Author Archives: Kathy

Streaming Video News: November 19, 2021

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s premier of the Hindi thriller Dhamaka, starring Kartik Aaryan. The latest Little Singham movie — Samundar Ka Sikandar — also dropped on Netflix today. These could be the last two Indian flicks added to Netflix for the rest of November, with Cobalt Blue not scheduled to arrive until December 3.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with yesterday’s trio of new additions: Adbhutham (Telugu), Cash (Hindi), and Pon Manickavel (Tamil). Hulu has been importing older Hotstar content in other languages, and I’ll work on incorporating those titles into the page over the next couple of weeks.

In a surprise announcement yesterday, Disney (parent company of Hulu and Hotstar) announced that Hotstar will officially cease operation in the United States on November 30, 2021. This is a huge acceleration from the “late 2022” date that was originally announced back when Hotstar’s content was split between Hulu and ESPN+ back in September. By now, all Hotstar subscribers should have received an email offer — and several reminder emails — to upgrade to the Disney Bundle in order to maintain access to Hotstar’s content. I’m guessing this pre-ponement means that enough Hotstar subscribers have made the switch that Disney feels comfortable forcing the remaining holdouts to do so as well.

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with a few additions in an otherwise quiet week. Next week will be busier, with the debuts of the Telugu sequel Drushyam 2 on November 25 and the Hindi horror film Chhorii on the 26th.

Movie Review: India Sweets and Spices (2021)

India Sweets and Spices poster3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Find tickets for India Sweets and Spices here

A chance meeting with a hot guy in a grocery store leads to shocking family revelations in the delightful American comedy India Sweets and Spices.

Alia Kapur (Sophia Ali) returns home from college for another boring summer at home. Life with her family in their wealthy New Jersey suburb is the same as ever: her younger brother and sister constantly fight, mom Sheila (Manisha Koirala) is obsessed with keeping up appearances, and dad Ranjit (Adil Hussain) is always golfing. Their lives are structured around a rotation of weekly parties thrown by the local Desi elite in order to show off new designer sarees, brag about their children, and judge one another. The movie’s plot is structured around these events, too, with onscreen titles announcing which family party is about to spark the latest drama.

On a trip to the grocery store, Alia meets Varun Dutta (Rish Shah), the handsome son of the new owners of the shop, India Sweets and Spices. Breaking with protocol, Alia invites working class Varun and his family — including his mom Bhairavi (Deepti Gupta) and dad Kamlesh (Kamran Shaikh) — to her family’s house for the weekly party.

Having grown up insulated from from the realities of class distinctions, Alia is surprised when her parents and their friends won’t even feign kindness toward the Duttas — but bigger surprises await. Varun, Alia, and her friend Rahul (Ved Sapru) catch Alia’s dad making out with Rahul’s mom. And it turns out Bhairavi is an old college friend of Sheila’s, though Sheila tries to downplay the relationship. Alia’s only ever considered her parents as “her parents.” Who are they really?

Writer-director Geeta Malik is excellent at world building, populating the posh suburb of Ruby Hill with well-defined characters. Alia is a product of her environment, and her struggle as a young adult to figure out who she’s supposed to be plays out within that context. Should Alia have been shocked that the Duttas were ostracized by the wealthy doctors and engineers her parents hobnob with? Probably not, but hers is a world where scrutiny stops at surface level.

For example, Alia is impressed by the number of books Varun has in his room. When he points out that her house has a look of books, too, she says that they aren’t even real. They’re just a color coordinated set of Swedish novels with uncut pages meant to match the decor. Later, Alia points out the same set of Swedish books on the shelves in Rahul’s house, and Rahul is stunned to learn that they’re fake. He’d never even looked at them.

Even though Alia’s younger siblings don’t feature prominently in the story, they help establish a world that is bigger than just Alia, her parents, and the guy she likes. Same for childhood friends like Rahul and Neha (Anita Kalathara). The rapport between Neha and Alia is especially charming.

India Sweets and Spices is a great showcase for Ali, who has mostly worked in TV to this point (including multiple seasons of Grey’s Anatomy). She’s poised for a major profile boost when she plays the love interest to Tom Holland’s character in the long-awaited adventure movie Uncharted, which releases next year.

Hussain and Koirala are terrific as Alia’s parents, though that’s no surprise. Koirala puts a funny spin on an item number, as Sheila saunters into a room holding a plate of samosas, accompanied by the party anthem “Sheila Ki Jawani.” There are other amusing uses of popular Bollywood tunes and fun glimpses of movies as characters flip channels on the TV.

India Sweets and Spices is really well made. It’ll be fun to see what Geeta Malik does next.

