Young Ganga (Alia Bhatt) wants to become an actress and in order to fulfill her dreams, she elopes with her boyfriend to Mumbai but in all excitement of such a young age, she never realizes the horror that awaits her. Her boyfriend sells her for Rs.1000 to a brothel and the broken Ganga becomes Gangu. And after earning a reputation amongst her fellow prostitutes, she becomes Gangubai.
This is a real-life story based on Gangubai Kothewali. She was the queen of the infamous prostitution-hub Kamathipura and did a lot for the prostitutes and orphans for decades. As expected, the film dramatized the true bond of respect between Gangubai and Karim Lala as in those times it was widely known that treat each other like siblings and no one would consider messing around with Gangubai when Lala was ruling the underworld.
I don’t have enough knowledge of Gangubai because this film is based on Hussain Zaidi‘s book, “Mafia Queens of Mumbai” and I didn’t read that. And at the start of the film, there is a disclaimer that confirms that liberty has been taken for cinematic appeal and entertainment despite being based on the book so I am not sure how many facts were changed.
And I have written many times on different platforms that Bollywood is still not ready for making bio dramas because of many reasons. And one of the reasons is that the Hindi films are generally produced for cashing from commercial business and do not provide enough facts to justify their case for being a bio-drama. Sadly, Gangubai Kathiawadi faces the same critical issue. And despite all the elements of impressions implemented for beautifying the film, Gangubai Kathiawadi is more sort of a mainstream entertainer rather than a genuine bio-drama.
One of the many problems of this film is the average direction. Sanjay Leela Bhansali never disappoints when it comes to visual artistry. He is someone who is fond of showing things in a beautiful way. Even if something is ugly, he will apply makeup on it to look a beautiful ugly.
Now observe the productional set in this film and I ask Mumbaikars here, is Mumbai’s oldest and the largest red-light district Kamathipura that beautiful as depicted in the film? And Bhansali throughout the film glorifies Gangubai as if she was some symbol of national heroism. In the final scene, after observing the celebration, I felt as if Gangubai won some presidential election in the United States.
And this is why Bhansali makes beautiful films to cover the overdramatic screenplay of ordinary storytelling that qualifies for Bollywood aesthetics. Just like his previous films, this film also gives the audience a feel of absolute noir-meet-broadway theatrical rhapsody. Superb costume and production designing. This film is zenith when it comes to technical brilliance besides two of the most important things this film lacks, and that are necessary for the making; writing and direction. All the technicalities aside, the film is below-par with many plotholes.
How come Shaukat doesn’t listen from the other door when Kamli loudly informs Gangu that Bilal has gone to inform Rahim about him? Not sure how Gangu recovered from brutal injuries after Shaukat beat her. Did the time period jump? But how far has the time passed? Not a single facial scar or a scratch! How perfectly a heavy makeup can hide the gashes? She looked exactly like she was before beaten.
One of the plusses of this film is a bunch of supporting performances coming from some well-known actors in their brief roles like Seema Pahwa, Jim Sarbh, Vijay Raaz, and Ajay Devgn. Vijay Raaz as transwoman Raziabai was all about his characterization and he did a fair job. I am surprised many are furious over Vijay Raaz’s and are questioning why a transgender was not picked? Not sure how is this a problem now. It is not mandatory that the role of a trans must have to go to a real-life trans. Otherwise, what is the beauty of judging the actor’s performance at all? How often do the trans people get offers to play the role of non-trans or non-LGBTQ roles? This is a nonsense controversy.
Speaking of Ajay Devgn’s extended cameo playing the role of Rahim Lala that is based on one of the three biggest Mumbai dons of that time, Karim Lala. See, I don’t like Ajay Devgn’s acting, I love his acting. And he has played character roles and has had many great performances in the past. But here I blame Bhansali over the selection because, in my opinion, this has to be the worst ever portrayal of Karim Lala. First thing, Ajay doesn’t remind me of Lala nor does he has a typical Afghani Pashto accent. Lala was pretty tall, in Hussain Zaidi’s book and in some internet sources, Lala is thought to be around 7-feet tall; Ajay is hardly 6-feet.
