Shailesh Kapoor: The Most Iconic Hindi Films of the Decade

20 Dec,2019

This is the second in a series of six decade-ender lists in this column. Read the prologue here and the first list on most-defining Hindi TV shows of the decade here


By Shailesh Kapoor


Despite stagnating footfalls and the emerging threat from Hollywood and regional cinema, there was enough action to keep the Hindi films category going through this decade. Here’s a list of the top 10 most iconic films of the decade, chosen basis the impact they had on shaping industry trends, apart from the appreciation they received from the audience.


10. Dangal (2016)

The top-grossing Hindi film of all-time (not counting the dubbed Bahubali 2) took forward the sports biopic fascination of the industry to a new level, with Aamir Khan helming a film in this genre. The film provided an exciting combination of many ingredients that work commercially and critically – a real life story, great casting and performances, humour, social messaging and warm emotions. It may have lacked the ultimate finesse of Lagaan, but being based on real-life characters, Dangal had an unmistakable authenticity that resonated across the country.


9. Singham (2011)

The first film of the much-touted Rohit Shetty cop universe came at a time when anti-corruption citizen movement in the country was at its peak, in the midst of various scams and scandals. Singham was followed by the much-inferior Singham Returns, and then by the highly-entertaining Simmba. All the films in this cop universe quasi-franchise promote vigilante justice in some form or the other, which can be problematic at some level. But in terms of entertainment value, Singham and Simmba both had the right balance of larger-than-life elements (especially the punchlines) and a certain believability that the story is indeed rooted in today’s real world.


8. Kahaani (2012)

Kahaani is iconic for several reasons. Coming within three months of the much-hyped The Dirty Picture, it provided a definitive tag to Vidya Balan as one of the finest female actors of her generation. Kahaani was also one of the first films in the so-called ‘female-centric’ films genre, and its success paved way to many more such films over the last seven years. It was also one of the first Hindi films with Nawazuddin Siddiqui in a major role. The film also gave us the iconic Bob Biswas, who now has a film of this own under production.


7. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013)

The original sports biopic that opened the floodgates for umpteen others had an unlikely director-actor combination for the genre, and that probably worked as its surprise element. Farhan Akhtar may not have got the Punjabi accent pat, but his work on his physique and look deservedly got much appreciation, and the film, which spanned a few decades in time, worked equally as a human drama as a sports film.



6. Kabir Singh (2019)

This year’s big hit Kabir Singh was a near-replica of its original film Arjun Reddy. It was also the most-controversial and spoken-about film in a long time, fueling debates on misogyny in cinema. But the film worked for the audience across the broad spectrum, and remains the highest-collecting film of the year in multiplexes, ahead of the year’s top-grosser War. While the music played a key role in its success, the resonance of today’s youth with Kabir’s character is a study in itself, on how Indian youth looks at life today. And that’s a topic that deserves a full write-up of its own.


5. Uri: The Surgical Strike (2019)

Political films have been taboo topic in Hindi cinema for the longest time, but the last 2-3 years have seen more acceptance on this front. Uri was a full-throttle action drama, featuring a fictionalized account of the surgical strikes that followed the Uri attacks. The idea of the film itself is a masterstroke, and the execution was more than praiseworthy, especially in the sound department, which lifted the last hour of the film to a new level altogether. The film went on to be a much bigger hit than anyone would have anticipated, given its modest cast. And that shows the power of right-wing cinema in today’s India, when made with technical prowess, of course.


4. AndhaDhun (2018)

Ayushmann Khurrana is the big story to emerge out of the last two years, with back-to-back successes in AndhaDhun, Badhaai Ho, Article 15, Dream Girl and Bala. AndhaDhun, with its comedic treatment of the thriller genre, was perhaps the best-reviewed film of the decade. Director Sriram Raghavan has made taut thrillers before. But with AndhDhun, he outdid himself, peppering the film with fascinating sequences, especially that captivating scene in the first half at Tabu’s house, where Khurrana discovers there’s been a murder in the house. AndhaDhun will take some beating in class, and may hold the tag for the most iconic modern-day thriller in Hindi cinema for a long time.


3. Queen (2013)

If Kahaani started started the trend of films being headlined by female actors, Queen took it to the next level. It also brought forth the acting genius of Kangana Ranaut, which was later reiterated in Tanu Weds Manu Returns, where she plays a double role. Queen was empowering, uplifting, funny, emotional and authentic in equal measure, becoming that rare urban film that only gets better with each viewing.



2. Dabangg (2010)

I write this on the day of the release of Dabangg 3, more than seven years after the first film in the franchise. Dabangg, coming after Wanted, gave Salman Khan the star status he continued to enjoy through the decade. It also led to the resurgence of the masala action genre, which thrived for a few years, before facing audience fatigue due to a sense of sameness that grew with every such film. Dabangg may not be even amongst the top 25 finest films of the decade (at least 2-3 Salman Khan films would be ahead of it on that list), but in terms of its impact, it became the foundation of a sub-industry in itself.


1. Bahubali (2015) & Bahubali 2 (2017)

There’s not much new to say about Bahubali. It remains the most-watched, most-discussed and most-adored Indian film work of the decade by an embarrassingly-wide margin. A dubbed film, without any major Bollywood stars, beating the big-ticket Hindi films to the top of the box-office was an eye-opener for many. It told us that big-screen experience and imagination hold more value in minds of the audience that one would have ever thought, an idea that was further authenticated with the huge success of the last two Avengers films in India. Bahubali’s success may have changed Hindi film industry’s thinking forever, and for the better.

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