As massive an industry as Bollywood is, the past couple of years have been slim pickings in terms of quality content. As the Covid-19 pandemic struck, cinemas and film production houses were massively affected. This caused major releases to be rolled out with little to no fanfare, or for them to be postponed indefinitely. In a country where the release of certain films gives rise to an almost cult-like fanaticism, and whose film industry makes over a thousand films a year, this was an unsettling new reality to get used to.
However, as streaming platforms like Netflix and Hotstar took precedence over traditional methods of viewership, filmmakers and actors have been more willing to take risks and bring out more character-driven stories. From breaking new ground in the superhero/science-fiction genre, to creating narratives around minorities’ demographics, it looks like Bollywood may be headed for an exciting direction in 2022. We bring you a list of 9 new highly anticipated Bollywood movies to keep an eye out for.
1. Gehraiyaan (February 11)
Shakun Batra helms this drama that revolves around two couples who are at a crossroads in their life. Deepika Padukone plays Alisha Khanna, an ambitious thirty-something who feels stuck in her life with her partner. When she reconnects with her cousin Tia and her fiancé Zain, the four of them must reckon with dissatisfaction, desire and infidelity. From what we have seen of the film so far, it promises an arthouse sensibility mingled with a deep exploration of the character’s inner lives. Notably, the film is one of the few high-profile Bollywood productions to have an intimacy director.
2. Badhaai Do (February 11)
Thanks to pathbreaking work like Aligarh and Margarita with A Straw, filmmakers in Bollywood are ready to take up narratives depicting queer lives. A sub-culture of didactic comedy seems to have developed in these narratives, that depict queer lives with a joyful, humorous lens. Badhaai Do revolves around the story of gay policeman Shardul and lesbian teacher Suman, who enter into a marriage of convenience to avoid social stigma regarding their sexuality. While Bollywood’s annoying habit of casting heterosexual actors into queer roles continues, the comedic performances from Bhumi Pednekar and Rajkumar Rao look promising.
3. Gangubai Kathiawadi (February 25)
Based on the book Mafia Queens of Mumbai by S Hussain Zaidi, Gangubai Kathiawadi fictionalises the life of Gangubai Kothewali, a sex worker and brothel madame in the red-light area of Kamathipura. Sanjay Leela Bhansali directs Alia Bhatt as the titular character, and his knack for creating sprawling sets and colourful characters is put to good use in the film. Narratives about sex workers are far and few between in Bollywood, but Bhansali is known for writing female characters who suffer and persevere with dignity. So, here’s hoping. If you’re an admirer of lush period dramas about ambivalent figures, this might just be the film for you.
4. Jhund (March 4)
Amitabh Bachchan plays Vijay Barse, the founder of the NGO Slum Soccer, in this biographical sports drama written and directed by Nagraj Manjule. The story dramatises Barse’s efforts to uplift the underprivileged children of Mumbai’s slums through sports. Manjule, who is best known for directing the Marathi film Sairat (2016) has a penchant for exploring social issues of caste, class and access in his narratives. So far, Jhund promises to do just that. If adrenaline-pumping, inspirational sports dramas are your jam, you will not want to miss out on this one.
5. Anek (May 13)
After playing a string of North Indian boy-next-door type characters, with each indistinguishable from the other, Ayushmann Khurana is all set to play Joshua, a hardened action man in the upcoming triller, Anek. While not much is known about the film directed by Anubhav Sinha, the director’s affinity for hard-hitting social narratives and realism may cause us to assume that Anek will deal with a similar storyline. One hopes Sinha and Khurana will bring the same gritty truths to screen as they did in their 2018 collaboration, Article 15.
6. Brahmastra (September 9)
Bollywood’s history of dabbling in the sci-fi genre has generally yielded underwhelming results. Ayan Mukherjee’s Brahmastra promises to change that, with a story deeply rooted in Indian mythology. Ranbir Kapoor stars as Shiva, a young man in the 21st century who discovers a way to connect with the past, in order to save the present. This project has been a long time in the making, and is intended to serve as the first part of a trilogy. Boasting a star cast with the likes of Alia Bhatt, Nagarjuna Akkineni and Amitabh Bachchan, here’s a film that audiences will inevitably have high hopes from.
7. Vikram Vedha (September 30)
One of the rare silver linings about Bollywood continuing to remake cult hit films from the South film industry is that it introduces audiences to the gems of regional cinema. Vikram Vedha is a remake of one such massive hit, a 2017 Tamil film of the same name. A slick neo-noir tale based on the archetypal stories of the Baitaal Pachisi from Indian folklore, the story revolves around a crime boss and a policeman whose conceptions of good and evil are changed by their interactions with each other. Morally grey, and rife with philosophical underpinnings, this film looks poised to be a radical departure from the action and crime films we’re used to seeing.
8. Merry Christmas (December 23)
Not much is known about this project so far, but Sriram Raghavan of Andhadhun fame collaborates with Katrina Kaif and Vijay Sethupati to create a holiday season rollercoaster. If Raghavan’s work in Andhadhun is anything to go by, Merry Christmas will likely provide some unique thrills and twists. The film also marks Kaif’s first film appearance since Zero in 2019, and a minor role in Sooryavanshi (2021).
9. Jersey (TBD)
Another regional film remake, this one is inspired from the 2019 Telugu film of the same name. The story revolves around a middle-aged cricketer who has since fallen on hard times. When his only son asks him for a cricket jersey as a present, he finds himself in a tough spot. Starring Shahid Kapoor as the protagonist, the film looks like it will be an emotional tear-jerker. With his last appearance as the controversial, hyper masculine Kabir in Kabir Singh, audiences will be delighted to see him return to tender roles that he has always flourished in.
The culture of films in India, Bollywood particularly, has long been centered around narratives of hero-worship but it’s wonderful to see actors and filmmakers distancing themselves from it. While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional blockbuster, well-written narratives focusing on the inner lives of characters are infinitely more rewarding. With films that range from intensely psychological to those that promise a fun escape, this year looks like a good time to be a Bollywood film buff.
Which of these are you the most excited for? Let us know in the comments below.