2016 was a masala potboiler of film genres that struck a chord with the audiences. As the industry continues to drive and present different stories, the year saw some fantastic films come out that created memorable characters and unique storylines. From contemporary love stories to social issues affecting audiences to the masala entertainers that still punched a message, 2016 had a gamut of films giving the movie-goer ample choice. It was a hard selection to make for BizAsiaLive.com’s 2016 best films but after much deliberation we have managed to whittle these down to the top five films, in no particular order.
‘Kapoor & Sons’
A Karan Johar production, ‘Kapoor & Sons’ revolved around two estranged brothers played by Sidharth Malhotra and Fawad Khan, who come back home after their grandfather suffers a heart attack. The story follows the family trials and tribulations they face, including a love interest played by Alia Bhatt. It broke many stereotypes through its addressing of homosexuality in a sensitive manner and looking at a modern age Indian dysfunctional family. Khan was lauded for his portrayal of a gay character but it was Rishi Kapoor’s scene stealer performance as Dadu that caught the audience’s love and imagination. The film was seen as a progressive look and gave Bollywood both a critically acclaimed film and a box-office success.
Akshay Kumar played the lead role in this loosely based true story of how Indians were evacuated from Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion in 1990, which also starred Nimrat Kaur. ‘Airlift’ showcased a story that many Indians weren’t even aware of until director Raja Krishna Menon brought it to celluloid. Kumar and Kaur received critical acclaim for their portrayal of an Indian couple attempting to flee Kuwait whilst also rescuing other Indian people in the same plight. The film released in early January and was one of the industry’s first hits of the year. Audiences responded to the engaging storyline and heroic efforts of the leads with the film earning a special place in people’s hearts.
As well as being perhaps the most controversial release of 2016, ‘Udta Punjab’ was a ground breaker in terms of its hard hitting story and how it was portrayed onscreen. Boasting a stellar cast of Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Diljit Dosanjh and Alia Bhatt, the plot revolved around the drugs problem in Punjab and how it affected the lives of these four characters. From Kapoor’s show stopping performance as a rockstar to Bhatt’s heart breaking story of a girl caught up in the sale of drugs, the film was a pioneer in using story-telling to highlight and address the new sleuth of problems faced by the country’s youth. The movie’s release was also a hotly debated factor with the full film industry standing against the Censor Board due to the number of cuts the Board proposed. It was finally released with minor cuts but was leaked online ahead of release. However this did not stem the business and appreciation the film received from all quarters, making this into an instant cult classic.
What would a top five be without a Salman Khan film featuring in it! We are used to seeing Khan breaking the box office and 2016 was no different. ‘Sultan’ showcased Khan playing the title character of Sultan Ali Khan and his journey to becoming an Olympic wrestler to win the heart of his lady love, played by Anushka Sharma. The film goes on to follow how life circumstances break down Sultan and how he comes fighting back. In this Ali Abbas Zafar directed film, Khan and Sharma delivered knock-out performances, with many citing this as Khan’s career best and audiences loving the fresh pairing of the two leads. The music was loved by all including the chart toppers ‘Jag Ghoomeya’ and ‘Baby Ko Bass Pasand Hai’ and the audience took the characters, Sultan and Aarfa, to their hearts. It went onto gross over 50 crore rupees worldwide and joined the list of highest grossing Indian films.
Aside from a voice-over role in ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ (2015), the last time the audience saw Aamir Khan onscreen was in Rajkumar Hirani’s ‘PK’ in 2014. However the hiatus didn’t do anything to his star power as the supremely talented actor is back with a bang and one notes just how much he has been missed on screen. ‘Dangal’ follows the true story of a former champion wrestler – Mahavir Singh Phogat – whose dream is for his son to achieve what he couldn’t; a gold medal in wrestling for his country. However the acclaimed wrestler goes onto have four daughters but soon realises his dream can still be fulfilled. The film follows how the father trains his eldest two daughters Geeta and Babita, played by debutants Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra, to become professional wrestlers and their journey to achieve their father’s dream. ‘Dangal’ looks at various social issues including women empowerment and father-daughter relationships in an extremely engaging manner. To say this is Khan’s best performance to date is an understatement. He excels his own standard that he set for acting and the immense appreciation and box office success the film has already achieved in a short few days since its release shows this is another Khan film that has raised the bar once again.
Due to the plethora of choice from this year’s cinematic experiences, we found it difficult to choose just five films. Alongside many others including ‘Madaari’, ‘Kahaani 2; Durga Rani Singh’ and ‘Parched’ which have all been acclaimed films, BizAsiaLive.com believe the following are also worthy of a special mention.
Gauri Shinde’s ‘Dear Zindagi’ was awaited with bated breath and it definitely delivered. With the surprise casting of Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt, this slice-of-life film won over audiences as it focussed on the importance of mental health in a sensitive and touching manner. Bhatt delivered her third noteworthy performance of the year (alongside ‘Kapoor and Sons’ and ‘Udta Punjab’) and is vying for the top actress awards for 2016. For Khan it was the film he needed to once again showcase his talent and the special place he holds in the audience’s hearts with his portrayal of Dr. Jehangir Khan, counsellor to Bhatt’s troubled character of a young woman defining life on her terms. In ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ (1995) Khan won over the audience as the boy that every girl wanted. In ‘Dear Zindagi’ he showcased his everlasting appeal as the man that every woman needed.
Sonam Kapoor was perhaps one of the surprise packages of the year with her heart-warming performance in ‘Neerja’, the true story of an air hostess who gave her life after thwarting the attempts of a plane hijack. Kapoor, who was steadily increasing her screen presence, delivered an outstanding performance and made the industry, and audiences, stand up to see her talent as an actress. The poignant story highlighted Neerja’s bravery to a new audience who were once again inspired by the brave acts of the young air hostess.
Finally, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s ‘Pink’ is by no means the last on the list. This Amitabh Bachchan starrer focussed on the social issues of women empowerment in India, bringing back memories of India’s dark point of the 2012 gang rape of Nirbhaya. The powerful court room drama brought home once again the issue of prejudice and injustice women face all over, after 3 girls take their complaints to the police. Bachchan’s powerful performance as the lawyer who defends the girls in court made this a film that needed to be seen.
There’s BizAsiaLive.com’s top five films for the year with special mentions. Here’s looking forward to a whole new host of movies coming in 2017.