Ajay’s role doesn’t remind me of Karim Lala but Ajay himself. He literally did nothing different to stay in the character. I am sure many will notice that Ajay’s this performance was exactly similar to his role of Mallik in Company. And that makes me realize something. What’s up with Ajay playing the roles of some infamous mafia dons? His Company’s role was based on Chhota Rajan. In Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, his don role was based on Haji Mastan. And now Karim Lala. Who is he playing in the future? Vardhabhai?
Coming back to the point before I slip writing other than review, there are plus points too. The film successfully addressed the social issue of the prostitutes and dramatized in a way that despite all the charms and merriness they used in their makeup to perform hanging on the doors and street, they were all bunch of eternal sadists with tragic origin stories. Gangu helped many of those unfortunate cases and the film showed that those damsels in distress were re-purchased by Gangu for a hefty amount to provide them a better life. No wonder how many such stories circulated on those streets of Kamathipura.
Before I end my review, I will definitely write about the biggest plus and the most impressive factor of the film, Alia Bhatt. This was a much-needed moment in Alia’s career since she became one of the biggest victims of nepotism charges from the global netizens after Sushant Singh Rajput‘s suicide. A kind of role that challenges her to come back and prove how her body language can perfectly construct her role. There was everything to praise about Alia’s Gangu. Of course, the film revolves around Gangu but maybe the spirit would have diminished if this wasn’t for Alia.
I have no idea what the real Gangu looked like when she was young as there is not much about her on the internet. The information about her and even her pictures are extremely finite. But Alia gave a splendid performance. And there are a few scenes where one can judge how impressively Alia executed reactions and mannerisms.
What a magnificent scene that was when rookie Gangu stands at the door and others give her tips for seducing customers. Bhansali shot that scene with quite a thought. And Alia perfected the physical behavior of an amateur harlot. In the ‘Dholida‘ track, she has a one-minute one-shot scene of enraging her dance while other women react blankly and she executes her madness so well. There is another scene where she speaks to her mom and the line is about to cut in thirty seconds and Gangu loses her temper. Some incredible portrayal of desperation was performed there. In Gangu’s first scene at the brothel, when she gets deceived and locked; I think Alia has perfected such a scenario after similar acts in Highway and Udta Punjab.
Gangubai Kathiawadi for me is a disappointment in direction and storytelling. Its technical aspects and Alia’s mindblowing performance makes this ordinary film look extraordinary.
The thing is that I am indulged in presenting the very best of Hindi-language cinema every year and I enjoy investing my precious time for the sensible readers and filmgoers who would like to know what honestly have been the best films under different categories. It is a common understanding that the film awards in India have lost its credibility by handing the awards mostly to the wrong hands from a very list of nominations. It exasperates me when the deserving individual or a film is not recognized on the stage in any given function.
For the past two years, I am making such a specific blog to recognize the contributions from the Indian films released in India in that specific calendar year. You may read my previous selections here in 2014 and 2015.
This blog will focus on the year 2016. Like before, I will segregate the categories in three different sections i.e., musical (5), technical (10), and major section (6). In most of the categories, I will brief a small explanation where I find necessary. In most of the categories, I will also make some honorable mentions which are the individuals or the films deserve to be counted among the best.
The above-mentioned films which miss all the recognitions below are to be believed that those films didn’t live up to my expectations. Also for your reading, let me clear that the films are not ranked in ‘Other Notable Works’.
BEST BACKGROUND SCORE
TAPAS RELIA (DHANAK)
Other Notable Works:
Mikey McCleary (Waiting)
Studio Fuzz(M Cream)
BEST PLAYBACK SINGERS
There wasn’t a decent vocal competition in the year 2016. I have listened to a lot of tracks from the 4-5 successful music albums of the films and I found only a couple of male tracks from the same film and a few good female singing in the other films but still not good enough.
