Indian cinema is the world’s largest by the number of feature films produced. Hindi cinema aka ‘Bollywood’ is an industry which many foreign audiences have related with.
Over the last decade, there have been an array of trends which have changed quite gradually.
During the 2010s, the industry saw established stars such as Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Shahrukh Khan making big-budget masala films like:
Dabangg, Ek Tha Tiger, Rowdy Rathore, Chennai Express, Kick and Happy New Year with much-younger actresses.
Although the films were often not praised by critics, they were commercially successful.
Some Aamir Khan films have been credited with redefining and modernising the masala film with a distinct brand.
Having said that, there has been a recent shift in exhibiting narratives which are progressive, realistic and champion woman empowerment.
In a special 5-part series, Filme Shilmy explores 50 best Hindi films of the decade, which will be measured by a movie’s concept, cast performances, rather than just judging it’s box-office collections.
Ishqiya (2010): Abhishek Chaubey
Nobody does black comedy better than Vishal Bhardwaj and his production Ishqiya proves it. Plus, it breaks the glass ceiling for female representations in such genres.
Khalujan (Naseeruddin Shah) and Babban (Arshad Warsi) are two rogues on the run from a gangster and they fall in love with Krishna (Vidya Balan), their friend’s widow.
However, Krishna manipulates them into carrying out her bidding for her selfish gain… But nothing is ever what it seems.
A movie, which has solid cohen bros and Tarantino vibe, shows that a simple story narrated succinctly can also emerge as a critical and commercial success.
Delhi Belly (2011): Abhinay Deo
This Hinglish movie is one laugh-out-loud ride with some idiosyncratic moments which are memorable, dark and larger-than-life.
Tashi (Imran Khan), Nitin (Kunaal Roy Kapur) and Arup (Vir Das), three strugglers who are also roommates, unknowingly become the target of a powerful gangster (Vijay Raaz) when they misplace his expensive diamonds.
The movie is unapologetically rebellious, marks a milestone in the Bollywood comedy genre – given that we were so accustomed to stereotypical slapstick humour.
Not only did this film receive critical acclaim as well as awards for its slick editing, but it also laughed all the way to the bank!
Tanu Weds Manu (2011): Aanand L Rai
Tanu Weds Manu took us all by surprise and paved the way for small-town Hindi comedies. Despite the exterior of a stereotypical romance, the film entails some unpredictable circumstances.
Manu Sharma (R Madhavan) comes to India to find a bride for himself and falls for Tanu (Kangana Ranaut) at first sight. She turns out to be a free-spirited girl has no plans of marrying him.
With arranged marriages between and Indian girls and NRIs have been quite traditional, but this film breaks this. As such, the female representation is liberating, progressive and empowering.
Made on a moderate budget, the movie managed to gain decent box-office collections… Which also proved to be a game-changer for Kangana’s career.
Gangs of Wasseypur (GOW) (2012): Anurag Kashyap
Prior to this, Hind gangster films were predominantly set in the urban backdrop of the city, but GOW is in a more rural setting. For many reasons, this a path-breaking piece of cinema.
Shot as a single movie, both parts measured a total of 319 minutes. However, the first part premiered at the 2012 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and since then has gained a cult status.
Underlying power struggles, politics and vengeance between three crime families, its convoluted narrative spans from the early 1940s to the mid-1990s.
Never had Hindi cinema witnessed such a gritty, violent, stylish and uncensored portrayal of the Coal Mafia in Jharkhand.
From the brilliant ensemble cast performances by names like Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, to the earthy soundtrack, every aspect of this award-winning venture screams masterpiece.
Mardaani (2014): Pradeep Sarkar
Yash Raj Films’ Mardaani marked Rani Mukerji’s comeback into Bollywood after a 3-year hiatus and what a return it was. A hard-hitting, intriguing and thought-provoking watch it proved to be.
India is the world’s hub for child sex trafficking – Nearly 40,000 children are abducted every year – Every 8 minutes a girl child goes missing in India.
The movie is a story of Shivani Shivaji Roy (Mukerji), Crime Branch, who sets out to confront the mastermind (Tahir Raj Bhasin) behind the child trafficking mafia.
