How does one even attempt a year-ender list like this, without expecting a bunch of abusive trolls and smart naysayers going, “What? Really?” Well, ideally, you don’t. You can’t compare apples and oranges. But hey, somebody has to. And it’s fun, and apples and oranges are fruits, why can’t you compare them? So well, here’s what we thought were the 10 best Bollywood movies of 2016. I don’t know how many of them you’ve already seen. Most of these I can catch again. But then again… Okay, so let the arguments begin!1. Dangal: Yeah, it’s become almost a cliché already to call it the best film of 2016. And our initial first was that it’d be a clichéd, strict-coach, underdog talent ‘sports film’, which it’s so not, while it wonderfully explores not just wrestling as a sport, but relationships — between society and girls, father and daughter, sport and government, city and village… And most significantly, Aamir and his annual Christmas audience! Nobody I know left disappointed; yet again.2. Pink: Films are meant to entertain, or rather engage. But some, I suspect, should just become part of school curriculum. This brilliantly edited thriller set around a bunch of young single Delhi girls, should be made mandatory viewing to counter casual misogyny of North India. A stupendous, timely wake-up call.4. MS Dhoni: The Untold Story: Chronicles the life and times of one of the most popular living Indians, with such fine use of SFX, candid story-telling, and hey, Sushant Singh Rajput in his element, essaying the rise and rise of Dhoni and small town India into Indian cricket. And well, finally, a film on cricket that gets its cricket right! Haven’t watched anything like this in Bollywood before.5. Aligarh: Dark, quiet, deeply disturbing true story of homophobia that defines our society, and perhaps, a college campus as well. Who better than Manoj Bajpayee to guide you into the mind of the soft-spoken Professor Ramchandra Siras, a man of letters, wrecked by hate and bigotry around him. Few films let you into a character’s life so gently, so beautifully.6. Udta Punjab: The opposite of the Punjab of mustard fields we’ve always consumed in Bollywood movies, this kick-ass, smartly directed thriller entertains yet jolts you into acknowledging drugs as the bane of Punjab’s youth in a state of rapid disarray. Some films are less dangerous, but equally satisfying highs of their own. Udta is clearly one of them.7. Fitoor: What’s a list that doesn’t stick its neck out? I’ll tell you why Fitoor belongs here. First of all, you’ve not seen it. The bad press ensured few have. Give it a shot: check out the stunning locations, fabulous camerawork, two of the hottest looking actors on screen (Aditya Roy Kapur, Katrina Kaif), and arguably the best Bollywood soundtrack this year (title track, and ‘Pashmina’ in particular). The story, Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, was never going to seriously disappoint anyway. All this put together makes Fitoor, IMHO, the most under-rated mainstream film this year. Hence the soft corner on this page!8. Neerja: Set pretty much in one large room with a whole lot of people in it — the inside of an aircraft. Capturing an event (hijacking of Pan Am flight 73 in 1986), and one person, flight attendant Neerja Bhanot’s role in it, that is hardly driven by manic action or solid mortal combat. And yet the film holds your attention for two hours plus. This must’ve been the toughest film to direct. And Ram Madhvani pulls it off with young Sonam Kapoor. Wow. No, seriously, wow!9. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil/ Befikre/ Dear Zindagi: Okay, rom-coms tend to have a polarising effect on popular appeal; they always have. But what’s there not to love about films that at every level reflect the loves and lives of the contemporary young — keeping it all fun, even frothy sometimes, yet delve very seriously into the most immediate #FirstWorldProblem of our times: choice, or rather, too many choices. Why settle for a relationship, and eventual heartbreak, when hook-ups and friendships suffice? Yes, this is the coffee shop conversation of the urbane young in 2016. These three wonderfully enacted, directed dramas are also some of the best conversation starters I know.10. Fan/Sultan/Airlift: What’s common to these three wholly disparate films? They have major super-stars, slowly but surely, trying to break the mould, push the envelope, and go beyond what their core audiences have always demanded or expected from them anyway. Akshay Kumar (Airlift) was the first to take a lead in that direction by the way (with similarly smart thrillers like Special 26, and Baby). Sensible and fun, Sultan, with Salman Khan, trained to look and perform like a professional wrestler, spouting local dialect, is a far cry from Salman Khan who’s been playing Salman Khan for a couple of generations now. And if anybody had told me, at the beginning of the year, that there is a Shah Rukh Khan film coming up that has no songs in it, I wouldn’t have believed it. Fan needs to be seen to be believed, enjoyed and whole-heartedly embraced. These are signs of great super-star times ahead.Those that should’ve made it too… Nil Battey Sannata: Clever, funny, deeply empathetic of the ‘lives of others’, an absolute gem of a small film with the biggest heart this year.
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