Links

  • India Sweets and Spices at IMDb

Streaming Video News: November 5, 2021

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s premier of the new Hindi romcom Meenakshi Sundareshwar and the addition of the Tamil film Doctor, which is also available in Kannada, Malayalam, and Telugu. The 2021 Tamil movie Mughizh lands on Netflix November 6.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with this week’s addition of the Telugu film Gully Rowdy and the Tamil flick MGR Magan (also available in Kannada, Malayalam, and Telugu).

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime as well, with the debuts of the new Hindi series Akkad Bakkad Rafu Chakkar (also in 4K UHD) and the courtroom drama Jai Bhim, which is available in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada & Malayalam.

Although Mumbai theaters have officially been open for a couple of weeks, Bollywood’s return to cinemas starts today with the release of Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi. So when can we expect it and other theatrical releases to make their way to streaming services? While the theatrical exclusivity window used to be eight weeks, reports have many upcoming titles coming to streaming after just four weeks — an acknowledgement that a large portion of the audience is still uncomfortable attending showings in theaters. That would see Sooryavanshi coming to Netflix in early December. I list movies’ streaming partners on my Upcoming Bollywood Releases page, so check it to see where films are heading after their theatrical runs wind down.

Happy Diwali! — Kathy

[Disclaimer: my Amazon links include an affiliate tag, and I may earn a commission on purchases made via those links. Thanks for helping to support this website!]

Movie Review: Dybbuk (2021)

1 Star (out of 4)

Watch Dybbuk on Amazon Prime

There’s a temptation to look for symbolism or thematic parallels in Dybbuk. Don’t bother.

Writer-director Jay K — who also wrote and directed Ezra, the Malayalam film on which Dybbuk is based — introduces potential themes and subplots that should be relevant but ultimately are not. As I describe the plot, I’ll put an asterisk (*) next to each theme that goes nowhere.

Married couple Sam (Emraan Hashmi) and Mahi (Nikita Dutta) are moving from Mumbai to Mauritius for Sam’s new job. Mahi worries about leaving her support system*, but Sam assures her she’ll be fine. Besides, her parents have never accepted their marriage since she’s Hindu and he’s Christian*.

They arrive at their colonial-era mansion in Mauritius, which comes complete with a suspicious maid* and an attic full of creepy junk*. Sam gets busy at his new job trying to turn Mauritius into a dumping ground for European nuclear waste*. His uncle, Father Gabriel (Denzil Smith), calls to ask how Mahi is coping with the move, especially after her recent miscarriage*.

Mahi shops at an antique store, which looks surprisingly tidy for a place that was the scene of a violent murder of possibly supernatural origins days earlier. She buys an obviously cursed box — part of a collection belonging to a deceased Jewish scholar — takes it home and opens it. Trouble ensues.

The symbolism of opening the box could have paralleled any of the dead-end plot points highlighted above in order to explore a particular theme: commonalities across faiths in times of spiritual crisis; the danger of putting work before personal relationships; how partners respond differently to a miscarriage; the threat of environmental catastrophe; continuing efforts by wealthy countries to exploit their former colonies (perhaps with the mansion being itself a cursed symbol of colonial oppression); etc.

Dybbuk isn’t about any of that. It’s just about a mean ghost. The rules governing how the ghost operates are flexible and dependent upon bits of information dropped into the story without setup. When asked why Sam and Mahi are so unfortunate as to be the ghost’s victims, Father Gabriel says, “There’s no logical explanations for these things.”

If Sam and Mahi were a happy couple, Father Gabriel’s explanation might be fine. But Jay K introduces these points of potential conflict to give the impression that there’s more to the story than just supernatural hijinks, when there isn’t.

For Dybbuk to have any depth or subtext, characters would have to have meaningful conversations with one another about more than just the mechanics of exorcising a ghost. After Mahi becomes pregnant again, she and Sam don’t talk about her feelings or fears given her past miscarriage. If they aren’t going to discuss the specific emotional trauma that comes from miscarriage, why make it a plot point?

Emotional depth isn’t possible in a story where Mahi is hardly a character in her own right. She exists to trigger the supernatural crisis and to give Sam someone to worry about. With a better script (and better direction of the mostly expressionless actors), Dybbuk could have been about something. Shame that it isn’t.

Links

[Disclaimer: my Amazon links include an affiliate tag, and I may earn a commission on purchases made via those links. Thanks for helping to support this website!]

Streaming Video News: October 29, 2021

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the debut of Emraan Hashmi’s latest horror movie Dybbuk (also available in 4K UHD), a remake of the Malayalam movie Ezra. Other recent Amazon Prime debuts include Erida (Malayalam) and the Tamil movies Cinderella and Kodiyil Oruvan.

