For the most part, 2015 was a pretty great year for Bollywood. There were plenty of entertaining blockbusters, some of which ventured into new territory for Hindi cinema. Not too surprisingly, there were also quite a few major flops that let down countless expectations (ahem, Bombay Velvet and Shaandaar). Then there were a few movies that disappointed us mostly because we know they could have been so much more.
So, let’s break it down and take a look at the good, the bad, and the mediocre films that Bollywood bestowed upon us in 2015.
This Shoojit Sircar film featured Deepika Padukone as Piku, the daughter to Amitabh Bachchan’s Bashkor Banerjee, and Irrfan Khan as Rana Chaudhary, the owner of a taxi company who ends up personally driving this dysfunctional father-daughter duo from Delhi to Calcutta. “Motion se Emotion” was the tagline for the movie, and this alludes to the emotional push-pull between relationship obligations, personal conflicts, and bowel movements (yes, poo) that Piku’s storyline delves into. Hilarious, yet poignant, Piku impressed us all with its touching story and brilliant performances — none of which bow to any Bollywood stereotypes.
When I went to watch this movie, I didn’t realize that I would leave with nightmares and flashbacks. This was ultimately my fault, because I never caught a look at the trailer for this Bollywood Kill Bill-esque film about a couple’s road trip gone wrong. That being said, however, NH10 earns a spot on my hits list because of the fact that this Anushka Sharma driven powerhouse of a film emerged as a sleeper hit and took all of India by surprise. Sharma’s performance single-handedly elevated this movie from just a slasher flick to something more and proved that female driven films can succeed in India. So, watch this movie to see Sharma kick some serious ass, but don’t say I didn’t warn you about the overwhelmingly graphic violence.
Margarita with a Straw
I was lucky enough to catch the screening of this movie in Mumbai, and during the intermission, writer, director, and producer Shonali Bose made a surprise appearance and said hello to the entire audience. Bose obviously holds Margarita with a Straw very close to her heart, as she also dedicated this movie to the memory of her son, who died in a tragic accident at the hands of a faulty electric shaver. After winning accolades at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2014, Margarita with a Straw finally released internationally in April 2015.
Kalki Koechlin stars in the film as Laila, a young girl with cerebral palsy who never lets her use of a wheelchair hold her back from her dreams, which include going to New York University to study music. Laila’s mother, played by Revathi, moves with her to NYC and this is where the story gets a bit more complicated thanks to Laila’s budding love interest in her friend Khanum (Sayani Gupta). Beautifully made, Margarita with a Straw has the audience rooting for Laila the entire time, and when Laila faces heartbreak, the audience weeps with her. Koechlin’s performance won her many deserving accolades and is just one of the many reasons why you should find a way to watch this movie ASAP.
Dil Dhadakne Do
Dramedy Dil Dhadakne Do is about the wealthy, yet dysfunctional Punjabi Mehra family, the heads of which decide to host a big bash on a cruise ship for their 30th wedding anniversary. Zoya Akhtar’s ensemble cast for this big, fat Punjabi anniversary party film features Ranveer Singh and Priyanka Chopra as siblings Kabir and Ayesha Mehra, respectively; Anil Kapoor and Shefali Shah as their parents, Kamal and Neelam Mehra; Anushka Sharma as Farah Ali, a free spirit who is a dancer on the cruise ship; Rahul Bose as Manav, Ayesha’s controlling husband; and last, but certainly not least, Farhan Akhtar in a special appearance as Sunny Gill, Ayesha’s unrequited first love.
Lighthearted and fun, Dil Dhadakne Do manages to make you simultaneously love and hate the Mehra family as much as they love/hate each other. Check out this movie for some laughs, and you’ll likely also find yourself make wishing that you too had enough money to host a private party on a cruise ship for your closest family and friends.
Written by Vishal Bhardwaj and helmed by director Meghna Gulzar, Talvar is based on a true story — the 2008 double murder case in Noida in which Rajesh and Nupur Talwar’s daughter Aarushi and the household servant were both found dead. The story plays out with three differing accounts of the night of the murder, and this thriller has the audience gripped from beginning to end. Irrfan Khan shines as usual in his role as Ashwin Kumar whose character is based on real life CBI investigator Arun Kumar, and Konkona Sen Sharma and Neeraj Kabi play the onscreen Talwars (Tandons in the movie). Watch the movie to see which version of the story you find most believable, and to see whether or not you think the parents could have been responsible for the murder of their own daughter.
The word of mouth about this Salman Khan film was so overwhelmingly positive, that I found myself unable to wait for the DVD the way I do with most of Bhai’s other films. Khan plays Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi aka Bajrangi Bhaijaan in this Kabir Khan film about a mute Pakistani girl who is lost in India and relies on Bajrangi Bhaijaan’s help to get her back to her home.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Kareena Kapoor Khan are along for the ride as key supporting characters, but this is Salman Khan’s film all the way. Hilarious, touching, and with a little bit of dishoom on the side, Bajrangi Bhaijaan is cinematic proof that India and Pakistan, and Hindus and Muslims, can coexist in harmony. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, then just take a look at the staggering box office collections this movie raked in, making it the second highest grossing Indian film of all time — second only to last year’s Aamir Khan starrer PK.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali did not let me down with this epic period film about the true love story between famed Maratha warrior Bajirao and his second wife, Mastani. Ranveer Singh plays Bajirao opposite Deepika Padukone’s Mastani and Priyanka Chopra’s Kashibai (his first wife). And while I do think that Bhansali should have better developed the love story between Bajirao and Mastani aside from a few scenes of blossoming ishq, I still loved this visually stunning cinematic treat. The lavish sets, the picturesque cinematography, and the glamorous costuming all made me want to drool.
