To expect things to be new in a new year is a perfectly normal thing. When the year 2014 saw the release of films such as Queen, Mary Kom, Mardaani, Gulab Gang and Bobby Jasoos, one was convinced that the trade would finally acknowledge the vast market that the so-called woman-centric films have and usher in a new phase.
But when it comes to Bollywood, change means something entirely different as here things still operate upon the old dictum of the more things change, the more they remain the same. As opposed to 2014, last year saw just two films - NH 10 (2015) and Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015) - that would qualify as being woman-centric but the bigger letdown was the manner in which popular cinema continued to look at heroines as if the Queens and Mary Koms never happened. Yet, there was a certain acceptance to change the way things are seen. Perhaps that's the reason why Bollywood's 2016 roster, in spite of appearing same with a side of the tried, tired and tested, promises to be more than old wine in a new bottle.
The single biggest thing that promises to make popular Hindi cinema worth watching in 2016 is the sheer number of films based on real people or events. Starting off in the very first month of 2016, Akshay Kumar's Airlift will set the tone for the theme of the year. Also featuring Nimrat Kaur after her international outing in the popular TV series Homeland, the film chronicles the mass evacuation of Indians from Kuwait in 1990 during the onset of the Gulf War crisis.
|Sonam Kapoor in Neerja.|
In yet another tale of real-life valour, Sonam Kapoor will play the titular role in Neerja that is based on the heroic sacrifice made by airhostess Neerja Bhanot, who died saving passengers from terrorists on board the hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 in 1986. The trailer of the film based on the life of the youngest recipient of the Ashok Chakra, India's highest peacetime military award, has generated enough buzz and the film also features Shabana Azmi in the role of Neerja's mother, Rama.
|Emraan Hashmi as former Indian cricketer, Mohammad Azharuddin.|
The year will also see the true arrival of the sports biopic with films based on the lives of former Indian cricket captain Mohammed Azharuddin and the present ODI skipper MS Dhoni.
|Motion poster of MS Dhoni.|
Emraan Hashmi will play the ex-Indian captain banned for life for match-fixing in Azhar and Sushant Singh Rajput will portray MSD in MS Dhoni: The Untold Story. Besides the two cricket biopics, Dangal will see Aamir Khan play the real-life wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat. Interestingly enough, Salman Khan's 2016 release Sultan will see him play a wrestler as well and the role is supposedly based on Haryana's Sultan Ali Khan.
|Salman Khan in Sultan.|
The year will also have Sarabjit, based on the life of Sarabjit, the Indian farmer convicted of espionage in Pakistan with Randeep Hooda playing Sarabjit and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the role of his sister who fought the long battle for his freedom. But the one film based on a real issue, which, if done right, promises to be a standout is Udta Punjab, for it explores the increasing drug abuse amongst the youth in Punjab.
|Diljit Dosanjh and Kareena Kapoor in Udta Punjab.|
The film stars Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor along with Alia Bhatt and marks the Hindi debut of Punjabi superstar Diljit Dosanjh.
|Shah Rukh Khan's Fan.|
In a nutshell, the big trend of 2016 for popular Hindi cinema irrespective of its canvas could be the wish to infuse a new X-Factor beyond the star to make films intriguing enough. If on one end of the spectrum there is an influx of the reality-based films, then the other end has stars trying to go the extra mile in order to induce freshness. After a long time, Shah Rukh Khan would have two releases in a single year in 2016 with Fan and Raees - and both the films feature him in characters that are a departure from the routine.
|Ajay Devgn in Shivaay.|
Similarly, Ajay Devgn is looking at an action-drama with Shivaay, which he directs as well, and Milan Luthria's Baadshaho.
The year will also see many A-list directors' return - Karan Johar with Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and Fawad Khan), Aditya Chopra with Befikre (Ranveer Singh, Vani Kapoor with Shah Rukh Khan in a guest role), Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra with Mirziya that marks the debut of Anil Kapoor's son, Harshvardhan, Vishal Bhardwaj with Rangoon (Saif Ali Khan, Kangana Ranaut, Shahid Kapoor), and Ashutosh Gowariker with Mohenjo Daro, with Hrithik Roshan and southern star Pooja Hegde.
|Aditya Roy Kapur and Katrina Kaif in Fitoor.|
The year will also unleash yet another installment of Housefull, the second installments of Rock On and Ghayal, and possibly a fourth Golmaal or the third Singham. Priyanka Chopra will play a tough as nails cop in Prakash Jha's Jai Gangaajal. Additionally, R Balki's Ki Aur Ka, an urban look at gender roles with Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Kapoor, Chalk N Duster with Juhi Chawla and Shabana Azmi playing school teachers, Haraamkhor with Nawazuddin Siddiqui playing the reel version of a real-life school teacher in love with his teenage student and Fitoor, Abhishek Kapoor's adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations with Aditya Roy Kapur, Katrina Kaif and Tabu, are the ones which will fill the "being different" quotient.
|Priyanka Chopra in Jai Gangaajal.|
While the year 2016 might not be drastically different or transform popular cinema into high art, there's enough to convince how mainstream Bollywood seems to be inching towards making a few changes.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)