By

Sharada Iyer

As far as box-office collections go, the year 2023 will be remembered for dishing out several massive blockbusters after a dry spell of the last few years. We had several big-budget films like Pathan, Jawan, Dunki, Animal, Gadar 2, Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani and Tu Jhooti Main Makkar, which managed mind-boggling collections ranging from Rupees 500-1000 crores! Small budget films like The Kerala Stories, Satyaprem Ki Katha, Zara Hatke Zara Bachke and 12th Fail ended up becoming sleeper-hits due to word of mouth publicity and raked in enough moolah. Even the Hindi dubbed versions of Pan-India films like Leo, Jailer and Salaar were declared hits.

On the flip-side so much importance was given to the box-office numbers every day by every social media account and trade pundits that viewers and readers were bombarded with too much statistics. Advance booking figures, first day collection reports followed by first weekend collections were given out dutifully and soon moved on to include comparison of the figures of the earlier films of these stars as well as comparison with other superstars. Honestly, none of that made much sense because the biggest hits were not necessarily hailed as the best films. At times, almost a war-like situation was created with the bigger producers and distributors getting a larger share of shows thereby encroaching upon smaller competitors.

No longer can Bollywood be evaluated solely in terms of box-office success as there are many films which are directly released on OTT platforms and there are numerous superb web-series also being churned out which provide far more entertainment in episodic format. Many industry actors have turned to web-series and are able to play a lot more intriguing characters as there is no need to follow any set pattern or cater to any star’s image or even bother about box-office results. The revenue generated is calculated using different parameters.

Films like Sirf Ek Banda Kaafi Hai, Kho Gaye Hum Kahan, Lost, Khufia, and Jaane Jaan were released directly on OTT and found appreciation.  Web-series like Jubilee, Dahaad, The Night Manager, Class, Duranga, Kohraa, Farzi, The Railway Men, Taali, Guns & Gulaabs, etc. stood out for their brilliant content and the noteworthy performance by the entire cast.

Shah Rukh Khan was in full form and sealed his place as the greatest superstar with three back to back super-hits. Others like Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Salman Khan were no match for his magic. As far as performances go, there were several to be remembered from the older and younger actors and even newcomers.

Producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra hit jackpot with his film 12th Fail. Based on the real-life story of the struggles faced by an IAS officer the film touched a cord in every viewer’s heart thanks to the heart-warming, sincere, honest, and winning performance by Vikrant Massey.

Sirf Ek Banda Kaafi Hai again based on real-life event, told us the story of one lawyer’s struggle against the system to bring justice to the young girl who had been molested by a self-styled god-man. It seemed a daunting task to even consider taking on such a case as the victim was from a lower-class family and the god-man not only had massive number of followers but also wielded power with his political connections and proximity to police. Manoj Bajpayee as the lawyer was brilliant.

Sandip Vanga Reddy’s Animal was an eye-opener. The overwhelming response garnered for the film revealed that there were takers for films where the protagonist was not a ‘hero’ in the typical sense and could go on a killing spree at the drop of a hat. Unlike Vikrant Massey and Manoj Bajpayee who were playing real-life positive and inspiring characters, Ranbir Kapoor was playing a fictional and flawed character which was not an easy role to play, but he was just phenomenal.

Jawan was a massy entertainer and had Shah Rukh Khan in a double role, that of a father and son, thereby ensuring double the dose of entertainment and fun. Besides an emotional angle in the plot, and thrilling action scenes by SRK in both the roles, there was a hard-hitting message woven in the narrative which was addressed directly to the public to open their eyes against the political system. The film struck the right notes and had the viewers asking for more.

Three Of Us: This poignant and thought-provoking film addresses the topic of dementia and how the early onset of this condition can impact the life of the individual. When Shefali Shah comes to know of her condition, she decides to revisit the town where she had grown up in an attempt to reconnect with her old self as she realizes that soon she would start to forget everything. Swanand Kirkire plays her husband and Jaideep Ahlawat plays her old friend for whom she had had feelings at the time she left the place. All three of them were excellent in their roles.

Vicky Kaushal came up with a good performance as Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw in Meghna Gulzar’s Sam Bahadur but somewhere the narrative was not scripted well enough for us to appreciate this great officer’s contribution and Vicky at times seemed to have put in too much effort to look the part instead of feeling the part. The incidents felt a little episodic and the real-clips interspersed in between gave a documentary feel to the proceedings in some places.

Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani proved that a typical Bollywood family drama with a lame story can also do very well if marketed by KJo and Dharma Productions along with catchy songs and Alia Bhatt in their pocket. She breezed through the film with fans swooning over her. This film is yet another proof why she is a superstar of the industry today.

Katrina Kaif in Tiger 3 and Deepika Padukone in Pathan showed their prowess at action scenes. Deepika also came up with a winning special appearance in Jawan and minus her powerful presence in the backstory of the plot, the film would have fallen flat. She exudes an aura whenever she is on screen and that is irrespective of the length of the role she gets to play in any film.

Mumbaikar directed by Santosh Sivan, proved to be an enjoyable ride, though its IMDB ratings are not high. The film stars Vikrant Massey, Vijay Sethupathy, and a newcomer Hridhu Haroon and deals with how confusions arise in the lives of these three people as they always end up at the wrong place at the wrong time. The film captures the spirit of Mumbai and the chaos that the city can throw a person into.

Kho Gaye Hum Kahan had a novel, refreshing and relatable take on the lives of the younger generation in today’s digital age and delved into the impact of social media in their lifestyle. Natural acting by Ananya, Siddhant and Adarsh and honest and simplistic storytelling by the director adds zest to the narrative making it engaging as we experience the roller-coaster of emotions along with the three protagonists.

Films like Satyaprem Ki Katha, Zara Hatke Zara Bachke, Tu Jhooti Main Makkar tried to address some problems young couples can face in a relationship and though the films were average, the acting by the cast was praiseworthy, especially Kiara Advani in Satyaprem Ki Katha. Kareena Kapoor gave a dignified performance in Jaane Jaan, the film based on writer Keigo Higashino’s murder thriller book-The Devotion of Suspect X. Jaideep Ahlawat was too good in the film. Tabu was her usual self in Khufiya but it was youngster Wamiqa Gabbi who grabbed our attention with her confidence.

Abhishek Bachchan as the coach and Saiyami Kher as the disabled person who takes on the daunting task of entering the cricket team in spite of her disability were both brilliant in Ghoomer. Though this sports drama directed by R Balki did not do well at the box-office, it can be seen just for their acting. Incidentally Saiyami is the granddaughter of actress Usha Kiran.  Yami Gautam was good as the advocate representing the wrong-doers in OMG 2 and Pankaj Tripathi presenting his side of the case in the same film proved once again why he is such a rare performer. He lends dignity and gravitas to the sensitive topic of sex education which is what the film basically dealt with.

There were some noteworthy performances in several web-series. Sonakshi Sinha as the Dalit cop trying to uncover the face of the serial killer in the thriller Dahaad was brilliant. Wonder if she could have ever got a role like this in films. Sushmita Sen lived the role of the real-life transgender activist Shreegauri Sawant in Taali. The transgender had led an iconic battle for the inclusion of the third gender in every official document in India. No one else could have done that role with so much conviction.

Vijay Varma had a great year grabbing all the attention for playing the smooth-talking killer in Dahaad and an inspector in Jaane Jaan. Gulshan Devaiah also had a good outing with the second season of Duranga, a gripping psychological thriller series based on the Korean drama Flower of Evil, and in Guns & Gulaabs where he is effortless as a contract killer. Rajkummar Rao, Adarsh Gaurav and Dulquer Salman leave their mark in Guns & Gulaabs. It was one of the best web-series to come out in 2023. The other brilliant web-series was Jubilee and the entire cast comprising of Aparshakti Khurana, Wamiqa Gabbi, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Siddhant Gupta, Aditi Rao Hyadri, Ram Kapoor, Shweta Basu Prasad gave memorable performances.

Another noteworthy web-series was Kohraa. From the first scene when the corpse of an NRI groom is found in the fields to the end when the killer is revealed, the narrative was engaging. Both Suvinder Vicky as the inspector and Barun Sobti as his assistant were very good. They had to deal with their own personal battles apart from solving the murder and the story set in rural Punjab captured the atmosphere with authenticity. The Railway Men based on the lives of the railway workers who risk their lives to save the victims after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy is a web-series which caught the attention of viewers and actors Kay Kay Menon, Divyendu Sharma, R Madhavan and Babil Khan have given praiseworthy performances.

