Next year is the year of the monkey – the irrepressibly charming, adventurous, ambitious animal – and the Indian film industry may have taken the hint from Chinese astrology. Because Housefull 3 and Force 2 are releasing next year. There are also the big-ticket, big-budget films. Karan Johar goes behind the camera after four years to direct Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Farhan Akhtar’s erstwhile assistant Nitya Mehra is directing Katrina Kaif and Sidharth Malhotra in Baar Baar Dekho. And Shakun Batra’s Kapoor And Sons brings together Rishi Kapoor, Sidharth Malhotra and Fawad Khan. Everything sounds standard issue, Pali Hill meets Pucci. But, there’s more. Thrilling propositions The really good stuff could start early in the year. January kicks off on a high note with the Amitabh Bachchan-Farhan Akhtar psychological thriller, Wazir. “I’ve tried to do maximum justice to the story without compromising on my sensibilities and approach,” says director Bejoy Nambiar. He isn’t terribly worried about dimming his Shaitan-tinted indie glow with this high-profile film. Already grabbing eyeballs is Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur’s Airlift, inspired by the world’s biggest human evacuation during the Kuwait-Iraq war. According to Rucha Pathak, chief creative officer at Fox Star Studios, “the trends for 2016 are looking like a mix of films. People will want to see big movies, which will give them a bang for their buck. We will also see a growth in an audience that wants good content. I believe no matter what the size of the film, the script is going to be the driving force.” Pathak is looking forward to the biggies including Anurag Basu’s Jagga Jasoos, and the works of young directors – Shakun Batra, Shashank Khaitan (the Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania director’s next also stars Varun Dhawan), Maneesh Sharma (Fan) – and stars-turned-producers like Anushka Sharma. She’s also excited about Fox Star’s own productions: M S Dhoni – The Untold Story and Neerja. The former points to 2016’s big trend, homegrown sports dramas. Wrestle it out The bout is about to begin and it’s going to get dirty. On the heels of SRK’s Raees is Salman Khan’s big Diwali 2016 release, Sultan. It sees him play a Haryanvi wrestler and…hold your breath…a father, with reliably sexy Randeep Hooda playing his coach. To keep bhai company, is Aamir Khan’s Dangal, which will roll by the end of the year. Based on the life of wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat, it has Khan holed up in a village in Ludhiana, mentoring two female wrestlers. Pitted against these two dramas is Sudha Kongara Prasad’s Hindi-Tamil Saala Khadoos / Irudhi Suttru. It releases on January 29. Kongara is a Mani Ratnam protégé and the film, produced by its lead actor R Madhavan, is presented by Rajkumar Hirani, which means expectations are high. Madhavan, who plays a boxing coach, took lessons in the US to play the part and also had painful metal braces inserted inside his mouth to get the professional boxer’s lisp. The film was shot in the grittiest ghettos of Chennai, where Kongara, who Madhavan says “is more of a man than many men I know”, filmed amid unruly crowds and unpredictable situations with the ease of a natural-born tyrant. Love in the time of unrest Amid the dusty world of akhaadas and grand-period films (here’s crossing fingers that Ashutosh Gowariker’s Mohenjo Daro doesn’t take Bhansali-sized liberties with the content), there are a few romances to look forward to as well. Fitoor, Abhishek Kapoor’s adaptation of a Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, offers the stunning backdrop of Kashmir. It also has Tabu as the complex Miss Havisham, while Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Mirziya explores the tragic love story of Mirza-Sahiban in a contemporary Rajasthan setting. In the more familiar landscape of romcoms, R Balki brings an unusual Kapoor coupling – Kareena and Arjun – in what should be a breezy summer romance. There’s also Dinesh Vijan (Saif Ali Khan’s producing partner) directing a Sushant Singh Rajput and Kriti Sanon love story. It seems clearly more anticipated than the Tiger Shroff-Shraddha Kapoor rehash of Baaghi. Heading North… then West, and South Step aside Delhi, Punjab is taking over Bollywood. Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab sounds sensational on paper. With the Ishqiya man at the helm, it is unlikely that Alia Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor and Kareena will resort to hamming (one hopes). A thriller based on Punjab’s drug mafia, the story – written by NH10 writer Sudip Sharma – has been researched for over three years and should deliver in terms of originality. Gurvinder Singh’s Chauthi Koot (The Fourth Direction, which competed at the Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2015), is another stab at a realistic and gritty Punjab, this one set amidst the unrest of 1984. Marathi cinema looks like it’s in no mood to give up its golden run. On the heels of smash hit Katyar Kaljat Ghusli, another theatre classic heads to the screen in January with Nana Patekar in and as Natsamrat. Avinash Arun, who directed Killa, will be back in 2016 with Boomerang, another sepia-tinted ode to childhood memories. Fandry-maker Nagraj Manjule returns with Sairat, expected to release in the first quarter of the year. Sujay Dahake, who directed the easy-breezy Shala, will offer an exciting first – a Marathi sci-fi fantasy, Funtroo. Last but not least, Ravi Jadhav who’s come out with the most lavish historical films, goes arty with the provocatively titled Nude. South of the Vindhyas, Sethumadhavan Napan, founder and editor of MadAboutMoviez is looking forward to Tharai Thappattai (with music by Ilayaraja), Vetrimaaran’s Visaranai, Kamal Haasan’s next with TK Rajeev Kumar, Aadujeevitham (in which National Award-winning director Blessy teams up with actor Prithviraj), AR Murugadoss’s film with Mahesh Babu and Kunchirakkottu Kaali, a period extravaganza shot by Santosh Sivan. Meanwhile, there’s the 250 crore baap of all sequels. Baahubali – The Conclusion strides onto screens in December. For people like us Between the grimy badlands of Haryana, ghettos of Chennai and cobbled lanes of Vienna, there are rarely any takers for the everyday urban reality people like us confront day to day. In the wake of the huge success of The Lunchbox, the National Film Development Corporation’s (NFDC) annual Film Bazaar has thrown up another winner, Ruchika Oberoi’s Island City, which was screened at the Venice Film Festival in 2015 and strings together individual stories of isolation in Mumbai with black humour. “I think Ruchika is an exceptional writer with an ability to tell stories in a manner that grips you,” says Nina Lath Gupta, MD, NFDC. She says that storytelling is increasingly driving the box office in India today. “We live in a country that has such phenomenal diversity and it was only inevitable that the same would be reflected in our cinemas,” Gupta says. This has meant that Indian cinema-goers could watch a film like Qissa and The Lunchbox, they could ruminate over something like Miss Lovely and also a film like Fandry and appreciate them on their own terms and for being what Gupta calls “a little slice of India”. She believes that 2016 will be a year of change, perhaps even one of reckoning. “And it is increasingly gathering momentum. We see the difference in each edition of Film Bazaar.” At the multiplex, you’ll see it too. We can’t wait for the year to begin. Can you?
2015 Kashmir Despatch