AMIT MISHRA (BULLEYA – AE DIL HAI MUSHKIL)
Other Notable Work: Arijit Singh (Channa Mereya – Ae Dil Hai Mushkil)
NEETI MOHAN (SAU AASMAAN – BAAR BAAR DEKHO)
Other Notable Works:
Qurat-Ul-Balouch (Kaari Kaari – Pink)
Kanika Kapoor(Da Da Dasse – Udta Punjab)
BEST SONG & LYRICS
CHANNA MEREYA (ARIJIT SINGH/AMITABH BHATTACHARYA/PRITAM – AE DIL HAI MUSHKIL)
Other Notable Works:
Tere Bin (Sonu Nigam-Shreya Ghoshal/Vidhu Vinod Chopra/Shantanu Moitra – Wazir)
Pashmina (Amit Trivedi/Swanand Kirkire – Fitoor)
Gehra Ishq (Shekhar Ravjiani/Prasoon Joshi/Vishal Khurana – Neerja)
AMIT TRIVEDI (UDTA PUNJAB)
Other Notable Works:
Tapas Relia (Dhanak)
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
ASHIMA BELAPURKAR (PARCHED)
Other Notable Work: Theia Tekchandaney & Shruti Wadetiwar (Neerja)
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
ANNA IPE & APARNA SUD (NEERJA)
Other Notable Work: Amardeep Behl (Parched)
BEST SOUND DESIGN
SUBHASH SAHU (NEERJA)
Other Notable Works:
Boby John (Dhanak)
Vinit D’Souza (Raman Raghav 2.0)
There have been few scenes in my mind which were quite outstanding. Like Aliya’s expressions of misery to Shahid in Udta Punjab, or Nawazuddin killing a family in Raman Raghav 2.0, or the hijacking scene in Neerja, or the final court scenes in Pink. But I decided to choose the winner between two of the best scenes of the year 2016. Shakun Batra’s marvelous direction bemused me about the selection of the best scene of the film. The plumber scene, Annu aunty in party scene, and the truths-revelation scene before the family photo all carried equal weight of remarkable sketch of a highly intense family drama. So undecided that I prefer to conclude the winning scene with Irrfan’s showstopper and a heart-melting scene from Madaari when he asks for whereabouts of his son in the hospital. Perhaps no one would bring the efforts what Irrfan did here and hence proved again why is he the most inspiring actor holding more demand in the global cinema than any other Indian. This scene really beats the others.
GAIRIK SARKAR (TE3N)
Other Notable Works:
Aarti Bajaj (Raman Raghav 2.0)
Monisha R Baldawa(Neerja)
MINGJUE HU (M CREAM)
Other Notable Work:
Chirantan Das (Dhanak)
Priya Seth (Airlift)
Jay Oza (Raman Raghav 2.0)
Satyajit Pande (Dangal)
Parvez Singh (Raman Raghav 2.0)
The action is not about larger-than-life supernatural fights. My science of understanding here says to me that the action is when the reality is bound to bring intensity in the screenplay. Violence is the key, torture is a form and dismantling the brain and eyes towards the seriousness of the buildup is where the finest of action qualifies. Neerja and Raman Raghav 2.0 were the only films in my mind. Neerja’s technical aspects helped to build the intensity from hijacking till the last attempt of escaping. Whereas Raman Raghav 2.0 was a silent screamer and a gritty writing making the viewers hopeless and disconsolate of any likelihood of survival, the bloodbath is a sine qua non.
Anu Menon, James Ruzicka, and Atika Chohan (Waiting)
Agneya Singh (M Cream)
Gauri Shinde (Dear Zindagi)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
RATNA PATHAK (KAPOOR & SONS)
Parched acting trio of Tannishtha, Radhika and Surveen was highly expected to surpass the expectations but the trio of Pink was a massive surprise to me. Alia Bhatt gave her remarkable presence in Kapoor & Sons.
Well, a pause in the clause is that the Indian theater actresses will eat your skull if they outplayed the emotional character. Shabana Azmi for Neerja and Ratna Pathak for Kapoor & Sons were the most standout performances from this category. It wasn’t easy to pick and ignore the other nor do I want any joint winners. But as per the capacity of acting and appeal on the screentime, Ratna had more space to suffer Mr. Kapoor and Sons than the mother of Neerja waiting for the updates after the hijacking incidence. Ratna had more time to fight and argue with more than an individual at a time than Shabana’s emotional resistance.
