hows of their marriage.
The film got serious after over a hundred minutes and addressed the issue. And at this point, I detected that the screentime would have easily been reduced. There were many instances where they would have been exposed.
In the last few years, the makers have raised a lot of social issues. They even start on a promising note but the plot is lost in the middle and ends either abruptly with no technical conclusion or is very predictable. And that is the same problem with this film. The hatred of family about homosexuality turns into accepting their choices so abnormally. Absolutely no consequences on the homos from the elders. Maybe the elders are aware that the film is finishing so let us just drop our egos and embrace them.
The director had his best chance to finish the film at the LGBTQ rally on the highway with Shardul wearing that mask and smiling at his friends. Anyway, the performances are first-rate. Both Rajkummar and Bhumi were excellent. Seema Pahwa and Sheeba Chaddha are superb but I am afraid they are getting typecasted, especially Seema Pahwa. Most of the time she shows up in the film, Seema will be stuck in similar roles.
Badhaai Do deserves praise for raising such a sensitive issue.
I cordially welcome to my 6th annual Bollywood honors report.
In the past three decades, I have observed that many showbiz platforms, especially the most prestigious Filmfare, do not do much of the justice with their Hindi-language films with their ultimate decisions about the nominations and wins. So, many ‘good’ work doesn’t get the credit.
Since 2014, I have been publishing an annual report on my blog about the Hindi-language film industry of India. The purpose of this report/blog is to inform my fellow cinephiles about the better prospects of filmmaking in the film industry and making them aware of the rich quality of films that either caught the viewer’s attraction and received the deserving praise or unluckily went unnoticed and unrecognized. Following are my previous reports about the best of Bollywood:
My judgments are based on the realistic measures fetched from the films whether those are big or small budgeted, comprised of an ensemble or lesser-known cast. No compromise on quality. Every year, I dig around three dozen potential Hindi films, watch, and judge, pass the reviews and note down the artistic and technical excellence.
To be honest, I decided the winner between the three best songs of 2019 unsurprisingly from the same film; Doori, Apna Time Ayega, and Azadi. All three songs were the outcry on social problems and rebel rage. Azadi was the one I felt the best with much deeper commentary.
Yes, it has to be Hamid. People tell me that Bollywood doesn’t make good films. The point is if Bollywood is coming up with quality stories, yes. That is the other thing if viewers are ready to accept or not. Article 15 raised the equality issue and Upstarts was a much-needed push for the people who create a startup with dreams of building it big. Section 375 was a courageous effort of depicting a misleading part of feminism and Photograph was a situational drama about the meeting of two very different people. While Gully Boy was about the struggles of the street rappers.
Hamid is a completely different plot than any 2019 film I have watched. Hamid is an impressive, heartbreaking and emotional story about a 7-year-old kid in Kashmir who has lost his father and his relatives comfort him that his father has gone to Lord to do some work. Desperate to meet his father again, he quests for some source to speak to God in all innocence.
I am much focused on screenplays whenever I watch a film. The entire film can drop your emotions wherever the screenwriting falls flat. It is a very essential part of filmmaking. People hardly know about this film and astonishingly is the best screenwriting against many excellent writings of 2019 for me.
Let me tell you why. In almost 120 minutes of the screen time, writers Ketan and Udai (who is also the director) tell you about some friends who think about creating a startup and convincingly fit all the phases of business cycles. The film neither runs in haste not goes slow. The pace is neutral and the story easily grows on me. It is not easy to tell all the business phases in precision in given limited screen time. And that is why for me, the screenplay of Upstarts is the best.
I don’t know if anyone will agree with me but this film actually had the most contrasting dialogues than any film last year. A young journalist gets an assignment to solve the decades-old mystery about the assassination of the former prime minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri. She gets a place in a committee to dig into this matter where different kinds of intellectuals sit and argue.
So for this kind of political thriller, the dialogues require a terrific momentum of an intellectual conversation, history talks, rumors, blames, heated arguments, bold and bullet criticism, and I believe Vivek Agnihotri nailed it. Impressive dialogues were the main reason that the loud performances of such an ensemble cast doubled the worth of this film.
