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.
Udaan (2010): Vikramaditya Motwane
A convoluted coming-of-age drama that was way ahead of its time and one which doesn’t shy away from realism and rawness.
It follows the story of Rohan (Rajat Barmecha), who is forced to live with his oppressive father (Ronit Roy) in Jamshedpur after he is expelled from boarding school.
The film premiered in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, and received a standing ovation; it was the first Indian film represented at Cannes in seven years.
Following its release, the movie won several awards due to its depiction of a compelling, emotional family story, with an edgy and earthy touch. An absolute masterpiece!
The Dirty Picture (2011): Milan Luthria
“Filmein Sirf Teen Cheezo Ki Wajah Se Chalti Hai… Entertainment, Entertainment, Entertainment” and The Dirty Picture is packed with entertainment with a spicy twist.
The film is based on yesteryear sex-siren, Silk Smitha (essayed by Vidya Balan). Not only was Vidya’s performance applauded, but Rajat Arora’s wacky and thought-provoking dialogues were praised.
The movie won three awards at the National Film Awards including, ‘Best Actress’ for Vidya and ‘Best Costume’ (by Niharika Khan).
In addition, Dirty Picture received more accolades at other reputed award ceremonies. It is no surprise as to why the movie joined the 100 Crore Club.
Vicky Donor (2012): Shoojit Sircar
Would you ever have thought of combining sperm donation with Hindi cinema? Well, JA Entertainment and Shoojit Sircar did in 2012 with this hilarious outing.
It revolves around a man (Ayushmann Khurrana, in his acting debut) is brought in by an infertility doctor (Anu Kapoor) to supply him with his sperm, where he becomes the biggest sperm donor for his clinic.
Through the commercial appeal of cinema, this delightful movie starts a conversation a topic that would otherwise be ‘taboo’ in Indian society.
Created on quite a modest budget, Vicky Donor‘s entertaining spread earnt a profitable box-office reception, in addition to several accolades and critical acclaim.
The Lunchbox (2013): Ritesh Batra
Can you be attracted to someone you’ve never seen before… Especially your penpal? Ritesh Batra explores that question in this epistolary film.
Set in Mumbai, it revolves around a mistaken delivery by the Dabbawalas (lunchbox service) of Mumbai, which leads to a relationship between Saajan (Irrfan Khan), a lonely widower close to retirement and Ila (Nimrat Kaur), an unhappy housewife, as they start exchanging notes through the daily lunchbox.
In an era which is packed with larger-than-life love stories, this simple narrative shows that there is still a novelty and in the old-school style of romance.
The film was screened at International Critics’ Week at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and later won the Critics Week Viewers Choice Award. It subsequently received a positive critical and commercial reception.
NH10 (2015): Navdeep Singh
Anushka Sharma is a multi-talented actor of this generation. With NH10, she has not only given her career’s best performance but also commenced her journey as a producer.
This thought-provoking, socially relevant and edgy thriller shows how a young couple’s road trip goes awry after an encounter with a group of violent criminals.
Playing a corporate-woman of today, who faces her inner-demon, Sharma smoothly exhibits how this ‘victim’ emerges as a vigilante.
The conflict between her character and Deepti Naval’s is emblematic of how even today, there is still a divide between regressive rural norms versus the urban/contemporary mindset.
Tamasha (2015): Imtiaz Ali
A few paragraphs aren’t enough to summarise Tamasha, it requires a separate article altogether. But it’s no secret that Imtiaz Ali is a director whose filmmaking style exceeds the paradigms of cinema.
Boy meets girl in Corsica who decide to not reveal their real names or personalities. A spectacular drama proceeds to take place, as this temporary couple goes on an adventure like no other. But time changes everything for this love story.
The convoluted story on inner-conflicts between profession/passion, self-discovery and love, this unconventional romance is relatable and the non-linear screenplay is visually daring.
Whilst it may not have been a major earner at the box-office, it’s still considered to be an unspoken masterpiece and AR Rahman’s mesmerising soundtrack continues to strike a chord.
Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016): Alankrita Shrivastava
Given the rise in content with female characters taking centre stage, Lipstick is the perfect ode to empowerment and liberation.
Set in the crowded by-lanes of small-town India, the film exhibits the secret lives of four women (played by Konkona Sen Sharma, Aahana Kumra, Ratna Pathak Shah, Plabita Borthakur) in search of a little freedom.
Though stifled and trapped in their worlds, these women claim their desires through small acts of courage and stealthy rebellion.
A magnificent ensemble cast with a realistic and progressive storyline, it’s movies like these which deserve immense appreciation for endeavouring to push the envelope.
Jagga Jasoos (2017): Anurag Basu
Anurag Basu sincerely endeavours to present a bespoke piece of cinema and if there’s a Bollywood film which really pays homage to the ‘musical’ genre, it’s Jagga Jasoos.
Furthermore, the styles of adventure, mystery and comedy are neatly fused into narrating a quirky story which is set in today’s time and setting.
The movie features Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif in lead roles and tells the story of a teenage detective in search of his missing father (Saswata Chatterjee).
Whilst it faced a tepid reception at the box-office in numbers, the venture has since gained cult status for it’s dynamic and mesmerising storytelling. Nonetheless, Pritam was commemorated for his profound, melodious and enchanting soundtrack.
Raazi (2018): Meghna Gulzar
Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi is an adaptation of Harinder Sikka’s novel Calling Sehmat which is inspired by real events. It revolves around an Indian spy Sehmat (Alia Bhatt), who gets married to a Pakistani military officer Iqbal (Vicky Kaushal) prior to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 on the order of her father (Rajit Kapur).
Alia’s character Sehmat is a timid young girl who despite not being professional espionage, bravely trains herself to become one and fulfil her duties for her country. What is interesting is that there is usually a strong ‘us and them’ rhetoric when it comes to films revolving around the India and Pakistan conflict. This is also visible in this film.
But what really sets this film apart from all others is the mutual understanding between both Sehmat and Iqbal. In a sense, they both are aware of each other’s’ duties towards their countries.
Plus, it is wonderful that Raazi even has a patriotic song titled ‘Ae Watan’ – which simply addresses nationalism in a very neutral way. Perhaps this is something we could be inspired by in life too.
War (2019): Siddharth Anand
War is amongst 2019’s highest grossing Bollywood movies, with many of us have grooved to the hit numbers ‘Ghungroo’ and ‘Jai Jai Shiv Shankar’.
This Yash Raj Films production is touted to be one of the biggest action films in Bollywood, uniting handsome hunks Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff for the first time ever, it is a high-octane action entertainer.
The film revolves around an Indian soldier Khalid (Tiger) who is assigned to eliminate his former mentor, Kabir (Hrithik), who goes rogue. It has everything a commercial audience seeks: exquisite foreign locations, chiselled looks, foot-tapping songs and full-throttle action, with some brilliant performances.
Director Siddharth Anand presents pure escapist cinema which is enjoyable to watch and the two hours (or so) elapse quickly. Watching the two action heroes battle it out is a huge delight for the viewers!
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.
Some notable mentions include Dabangg (2010), Peepli Live (2010), Dhobi Ghat (2011), Rockstar (2011), Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (2012), Jolly LLB (2013), PK (2014), Highway (2014), Dedh Ishqiya (2014), Mary Kom (2014), Masaan (2015), Angry Indian Goddesses (2015), Neerja (2016), Ki & Ka (2016), Fitoor (2016), Tumhari Sulu (2017), Hichki (2018), October (2018) and Article 15 (2019).
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.