The 2010s started like any other decade in Bollywood, with big movies raking in the money and only a few good small movies standing out. The big actors did big movies and left the smaller ones to the good actors ( Nawaz, Irrfan, Vidya, Kangana). Here’s my pick of the small movies that had substance in the pre-Netflix era.
2010 started with a bang. Udaan is probably one of the best films of the decade. Maybe it was a sign of what was to come. And then there was Do Dooni Chaar, with Rishi Kapoor at the helm. A charming film that stole my heart.
2011 had the insanely good Yeh Saali Zindagi, by that crazy guy Sudhir Mishra. Probably the last bit of brilliance shown by the guy who wrote ‘Jaane bhi do yaaro’. And then there was ‘Tanu weds Manu’, which brought Kangana - the actor, to the fore. I also loved the crazy ‘Shaitan’ by Bejoy Nambiar.
2012 was the start of the Ayushmann era. Vicky Donor came in as a breath of fresh air and Anu Kapoor again proved his comic prowess. Irrfan continued giving gems like Paan Singh Tomar and Sridevi made a stunning come back with ‘English Vinglish’. Well, Gangs of Wasseypur, just became too big for it to be called a small film, but yeah – considering Nawaz was the protagonist, this movie was a miracle. 2012 also saw the arrival of another good actor, Rajkummar Rao in and as ‘Shahid’.
2013 had the internationally acclaimed ‘The Lunchbox’ and brought 2 stellar actors ‘Nawaz and Irrfan’ together. ‘Raj and DK’ followed up their brilliant ‘99’ from 2009, with India’s first Zombie film ‘Go Goa Gone’. It was insanity unleashed and even Saif couldn’t bring this film down!
2014 started off with the moody ‘Dedh Ishqiyan’, had a small little gem ‘Filmistaan’ in the middle, and ended with the brutal ‘Ugly’. But the year belonged to the new ‘Queen’ of Bollywood, Kangana!
2015 saw some commercial actors do some good content. With Varun Dhawan trying some serious stuff in “Badlapur’, Deepika showing her acting chops in ‘Piku’ and Devgan going back to the basics with ‘Drishyam’. Dibakar Banerjee also made the under-rated ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshi’ and Hansal Mehta gave another gem 'Aligarh'.
Netflix entered India in 2016 and while people were still trying to get a hold of it, Bollywood had a pretty bad year in terms of smaller movies, with the serious ‘Pink’ and the fun ‘Happy Bhaag Jayegi’ being the notable exceptions. I didn’t see Irrfan’s ‘Madaari’ and Vinay Pathak’s ‘Island City’ but I heard they were good too.
And then everything changed. People had access to the best content from the world, so suddenly 2017 saw the rise of the SMALL BIG Movies. In one year we got ‘The Ghazi Attack’, ‘Shubh Mangal Savdhan’, ‘Qarib Qarib Singlle’, ‘Hindi Medium’, ‘Bareilly ki Barfi’, ‘Newton’ and ‘Tumhaari Sulu’. Character artists finally came out of the shadows and people started appreciating good writing.
2018 was even better, with Ayushmann leading the ‘content is king’ brigade. On one hand he had ‘Andhadhun’ - Sriram Raghvan’s gem and on the other, the hilarious ‘Badhai Ho’. Irrfan did the fun ‘Blackmail’ and Rajkummar Rao did the howlarious ‘Stree’. Mulk had some serious muscle and Tumbbad was just groundbreaking in every way!
2019 continued the momentum. Uri, technically a small film, blew up due to its political importance. But surprisingly it was very well made and probably had the best war action choreography ever in Bollywood. Gully Boy, though technically not a small film was a risky project by A-listers, but it stood tall amongst the crowd. And then there were films like ‘Ek Ladki ko dekha toh aisa laga’, ‘Badla’, ‘Article 15’, ‘Saand ki Aankh’ and ‘Bala’ which touched diverse topics and did really well. Also, there was the insane ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’, with some of the most amazing action comedy in a long long time.
So yeah, 2010s have been interesting with 2017 being the breakthrough year for good content. Bollywood writers are finally going beyond the cliched and thinking outside the box. And they are doing so because finally the audience is appreciating good stuff and rejecting the same old trash. Let’s hope this revolution continues and in the 2020s these small gems become the norm and the big turds become the exception.
P.S: I may have forgotten a few films like - Masaan, Phans Gaye re Obama, Nil Battey Sannata... but you get the drift of my argument!