Tag Archives: 2022

Prime Video Presents India 2022 Event

Amazon Prime Video India held a big press event today to announce the slate of original and licensed Indian content they plan to release over the next two years. The company’s YouTube channel published a short video with footage from some of the featured titles:

Variety’s Naman Ramachandran posted descriptions for the entire slate of new series and movies in the works. His article also mentions all of the series set to return with new seasons, including Breathe: Into the Shadows, Comicstaan, The Family Man, Four More Shots Please!, Made in Heaven, Mirzapur, Mumbai Diaries, Paatal Lok, and Panchayat.

The presentation also included mention of three “special collaborations” and co-productions, which will presumably get theatrical releases before streaming on Prime. Those are Tiku Weds Shiru (starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Avneet Kaur), Neeyat (Vidya Balan), and Ram Setu (Akshay Kumar).

On top of all that, Amazon went ahead and announced all of the titles that fall under their licensing associations with production houses Ajay Devgn Ffilms, Dharma Productions, Excel Entertainment, and Yash Raj Films for their forthcoming theatrical releases. Here are all the Hindi movies that will make their way onto Prime after their theatrical runs are over (by order of theatrical release date if known, then alphabetical):

  • Runway 34
  • Jayeshbhai Jordaar
  • Prithviraj
  • Govinda Naam Mera
  • Jug Jugg Jeeyo
  • Phone Bhoot
  • Shamshera
  • Thank God
  • Pathaan
  • Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani
  • Bholaa
  • Tiger 3
  • Drishyam 2
  • Fukrey 3
  • Jee Le Zara
  • Kho Gaye Hain Hum Kahan
  • Yudra

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Streaming Video News: April 25, 2022

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix because Alia Bhatt’s Gangubai Kathiawadi is now available for streaming. It made over $3 million when it released in US theaters in February — an massive number for a Hindi film not starring one of the Khans.

In other Netflix news, Dear Zindagi expired today. I guess they hit their Alia Bhatt limit with Gangubai Kathiawadi and had to let one of her other pictures go.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with a release date for their Hindi anthology Modern Love: Mumbai. It debuts on Friday, May 13 (so probably the afternoon of May 12 in the US). The anthology lineup is seriously impressive:

  1. RAAT RANI – directed by Shonali Bose, starring Fatima Sana Shaikh, Bhupendra Jadawat, and Dilip Prabhavalkar
  2. BAAI – directed by Hansal Mehta, starring Tanuja, Pratik Gandhi, and Ranveer Brar
  3. MUMBAI DRAGON – directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, starring Yeo Yann Yann, Meiyang Chang, Wamiqa Gabbi, and Naseeruddin Shah
  4. MY BEAUTIFUL WRINKLES – directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, starring Sarika, Danesh Razvi, Ahsaas Channa, and Tanvi Azmi
  5. I LOVE THANE – directed by Dhruv Sehgal, starring Masaba Gupta, Ritwik Bhowmik, Prateik Babbar, Aadar Malik, and Dolly Singh
  6. CUTTING CHAI – directed by Nupur Asthana, starring Chitrangda Singh, and Arshad Warsi

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with the premiere of the limited spin-off series Anupama: Namaste America. New episode debut daily at 1 p.m. CT in the US, with the final episode dropping on April 28. Hulu also revealed the trailer for their new Hotstar Special Hindi series Home Shanti, premiering May 6.

Movie Review: Dasvi (2022)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Dasvi on Netflix

Comedies made for an audience of all ages aren’t often considered prestige viewing, but they’re no less difficult to get right. Dasvi does just that, telling a story with broad appeal that never feels dumbed-down, thanks to solid performances and terrific story structure.

Abhishek Bachchan stars as Ganga Ram Chaudhary, Chief Minister (CM) of the state of Harit Pradesh. He’s used to getting his way, flaunting his power by transferring a local police officer he deems too strict and shutting down a proposal to build a school in favor of building a mall.

When he’s thrown into jail pending a bribery investigation, his life doesn’t change that much. Suck-up prison guard Satpal (Manu Rishi Chadha) gives Chaudhary special accommodations, and Chaudhary’s timid wife Bimla Devi (Nimrat Kaur) fills in as CM, taking direction from her husband over the phone.