Aditya Roy Kapoor had a great year with a double role in the enjoyable Gumrah and as the night manager in the web-series titled The Night Manager. He showed his versatility in both the roles. Anil Kapoor was brilliant in a negative role in the same serial. Farzi had us rooting for Shahid Kapoor and Vijay Sethupathy who kept the proceedings engrossed with their acting.  Drashti Dhami as the cop in Duranga was remarkable.

At the end a word of praise for the entire cast of the OTT series Class (a remake of the Spanish show Elite) which had a talented bunch of newcomers giving a seasoned performance and bringing to life all the characters. The plot revolves around a hi-fi elite school in Delhi where three students from a poor background join bringing about a change in the mind-set of the entire class and a change in the dynamics of their interaction. The last episode has ended on a cliffhanger with a murder and season 2 is being awaited with bated breath.

2023 also had some really bad films competing for the worst film title- The much awaited mythological Adipurush was flop from the word go. The treatment of this epic drama starring Prabhas, Kriti Sanon and Saif Ali Khan, turned out to be so shoddy and indifferent that it hurt people’s sentiments and the backlash received ended up taking the makers to the court. When will Salman Khan learn that sheer nonsense like Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan has no takers? Maybe it is time he took a break to introspect and return with something new.

Bawaal is a film which should have never seen the daylight. Honestly not one thing about the film made an iota of sense and to have Janhvi Kapoor in today’s time playing such a doormat of a wife to a chauvinistic Varun Dhawan and to club the whole thing with the Auschwitz prison angle was a terrible idea. Zoya Akhtar with all the resources in hand bungled up big time to give us a frivolous and inexcusable take on the famous comic series The Archies, with the newcomers giving pathetic performances. They need to start afresh to erase this fiasco from public memory.

It was enjoyable to watch older actors leave their mark in the films they starred. While Sharmila Tagore in Gulmohur was a picture of elegance, the love triangle of Jaya Bhaduri, Shabana Azmi and Dharmendra kept us entertained in Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani.

As usual, cine-lovers look forward with enthusiasm knowing that 2024 will bring forth its own challenges with its new Friday releases and new web-series and a wide variety of stories waiting to be told…

[Note: All images are taken from internet]

By

Sharada Iyer

As far as box-office collections go, the year 2023 will be remembered for dishing out several massive blockbusters after a dry spell of the last few years. We had several big-budget films like Pathan, Jawan, Dunki, Animal, Gadar 2, Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani and Tu Jhooti Main Makkar, which managed mind-boggling collections ranging from Rupees 500-1000 crores! Small budget films like The Kerala Stories, Satyaprem Ki Katha, Zara Hatke Zara Bachke and 12th Fail ended up becoming sleeper-hits due to word of mouth publicity and raked in enough moolah. Even the Hindi dubbed versions of Pan-India films like Leo, Jailer and Salaar were declared hits.

On the flip-side so much importance was given to the box-office numbers every day by every social media account and trade pundits that viewers and readers were bombarded with too much statistics. Advance booking figures, first day collection reports followed by first weekend collections were given out dutifully and soon moved on to include comparison of the figures of the earlier films of these stars as well as comparison with other superstars. Honestly, none of that made much sense because the biggest hits were not necessarily hailed as the best films. At times, almost a war-like situation was created with the bigger producers and distributors getting a larger share of shows thereby encroaching upon smaller competitors.

No longer can Bollywood be evaluated solely in terms of box-office success as there are many films which are directly released on OTT platforms and there are numerous superb web-series also being churned out which provide far more entertainment in episodic format. Many industry actors have turned to web-series and are able to play a lot more intriguing characters as there is no need to follow any set pattern or cater to any star’s image or even bother about box-office results. The revenue generated is calculated using different parameters.

Films like Sirf Ek Banda Kaafi Hai, Kho Gaye Hum Kahan, Lost, Khufia, and Jaane Jaan were released directly on OTT and found appreciation.  Web-series like Jubilee, Dahaad, The Night Manager, Class, Duranga, Kohraa, Farzi, The Railway Men, Taali, Guns & Gulaabs, etc. stood out for their brilliant content and the noteworthy performance by the entire cast.

Shah Rukh Khan was in full form and sealed his place as the greatest superstar with three back to back super-hits. Others like Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Salman Khan were no match for his magic. As far as performances go, there were several to be remembered from the older and younger actors and even newcomers.

Producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra hit jackpot with his film 12th Fail. Based on the real-life story of the struggles faced by an IAS officer the film touched a cord in every viewer’s heart thanks to the heart-warming, sincere, honest, and winning performance by Vikrant Massey.

Sirf Ek Banda Kaafi Hai again based on real-life event, told us the story of one lawyer’s struggle against the system to bring justice to the young girl who had been molested by a self-styled god-man. It seemed a daunting task to even consider taking on such a case as the victim was from a lower-class family and the god-man not only had massive number of followers but also wielded power with his political connections and proximity to police. Manoj Bajpayee as the lawyer was brilliant.

Sandip Vanga Reddy’s Animal was an eye-opener. The overwhelming response garnered for the film revealed that there were takers for films where the protagonist was not a ‘hero’ in the typical sense and could go on a killing spree at the drop of a hat. Unlike Vikrant Massey and Manoj Bajpayee who were playing real-life positive and inspiring characters, Ranbir Kapoor was playing a fictional and flawed character which was not an easy role to play, but he was just phenomenal.

Jawan was a massy entertainer and had Shah Rukh Khan in a double role, that of a father and son, thereby ensuring double the dose of entertainment and fun. Besides an emotional angle in the plot, and thrilling action scenes by SRK in both the roles, there was a hard-hitting message woven in the narrative which was addressed directly to the public to open their eyes against the political system. The film struck the right notes and had the viewers asking for more.

Three Of Us: This poignant and thought-provoking film addresses the topic of dementia and how the early onset of this condition can impact the life of the individual. When Shefali Shah comes to know of her condition, she decides to revisit the town where she had grown up in an attempt to reconnect with her old self as she realizes that soon she would start to forget everything. Swanand Kirkire plays her husband and Jaideep Ahlawat plays her old friend for whom she had had feelings at the time she left the place. All three of them were excellent in their roles.

Vicky Kaushal came up with a good performance as Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw in Meghna Gulzar’s Sam Bahadur but somewhere the narrative was not scripted well enough for us to appreciate this great officer’s contribution and Vicky at times seemed to have put in too much effort to look the part instead of feeling the part. The incidents felt a little episodic and the real-clips interspersed in between gave a documentary feel to the proceedings in some places.

Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani proved that a typical Bollywood family drama with a lame story can also do very well if marketed by KJo and Dharma Productions along with catchy songs and Alia Bhatt in their pocket. She breezed through the film with fans swooning over her. This film is yet another proof why she is a superstar of the industry today.

Katrina Kaif in Tiger 3 and Deepika Padukone in Pathan showed their prowess at action scenes. Deepika also came up with a winning special appearance in Jawan and minus her powerful presence in the backstory of the plot, the film would have fallen flat. She exudes an aura whenever she is on screen and that is irrespective of the length of the role she gets to play in any film.

Mumbaikar directed by Santosh Sivan, proved to be an enjoyable ride, though its IMDB ratings are not high. The film stars Vikrant Massey, Vijay Sethupathy, and a newcomer Hridhu Haroon and deals with how confusions arise in the lives of these three people as they always end up at the wrong place at the wrong time. The film captures the spirit of Mumbai and the chaos that the city can throw a person into.

Kho Gaye Hum Kahan had a novel, refreshing and relatable take on the lives of the younger generation in today’s digital age and delved into the impact of social media in their lifestyle. Natural acting by Ananya, Siddhant and Adarsh and honest and simplistic storytelling by the director adds zest to the narrative making it engaging as we experience the roller-coaster of emotions along with the three protagonists.

Films like Satyaprem Ki Katha, Zara Hatke Zara Bachke, Tu Jhooti Main Makkar tried to address some problems young couples can face in a relationship and though the films were average, the acting by the cast was praiseworthy, especially Kiara Advani in Satyaprem Ki Katha. Kareena Kapoor gave a dignified performance in Jaane Jaan, the film based on writer Keigo Higashino’s murder thriller book-The Devotion of Suspect X. Jaideep Ahlawat was too good in the film. Tabu was her usual self in Khufiya but it was youngster Wamiqa Gabbi who grabbed our attention with her confidence.