Bollywood Hungama reports that Amazon acquired the rights to stream four upcoming movies from Yash Raj Films — Bunty aur Babli 2, Prithviraj, Jayeshbhai Jordaar, and Shamshera — on Prime four weeks after their theatrical release.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s premier of the Hindi series Call My Agent Bollywood, the Indian version of the French series Call My Agent!.

We’re still waiting for Hulu to post the new Kriti Sanon-Rajkummar Rao Hum Do Hamare Do, which debuted on Disney+ Hotstar in India earlier today. I’m not sure why Hulu insists on delaying its Hotstar premiers until evening in the US, but it is what it is. [Update: Hum Do Hamare Do is now available.]

While updating my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with some newly added TV series, I timed how long it takes to scroll to the bottom of Hulu’s complete A-Z list of Hotstar content. Because it only loads 15 titles at a time, scrolling all the way to the last title on the list took a full 1 minute and 24 seconds! You can get to the bottom of my Hulu list in 5 seconds. Just sayin’.

Happy Halloween! — Kathy

[Disclaimer: my Amazon links include an affiliate tag, and I may earn a commission on purchases made via those links. Thanks for helping to support this website!]

Late 2021/Early 2022 Release Calendar Update

Almost as soon as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra announced that cinema halls will reopen on October 22, studios set about claiming prime weekends, filling up the release calendar through April 2022 in no time. This meant shifting around some titles that haven’t completed production yet, including Aamir Khan’s Forrest Gump remake Laal Singh Chaddha, which abandoned Christmas 2021 and moved back to Valentine’s Day 2022. Ranveer Singh’s cricket biopic 83 quickly took its place, locking this Christmas Eve for its cinematic debut.

Of course, the current release schedule could be moot if a COVID resurgence forces Mumbai theaters to close again. Akshay Kumar noted that the biggest risk when BellBottom released on August 19 — while theaters in Mumbai were closed — is that 30% of most Hindi films’ revenue comes from theaters in Maharashtra state. Many production houses have shown themselves willing to wait for favorable theatrical conditions to release their movies rather than take quick money for a streaming service debut.

Check out my full release calendar for all of the newly announced dates for the Hindi movies that I believe are likely to open in theaters in the United States. While you’re there, scroll down to see all of the movies that had previously announced theatrical release dates but have not yet rescheduled. Right now, Nikamma is the Bollywood movie that’s been waiting the longest for a release. It was originally supposed to hit theaters on June 5, 2020! I’ll update the page as more titles from the “Postponed” section announce their new dates.

Streaming Video News: September 24, 2021

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s premiere of Season 2 of Kota Factory. On Wednesday, Netflix debuted its Original Kannada docu-series Crime Patrol: Indian Detectives, which has dubbed audio options in English and Hindi. Other additions from earlier in the week include the late-’90s Tamil films Avvai Shanmughi, Jeans, and Minsara Kanavu.

Nineteen Punjabi movies expire from Netflix on October 1. That’s half of Netflix’s current Punjabi-language catalog. For the full list of all of the Indian titles expiring in October, check out the “Expiring Soon” section near the top of my Netflix page.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with yesterday’s debut of the Tamil film Raame Aandalum Raavane Aandalum.

Today, Amazon announced its festive season lineup of big Indian (and English) titles releasing over the next couple of months. Sardar Udham (Hindi) and Udan Pirappe (Tamil) are set to debut in October, with Jai Bhim (Tamil) coming in November. Release dates for the rest of the titles — including the Malayalam movie Bhramam, Season 2 of One Mic Stand, and Dybbuk, the Hindi remake of the Malayalam film Ezra — have yet to be announced.[Disclaimer: my Amazon links include an affiliate tag, and I may earn a commission on purchases made via those links. Thanks for helping to support this website!]

Streaming Video News: September 17, 2021

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s addition of the Netflix Original film Ankahi Kahaniya, an anthology of three shorts directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Abhishek Chaubey, and Saket Chaudhury. This week also saw the return of the series Dharmakshetra, Raja Rasoi Aur Anya Kahaniyan, and Stories by Rabindranath Tagore.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime because Akshay Kumar’s August theatrical release BellBottom is now available for streaming.

Finally, I finished adding all of the Hotstar content currently available on Hulu in all languages to my new list of Bollywood movies on Hulu. For now, the only sizable movie catalogs are in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu, with the Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, and Marathi catalogs consisting almost entirely of “Hotstar Specials” releases. It’s worth noting that dozens of the movies listed as currently streaming in the United States on this list from Hotstar aren’t actually available. We’ll see if they’re added over time.

Today’s new additions to Hulu/Hotstar are the new Telugu movie Maestro and the Tamil film Annabelle Sethupathi, which is also available in dubbed versions in Kannada, Telugu, and Hindi (under the title Annabelle Rathore).

