In honor of 2015 and an entire 12 months worth of new movies to look forward to, it’s time to put together my favorite column of the year. Some of these films made my heart happy, while others made me immediately regret losing 120-plus minutes of my life for such lackluster cinema. So, for the sake of both my tears of sorrow and joy, let’s take a look back at Bollywood’s hits and misses from 2014.
When Alia Bhatt’s wealthy and sheltered Veera Tripathi is kidnapped by Randeep Hooda’s Mahabir Bhati in a burglary gone wrong, Imtiaz Ali’s Highway gets off to a roaring start. In the ensuing 2-plus hours, viewers watch as Veera discovers freedom in captivity while Mahabir finds himself nurturing a soft spot for his hostage. The personal journeys of these two characters parallel their road-trip across India, and the lingering question throughout the movie remains — how will their journey end?
Imtiaz Ali’s first film under his own production house was a commercial and critical success, despite some accusations that the movie’s plot had been generously borrowed from The Chase. Aliaa Bhatt shines as the rich girl with a troubled past, and viewers will be hard-pressed to believe that this is the same actress who had pathetic screen presence in Karan Johar’s Student of the Year. And only Randeep Hooda’s roguishly charming portrayal of Mahabir could make the idea of being kidnapped seem so glamorous. After all, maybe a cross-country trek with A.R. Rahman’s tunes and Randeep Hooda’s company would be enjoyable….you know, being held in captivity aside.
Parineeti Chopra’s Meeta re-enters the lives of her family and Sidharth Malhotra’s Nikhil one week before Nikhil’s impending nuptial to Meeta’s sister. The ups and downs of what led to Meeta’s 10-year separation from her family comprise Hasee Toh Phasee’s story, while also creating the perfect framework for Meeta and Nikhil to fall for one another. Obviously it’s less than ideal for the future sister-in-law to fall in love with her soon-to-be brother-in-law, but that’s never stopped Bollywood before.
Produced by Karan Johar and Anurag Kashyap and directed by Bollywood newcomer Vinil Mathew, Hasee Toh Phasee is filled with most everything we all love about Bollywood: great music, hilarious dialogues, awesome performances, and a mostly endearing love story. Parineeti Chopra nails her performance as the brilliantly quirky and unintentionally hilarious Meeta, while Sidharth Malhotra does full justice to his role as the aimless, yet lovable Nikhil. Despite this movie’s ridiculously awful handling of mental health, it’s entertaining and well-worth the watch for all of the above reasons and more.
Kangana Ranaut’s Rani aka Queen finds herself struggling to cope with her fiancé‘s abandonment just a few days before her wedding. When he returns to Delhi from London before their wedding, Rajkumar Rao’s Vijay feels that Rani’s traditional and conservative Indian upbringing will stifle his new-found approach to life, so he calls off the wedding. After a brief period of self-loathing misery, instead of sulking even more in the aftermath of her canceled nuptials, Rani decides to go on her honeymoon by herself. Thus ensues this movie’s wonderful story of how a simple Delhi girl a finds her true self while exploring Paris and Amsterdam.
Directed by Vikas Bahl, Queen took India by storm thanks to its wonderfully unique storyline. Finally, a Bollywood film that focuses on a woman’s ability to simply be herself and discover her identity. Kangana Ranaut owns her role as the shy Delhi girl who blossoms when she gives herself a chance, and she’s backed by a stellar supporting cast, including Lisa Haydon as her Parisian friend, Vijayalakshmi (conveniently, Vijay for short). Watch this movie ASAP to see how Rani discovers what she really wants from life.
When Parineeti Chopra’s Gulrez aka Gullu gets fed up with the dowry demands from rishta after rishta, she devises a scheme to trap a rich groom in violation of the Dowry Act. With the help of her ever loyal dad (Anupam Kher), Gullu plans to use whatever settlement money she gets to fulfill her dreams of going to America for a career in fashion design. Their plan seems to be going along perfectly, until their target, jolly restaurant owner Tariq aka Taru (Aditya Roy Kapur), turns out to be just the kind of guy Gullu needs. Ruh roh.
As Habib Faisal’s second directorial venture after Ishaqzaade, a movie that dug into India’s struggle to accept inter-religious relationships, Daawat-e-Ishq takes a Bollywood look at dowry, another persistently hot topic in India. The movie perfectly illustrates the struggles faced by young women and their families when they’re confronted by unyielding demands from marriage suitors, while also integrating traditional Bollywood masti. Parineeti Chopra and Aditya Roy Kapur both did wonderful jobs in their roles, and it’s hard not to love Anupam Kher in his role as the goofy father. Daawat-e-Ishq’s mediocre box office performance just means it’s one of this year’s most underrated movies — it’s definitely worth a watch, especially since it’s now available on Netflix streaming!
When Aamir Khan’s onscreen alien lands on earth somewhere in Rajasthan for a research trip, he has no idea what’s in store for him. Naive to the realities of planet earth, the alien’s necklace is stolen and he no longer has any way to call back his spaceship. Thus begins the alien’s journey in India and his quest to return to his home planet. Along the way he is bestowed with the name “PK” and is befriended by Sanjay Dutt’s Bhairon Singh and Anushka Sharma’s Jaggu. PK’s innocent, yet accurate observations about humans on earth form the crux of this movie’s story.
