Move over, Punjab. If 2017 is any indication, the flavour of 2017 is Uttar Pradesh. Heartland films have suddenly become ‘in’, by which we mean in a larger proportion than their normal dose. Time was when we had them in smaller doses, and set in different regions of the country. Now, all of a sudden, we have multiple successes from the same province—Uttar Pradesh.
Trends have two factors in common: they are often set by coincidence and by some other trend’s overdose. When these two factors come together, nothing can stop something for trending for a while. With Mubarakan, we strongly feel that, at long last, an overdose of Punjabi in movies and songs has reached super-saturation point.
Barring Bahubali 2—The Conclusion then, which was primarily not a Hindi film at all, and the modestly successful Kaabil, Naam Shabana and Hindi Medium. Let us examine the actual hits in Hindi this year: Jolly LLB 2, Badrinath Ki Dulhania, Toilet—Ek Prem Katha, Bareilly Ki Barfi and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan. And lo and behold—they are all based in Uttar Pradesh!
And the best part about them also is that though they are all Uttar Pradesh-based, they all belong to diverse parts of the state and are completely different even in themes. Interestingly, two of them are directed by Southern names (Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari and R.S. Prasanna), and one each by a Punjabi (Subhash Kapoor) and Marwari (Shashank Khaitan).
Only Shree Narayan Singh hails from a village in U.P., and has that first-hand passion that probably made Toilet—Ek Prem Katha the most effective and successful of these five films, though the other directors and their writers left no stone unturned in bringing huge authenticity to their depiction of the culture of the state.
What’s more, none of the leading stars in these five films even belong to the state but put in their very best! In all these films, the small touches made all the difference, and the character artistes (this time many of them hailed from U.P.) added the realistic touch.
Jolly LLB 2 (Director: Subhash Kapoor):
A sequel to Jolly LLB starring Arshad Warsi, it had Akshay Kumar playing a goofy and corrupt lawyer from Lucknow, who finally redeems himself. The courtroom drama mixed satirical humour and entertainment and the appeal was higher than in the first part.
Badrinath Ki Dulhania (Director: Shashank Khaitan):
The sequel in spirit to Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania repeated the same lead pair of Varun Dhawan (as a lad hailing from Jhansi) and Alia Bhatt with a love story beset with hurdles from the boy’s side. The progressive message of gender equality and personal freedom struck a chord across the country. Like Jolly LLB 2, this film crossed 100 crores in collections.
Toilet—Ek Prem Katha: (Director: Shree Narayan Singh):
This time, Akshay Kumar took on the issue of open defecation, especially as an issue connected to women in a U.P. small town. The hard-hitting satire and social agenda made the film a winner across the country, making the commercial film a successful torchbearer of social issues once again, for the film never jettisoned its entertainment quotient. It shot past even Jolly LLB2 in collections.
Bareilly Ki Barfi (Director: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari):
This was a sweet little juxtaposition of a family drama mixed with a love triangle. There was no message here, just a cute love story to be enjoyed, and Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao and Kriti Sanon with powerhouse character artistes Pankaj Tripathi and Seema Pahwa brought the story to life. What’s more, the film was made on a very slim budget, and raked in big profit.
Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (Director: R.S. Prasanna):
Loaded with humour, this film tackled the universal (!) issue of erectile dysfunction in a manner where it dissected its commonest cause as well as took potshots at society’s hypocritical stand on it. It was a double whammy for Ayushmann after Bareilly… and for Bhumi Pednekar, post-Toilet. Interestingly, the director fashioned this remake of his South film Kalyana Samayal Saadham by transplanting it after a lot of apt research in U.P., and the high authenticity was remarkable.
And yet, the Cinema 2017 journey is not all UP. All these hits have stories based there, but the converse is not true: all stories based in Uttar Pradesh are not successful. Lucknow Central, about a singer-aspirant from Moradabad making music in a Lucknow jail never worked, and now the Agra-based ‘80s-style revenge drama Bhoomi has been summarily rejected even by the main target audiences: the single-screens.
So whether Uttar Pradesh is a new trend or not is something we will come to know next year when films will be conceptualized and written based on the performance of these five hits! The state has figured in a lot of our best and worst films down the decade, but never so prominently in a segment of a single year.