Illustration by Soham Sen/ThePrint
Illustration by Soham Sen/ThePrint
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Will there be a realignment in the politics of Bollywood if there is a regime change?

Jahan se tum mujhe laye ho main wahan wapis nahin jana chahti

Jahan bhi leja rahe jo wahan pahunchna nahin chahti

Par yeh rasta bahut achha hai

Main chahti hoon yeh raasta kabhi Khatami nahin ho.

Veera Tripathi of Imtiaz Ali’s 2014 road movie, Highway, played by Alia Bhatt, may well be speaking of her own journey. From the stylish but shallow Sharanya of Student of the Year in 2012, her debut film, to her slate this year, she has come a long way. And in a year that looks like it will belong to women, yet again, she seems the star who will shine brightest.

It’s not just because the 25-year-old has the most number of movies of the major actresses—three—but also because of their depth and diversity. After her striking turn as Sehmat, the spy in 2018’s Raazi, she will be playing a Muslim rapper from the streets of Mumbai in Gully Boy, Zoya Akhtar’s reportedly gritty film that has been selected for a special screening at the Berlin Film Festival. In Kalank, she will play a courtesan in waiting taking lessons in ada, andaz and dance from Madhuri Dixit; in Brahmastra, she is the love interest of the superhero played by real life boyfriend Ranbir Kapoor in a pairing that is likely to give romance goals to much of the country in 2019 (as if three celebrity weddings in 2018 were not enough).

In Sadak 2, a March 2020 release, she acts for the first time ever in a movie directed by her father Mahesh Bhatt and starring her stepsister Pooja Bhatt, and again in a 2020 release, she will play Dara Shikoh’s wife Nadira Banu Begum, in Karan Johar’s Mughal drama Takht.

Also read: Bollywood means nothing in this Karnataka village, but Alia Bhatt is a star

2019 is the year when the female gaze will focus itself more sharply on a variety of issues, whether it is through Sonam Kapoor’s essaying of a woman in love with another woman in Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga directed by Shelly Chopra Dhar, sister of Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Kangana Ranaut taking the reins behind and on the screen in Manikarnika; and Taapsee Pannu giving us yet another fiery and feisty character in a courtroom drama Badla, directed by Sujoy Ghosh and opposite Amitabh Bachchan.

It’s a year in which Deepika Padukone will return to studios in Meghana Gulzar’s biopic of acid attack survivor Laxmi SAA, replenished, married, and in her own words, nurtured. It’s a year in which female directors like Zoya Akhtar will also show us their chops as producer with the wedding planner drama Made in heaven for Amazon Prime, which has episodes directed by an all-star female cast—Alankrita Shrivastava (Lipstick Under my Burkha), Nitya Mehra (Baar Baar Dekho) and Reema Kagti (Gold).

Alia’s journey as an actor is interesting because she has learnt from a young age how to balance commerce and art. Attached to Dharma Productions, she has Karan Johar to help her negotiate the industry, while being Mahesh Bhatt’s daughter gives a natural advantage in sharing the DNA of one of Bollywood’s most emotionally evolved people. She has excelled in movies that demand her attention—Highway, Udta Punjab and Dear Zindagi—and there is little doubt that she will continue to collaborate with directors and producers who want more than a cookie cutter pretty face.

Also read: Move over angry young man, 2018 was ruled by angry young women in Bollywood

Patriot games

There’s a general election this year and nowhere is it more in evidence than in Bollywood. Beginning with Uri, a movie that celebrates the surgical strike and the man behind it, Ajit Doval, played by actor and BJP MP Paresh Rawal, The Accidental Prime Minister, based on Sanjaya Baru’s memoir, will remind moviegoers the many ways in which they disliked the UPA regime. Batla House, starring John Abraham, is sure to muddy the communal waters yet again, Mission Mangal, starring an array of powerful women (from Vidya Balan to Taapsee Pannu) along with Akshay Kumar, will celebrate India’s iconic Mission Mars, while Thackeray, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui is bound to be provocative.

Will there be a realignment in the politics of Bollywood if there is a regime change? Politics has always played a major part in Bollywood, with actors looking for sinecures, hassle-free releases, and occasional National Awards to burnish their legend. It won’t be any different this time.

Also read: Raazi shows the kind of nationalism that’s not thrust upon, but rather self-created

Blurring of boundaries

Baahubali broke the barrier, and now there seems no stopping. Prabhas in the trilingual action thriller Saaho; Rajinikanth in Petta; Nagarjuna in Brahmastra; and the bright-eyed bushy tailed Dulquer Salman in The Zoya Factor (with Sonam Kapoor) are just some instances of North meeting South.

Streaming services have opened up the minds and hearts of viewers to cinema from other languages, and with actor-producers such as Madhuri Dixit, Anushka Sharma and Priyanka Chopra putting their money behind more cinema from outside Hindi for streaming services, diversity will be much celebrated.

About time isn’t it as we head toward the third decade of the noughties?

The writer is a senior journalist and was Editor of India Today between 2011 and 2014.

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