A critical and commercial success, the film set the benchmark for powerfully representing of Indian female cops. Rani’s iconic performance proves that heroism is not bound by gender.
Bajirao Mastani (2015): Sanjay Leela Bhansali
When it comes to depicting ‘forbidden’ relationships on a dramatic, tragic and huge canvas, no one can beat Sanjay Leela Bhansali. His vision as a filmmaker is truly opulent and that is evident in Bajirao Mastani.
The movie retells the love story of a Brahmin Maratha warrior Bajirao (Ranveer Singh) with his mistress Mastani (Deepika Padukone) whilst married to Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) and the challenges he faces during his sovereignty.
With poetic dialogues, vibrant costumes, foot-tapping music, the movie is a work of art (for which it won several awards) and is topped by some powerful performances by the principal cast.
Ranveer and Deepika’s chemistry and performances are par excellence. However, PCJ steals the show by playing the broken yet dutiful Queen. Scenes where she confronts Mastani and the Peshwa leave us sympathetic yet empowered at the same time.
Dear Zindagi (2016): Gauri Shinde
There were few realistic Bollywood movies on mental health and its impact on people… But then, Dear Zindagi happened.
In simple, succinct & endearing manner, Gauri Shinde addresses how ‘trivial’ issues can build up to have a detrimental impact on us. Such works are the need of the hour!
The film is depicted in Goa and narrates the story of Kaira (Alia Bhatt) a promising cinematographer and lives a happy-go-lucky life.
However, after the break-up with a film producer (Kunal Kapoor), Kaira feels uneasy with her life and seeks therapy from Dr Jehangir Khan aka Jug (Shahrukh Khan).
With some brilliant performances by Bhatt and Khan, this is a feel-good, uplifting piece of cinema, that has the potential to change lives.
Mom (2017): Ravi Udyawar
Mom, produced by Boney Kapoor, is Sridevi’s 300th and the final major film appearance, for which she became the first posthumous win in the category… AR Rahman also won the Best Background Score.
Plus, the movie is the 8th biggest grosser amongst Hindi films in China and it deserves this recognition.
In the titular role, Sridevi essays as a vigilante, who sets out to avenge her step-daughter (Sajal Ali). The venture is gripping, hard-hitting and impactful.
There are very few vigilante thrillers which are led by powerful female actors in Bollywood, but Sri ji carried it strongly on her shoulders, marking it as a turning point for the genre.
Accompanied by some brilliant supporting performances, the movie will always be cherished.
Andhadhun (2018): Sriram Raghavan
Sriram Raghavan’s black comedy/crime/thriller has been a major winner at 2019’s National Film Awards and it really is no surprise.
Starring Tabu, Ayushmann Khurrana and Radhika Apte (in some career-best performances), it narrates the story of a visually impaired piano player who unwittingly becomes embroiled in the murder of a former film actor.
With a strong Almodovar feel, dark quotients in this film are neatly balanced with light/situational humour, which at times leaves us in suspense.
Furthermore, the technical aspects enrich this gripping narrative. But more than anything, the constant twists in the tale leave viewers at the edge of their seats.
Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota (2019): Vasan Bala
The kick-ass and quirky MKDNH created history by becoming the first-ever Indian film to play at TIFF’s Midnight Madness segment and critically acclaimed.
Surya (Abhimanyu Dassani) is born with a rare condition and therefore cannot feel pain. Inspired by his hero one-legged karate master (Gulshan Devaiah), he decides to learn karate and catch criminals.
Encompassing some brilliant performances, the movie is outstanding and challenges the paradigms of ‘Masala’ Hindi cinema. Vasan Bala pays a wacky homage to the superhero genre and how!
The Bollywood pop references, visual appeal, 100% impact fight and organic acting ensure high octane entertainment. Kudos to RSVP Movies for continuing to present such unconventional yet engaging content.
On the whole, Hindi cinema has given us some fantastic movies and to pick a handful of 50 films which bookmark the decade is no easy task.
Therefore, we certainly hope our choices in this article and forthcoming writeups will be emblematic of Bollywood’s finest works yet.
Given the recent emergence of digital platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, there is an impetus of strong and relatable content. Thus, one looks forward to seeing what the future holds.
Stay tuned for more updates on this series!