Abhishek Bachchan as the coach and Saiyami Kher as the disabled person who takes on the daunting task of entering the cricket team in spite of her disability were both brilliant in Ghoomer. Though this sports drama directed by R Balki did not do well at the box-office, it can be seen just for their acting. Incidentally Saiyami is the granddaughter of actress Usha Kiran.  Yami Gautam was good as the advocate representing the wrong-doers in OMG 2 and Pankaj Tripathi presenting his side of the case in the same film proved once again why he is such a rare performer. He lends dignity and gravitas to the sensitive topic of sex education which is what the film basically dealt with.

There were some noteworthy performances in several web-series. Sonakshi Sinha as the Dalit cop trying to uncover the face of the serial killer in the thriller Dahaad was brilliant. Wonder if she could have ever got a role like this in films. Sushmita Sen lived the role of the real-life transgender activist Shreegauri Sawant in Taali. The transgender had led an iconic battle for the inclusion of the third gender in every official document in India. No one else could have done that role with so much conviction.

Vijay Varma had a great year grabbing all the attention for playing the smooth-talking killer in Dahaad and an inspector in Jaane Jaan. Gulshan Devaiah also had a good outing with the second season of Duranga, a gripping psychological thriller series based on the Korean drama Flower of Evil, and in Guns & Gulaabs where he is effortless as a contract killer. Rajkummar Rao, Adarsh Gaurav and Dulquer Salman leave their mark in Guns & Gulaabs. It was one of the best web-series to come out in 2023. The other brilliant web-series was Jubilee and the entire cast comprising of Aparshakti Khurana, Wamiqa Gabbi, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Siddhant Gupta, Aditi Rao Hyadri, Ram Kapoor, Shweta Basu Prasad gave memorable performances.

Another noteworthy web-series was Kohraa. From the first scene when the corpse of an NRI groom is found in the fields to the end when the killer is revealed, the narrative was engaging. Both Suvinder Vicky as the inspector and Barun Sobti as his assistant were very good. They had to deal with their own personal battles apart from solving the murder and the story set in rural Punjab captured the atmosphere with authenticity. The Railway Men based on the lives of the railway workers who risk their lives to save the victims after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy is a web-series which caught the attention of viewers and actors Kay Kay Menon, Divyendu Sharma, R Madhavan and Babil Khan have given praiseworthy performances.

Aditya Roy Kapoor had a great year with a double role in the enjoyable Gumrah and as the night manager in the web-series titled The Night Manager. He showed his versatility in both the roles. Anil Kapoor was brilliant in a negative role in the same serial. Farzi had us rooting for Shahid Kapoor and Vijay Sethupathy who kept the proceedings engrossed with their acting.  Drashti Dhami as the cop in Duranga was remarkable.

At the end a word of praise for the entire cast of the OTT series Class (a remake of the Spanish show Elite) which had a talented bunch of newcomers giving a seasoned performance and bringing to life all the characters. The plot revolves around a hi-fi elite school in Delhi where three students from a poor background join bringing about a change in the mind-set of the entire class and a change in the dynamics of their interaction. The last episode has ended on a cliffhanger with a murder and season 2 is being awaited with bated breath.

2023 also had some really bad films competing for the worst film title- The much awaited mythological Adipurush was flop from the word go. The treatment of this epic drama starring Prabhas, Kriti Sanon and Saif Ali Khan, turned out to be so shoddy and indifferent that it hurt people’s sentiments and the backlash received ended up taking the makers to the court. When will Salman Khan learn that sheer nonsense like Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan has no takers? Maybe it is time he took a break to introspect and return with something new.

Bawaal is a film which should have never seen the daylight. Honestly not one thing about the film made an iota of sense and to have Janhvi Kapoor in today’s time playing such a doormat of a wife to a chauvinistic Varun Dhawan and to club the whole thing with the Auschwitz prison angle was a terrible idea. Zoya Akhtar with all the resources in hand bungled up big time to give us a frivolous and inexcusable take on the famous comic series The Archies, with the newcomers giving pathetic performances. They need to start afresh to erase this fiasco from public memory.

It was enjoyable to watch older actors leave their mark in the films they starred. While Sharmila Tagore in Gulmohur was a picture of elegance, the love triangle of Jaya Bhaduri, Shabana Azmi and Dharmendra kept us entertained in Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani.

As usual, cine-lovers look forward with enthusiasm knowing that 2024 will bring forth its own challenges with its new Friday releases and new web-series and a wide variety of stories waiting to be told…

[Note: All images are taken from internet]

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