This may be unpopular or unexpected choice after watching all the films of 2019 but I found this 8-minute shot one of the best things ever happened in Bollywood in recent years.
This is when teacher Anand Kumar orders his students to perform a street act outside the school for 20 minutes strictly in English without uttering a single Hindi word. The next day, the kids strive out in front of the scores of students and get an outrageous response. The spectators roar to leave and the performers refuse. In repetition, the performers somehow finds the way to extend the act by giving an unexpected entertainment for which they didn’t prepare for. The beauty is that Basanti Don’t Dance naturally happens without the teacher’s instructions with the help of the spectators and angry response by floor beatings.
This crazy segment was deep, dark, bizarre and a remarkable commentary of class divisions. This was an astonishing presentation of a mind-blowing provocation against classism. Ganesh Acharya’s superb choreography and powerful performances by those youngsters gave that lengthy sequence a distinguished quality of filmmaking.
Not MC Sher from Gully Boy? I am afraid not. I admit it was, without any doubt, a wonderful performance on his debut but my opinion is that it is the popularity of the character and the performances leading to his favor, especially in the awards function. Tremendous confidence in the role he played but there weren’t many minutes to invest for acting than the focus was on his performance. I think Murad’s other friend Moeen had a much sensible performance.
Another factor that the readers must understand is the comparison with the other supporting roles. There were other actors last year who I believe certainly did better than Siddhant. In my mind, two were the closest in this honor, Deepak Dobriyal, and Vishal Jethwa. Deepak’s case was highly physical and Vishal’s case was mental. Deepak has the experience, Vishal is a 25yo debutant whose incredible villainous role in Mardaani 2 caught our attention. Vishal’s facial performance and killer eyes brought horror in the script and gave a memorable performance which will certainly remind anyone of Ashutosh Rana’s earliest success in Dushman and Sangharsh. Imagine, both Dobriyal and Jethwa were not nominated in this category in Filmfare!
I never thought Ranveer will ever impress me but one thing was for sure that his energetic charisma can get the use of better promises. He needs a director who can develop his acting potentials and here we are. Zoya picked the right man for the role. Ranveer is naturally the perfect Gully Boy.
An escapist and socially furious Murad is lost in the troubles from his domestic life and love affair. Addicted to his passion, he raps his social commentary and inclines towards the changes in the coming times.
I don’t know how did Alia Bhatt win Filmfare in this category. Technically, Alia’s role in Gully Boy is more of supporting as the film is completely centralized on Ranveer as Gully Boy. More bizarre was Bhumi not being nominated for her performance in Saand Ki Aankh but won the critics award.
Anyway, why Bhumi? She plays the role of an old villager and the portrayal is spot on. She brilliantly gets hold of the Haryanvi dialect and superbly adopts the mannerism of an old woman. Observe her walking style, rage, facial expressions and all funny scenes with Taapsee. This is Bhumi’s best performance to date and I found her to be the most impressive in executing her role.
This was a difficult decision. The tie was between Zoya and Shonali. Why I chose latter is because she took a very sensitive subject to its utter depth and also directed a few shots which hit straight to the heart like the couples arguing over transplant in the hospital, Aditi’s first mental collapse, Niren falling on his son’s lap and crying and many more. Shonali had a tough time in developing the characters due to different time periods.
What other film wins this honor than Gully Boy? There is no strong competition. There do are excellent films as mentioned below but none comes close to this. Gully Boy is the outcry from the slums of Mumbai where Murad is stuck in his tense domestic life and for escapism, tries to focus on rapping and does the social commentary.
Gully Boy, from all sorts, was a unique cinematic achievement where the voice of a lower-middle-class common man was whispered and the struggle of street rappers was depicted. I wish Gully Boy had made to the final round of the Academy Awards for the foreign-language category because this film was the most potentially acceptable film from all standards to reach the Oscar.
Gully Boy is full of energy and covers a few significant aspects like parent abuse and child labor. The story, screenplay, and dialogues are so carefully worked that the film easily grows on the viewers. Then the characterization also goes in favor to apply on remarkable writing. Some very impressive characters in the support develop the plot. The brilliance in the musical numbers does the rest.