[Disclaimer: my Amazon links include an affiliate tag, and I may earn a commission on purchases made via those links. Thanks for helping to support this website!]

New Indian Movies on Hulu Page

I created a new page listing all of the Indian movies and Hotstar Specials on Hulu. Actually, I just resurrected my old Bollywood Movies on Hulu page from 2016, when Hulu jettisoned all of its Indian content. The revived page now has all of the content that Hulu recently acquired from Hotstar. You can find links to the new page at the top of the site and in the right sidebar.

For right now, it’s just the Hindi films and Hotstar Specials (“Hotstar Specials” being their term for original movies and TV series). But I’ll add links to content in other languages over the course of time.

You’ve probably noticed, Hulu’s site is annoying to navigate and takes forever to load. Well, I have to tell you — I don’t have any special means of getting the information from Hulu. No scripts or web scrapers to grab content. It’s just me copying and pasting links and titles over and over for hours at a time — all in an effort to make it quicker and easier for fans to see what Indian movies are available on Hulu.

If you appreciate my efforts, please consider sending me a donation via PayPal. If your company or organization would like to sponsor this Hulu page or another page at Access Bollywood, please email me at accessbolly at gmail dot com.

Thanks! I hope you find this new page useful! — Kathy

Hotstar Content Moves to Hulu and ESPN+ in US

Hotstar’s days as a standalone streaming service are numbered in the United States. Disney — who owns Hotstar — announced Tuesday, September 1 that Hotstar’s content would be incorporated into its other streaming services before shutting down for good late in 2022. Hulu will carry Hotstar’s movies and TV series, while ESPN+ will take over Hotstar’s sports programming.

The content shift is already underway. @parikhm on Twitter sent me this screenshot from Hulu on Wednesday, with a panel advertising Hotstar content under the “Hubs” link at the top of the page.

We got even more information today via an email sent to Hotstar subscribers. In addition to sending each subscriber an offer code to upgrade to the Disney bundle (more on that in a bit), the email linked to a page listing all of the movies in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu that are already available on Hulu — find them under the “A-Z” category at the bottom of this page — as well as those films that are “coming soon.” (There are specific pages for TV shows, sports tournaments, and Hotstar Specials as well.) While most movies will make the journey to Hulu, not all will. Notable titles absent from the list include Highway, Junglee, and my beloved Creature 3D.

The movies and shows that have already moved to Hulu are no longer available on Hotstar. Clicking on Bhuj: The Pride of India‘s Hotstar link returns a 404 error. I assume this means that Bhoot Police will release on Hulu and not Hotstar on September 17. When the Indian Premier League cricket season resumes on September 19, ESPN+ will carry the games, not Hotstar.

Considering that Hotstar subscribers would need both Hulu and ESPN+ to access all (well, most) of the content previously available on Hotstar, today’s email includes an offer code allowing users to access the Disney bundle — which includes ad-supported Hulu, ESPN+, and Disney+ — for the remainder of their Hotstar subscription. Getting access to all of the other Hulu and ESPN+ content plus Disney+ is a nice bonus, especially if your Hotstar subscription renewed recently. A year’s subscription to Hotstar costs $49.99, while a year’s worth of the $13.99/month Disney bundle will set you back $167.88 in total.

There’s the rub. Splitting Hotstar’s content between Hulu and ESPN+ is ultimately going to cost customers a lot more: 3x as much for the lower-tier Disney Bundle, and almost 5x as much if you want the $19.99/month Disney bundle that includes the ad-free version of Hulu ($239.88 annually).

The forced price increase is unfortunate, but par for the course for Disney in recent weeks. From charging visitors to Disney theme parks to skip the standby line at attractions (a formerly free perk) to jacking up the prices of annual passes while stripping benefits, Disney is doing all it can to squeeze every penny out of its customers.

So what are the alternatives? If you only subscribed to Hotstar for the movies and shows, a standalone Hulu subscription with ads costs $5.99/month or $59.99/year, or $11.99/month without ads ($143.88 total for one year, with no annual subscription option). [Update: on October 8, 2021, the price of ad-supported Hulu will increase to $6.99/month or $69.99/year, and ad-free Hulu increases to $12.99/month.] If you’re only interested in cricket, ESPN+ costs $6.99/month or $69.99/year. You’re still going to pay more that you have been with Hotstar, unfortunately. If you wanted to recreate Hotstar by getting annual subscriptions to both EPSN+ and (ad-supported) Hulu, it’ll run you $129.98 — almost $40 cheaper than the Disney Bundle.

For now, this merger only applies to the US. Canada doesn’t even have access to Hulu, so Hotstar lives on north of the border for the time being. In the meantime, I’m gonna rewatch Creature 3D for the millionth time while I still can.