Other Notable Works:
Shabana Azmi (Neerja)
Kirti Kulhari (Pink)
Tannishtha Chatterjee (Parched)
Alia Bhatt (Kapoor & Sons)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
RISHI KAPOOR (KAPOOR & SONS)
The mad terrorist in Neerja was phenomenal as well as a highly potential debut of the singer Diljit Dosanjh in Udta Punjab. Rajkummar was decent in assisting Manoj Bajpayee in Aligarh and Vicky Kaushal is rapidly making his name with Masaan and 2.0. But the real focus was on the dadaji of the dysfunctional family in Kapoor & Sons.
Yes, the makeup has a prominent role in the building of the character which doubles the charm in the performance like how Amitabh brought the momentum in his Auro character in Paa after an extraordinary change in his stature and looks. But Rishi as a nonagenarian fittingly classified as the best dadaji whose role grew on the viewers with the growing heat in the disturbed family. Chintuji and Amitji are the only boys of the 70s badge who are regularly performing in the selective roles being recognized with the positive responses in today’s cinema. And this role again defines Rishi’s versatility in acting. The film would be incomplete if Rishi would not have been picked for this role.
Other Notable Works:
Jim Sarbh (Neerja)
Vicky Kaushal (Raman Raghav 2.0)
Diljit Dosanjh (Udta Punjab)
Rajkummar Rao (Aligarh)
ALIA BHATT (UDTA PUNJAB)
If there is any category which was the most impressive, that was the performances of the leading actresses in the films released in the year 2016. There is Swara Bhaskar who is rapidly becoming of the noticeable actresses who brought a spectacular performance to her credit in Nil Battey Sannata. The body language and the emotional details of her character-play were striking. Kalki’s strong CV continues to fill more golden pages with Waiting. Ash in Sarbjit was a surprise package. Throughout her acting career, this is easily her first and best acting performance. That is the other thing that Ash doesn’t resemble or remind us Dalbir Kaur but the director has really worked with Ash on her character. People were informing me that Taapsee has done a wonderful job in Pink and I was not coming out of my visual understanding after watching her in Chashme Baddoor. Taapsee Pannu displayed a powerful role and I hope she is not a one-role wonder lady.
As far as Alia is in the wacky race, she is my girl for this category. She is at the peak of her career and easily one of the fastest growing actresses in the Indian cinema. Alia does have a lot of help at home from her mother Soni Razdan who has pulled the strings of acting and playing mentally complicated characters in many of her husband’s films in the 80s and 90s, and papa Mahesh Bhatt who has been critical in making top-notch films in the parallel cinema. But then, it is the baby who has to face the camera and has every potential to make her name with acting greats like Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Tabu, or Nandita Das in very near future.
She began performing from Highway and sought attention from the sensible viewers including me. But 2016 is her best year ever with high-class performances in not one but three films (Kapoor & Sons, Dear Zindagi, and this). As far as the mental or physical challenge is the condition, it definitely is her role of Mary Jane in Udta Punjab which beats the other competitors in the wacky race. She has shown the misery of a girl stuck in the series of unfortunate events. You feel sorry for the character but when you feel apologetic, there is Alia’s success to justify the role she plays. Highway’s Veera Tripathi and Udta Punjab’s Mary Jane have suffered but their character-destruction from Alia’s visual presentation is different. Well done Alia.
Other Notable Works:
Swara Bhaskar (Nil Battey Sannata)
Taapsee Pannu (Pink)
Kalki Koechlin (Waiting)
Sonam Kapoor (Neerja)
Aishwarya Rai (Sarbjit)
MANOJ BAJPAYEE (ALIGARH)
If you are mature enough to understand the credibility of the actor and his substance of a performance in a given screentime, you will realize that the award functions in India are commercialized which depends on revenue and care less for the individuals who deserve the award at the right time in their lives. In 2015, Filmfare omitted Sanjay Mishra for Ankhon Dekhi, who was a clear winner in the category of Best Actor. Last year, Filmfare omitted Nawazuddin for Manjhi who actually was the most deserving individual to win the category of Best Actor. And now a hattrick of blunder is completed with Manoj Bajpayee’s turn who lost his place to get into the nominations. And most of the viewers will raise the eyebrows over the quality of decision making by the juries who repeatedly add box-office mahatmas, Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan, in the category almost every year from nowhere.
