The growth of the film industry is majorly judged by two factors: One, the kind of business made in the year, and second, how much of quality content did the industry produced in the year that went by. Quite remarkably for the Hindi film industry, the content-driven films didn’t lose the audience’s sight and gained well at the Box Office. Much like in 2018, Ayushmann Khurrana ruled the year with two films that didn’t only attract the collective consciousness of the audience but also provided meaning to their sense of entertainment. Zoya Akhtar‘s Gully Boy was the gem of the year and even though claims of it being ‘inspired’ by an English film surfaced, it had enough fuel to fill the hungry movie-goers who rarely get to see a thought-provoking commercial Bollywood film. Kangana Ranaut justified her debut direction and her portrayal of the most celebrated Indian warrior queen appeared splendid.

Other films like Junglee, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, Mission Mangal, Saand Ki Aankh and The Sky Is Pink performed mildly at the Box Office but the subject these films brought to the fore were enlightening and needed the audience’s attention. Here’s the list of those 15 mainstream Hindi films released in 2019 that made Bollywood look promising.

Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi (January 15)

Kangana Ranaut in a still from Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi

Expect Kangana Ranaut to break a convention with her films at the Box Office. Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi was the first film that took over the ticket windows as the big Republic Day release. Kangana didn’t only star in the film as the most courageous Indian warrior queen but also donned the director’s hat for this one.

The film, with its celebration of women empowerment and a sprawling display of the Indian freedom struggle, set the cash register ringing at the Box Office and also garnered appreciations for Kangana.

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (February 1)

Sonam Kapoor and Anil Kapoor in a still from Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga

For a traditional Bollywood lover, it’s surprising to see that the hero and the heroine in a film are not lovers, or worse, there’s actually no hero but two heroines. It was high time that the moviemakers thought of a story that goes beyond the conventional idea of a romantic relationship.

Debutant director Shelly Chopra Dhar took the initiative and created a same-sex love story that didn’t trivialise homosexual relationships or mock them. Ek Ladki… was a simple attempt to normalise homosexuality for traditional Indian families. It featured Sonam Kapoor‘s character in love with another woman, played by Regina Cassandra.

Gully Boy (February 14)

Gully Boy becomes India's official entry to 92nd Oscar Awards nominations

Siddhant Chaturvedi and Ranveer Singh on the poster of Gully Boy

Then came the film that talked to the spirit of young India one-on-one. It had emotions, subject, popular faces, local treatment, language, creativity and an honest display of a story that came from the roots of society. With Gully Boy, director Zoya Akhtar proved her adamant style of storytelling – one that talks raw, pumps up the zeal and channelises control on human emotions. Bollywood has been talking about underdogs from time immemorial but Zoya’s Murad (played by Ranveer Singh) wasn’t a hero. He was a beaten soul who channelised his anger into an unabashed zeal and rose higher in Mumbai’s local hip-hop scene. He talked about poverty, dreams, money, politics and how life’s unfairness actually helps one to beat complacency. Besides, it coined ‘Apna Time Aayega’!

Luka Chuppi (March 1)

Kartik Aaryan and Kriti Sanon in a still from Luka Chuppi

Two young movie stars – Kartik Aaryan and Kriti Sanon talked about live-in relationship in a society where even married couple is scrutinised and judged by social standards of morality. Their characters were young, independent, educated, had dreams and a fair understanding of the culture they are a part of. The intention of the film was clear and director Laxman Utekar presented an impressive concoction of emotions, family ties, social norms, romance and humour. The film asked the traditional Indian families to remove the baggage of marriage and give their kids a fair chance to decide what level of bondings and relationship ties they are comfortable in.

Junglee (March 29)

Vidyut Jammwal in a still from Junglee

Vidyut Jammwal’s action drama, Junglee had its heart in the right place. On the surface, it looked like a film filled with heavy doses of unbelievable action scenes but it dealt with the subject of ivory smuggling and environment. It talked about the killing of animals for their body parts and how a common man can contribute towards curbing this. The treatment of the film and the attempt to make it look glossy and commercial could have been a miss but Junglee deserved attention for its intention.

De De Pyaar De (May 16)

De De Pyaar De

Ajay Devgn and Rakul Preet Singh in a still from De De Pyaar De

Featuring Ajay Devgn, Rakul Preet Singh and Tabu in the lead, De De Pyaar De was a romantic drama that discussed whether age is a real factor in choosing a partner for yourself or is it all just conventional myths that need to be broken. In the film, Ajay plays a middle-aged businessman whose marriage with his wife (played by Tabu) doesn’t work. However, they remain in a mature, cordial relationship taking care of their two grown-up kids. The man falls in love with a woman who’s half his age but the shackles of our ‘morally rich society’ don’t approve of this relationship because she’s almost the age of his daughter. It’s when his ex-wife comes to his support and makes everyone understand how bonding, love, care are important between two partners, not age that the family gives a nod. Not the best way to mould the subject but impactful!

Bharat (June 5)

Katrina Kaif and Salman Khan on a poster of Bharat

Salman Khan‘s Bharat was an attempt to bring out thought with his style of masala entertainment. Apart from his classic elements – action, romance, drama, machismo and the bhai swag, Bharat showed a strong female character. The heroine in the story – Kumud Raina, played by Katrina Kaif, is a government officer who leads India’s group of employees on a mission to extract oil in Saudi Arabia.

