Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's astounding biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, releasing on Friday, already seems to have the potential of being the first certifiable blockbuster during the second half of 2013. Here's looking at the films of 2013 that that made it, and the ones that didn't so far:
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: Ayan Mukerji's second film was charming, warm and sometimes tender. But it didn't have much to say about the man-woman thing, except that guys who are popular in college, can get away with murder in future life. And yes, girls who are repressed, just need to throw off their spectacles and make a spectacle of themselves to prove they have reached the nirvana of liberation. Thanks to Ranbir Kapoor's growing popularity, the film escalated to beyond the Rs. 100 crore profit mark, leaving everyone including producer Karan Johar stumped.
Aashiqui 2: Stars sell, right? Then how do we explain the phenomenal success of this Mohit Suri-directed drama about a girl who wants to be a known singer, a guy who wants to be drunk all the time, and a relationship that hits a dead end just when the hero hits the bottle with enhanced vengeance? Audiences loved the story of a girl who is willing to give up her fame for love. This film turned Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor into saleable stars.
Race 2: Well-toned girls and guys dancing, drinking, gambling and conning one another is all I remember of this year's first blockbuster. Deepika Padukone and John Abraham competed to show us who could wear their pants more distant from the navel, while Saif Ali Khan scowled as though the last shot of the bourbon turned out to be not so neat. But would someone please explain the plot?
Raanjhanaa: By far the most deserving success of 2013 so far. Aanand Rai's Varanasi-based love story gave us an unlikely couple in Sonam Kapoor and Dhanush, besides a love story which made obsessive passion more a crime of the heart than a libelous offence. The film's exuberant celebration of love took filmy romance away from the metropolis into the heartland. One USP: A.R. Rahman's best music in Bollywood since Dil Se and Taal.
Jolly LLB: Subhash Kapoor's astonishingly well-written film on the loopholes of the legal system was a delight. There were no stars in the film. There were Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani, who are far more gifted than some of our A-listers who do the same thing over and over again. A true triumph of a relatively small, socially relevant film worthy of a standing ovation.
Special 26: Here was superstar Akshay Kumar doing what he seldom does - playing a real-life conman, and that too in an ensemble cast where at least 15 to 18 other characters got equal prominence. Director Neeraj Pandey broke all the rules of mainstream cinema with this heist story, which was unadorned by half-naked girls swimming in a sea of champagne. He still got audiences hooked.
Other successes: ABCD: AnyBody Can Dance, Kai Po Che!, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns, Chashme Buddoor, Shootout At Wadala, Fukrey and Go Goa Gone.
David: Bejoy Nambiar's brilliantly-crafted tale of three unpredictable men who share the same name, Tamil star Vikram, Neil Nitin Mukesh and newcomer Vinay Virmani were brilliant in each of the three-layered stories. Finally though, the failure of David proved that episodic films just don't work in any part of the world.
Himmatwala: Film historians are still trying to figure out why Sajid Khan decided to remake an awful 1983 film which even Sridevi, who starred in the original, would like to forget.
Rangrezz: This one definitely deserved better. Far far better. A rugged expertly-executed film about love and elopement in a small dusty town, where guns speak louder than words, Rangrezz was Priyadarshan's finest film in years. Just why it didn't work remains a mystery. It couldn't be due to Jackky Bhagnani's minimal star-power. Aditya Roy Kapur was no star when Aashiqui 2 was released!
Bombay Talkies: A divine flawless journey into the heart of love, alas felled by its episodic format. Bombay Talkies told four different stories by four filmmakers of diverse filmmaking styles. Karan Johar, Dibakar Bannerjee, Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap took Hindi cinema to another level. This one deserved a lot more footfalls.
Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola: We were warned by the eccentric title to expect something entirely unconventional. Vishal Bhardwaj took us into a la-la-land where Pankaj Kapur turned into two different personalities before and after drinking. Moral of the story: not every film with a tipsy hero is capable of becoming an Aashiqui 2 or a Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.
Aurangzeb: A superbly crafted variation on Yash Chopra's Trishul, about cut-throat competitiveness in corporate sectors, fuelled and surcharged by the brilliant performances of Rishi Kapoor, Amrita Singh and Jackie Shroff, Aurangzeb suffered a setback at the boxoffice because director Atul Sabharwal took up a massy subject and executed it in Shyam Benegal's style.
Other notable thuds of the year so far: The Attacks Of 26/11, Nautanki Saala, Ek Thi Daayan, Ishkq In Paris, Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 and Ghanchakkar.