It has often been said in Bollywood that content is king. It was the year of 2017 however, that proved that truly, it is. Audiences this year made smart choices at the ticket windows, rejecting the films backed by big superstars, to invest time and money in films with a smaller budget, but a strong message to convey.
Last year was also definitely a reality check that Bollywood needed. Big budget potential blockbusters such as Tubelight tanked at the box office and received scathing reviews across the board. Instead, the audiences chose to watch content heavy films such as a Shubh Mangal Saavdhan or a Bareilly Ki Barfi. It’s high time Bollywood stops taking the audiences for granted as 2017 proved that films which are all gloss and no substance will be rejected by audiences. Then again, films such as the excruciatingly painful Judwaa 2 or the singularly stupid fourth installment of the Golmaal franchise did receive a warm welcome from audiences.
Alas, some things never change. Here’s analyzing the 5 best and worst films of 2017, according to critic reviews and box office numbers…
THE HALL OF FAME
5) Bareilly Ki Barfi
Director: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
Bareilly Ki Barfi was one of the sweetest films this year. It was a film that was both engaging and supremely entertaining. It features Kriti Sanon, Ayushmann Khurrana and Rajkummar Rao in lead roles, with Rao giving a pitch-perfect performance as Pritam Vidrohi, a shy saree salesman, who must become a ‘Badass Babua’ to help a friend. The dialogue, by Nitesh Tiwari, is the stuff of pure gold. The direction is spot on, with many laugh out loud moments and with a taut screenplay, Tiwari ensures that the audience never gets bored. With a phenomenal supporting cast comprising of the excellent Pankaj Tripathy and the hilarious Seema Pahwa, Bareilly Ki Barfi was lauded by critics and cine-goers alike. Logistically speaking, Bareilly Ki Barfi, made on a budget of 20 crores, earned a whopping 34 crores at the box office, becoming the first content heavy film to mint this much money at the box office this year.
4) Shubh Mangal Saavdhan
Director: R.S Prasanna
Shubh Mangal Saavdhan is the tale of Mudit and Sugandha, a young couple in love, whose love for each other is tested by the main antagonist of the film, Mudit’s ‘gent’s problem’. Erectile dysfunction played a pivotal role in this brilliantly written film, comprising of terrific performances by Ayushmann Khurrana, Bhumi Pednekar, Seema Pahwa, Brijendra Kala and Neeraj Soodh. The film was described by producer Aanand L. Rai as ‘India’s first family sex comedy’. I totally agree! There is never a single vulgar or crass joke made throughout the film, and the subject is dealt with tongue and cheek dialogue, never bordering on the territory of the Kya Kool Hai Hum’s of the world. Business wise, the film, made on a budget of 25 crores, made close to 42 crores at the Indian box office. Truly one of the biggest surprises this year. Strongly recommended!
3) Tumhari Sulu
Director: Suresh Triveni
Vidya Balan might have had a dry spell at the movies with back to back flops and a terrible Begum Jaan this year, but she bounced back and how! With Tumhari Sulu, she imbued energy and emotion to one of the best female characters written this year. Coupled with a splendid Manav Kaul and a surprisingly brilliant performance by Neha Dhupia, Tumhari Sulu was the feel-good film of the year. Sulu, although a simple housewife, has big dreams, and when she gets a chance to audition for the post of a radio jockey, she jumps at it. The challenges and tribulations she faces in her personal life are what Tumhari Sulu is all about. Debutant director Suresh Triveni masterfully tells Sulu’s story with layers of emotion and an inherent optimism that stays with you for days. At the box office, Tumhari Sulu, made at a budget of 20 crores, minted 32 crores, becoming a profitable venture for the makers and putting Vidya Balan back on the map!
2) Lipstick Under My Burkha
Director: Alankrita Shrivastava
Lipstick Under My Burkha is probably the year’s most relevant and intriguing films. The film, which was in constant battle with the censor board in India (yes, Pahlaj Nihalani, I’m talking to you), finally emerged victorious, and after doing its festival rounds saw the light of day in cinemas. The film is a roller coaster ride from start to finish. It tells the story of four women through the eyes of Rosie, who is a fictional character from one of the erotic books read by Buaji, played superbly by the ever so talented, Ratna Pathak Shah, certainly the best performance by a woman this year in film. She is supported by a luminous Konkona Sen Sharma and debutants Plabita Borthakur and Aahana Kumra, both brilliant in their roles. This film is definitely one to be watched. After much publicity, thanks to Pahlaj uncle, Lipstick Under My Burkha, made on a budget of 7 crores, managed to gross close to 16 crores at the box office and received great reviews from critics across the board.
1) A Death in the Gunj
Director: Konkona Sen Sharma
This is going to be a tough one. A Death in the Gunj is probably a film that many mainstream filmy keeda’s would know of, but it’s an experience one should not miss. Although the film did not do well at the box office, it is definitely my favourite film this year. Debutante director Konkona Sen creates a world set in McCluskiegunj in 1979. The film revolves around a family trip that eventually ends with tragedy. Boasting of a powerful star cast such as Kalki Koechlin, Ranvir Shorey, Tillotama Shome, Jim Sarbh, Gulshan Deviah, Tanuja and the late Om Puri, the film deals with the themes of love, lust, masculinity, and friendship with aplomb. But the scene stealer, in this case, is a phenomenal performance by the films leading man Vikrant Massey as Shutu. This is a performance that will stay with you for days. I do not remember the last time I thought a film was perfect- but A Death in the Gunj proves that masterful storytelling also exists in Bollywood. At times like these, audiences must reject the rubbish and welcome with open hands the change. Unfortunately, ADITG only managed to make close to 1 crore at the box office.
