I love films. So much so that every once in a while, I’ll waste my hard-earned money on Bollywood films, popcorn et al. But there comes a time when you consciously make a shift and decide not to go to the theatres to watch the same regurgitated bile with sexual predators in the form of directors asking the audience to “leave their brains at home”. The very fact that Article 15—one of the only decent films to come out of India this year (fight me!)—went almost unnoticed upon its release should speak volumes. Article 15 of course found its rightful audience on Netflix, but so have several other terrible films. Dang, we didn’t even get the designated annual film by Aamir Khan with a social message this year.
What we did, however, get this year were endless debates on whether Kabir Singh was a problematic film. Yeah, a movie that glorified stalking, possessiveness and gaslighting from Bollywood’s chocolate boy Shahid Kapoor wasn’t problematic at all now, was it? This is the year when Bollywood pretended the hardest about giving a damn about righting its wrongs but after watching most of the films I’ll be highlighting in this piece, I have concluded one thing: Kartik Aaryan has a very punchable face. But that’s a story for a different time. So 2019 was the year I vowed to never go to the cinemas again to watch Bollywood films, and wait for Film Companion to tell me what they thought about it.
But maybe, just maybe, I am too harsh on Bollywood films. So I’m going to give the industry the benefit of the doubt and prove otherwise. So let’s take a look at the various important topics in society Bollywood filmmakers highlighted through their films:
At a time when the nation is still shook from the Hyderabad rape and murder case and the killing of her alleged assailants, we have pathbreaking films like Kabir Singh , Luka Chuppi and Pati, Patni Aur Woh. Movies in which we are told it’s okay to glare at women, because they want it so bad. In fact they have a penchant to be diagnosed with Stockholm syndrome, and they’ll even love your cheating straight ass for being vulnerable about it.
Kabir Singh and its predecessor Arjun Reddy are still being hotly debated with directors and actors falling on either side of the argument. The latest to comment on the film is Rani Mukerji. Right in time for the release of Mardaani 2, eh Rani?
Now here’s a topic that’s really close to my heart. It was amazing to see that after more than a year of gay sex being legalised, we got a total of one film about queer characters in 2019. You know, as it should be. It’s obvious that they can only make one queer film out of a 100 films because that’s the gay-to-straight ratio out there in the real world as well. While regional films and independent filmmakers have been giving us bold films like Ka Bodyscapes and Evening Shadows since the past couple of years, the mainstream hasn’t given us anything that highlights the plight of queer people. Because, of course, men can’t love men. Men are supposed to creep out women as mentioned earlier.
However, we did get Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, starring A-listers like Anil Kapoor, his real-life daughter Sonam Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao. While some believe the film is a great leap forward for Bollywood, others are skeptical about how the sappy Bollywood tone made its way into this film as well. All in all, it’s a great effort and should be lauded, but my only hope is that they don’t commercialise homosexuality and resort to tokenism.
When you look outside your window these days, you’ll notice how the youth of India is really pressed. Unemployment is at an all-time high and students, from JNU to Guwahati, are protesting against the machine. But not in Bollywood, no good sir, not at all. The youth in Hindi films have different issues, like winning a triathlon-cum-dance contest or balancing romance with two humans at the same time. You know what they say, films are where the young folks go to get inspired. I don't know who says that but I am sure they do. Because why else would we have a 29 year-old Tiger Shroff presented as a college student? Student of the Year 2 managed to be the lowest rated big budget Bollywood film of this year, but it’s no biggie for Tiger, really.
Another known fact that everyone in India is clearly aware of is that all our young people are from Delhi. That’s why they all talk like Kartik Aaryan from the very beloved Sonu ke Tittu ki Potty (I tried). When I wrote earlier that we only got one LGBTQ-themed film, maybe I was wrong, because Sony and Tittu in this film are exceptionally close to each other, to a point where you start thinking if Karan Johar was called in to direct a few scenes (because he loves beating around the bush about the whole gay agenda, my favourite thing about his mediocre films to be honest). You know how your youth is all about friendship. And you know who has the best friendships? Boys. And you know who loves to destroy the friendship between boys with their conniving ways? You guessed it: Women! Hey, maybe there’s a pattern here.
In 2019, we got got not one, but two movies that were released around the same time and dealt with male pattern baldness, Bala and Ujda Chaman. Obviously because it’s the biggest issue plaguing the country. Ujda Chaman even came under the radar for straight-up lifting up jokes from fellow comedian Vinay Sharma’s set. You know what’s hilarious, amidst all of this? Vinay is the only artist who’s actually bald.
When they aren’t battling the stigma against bald people, Bollywood filmmakers are busy casting fair-skinned actors to play dark-skinned roles. Screw you, Fair & Lovely, because Bhumi Pednekar is here to single-handedly end racism and hate against dark-skinned people. Hey, but she justified it, so I guess that’s okay? Is Bhumi Pednekar cancelled yet? I can’t quite keep up. We witnessed the same brown-face phenomenon in Super 30, too. But brown face or black face is an age-old tradition in films. It’s “art”, after all. Anything goes. Remember when Madhur Bhandarkar did the same thing in Traffic Signal? Poor people and South Indians = dark skin. You best be believing that.
Science and India are best buddies. By that I mean friends who went to school together and then science got left by the wayside and India became friends with Yogis. Yet people took some time out from sipping on cow urine cocktails to look up in the sky as the Mangalyaan made its effective ascend. In Mission Mangal, we meet the brilliant female scientists who worked at ISRO to make the launch a successful one. And there’s no surprises here that they owe it all to 2024 Prime Ministerial candidate Akshay Kumar, who is now one movie away from becoming an inspiring Hallmark card.
So there, you have it. All in all, I think we have had a great year of garbage films and I can’t wait for them to churn some more of it out, so we can throw all our money at them.
Here’s wishing a great 2020 to everyone in Bollywood, except you Kartik Aaryan.
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This article originally appeared on VICE IN.