Other Notable Films:
Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota
The Sky Is Pink
The Tashkent Files
Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil
Mere Pyare Prime Minister
The Accidental Prime Minister
Saand Ki Aankh
The Sky Is Pink
Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota
The Tashkent Files
Saand Ki Aankh
Thank you for reading my annual Bollywood honors report. I will return with a new report next year. Share your opinion below. Stay safe.
Half a year is done and I forget to write a blog on my picks from different categories of Bollywood films. I did this last year for 2014 edition. I hope I am not that late as time pass swiftly nowadays.
Like every passing year, Bollywood’s growth increases worldwide but the quality and standard of the film decreases. Recognition nowadays among the actors is star-power and among the leading actresses is the one with useful skin-shows. Above all you insured to be more successful in this industry if you have a strong background and belong to rich people who are industrialists, politicians, businessmen, military or in same cinematic profession. The unlucky ones have to join parallel cinema with more brain and wisdom among the cast and filmmakers.
In recent years, there has been change in atmosphere as the artists of parallel and entertaining cinema are involved in same projects and work together. Some sensible writers and talented directors work with involvement of more production companies. Some of the films from last year have been highly impressive and these were those which were not eye-catching in box-office collections.
What disgust me was pathetic inclusions in nominations for different categories in their recognized FILMFARE awards. Tragedy is that the functions are not worth and are more focused on high-level tcp ratings. If you notice, many many big names of the industry are absent and are disappearing in years. People have lost interest in FILMFARE because the functions are bias and predictable. Awards nowadays are won not by right and deserving candidates. Forget about winning, when the nominations are announced the viewers go insane because of plenty of blunders.
From below the categories, I will try to speak some lines where I see FILMFARE at huge fault. Like last year’s blog, I will divide the categories in three sections i.e., Music, Technical and Major. My selections are purely my honest selections to what I believe was deserving. Some of the categories do not need details because it is unnecessary. With the name of winners from each category, I will mention other names who deserve to be the other bests. So here I go;
Imagine a boy from extremely poor background, whose ancestors have history of working in profession of burning corpse and a girl from upper caste begin loving each other. And one day, after exchange of a lovely relationship for weeks, he happen to see her dead body in his working site brought to burn the corpse! We don’t see such tragic moments in young love stories like this. It was an intimate scene and full of intensity. There come this scene and the obvious case is more grieving. Vicky Kaushal‘s presentation of agony is unexplainable here. I could not find a HQ video of the scene. I have no doubt this is the best scene shot in any film of the year.
Konkona don’t need any introduction. Open her filmography and you will find dozens of impressive roles she has played in her acting career. Talvar is another addition in her CV. She along with Neeraj Kabi displayed one of the best supporting performances in recent years and guess what, she wasn’t even nominated in Filmfare for this category.
The year 2015 was remarkably a year for best male performances in supporting roles. Title was a trinity of performances between three brothers. Anil Kapoor developed his skills playing role of angry father in Dil Dhadakne Do. Neeraj Kabi brought all his theater experience in Detective Byomkesh Bakshy and Talvar. Vicky Kaushal turned out to be one of the most promising newcomers in Masaan. Karan Johar was the surprise package in Bombay Velvet and Ashraful Haque did superb job as Manjhi’s father in his final film.
But above all it is the actor in his heydays who is building a very strong career making his name in almost every film. Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Badlapur is someone you would like to hit and slap as much as hard you want. He gives a lot of energy to his villainous role and don’t even feel bad for the guy who lost his family. His character has shades and changes color like chameleon. He and Varun, the two leading actors of the film are two sides of the coin begging for mercy.
It wasn’t a year of extraordinary performance by the leading actresses. Then Richa Chadda happened. She is Devi Pathak in Masaan who was caught with him by the police in the hotel for obvious reason. Then her struggles begin to make a life of herself by switching jobs but cannot afford a payment of hefty bribe the policemen ask her and her father for the video they made in hotel. It was tough to decide the winner but then I decided that Deepika for Piku was the closest and second-best to her.
