2018 was an interesting year for Bollywood, where smaller films and concept driven cinema found patronage, while some of the tried and tested masala potboilers failed miserably. Even as jingoism in the form of Satyameva Jayate and Baaghi 2 raked in the moolah, a female-centric smaller film, Raazi, joined the coveted 100-crore club. While the three Khans – Aamir, Shahrukh and Salman – were panned by the critics and public alike (though the verdict on SRK’s Zero is still not completely out), Ayushmann Khurrana, Vicky Kaushal and Rajkummar Rao emerged as the faces of the new ‘Hindi film hero’. There have been a lot of discussions and lists published on the best movies and performances of the year, but here is my list of the best of Bollywood in 2018.
5. Mulk: In the communally sensitive times such as ours, Mulk came as a pertinent voice condemning in the religious divide in the society. An ensemble cast, headlined by Rishi Kapoor and Taapsee Pannu, take us through the unwarranted discrimination experienced by a Muslim family, when it is learnt that their younger son is a terrorist. Delicately handling a sensitive religious issue, director Anubhav Sinha leaves the audience’s thought provoked.
4. Stree: This small-sized Rajkummar Rao-Shraddha Kapoor starrer proved to be the biggest bomb formost of the movies that released alongside. With a simple premise of a woman haunting single men of a sleepy town, Chanderi, director Amar Kaushik along with writers Raj and DK, weave a hilarious horror comedy. Rarely does it happen that the supporting cast gets to overshadow the leads, but trust Pankaj Tripathi, Aparshakti Khurana and Abhishek Banerjee to do exactly that! Not to forget, the subtle message of respecting women, that was conveyed beautifully.
3. Raazi: Little did anyone think that the haughty Shanaya from Student of the Year (2013) could carry an entire film on her shoulders! Alia Bhatt has already proven her mettle, but she pushes the envelope further in this brilliantly crafted espionage drama. Not only was the nationalism shown subtly, even the ‘neighbor’ was not demonized. Alia as Sehmat displayed vulnerabilities through a restrained performance. And, you had the always-good Vicky Kaushal as well.
2. October: Not many liked this movie, but it is certainly one of the most poignantly told stories of 2018. For a better part of its run time, it was shot in the depressing wards of a hospital, with the hues of blue, white and a bed-ridden Shiuli (Banita Sandhu) adding to the gloom. Varun Dhawan sheds his ‘herogiri’ and gave us a compassionate friend and lover in the form of Dan. The surprise however was Gitanjali Rao, playing Shiuli’s distraught mother, who showed pain and strength in equal measures.
1. Andhadhun: You know you are in for a good ride, when the notions created based on the trailer are shattered 15-minutes into the film. Andhadhun was a juicy, fast-paced and whacky thriller comedy, with great performances by Tabu and Ayushmann Khurana. The ease with which director Sriram Raghavan throws twists at the audiences, leaves you surprised, shocked and stunned. And yes, the cryptic end had people talking for days with multiple theories coming out! Pure genius!
Special Mention: Sui Dhaaga, Manmarziyaan, Tumbbad, Badhaai Ho, Lust Stories and Sanju (solely for the performances)
Performances (in no particular order):
1. Ranveer Singh (Padmaavat): When was the last time you fell in love with a menacing, womanizing, cannibal-like villain? Not recently until Ranveer Singh reprised Allauddin Khilji in SLB’s Padmaavat. It has to be one of his best performances till date.
2. Anushka Sharma (Pari): Before playing a caricature-ish Aafia in Zero, Anushka Sharma played a scathingly scary Djinn in the underrated, Pari. Pale, grey, yet violent, she was extremely convincing as a good-evil.
3. Varun Dhawan (October): Though Badlapur gave us a glimpse of Varun Dhawan’s acting prowess, as a simpleton emotionally stuck to a girl in vegetative state, he displayed great amounts of restrain and conviction.
4. Gitanjali Rao (October): Making her acting debut on the big screen, Gitanjali Rao created a great deal of impact. As the mother torn between medical bills, prayers on her lips and the will to fight all odds to save her daughter, her performance was moving. Also, loved the equation she shares with Dan (Varun Dhawan)
5. Alia Bhatt (Raazi): Is there anything this tiny-sized atom bomb cannot do? Sehmat’s character arc goes from a happy-go-lucky college student in Delhi, to a girl on an espionage mission, to a woman torn between her love for her husband and her country. And she plays all of them with aplomb!
6. Ranbir Kapoor (Sanju): Keeping the hagiographic narrative aside, Sanju gave us some of the best performances of the year. Ranbir Kapoor not only physically transformed into Sanjay Dutt, but displayed various emotions brilliantly. His scenes with his father, Sunil Dutt (Paresh Rawal) were pure gold!
7. Vicky Kaushal (Sanju, Manmarziyaan): 2018 was Vicky Kaushal’s year – 5 releases, 5 completely diverse roles and brilliant in all of them. The best of these were in Sanju and Manmarziyaan, playing Kamlesh and DJ Sandzz. Watch him in the scene outside Rumi’s house in Manmarziyaan – sheer brilliance at display!
8. Taapsee Pannu (Manmarziyaan): Apart from being an underrated movie, Manmarziyaan also gave us an underrated actor. Having seen Taapsee’s work since her initial days in Telugu film industry, she has grown and how!? Manmarziyaan is a proof of her caliber and talent.
9. Rajkummar Rao (Stree): In a mixed year, Rajkummar Rao bounced back with a hilarious performance as the ‘chosen one’ in Stree. Be it his banter with his two best friends or Shahrukh Khan style romancing the ghost, he was perfect!
10. Tabu (Andhadhun): Another negative character, like Ranveer’s Khilji, that you fall in love with. But unlike the menacing Khilji, Tabu as Simi is a whacky murderer who is victim of her own circumstances. Watch her brilliance in the 10-minute long Piano-and-body sequence. She makes it one of the best scenes of the year!
Special Mention: Deepika Padukone (Padmaavat), Radhika Madan – Sanya Malhotra (Pataakha), Ayushmann Khurana (Badhaai Ho, Andhadhun), Radhika Apte-Bhumi Pednekar (Lust Stories), Neena Gupta-Gajraj Rao (Badhaai Ho) and Katrina Kaif (Zero)
NOTE: This list is as on December 25, 2018. Hence, Simmba is not in contention. Also, I have not watched the following high-rated movies and hence, they were also not considered while making this list: Hichki, Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, Manto, Love Sonia and Laila Majnu