This is easily Bajpayee’s best performance ever and is the toughest character of a homosexual teacher he can play. The best part of the role is his complexity towards the sexual orientation for which he is suspended and bringing his ass to the court. He has a portion of love for the lettering and listening to Lata’s songs but overall a disturbed soul. He is a departed loner but expects people to understand him. Bajpayee has given the word ‘Tragedy’ a fresh cinematic meaning. A wonderful and very underrated performance I subject to recognize here.
Besides, Shahid enjoys another successful year with another role of a maniac, this time in Udta Punjab. Shahid is like Saif Ali Khan who is reintroduced to the viewers as a promising actor not to ignore. After a series of repeated failures, Shahid is finally off the mark from Haider. Irrfan’s Madaari is another brutal omission from the same category in Filmfare and you will be surprised to know that besides Paan Singh Tomar, he has never been nominated in this category in Filmfare.
Naseer sir in Waiting is magnificent as always in almost every film which he is part of. Amitabh had three different roles in Wazir, Pink, and Te3n, and I must say that Amitji at this age has become more choosy in his roles than ever. Since 2015, he has played some very good roles in Shamitabh, Piku, and the above-mentioned films. If I have to pick between the three, it would be Te3n.
By watching his superior performances in first Badlapur and now Raman Raghav 2.0, I am fully convinced that if in any timeline the Batman franchise happens to drop in Indian cinema, the only actor who can play the role of the Joker is Nawazuddin Siddiqui. His latest role of a psychotic killer will disturb you, by watching this performance you will never wish to meet him. What Randeep did in Sarbjit was the most dedicating among all the best performances of 2016. He lost 18 kgs in 28 days to justify his role in the prison life. Randeep presents you the pain of being an unfortunate and displays an impressive emotional drop and terrific body language. He makes the viewers feel when he groans and express his pain to Aishwarya in the prison.
Other Notable Works:
Shahid Kapoor (Udta Punjab)
Irrfan Khan (Madaari)
Naseeruddin Shah (Waiting)
Randeep Hooda (Sarbjit)
Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Raman Raghav 2.0)
Amitabh Bachchan (Te3n)
GAURI SHINDE (DEAR ZINDAGI)
Besides the names mentioned below, the competition for this category, in my opinion, was between Shakun Batra and Gauri Shinde. Both were the masterclass in utilizing the scripts. But I picked Gauri the winner from this category. Shakun’s impressive direction has a blend of major other aspects involved like very realistic dialogues, a lot of impressive performances within a scene etc but Gauri’s direction heavily depends on Alia’s character growth in the film especially a very important first half before Shahrukh is introduced.
Other Notable Works:
Shakun Batra (Kapoor & Sons)
Ram Madhvani (Neerja)
Anurag Kashyap (Raman Raghav 2.0)
Abhishek Chaubey (Udta Punjab)
Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury (Pink)
KAPOOR & SONS
I mean what else? what really else can be a better film than Kapoor & Sons? A decent family drama which portrays/sketches a dysfunctional family with mix elements of humor and suspense. The film has no nonsense of silly masala, item numbers or unnecessary cameo appearances despite the fact that the film was produced under the banner of Dharma Productions. Then the film is very honest to its script and describes a shattered bond in a very distinctive way.
There are numerous amazing scenes which catch our attention swiftly because we are accustomed to our domestic life especially the plumber scene. Then the revelation of secrets and a tragic accident. The film touches your heart. The remaining plusses are left with superb performances from all the major cast. Everyone has his share and their roles carry the same depth. And that is the beauty of the film that there is no leading character. Every major character is supporting to the other.
Other Notable Works:
Nil Battey Sannata
(Please share your views about my selections. Write your opinions in the comments below. Let me know if you don’t agree and explain your reasons.)