How rude and disgusting that such performance wasn’t appreciated enough to be nominated in Filmfare for the same category. More to a mockery, Kajol and Sonam Kapoor were gifted places in the category for Dilwale and Dolly Ki Doli whose performances were no where in comparison to this.
Other Notable Performances: Besides Deepika Padukone for Piku, Anushka Sharma did a terrific job in Bombay Velvet as Rosie the Jazz singer. She performed impressive facial expressions in numbers like Fifi and Dhadaam Dhadaam. Then there is Bhumi Pednekar (Dum Laga Ke Haisha) who gained 30kg for the role of an overweight wife and made a stunning debut, was also ignored by Filmfare in the category. And why should I not count lil’ Harshaali Malhotra! 8-year-old child actress made promising debut as Munni in Bajrangi Bhaijaan and was the only shining moment in the whole ridiculously garbage film. At this tiny age, she showed a character and discipline of emotions on a dolly face.
It will be a sin to overlook such astonishing performance. It will be a mockery to consider it only one of the best performances. His star is shining brightly in recent years but this performance need an author to release a book full of praise. I hardly have seen actors reaching closest to the perfection like J.K.Simmons in Whiplash or DiCaprio in The Revenant worldwide but in India, it is hard to bring that so much in the artistry to present a character what Nawaz did in portraying Dashrath Manjhi.
Nawazuddin’s title role of Manjhi is full of life. You want a father or a husband, you want a man of his principles or determination, you want an example of sacrifice and hardship and last but not the least you want to see a man who broke the mountain to honor his wife he loved the most in entire life – there you have all superbly defined.
When it comes to emotions, this actor has no boundaries to express. A facial performance is very vital in acting and keen learners of theater always win the performances. He easily is the best actor for last year.
In three words – Shandaar! Zabardast! Zindabad!
Some readers may get confused of not picking Manoj Bajpayee for Aligarh. Let me clear, the reason I omitted is because the film is released in India this year in February. The closest to this competitor was hugely/heavily ignored Shashank Arora for Titli.
Omission of Nawaz for Manjhi from the last Filmfare Awards easily is one of the most shocking blunders in their history. How disgusting and utter disappointing is to see the genuine winner not included in the nominations but Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan for Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Dilwale respectively! This shows the standard of Filmfare nowadays and ridiculous selections by the judges of these panels.
Yes he is and I am not surprised. A silent and dark tale of two characters hanging on different corners eagerly waiting to leave a mark on each other. It is about making an extraordinary film from an ordinary script. We have watched films when the leading actor loses the one he loves and plans to take revenge. Same goes here but with same story, it easily distinguishes from other films of the past thanks to Sriram’s directional artistry.
What propels you is the building of intensity on Raghu (Varun Dhawan) when he loses his wife and child in very first scene. The rage factor of Raghu is where he work out, the way he beat or hit few characters by hammer is violent and loud to your ears. With time much to offer, Sriram builds the leading character very well. He is excellent on bringing the best of the leading performer as he did with Urmila in ‘Ek Haseena Thi‘ and Neil Nitin Mukesh in ‘Johnny Gaddaar‘.
Other Notable Performances: The closest competitor to Sriram is Shoojit Sircar for Piku. Meghna Gulzar for Talvar was surprise package. I found Anurag Kashyup‘s direction for Bombay Velvet very very impressive as the film was hugely rejected by the viewers. Neeraj Ghaywan was also fantastic keeping a balance between two different stories in Masaan.
Piku (Deepika) plans a trip to Kolkata with her dad (Amitabh) but none of Rana’s (Irrfan) cab drivers are available. So Rana decides to serve them and the real fun begins. This is a freshly-baked comedy-drama film with mehfil-loot performances by main actors. Father-daughter chemistry is terrific and the characters development is right on spot.
Piku is a beautiful slice of life or your favorite cup of coffee, a mind freshener giving your energy an extra-boost because the flow of the film builds on you. A combination of brilliant story, screenplay and dialogues make this very-original film exciting for the viewers and can be repeatedly watched.
Other Notable Films: Masaan, Talvar, Titli, Manjhi, Bombay Velvet, Hunterrr, Drishyam and Badlapur.