She develops feelings for one of the employees and doesn’t shy away from confessing them to him as soon as she realises it’s the right thing to do. She doesn’t get bogged down and decides to do away with happiness in her life when the man turns down her marriage proposal. Upon realising that it’s more about sharing her life with the man than acquiring the status of a wife, she decides to have a live-in relationship with him. And while taking all these decisions, she never, for once, robs herself off femininity. Katrina’s Kumud was beautiful both inside and out. The film could have easily be known better as ‘Bharati’ than ‘Bharat’.

Article 15 (June 28)

ayushmann khurrana, article 15

Ayushmann Khurrana in a still from Article 15

Article 15 was a hard-hitting drama and it was a relief to see a Hindi filmmaker hitting directly where it hurts the most. Director Anubhav Sinha didn’t try to mince his words while showing the reality of our caste-based society. The story had a police officer trying his best to eradicate inequality from a local village in northern India but the more attempts he makes, the more he realises that the layers are deeper than he imagines. Bodies of two young girls are found hanging to the bark of a tree in the village and he doubts they were first raped and murdered but corruption and caste-based politics tie his hands to prove the same. In the end, despite highlighting all the struggle and impossibilities throughout its storyline, the film shows hope.

Article 15 showed death, dearth, rape, inequality, corruption, fear, poverty in their truest and deepest form in India. The team deserved claps and praises for even braving this kind of cinema let alone giving it the best treatment and performances. In an interview, when Ranveer Singh called Ayushmann Khurrana a genre in himself, he couldn’t have been more accurate!

Mission Mangal (August 13)

Mission Mangal poster

A poster of Mission Mangal

Why did Bollywood take so long in acknowledging women and their contribution in creating Indian history? Mission Mangal showed a bunch of talented intellectuals behind India’s mission of sending a satellite into the orbit of Mars. The only exception being this bunch had four women, one man. Indian women do exist as scientists and Mission Mangal was one film that acknowledged this fact throughout its storyline.

Chhichhore (September 6)

A poster of Chhichhore

A poster of Chhichhore

It was after a wait of whole 10 years that a Hindi film once again explored the days of the hostel, college campus, friendship, promises made for eternity and broken plans of future. Nitesh Tiwari’s Chhichhore was a beautiful attempt to ignite passion and hope in the minds of youngsters who think of a tiny failure in exams as the end of the world or those who believe dreams once shattered can’t be repaired. This Sushant Singh Rajput and Shraddha Kapoor starrer was full of honesty and emotions.

The Sky Is Pink (October 11)

The Sky is Pink cast

Rohit Saraf, Priyanka Chopra, Zaira Wasim, Farhan Akhtar in a still from The Sky Is Pink

The Sky Is Pink was a beautiful story of life, hope and family bondings. It featured Priyanka Chopra and Farhan Akhtar in the role of a couple who was aware of their daughter’s illness and the fact that she won’t be able to live longer. And yet they decided to bring love, colours and peace into her life. Director Shonali Bose’s idea was to show how to live life to the fullest and find happiness where its least expected.

Saand Ki Aankh (October 25)

सांड की आख (पोस्टर)

Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar on a poster of Saand Ki Aankh

With Saand Ki Aankh, Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar redefined Bollywood releases that take over the Box Office on big festivals like Diwali. They played the characters of two real-life Indian octogenarians who put the country on a global map by winning international sharpshooting competitions. This was the story of women who achieve the unbelievable while living a life where they are not even allowed to see the world without their veils on. Including performances that shined with hope and courage, Saand Ki Aankh was a winner in more than one way.

Bala (November 7)

Ayushmann Khurrana in a still from Bala

Ayushmann Khurrana was once again at his best on-screen in a story that challenged the conventional beauty standards of our society. His character named Bala longes for beautiful, dense hair and ends up walking every possible path to gain hair including having a wig on. But, soon, he realises that he can’t chase approval of the society when he himself is not ready to accept the real idea of beauty.

Mardaani 2 (December 13)

Rani Mukerji in a still from Mardaani 2

This Rani Mukerji starrer is only the second female-led franchise in Bollywood after Vidya Balan’s Kahaani. With Mardaani 2, the team put light on the increasing rate of juvenile crimes in India, especially crimes against women. The film had Rani’s character – tough cop Shivani Shivaji Roy chasing a gruesome murderer who first rapes women brutally and then leaves them dead. The film explored what goes on in the minds of rapists, especially young criminals who seek pleasure from the brutality of the crime.

Good Newwz (December 27)

good newwz poster akshay kumar kareena kapoor diljit dosanjh kiara advani

A poster of Good Newwz

Good Newwz discusses issues that most families and couples like to keep within the four walls of their comfortable rooms. In India where two people are hounded to produce babies as soon as they get married, this Raj Mehta directorial talked about how important it is for a couple to be ready for parenting and for a woman to be ready to carry a child. It showed two young couples belonging to different strata of Indian society carrying the same human emotions and dealing with the same complexities of life. Both the couples try to have a baby with In vitro fertilisation technique and when they think their long-awaited happiness has finally arrived, they find out that the sperms have been swapped because of the same surnames.