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5 innovative Bollywood films of 2016

Things are changing fast now. Established mainstream actors like Sonam Kapoor and Alia Bhatt have stepped out of the crowd, and proved that sometimes it pays to go against popular perception. It is for this very reason that their films figure in our list of five innovative films of 2016.

Year ender 2016 Updated: Jan 18, 2017 18:35 IST
Rohit Vats
Yearender
Bollywood needs to rethink about its mainstream approach.

There was a time, not long ago, when experimenting in Bollywood meant not doing a love story. Forget cinematic techniques, producers and directors in the industry didn’t dare try their hands on any script that didn’t guarantee box office success. Yes, mediocrity ruled the industry, and it didn’t do anybody any good.

Things are changing fast now. Established mainstream actors like Sonam Kapoor and Alia Bhatt have stepped out of the crowd, and proved that sometimes it pays to go against popular perception. It is for this very reason that their films figure in our list of five innovative films of 2016.

Neerja: The idea of putting Sonam Kapoor, who played the brave air hostess Neerja Bhanot, in a claustrophobic space under constant threat made the actor inside her blossom. Taking a leaf out of Bhanot’s life in between a loving family and abusive husband, director Ram Madhvani trusted Kapoor to pull off a role that required her to look casual yet graceful. Casting turned out to be the masterstroke as Kapoor not only looked fragile like Bhanot, but also every inch a sharp cabin crew member.

Read: Neerja review: Sonam Kapoor is the star of this searing biopic

Read: Aligarh review: Manoj Bajpayee touches your heart, changes perceptions

Aligarh: The film, directed by Hansal Mehta, sparked protests in various parts of India because of the way it portrayed a gay professor’s life. This clearly says how important it was to make Aligarh, the untold story of professor Ramchandra Siras, who lost everything worth clinging to in his life because of his sexual orientation. One may argue that screen writer Apurva Asrani already had a story on his hands to work upon, but you have to give him credit for creating a terrifying world where human rights come second to the local identity politics.

Phobia: From colour combination to the paintings on the wall, Pavan Kripalani decided to take the road less travelled in this psychological drama. Phobia is in our list for its symbolism. From women empowerment to magical realism, a lot of new things were tried through Radhika Apte’s scared self. It might have not worked commercially, but its radical approach and dark setting is likely to remain with us for a long time.

Read: Phobia review: Radhika Apte rules this scary, taut thriller

Read: Island City review: This is what a big city does to you

Read: Pink review: Amitabh Bachchan is still the only boss around

Island City: A collage of three stories that are weird and funny, Island City has something mainstream moviemakers haven’t dared to touch in its entirety: The loneliness induced by a big city. Innovative storytelling technique and dark humour make this one an important film. Despite being linear, it offers a lot of space for imagination. Ruchika Oberoi put a mirror in front of us, and we got scared, at least I was.

Pink: Though the director was Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, it was our story. But that doesn’t make it innovative. Those three girls and the horrors attached to the most simplistic things needed a lot of screen time and understanding of human emotions. And then it also had to debate about the value of consent. This all had to happen inside a courtroom where there wasn’t much scope for heroism. The director decided to stick to the narrative and elaborate upon the sentiments part. Eventually it became a film that looks normal and becomes extraordinary when you think about it.

Interact with Rohit Vats at Twitter/@nawabjha