5 key highlights of Bollywood in 2018
From the digital revolution to #MeToo movement, here's a rundown of key events that shaped Bollywood in 2018
Bollywood’s learning curve rose, fell and seemed to flip on itself in 2018. It was a year swamped by violent protests, glitzy weddings, offbeat hits and a long overdue moral reckoning in the form of the #MeToo movement. On the big screen, flashpoints belonged to precocious young stars like Ayushmann Khurrana and Vicky Kaushal who sensed a shift in audience perception and delivered towards those ends. It was also a year of mammoth digital players outstripping their theatrical counterparts and forever altering how we platform and consume content. As we draw the curtains on a memorable (albeit rocky) cinematic year, here’s a quick rundown of key events that shaped Bollywood in 2018.
The Padmaavat controversy
The year began with Rajput fringe group Karni Sena raising hell over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat. The big-budget film was accused of distorting history and insulting the legacy of Rani Padmavati — a 13th century Rajput queen and the subject of Muhammed Jayasi’ epic poem Padmavat, on which the film was based. Protesters resorted to making violent threats on National television and a bounty went out on Deepika Padukone’s nose. As a result, the makers were compelled to accommodate a fresh set of modifications (which included a title change and the digital veiling of an actor’s midriff) despite receiving an initial clearance from the CBFC.
Padmaavat exposed the precarious plight of freedom of expression in India and reinvigorated discussions on the status of cinema as a mass medium.
The Netflix bloom
Directed by Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap, Sacred Games — India’s first homegrown Netflix Original series — signalled the arrival of the OTT revolution in India. Adapted from Vikram Chandra’s eponymous 2006 novel, the 8-episode crime drama starred Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte. Blending an epic historical backdrop with compelling pre-apocalyptic suspense, Sacred Games achieved almost unanimous acclaim upon release. (Its guns-and-politics formula was eventually replicated by competing platforms in their flagship shows: such as Amazon Prime Video’s Mirzapur and ZEE5’s Rangbaaz.) However, despite the popular success, Sacred Games drew political scorn over an indiscreet reference to Rajiv Gandhi and a PIL was filed in Bombay High Court seeking government regulations on digital content.
Other Netflix India original titles to release in 2018 were the films Love Per Square Foot, Lust Stories and Rajma Chawal, and the shows Ghoul and Selection Day. The second season of Sacred Games has already entered production and will be available for streaming around summer 2019. Netflix recently green-lit 9 new original films in India. It’s TV slate includes the Emraan Hashmi-starrer show Bard of Blood, the dystopic thriller Leila and an adaptation of Midnight’s Children overseen by Vishal Bhardwaj.
The #MeToo Movement
#MeToo picked up pace in Bollywood when Tanushree Dutta accused veteran actor Nana Patekar of sexually harassing her on the sets of the 2008 film Horn Ok Please. This was followed by the outing of several industry figures as alleged harassers or offenders — including directors Vikas Bahl, Sajid Khan and Subhas Ghai, actors Alok Nath and Rajat Kapoor, musicians Anu Malik and Kailash Kher and producers Gaurang Doshi and Karim Morani.
The response to the movement from within the industry remained varied: A-listers like Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan refused to comment on individual cases, while others forwarded their support to the victims speaking up. #MeToo impacted a long list of upcoming projects in various stages of production. Nana Patekar and Sajid Khan were dropped from Housefull 4 and were replaced by Rana Daggubati and Housefull 3 director Farhad Samji respectively. Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao pulled out of the Gulshan Kumar biopic Mogul, which was earlier slated to be directed by rape-accused Subhash Kapoor. However, Vikas Bahl’s upcoming film Super 30 — starring Hrithik Roshan as mathematician Anand Kumar — is headed for release on January 25.
Mid-budget films score big
Mid-budget films headlined by a younger generation of stars and propelled by fresh concepts reaped unprecedented box-office success in 2018. Luv Ranjan’s Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety starring Sunny Singh, Nushrat Bharucha and Kartik Aaryan entered the 100-crore club despite mixed reviews. Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi — a 1971-set espionage thriller with Alia Bhatt as the lead — grossed more than Rs. 120 core in India. Amar Kaushik’s Stree, starring Rajkummar Rao, Shraddha Kapoor and Pankaj Tripathi, raked in almost Rs. 125 crore while Ayushmann Khurrana threw a one-two punch with Sriram Raghavan’s AndhaDhun (Rs. 64 crores) and Amit Sharma’s Badhaai Ho (Rs. 135 crores).
The Fall of the Khans
While smaller films held sway in 2018, big-budget tent-pole releases riding solely on the star-power of its leading men took a heavy beating. Remo D’Souza’s Race 3 starring Salman Khan was severely panned by critics and trolled on social media — although the film managed to recover its budget with a collection of Rs. 166 crore. Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Thugs of Hindostan — touted as the costliest Yash Raj Films production ever (Rs. 335 crore) — tanked almost instantly with collections falling from Rs. 52 crore on Day 1 to Rs. 23 crore on Day 3. The film’s total collection stands at Rs. 151 crore in India.
On December 21, Aanand L. Rai’s Zero starring Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma and Katrina Kaif was released to mixed reviews. Billed as the most expensive film of Shah Rukh Khan’s career (Rs. 200 crore), Zero has managed to recover only Rs. 81 crore so far (Day 5) despite a pre-Christmas release. The collective failure of these three films has been dubbed as the end of the Khan-era in Bollywood.