Apart from these, here are the other films I enjoyed this year, which include: Haraamkhor, Jolly LLB2, Rangoon, Trapped, Anarkali of Aarah, Meri Pyaari Bindu, Simran, Newton, Secret Superstar, Ittefaq, and Fukrey Returns.
THE HALL OF LAME
5) Begum Jaan
Director: Srijit Mukherji
What can I say about this one? Begum Jaan was possibly the year’s most excruciatingly painful film to sit through. Even though it has a powerhouse of talent Vidya Balan heading the ensemble, the film was just a whole bunch of yelling, screaming, abuses and loud shrieks. I genuinely had to cover my ears multiple times to avoid getting a hearing disorder. Despite a winning performance by Balan and Gauahar Khan, the film was tiring and boring to sit through. Thankfully, the audiences made a smart choice and decided to avoid this train wreck of a film. Begum Jaan, made at a budget of 19 crores made close to 20 crores at the box office.
4) Jagga Jasoos
Director: Anurag Basu
A missing father, a son with a speech impediment, an annoying journalist and a quest to find the said father. Coupled with VFX, animation, 29 songs and many animals- you have a 3-hour long misfire, Jagga Jasoos. This could have been so much more. The team that gave us one of my favorite films this decade 5 years ago in Barfi returned to make this. Although Ranbir Kapoor is such a fine actor, he just cannot make sense of the incoherent screenplay, limp storyline and the dialogue (or the lack of it). The musical-fantasy-romantic-comedy-family film tries to achieve too much and ends up achieving nothing. The lead heroine, Katrina Kaif is as expressionless as a gravestone, and cannot match up to Kapoor’s great histrionics. Jagga Jasoos, made on a budget of a whopping 131 crores only managed to collect close to 52 crores at the Indian box office.
3) Judwaa 2
Director: David Dhawan
I was shocked when I watched this movie. Thankfully, I watched it at home on DVD rather than the theatre. I had the privilege of skipping multiple action scenes, pointless melodrama, and the unfunny Whatsapp jokes that kept appearing out of nowhere. David Dhawan had the great idea to remake his own 1997 film Judwaa and to replace Salman Khan with his son, Varun Dhawan. Is Karan Johar really the true ‘flagbearer of nepotism’ after Papa Dhawan has made two films for his son, who plays the same happy go lucky, agile character in every single movie? Words cannot adequately describe how painfully sexist, misogynistic and flat out ridiculous this movie is. And yet, the sad part is that this movie was watched. A lot of people watched it. Trust me, a lot. Logistically speaking, Judwaa 2, made at a budget of 65 crores, made close to 140 crores at the Indian box office.
Director: Dinesh Vijan
Reincarnation films have always been something that Bollywood likes to experiment with. Sometimes, it weaves magic on screen, just like Om Shanti Om did a decade ago. But sometimes, Raabta happens. Here, we have Sushant Singh Rajput, Kriti Sanon, Jim Sarbh and poor Rajkummar Rao wasting their talent, playing characters that I am sure they themselves could not build coherence out of. Debutante director Dinesh Vijan tries his best to make a smart love story, but Raabta ends up being foolish and flat-out tedious. The modern-day love story was bad enough when Vijan brings about a story set many centuries ago, full of strange looking tribal men. This is a film that no one should watch, ever. Even poor Deepika Padukone is reduced to doing an item song which is a bad rehash of the original ‘Raabta’ song from Agent Vinod. The film, made on a budget of 47 crores, made close to 20 crores at the Indian box office. Thankfully, the audience rejected this disaster of a film. No one missed anything.
1) Half Girlfriend
Director: Mohit Suri
I was skeptical about this one the moment it was announced with Arjun Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor in lead roles. These two are the most expressionless, monotonous and bad actors Bollywood has to offer. Their dialogue delivery is as bland as a saltless diet- and it is absolutely painful to see one on screen. Thanks, Mohit Suri, for making us see both together for every single frame of this movie. I fail to understand how easily girl and boy can climb onto India Gate whenever they feel sad, lonely or simply want to check out the view. Despite great music, this film was full of Bollywood clichés and ridiculous storytelling, by acclaimed novelist Chetan Bhagat, whose book this film is actually based on. Why one would adopt an already pathetic book is honestly beyond me. The film, made on a budget of 50 crores, made close to 52 crores at the box office in India. How? I fail to understand. Clearly the worst film of 2017!
Some dishonorable mentions include: OK Jaanu, Machine, Phillauri, Sarkar 3, Tubelight, Guest In London, Munna Michael, Mubarakan, A Gentleman, Baadshaho, Haseena Parkar, Golmaal Again, Tera Intezaar and Firangi.