Last on the list of hits, but certainly not least, director Rajkumar Hirani’s PK helped closed out a wonderful Bollywood year. One of the last releases of 2014, PK serves as an entertaining, yet serious commentary on the role of organized religion in modern Indian society. Aamir Khan never disappoints, and PK is no exception to that rule. Anushka Sharma, Sanjay Dutt, and even Sushant Singh Rajput in his brief role all put forth memorable performances. It’s no surprise that this movie has become India’s most successful film to date, so if you haven’t already seen PK, then what are you waiting for?
Ali Zafar’s Aman and Yami Gautam’s Asha are a happily-in-love British couple who land in “total chaos” when Pakistani Aman tries to impress Indian Asha’s family so that they can get married. Sadly, this really is the only thing that the movie is about, and Total Siyapaa fails miserably in its attempt to make this chaos seem funny.
Just about all the jokes in this movie fell completely flat, and what was intended to be a comedy of errors just seemed like a giant error that wasted 108 minutes of everybody’s time. Both Ali Zafar’s and Yami Gautam’s performances fell short of the mark, and even the usually fabulous Kirron Kher just seemed loud and overbearing as Asha’s overly protective mom. Spare yourself and skip this one — there aren’t even any good songs on the soundtrack to make the movie more bearable.
Delhi yuppies Mohit Chadhdha (Ayushmann Khurrana) and Mayera Sehgal (Sonam Kapoor) are living life to its fullest together. Both of them are climbing corporate ladders and planning a future together much to the chagrin of Mayera’s dad, V.K. Sehgal (Rishi Kapoor). Things were complicated enough when Mohit was gainfully employed, but the real hitch in this otherwise perfect love story occurs when he loses his job. Will he be able to keep the love of his life despite his unemployed status? Or will Mayera’s overbearing father be the one who has the last laugh?
Bewakoofiyaan had a lot of potential, but honestly, the story was boring, the acting was subpar, and the soundtrack was dull. All in all, even as a fan of just about all things Bollywood rom-com-y, I was disappointed by this movie and wouldn’t recommend it. But maybe I’m biased because I’ve never been a fan of either Sonam Kapoor or Ayushmann Khurrana.
Think Ocean’s Eleven meets The Italian Job and you’ve got the basic plot preview for this Farah Khan action comedy flick that has plenty of masti, dishoom, and dhamaka. This movie seemed to be heavily “inspired” by certain Hollywood heist films, although Bollywood being Bollywood, there was a dance contest in place of high speed car chases and high intensity casino scenes.
Director Farah Khan kept her usual high standards for an all-star cast for Happy New Year with Shahrukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Abhishek Bachchan, Sonu Sood, Boman Irani, and Jackie Shroff all in leading roles — but sadly, most other standards for this movie fell by the wayside. Other than Deepika’s hilarious performance as dance teacher Mohini, overacting seemed to be the name of the game, and at times the actors were just plain annoying. Even as a diehard SRK fan, I couldn’t handle SRK’s blonde streak and his unimpressive portrayal of heist mastermind Charlie. Between the big budget stars, special effects, and elaborate cinematography, it’s no wonder Happy New Year is one of the most expensive Bollywood movies ever made. The movie was entertaining enough, but it had the potential to be so much better — clearly, I need to start setting lower expectations.
4. Happy Ending
Saif Ali Khan’s Yudi Jaitley, a one-hit-wonder-novelist, spends his time searching for inspiration for his next big novel, while also avoiding his on-again-off-again girlfriend Vishakha (Kalki Koechlin). As luck would have it, he finds himself falling for the new superstar writer in his publishing company, Aanchal Reddy (Ileana D’Cruz). And of course, despite being a romance novelist, Aanchal herself doesn’t believe in love. So what’s a guy to do?
Yet another movie with a lot of hype that ultimately fizzled out. Between the lackluster story and the unimpressive performances, I found myself bored through most of the movie. Even the story lines involving the supporting cast, Govinda and Ranvir Shorey, seemed randomly tacked on at the last minute and just interrupted the flow of the film. It’s hard to tell what the filmmakers were going for with Happy Ending, but just about the only saving graces were the track “Mileya Mileya” and Preity Zinta’s guest appearance. Spare yourself and don’t watch this movie.
Sid (Farhan Akhtar) and Trisha (Vidya Balan) seem to have the perfect marriage….until they have a baby and everything gets just a little more complicated. With two of my favorite actors in this film and a hilarious trailer, Shaadi Ke Side Effects seemed destined to be awesome. But yet again, this movie was a sore disappointment. The funniest scenes were in the trailer, and even stellar performances by both Farhan Akhtar and Vidya Balan couldn’t save this movie. Womp womp.
All in all, 2014 was a great year for Bollywood. Some other movies from this past year that deserve honorable mentions are 2 States, Khoobsurat, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, and Finding Fanny. And although I haven’t seen it, based on everything I’ve heard, Bang Bang probably deserves a dishonorable mention. Is there a movie that you loved or hated that didn’t make this list? Let us know!
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Farah Naz Khan is an internal medicine resident at Emory University. After graduating from college in Boston, she returned to her Alabama hometown to attend medical school, and was reunited with the mix of Southern hospitality and South Asian culture that had shaped her childhood. Follow her on Twitter @farah287 or read some of her thoughts at farah287.blogspot.com.