Aesthetics aside, Bajirao Mastani is filled with powerhouse performances from all of the lead actors and actresses. Ranveer Singh holds his own as the tormented-in-love warrior, while Priyanka Chopra perfectly complements this anguish with her portrayal of Kashibai’s resolve in the face of her husband’s betrayal. However, without a doubt, Deepika Padukone put forth the best performance in Bajirao Mastani. There is not a single other actress in Bollywood today who could have done such perfect justice to Mastani’s role — watch this movie if for no other reason than to be dazzled by the equal grace with which Deepika’s Mastani owns the battle field, the noble court, and Peshwa Bajirao’s heart.
Jazbaa marks Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s return to the big screen after a five-year break, and in the movie she plays a prominent Mumbai lawyer who fights to rescue her daughter after she has been mysteriously kidnapped. Between the perpetual green screen and the plot holes in this Sanjay Gupta film, Aishwarya’s Bollywood comeback was doomed before it even started. Even Irrfan Khan couldn’t save this thriller, and the movie barely broke even at the box office. Let’s just hope that Aishwarya’s next foray into Bollywood with Karan Johar’s upcoming Ae Dil Hai Mushkil ends up being more successful.
This Katrina Kaif and Saif Ali Khan action flick really had my expectations ramped up given that I was ready to be impressed yet again by director Kabir Khan after Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Obviously, my heightened expectations meant I was even more sorely disappointed by this very poorly executed movie that was based in part on the novel Mumbai Avengers and the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. The song “Saware” aside, just about everything else was terrible in Phantom, including the performances by the two leads.
Bombay Velvet was easily the biggest failure of the year despite its impressive star cast that included Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, and Karan Johar. Kapoor plays street fighter Johnny aka Balraj opposite Sharma’s jazz singer Rosie, while Johar makes his acting debut as the villainous Kaizad Khambatta. Sadly, writer and director Anurag Kashyap neglected to incorporate a cohesive story into this 1960s Mumbai period piece that feels like nothing more than a slow and boring drag set against the backdrop of elaborate sets. Save yourself the 2.5 hours of your life that you will never get back and do not watch this movie.
I will never understand how the writer and director of Queen, Vikas Bahl, followed up that amazing movie with this ridiculousness. Alia Bhatt and Shahid Kapoor play two insomniacs who fall in love, and beyond that flimsy plot point, Shaandaar is just a bunch of random subplots strung together over the course of “India’s first destination wedding film.” The best scene in the movie is at the very end when Sanah Kapoor’s character makes a great speech about body image, but it’s doubtful that anybody would be able to sit through the movie long enough to even make it to that scene. Why, Mr. Bahl, why?!
One of Rohit Shetty’s big budget flicks actually made it to my hits list back in 2013 because the SRK-Deepika starrer Chennai Express was actually entertaining despite some of its inanities. Unfortunately, Dilwale was far from entertaining and has to be the worst possible relaunch vehicle for Kajol and SRK. Even these two could not save this movie from its floundering storyline about rival families and star-crossed love stories. The weak supporting cast certainly did not help; Kriti Sanon served as little more than eye candy, while Varun Dhawan, Johnny Lever, and even Boman Irani were all just plain annoying. To make matters worse, Shetty straight lifted scenes from Mission: Impossible 2, How I Met Your Mother, and Love Actually — shaking my head so very much in disappointment. But, on a serious and positive note, Kajol looked amazing. I need that fountain of youth in my life ASAP.
I really thought this Nikhil Advani film might get Imran Khan’s career back on track. After all, Advani is the man who directed Kal Ho Naa Ho, and Katti Batti had Khan opposite one of Bollywood’s current favorite heroines, Kangana Ranaut. But sadly, this bizarre movie about a live-in relationship gone wrong is also all sorts of wrong. Slow and boring at the beginning with a sudden jarring revelation in the last 30 minutes, Katti Batti leaves the viewer bored, then confused, and then annoyed at the lack of character and plot development. It’s no surprise that this movie crashed and burned at the box office, so here’s to hoping that Khan picks his next role a little more wisely.
Why am I even bothering to mention these mediocre movies? Because I had such high hopes for them, and they all just let me down! The most unfortunate of all was Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha. After waiting patiently for this release featuring my favorites Ranbir and Deepika, I was sorely disappointed by the boring story and poor character development. The first half was nothing more than a dragged out Corsica vacation, and while the performances of both Deepika and Ranbir in the second half of the movie somewhat made up for the lackluster first half, it just was not enough. I expected so much more from the man who brought us Jab We Met, Highway, Love Aaj Kal, and Cocktail.
Mohit Suri similarly disappointed me with the overly sentimental and teary Hamari Adhuri Kahani. Vidya Balan and Emraan Hashmi did full justice to their roles, but most of their performances were clouded by the tears streaming down their faces. And while I did enjoy this movie, it could have been so much more given that Suri was responsible for the very well-done Aashiqui 2.
Similarly, the sequel to the much loved Tanu Weds Manu left several fans of the original disappointed and outraged at its positive portrayal of stalker-love. And while it was commercially successful, Tanu Weds Manu Returns made me wish they had never even made a sequel to the first movie. I would be remiss to recap Bollywood 2015 without mentioning Sooraj R. Barjatya’s Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. One of the biggest commercial successes of the year, PRDP will leave you with all the feels we’ve come to expect from Barjatya’s films. Just don’t expect any sort of cinematic wonders beyond Salman Khan’s mustache when you watch it.
Farah Naz Khan is a doctor at Emory University. After graduating from college in Boston, she returned to her Alabama hometown to attend medical school, and she was reunited with the mix of Southern hospitality and South Asian culture that had shaped her childhood. Find her via Twitter @farah287 or her website farahnazkhan.com.