Bollywood: New Century, New Horizons

When 2010 rolled in, the world went into overdrive discussing the highs and lows of the first decade of the 21st century. New faces of terror and severe economic recession did not paint a rosy picture. Yet, Bollywood demonstrated that the show must go on by ushering in a new era in the world of Hindi movies.


The dawn of a new century also brought new faces on the silver screen. And not just any new faces; these debutants went on to become the ‘faces of Bollywood.’ The year started with a bang as the man with the looks of a Greek God and moves to die for, danced his way into a million hearts. Yes, it was in this year that Hrithik Roshan crooned “Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai” to Ameesha Patel. But the list did not stop there. Abhishek Bachchan and Kareena Kapoor made their presence felt in “Refugee”, a bitter sweet love story set against the backdrop of Indo-Pak hostilities, and a new generation emerged from the folds of Bollywood royalty, the Bachchans and The Kapoors.


Reinvention was the buzzword this year as two hitherto unappreciated directors and one new kid on the block came into the limelight. If Madhur Bhandarkar’s “Chandni Bar” left a viewer with a numbing sense of despair for the protagonist, Ashutosh Gowariker’s “Lagaan” was a vision of cinematic excellence, celebrating the triumph of good over bad. And who can forget the charismatic trio of Akash, Sid and Uncle Sam in Farhan Akhtar’s groundbreaking debut “Dil Chahta Hai”, a movie which redefined reel life portrayal of the urban youth. This unique story of the coming of age of three friends went on to become a cult classic.


While not an outstanding year in terms of defining films, this year nevertheless had its moments of brilliance. Mr. & Mrs. Iyer was one such gem exploring the bond that developed between two unlikely individuals in the face of communal riots. Konkona Sen Sharma, as an orthodox Tamil Brahmin housewife who, despite her initial prejudices towards her Muslim co-traveler, gets attracted to Rahul Bose’s character, proved her mettle with finesse. This year also saw more than one film being made on Bhagat Singh. One that stood out was Rajkumar Santoshi’s “The Legend of Bhagat Singh,” in which Ajay Devgan brilliantly brought to life the legendary freedom fighter of India. Another film that finds mention is Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Devdas”. Shahrukh Khan as the doomed alcoholic lover and Aishwarya Rai as the object of his affection gave solid performances, but it was Madhuri Dixit, portraying the courtesan with a heart of gold, who stole the show.


Maamu, there was simply no arguments about who ruled the box office and the audience this year. Sanjay Dutt, as the street thug with a conscience, won our hearts with his goofy grins and ‘jadoo ki jhappis” in “Munnabhai M.B.B.S”. But it was Arshad Warsi who proved to be the surprise package as Circuit, the ever faithful sidekick. Another jadoo had also entered our hearts when Hrithik Roshan befriended the cute blue alien in “Koi Mil Gaya”. And finally, Bollywood came out of the closet with gay jokes and innuendos forming the USP of the blockbuster hit “Kal Ho Na Ho”.


It was Khan all the way. While Shahrukh Khan appeared in a variety of roles ranging from the masala film “Main Hoon Na” to the tearjerker “Veer Zaara” to the socially relevant “Swades”, fellow actor Saif Ali Khan finally shot into the big leagues. Though he had had a string of hits earlier in multi-starrer films, it was “Hum Tum” that became his first box office hit as the solo male lead. The first half of the 21st century proved to be a new innings for him on the career fron, and he became a part of the crème de la crème of Bollywood.


Abhishek Bachchan hit box office gold with con capers, giving us two similar yet diverse performances— the suave Roy in Bluffmaster and the street smart con artist Bunty in “Bunty Au Babli”. Some topics hitherto considered too ‘bold’ for Bollywood were explored such as homosexuality and AIDS in the critically acclaimed “My Brother Nikhil”, live-in relationships in “Salaam Namaste” and the dark secrets behind the glossy pages of “Page 3.” Shreyas Talpade in “Iqbal” and Vidya Balan in “Parineeta” were two debutants who made a resounding impact with their debut films. While there were quite a few good films to grace the theaters this year, one movie that sadly went unnoticed by many was “Pyaar Mein Twist”. The ever dashing Rishi Kapoor and the eternally beautiful Dimple Kapadia reunited after many years to bring to us a sweet love story of two middle-aged single parents and the two veteran actors lit up the screens with their chemistry.


This year was unique in that we saw some films which outgrew the silver screen and permeated into our lives. Aamir Khan came back with a bang after a long hiatus with “Rang De Basanti”. This film was a unique take on the ideologies of Bhagat Singh (again!) from the viewpoint of urban youth. This film had a significant social impact; the youth in particular were inspired to raise their voices against government apathy and injustice. Munnabhai and Circuit also made a comeback with Gandhiji in tow, for a second innings in “Lage Raho Munnabhai,”introducing us to the concept of Gandhigiri. The unlikely pairing of Rahul Bose and Mallika Sherawat in “Pyar Ke Side Effects” became a part of pop culture for its tongue-in-cheek take on the issues plaguing modern relationships.


2007 is hard to fit into any one slot because of the variety of films that were released that year. Hockey received a shot in the arm with Chak De! India, which incidentally also brought to light the sorry state of sports other than cricket in India. As the disgraced former hockey player who coached the women’s team to a World Cup victory, Shahrukh Khan gave one of his finest performances. Aamir Khan came up with another great offering in “Taare Zameen Par,” where he played second fiddle to a young Darsheel Safary, who portrayed a dyslexic little boy. This movie was critically acclaimed both for its sensitive handling of the topic of dyslexia as well as for the performances. Apart from these, we also saw some breezy comedies like “Namastey London” and “Jab We Met”. The latter broke new grounds for both Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor, though their personal relationship went for a toss. Kareena, in particular, gave one of her finest performances in this film.


The newest member to enter the film industry from the Kapoor family, son of Rishi and Neetu Kapoor, had made his debut with “Saawariya” the previous year. But it was in 2008 that he made his mark with “Bachna Ae Haseeno” as the carefree Casanova who is conquered by true love. This was again a year of fresh faces as Imran Khan, nephew of Aamir Khan, appeared on screen with Genelia D’Souza in “Jaane Tu.. Ya Jaane Na”. While Genelia had acted in movies earlier, it was this sweet college love story that brought her commercial success and acclaim. Farhan Akhtar began a new innings as an actor and singer as he debuted in “Rock On” and showed us that he is as good in front of the camera as he is behind it.


In spite of a strike which saw hardly any movies releasing in the first few months, this turned out to be a very good year for Bollywood. New kid on the block, Ranbir Kapoor, delivered back to back hits with “Wake Up Sid” and “Ajab Prem Ki Ghajab Kahani” while Abhay Deol and Shahid Kapoor were hailed for their performances in “Dev D” and “Kaminey” respectively. But the icing on the cake came in December as Aamir Khan, Madhavan and Sharman Joshi got the whole nation singing “Aal izz well” to “3 Idiots”. The film broke box office records and within a few months gained unprecedented popularity.

One may feel that many blockbusters of these ten years have missed a mention on these pages. It is true that movie enthusiasts were spoiled for choice by the rich offerings of this past decade. While it is impossible to list down all of these, each nevertheless was a laudatory effort and deservingly won hearts of audiences everywhere. This is my tribute to our film industry: Salaam Bollywood!


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