Infamous for churning out crowd-pleasing, escapist drama that is often mindless, Bollywood has been working on changing that image. And 2016 saw a major shift in the narrative of Indian cinema with filmmakers moving on to hard-hitting and taboos subjects like homophobia, drug abuse, mental illness, importance of sexual consent and casual sex.
From Manoj Bajpayee’s Aligarh to Shah Rukh Khan’s Dear Zindagi and more, here is a list of eight films that will be counted as milestones in the changing Bollywood narrative.
In Aligarh, director Hansal Mehta once again picked up a contemporary true story to highlight the prevailing homophobia in society. Set in the city of Aligarh, the plot revolved around professor Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, a sensitive Marathi language professor, who loses his job and is ostracised for his sexual orientation. Manoj Bajpayee sunk his teeth into the role of a gay, lonely man, who finds himself defenceless in the face of prejudice.
2. Kapoor & Sons
Director Shakun Batra can be credited for breaking many stereotypes when it comes to the portrayal of gay community in Bollywood with Kapoor & Sons. Fawad Khan played a gay man in the movie, who is hesitant to come out to his family.
Pink was another bold attempt at addressing the issue of sexual molestation and importance of consent in Indian society. Taapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari and Andrea Tariang played three young women who face assault charges after being molested by a group of men in the courtroom-drama. Despite being the victim, they are slut-shamed and pressurised to drop the case. The film received wide-spread critical acclaim for bringing the discussion of sexual molestation on the big screen and gave the audience perhaps one of the most defining dialogues this year: ‘No means no’.
4. Kahaani 2
The central theme of Kahaani 2, which marked the return of Vidya Balan in another challenging role, was about the horrors of child sexual abuse.
5. Udta Punjab
Director Abhishek Chaubey’s controversial film Udta Punjab revolved around the issue of drug-trafficking and abuse in Punjab. In the movie, Diljit Dosanjh played a morally ambiguous police officer who realises the horror of drugs after his brother is admitted to hospital, Shahid Kapoor is in the character of a high-on-drugs, rockstar Tommy Singh and Alia Bhatt portrays the character of a migrant worker, who accidentally slips into this ugly vortex.
Director Pavan Kripalani’s Phobia, which saw Radhika Apte deliver a strong performance, brought into spotlight a disorder rarely talked about: agoraphobia. Apte’s character develops agoraphobia after escaping molestation by a taxi driver. Phobia deftly used the psychological thriller setting to bring home the issue of assault.
7. Dear Zindagi
Gauri Shinde took a light-hearted approach in Dear Zindagi to tell the story of a young woman (Alia Bhatt) grappling with relationship issues and the help she eventually finds from a psychologist (Shah Rukh Khan).
Aditya Chopra’s much-talked about return to direction was one of the latest example of Bollywood stepping out of the box and talking about taboos subjects. The film focussed on the millennial generation that is not too hung up about commitment. It is not the first time that a Bollywood film talks about casual sex but it is still rare for the lead pair to flaunt it. Starring Ranveer Singh and Vaani Kapoor, the film was set in Paris.
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