All that changes when the prison gets a tough new warden, Jyoti Deshwal (Yami Gautam Dhar). Wouldn’t you know, she’s the same strict cop Chaudhary had transferred before he went to jail. She axes Chaudhary’s special privileges, including his daily calls to Bimla Devi, who’s left to govern on her own. Jyoti mocks Chaudhary’s eighth-grade education, calling him an “uncouth bumpkin.”

This hit to his pride — and his desire to avoid manual labor — inspires Chaudhary to take on the challenge of earning his high school diploma while behind bars. If he fails, he promises to drop out of politics.

Chaudhary is a fun comic hero because his flaws are obvious to the audience, but not to him. We know his dismissive attitude toward education needs to change, but why should it while he’s living the life he wants? When he finally gets on the right path, it’s a fun twist that his biggest obstacle is not the warden but his own wife, who’s come to enjoy the power that comes with being the CM.

A lot of the jokes in Dasvi stem from verbal faux pas committed by Chaudhary and Bimla Devi. Not all of the wordplay humor translates, but Laxminarayan Singh does a good job of nailing most of the jokes via the English subtitles (as when Bimla Devi insists that they build an “effigy” of her, when she means “statue”).

But Dasvi isn’t so much a laugh-out-loud comedy as it is one that lets the powerful make fools of themselves. The film doesn’t rely on tacky jokes or goofy sound effects, instead letting well-drawn characters highlight what’s funny about a perverse situation. This is all possible thanks to a carefully constructed screenplay by Suresh Nair and Ritesh Shah and some ace direction by Tushar Jalota, who helms his first feature film.

The cast does exactly what it needs to do to set the right tone, giving characters the right mix of silliness and sentiment. Abhishek Bachchan, Yami Gautam Dhar, and Nimrat Kaur carry most of the load, but supporting actors like Manu Rishi Chadha and Arun Kushwaha — who plays the math wiz bicycle thief Ghanti — complete the world-building.

Dasvi feels a lot like a Hollywood comedy in its structure, but it still makes room for a Bollywood-style dance number and a closing speech about the importance of education (for better or worse). It fits that such a widely accessible film would debut on Netflix, a platform always looking to reach a global audience. Making an all-ages film that families around the world can enjoy watching together is a worthy goal and no mean feat.

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Streaming Video News: April 8, 2022

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with two new Hindi films added this week: the comedy Dasvi and the LGBTQ drama Cobalt Blue (which was not very good). Also new this week is the social justice action flick Etharkkum Thunindhavan, available in its original Tamil plus dubbed versions in Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, and Telugu.

In other Netflix news, the Malayalam film Night Drive debuts on the service in the US in the early afternoon on April 9. Also, the title of the upcoming Netflix Original Hindi film Jaadugar — which I wrote about in my 2022 preview for What’s on Netflix — has been changed to Love Goals.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the streaming premiere of the Malayalam film Naradan. Amazon just released the trailer of their upcoming Hindi legal drama Guilty Minds, which debuts on April 22:

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with the worldwide premiere of the Tamil police drama Taanakkaran, also available in Kannada, Malayalam, and Telugu.

[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: Cobalt Blue (2022)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Cobalt Blue on Netflix

Authors don’t often direct the movie versions of their books, and perhaps with good reason. The Netflix Original film Cobalt Blue — based on a novel written by Sachin Kundalkar, who also directed the movie — could have benefited from an outsider’s perspective.

The story takes place in 1996 in Kerala. Literature student Tanay (Neelay Mehendale) lives with his grandparents, parents, brother Aseem (Anant V Joshi), and sister Anuja (Anjali Sivaraman). When the grandparents die, Tanay’s parents rent their vacant room to a paying guest, who is never named (played by Prateik Babbar).

The Guest is an artsy beefcake, prone to shirtlessness. His looks draw the admiration of Anuja and the other young women in the neighborhood, as well as Tanay. The Guest correctly interprets Tanay’s constant hovering as romantic interest, and the two have sex. Tanay is in love, but the Guest is coy about his feelings.

Meanwhile, Tanay’s parents are trying to find a groom for tomboy Anuja. She wants to take her field hockey career to the next level, but her parents insist that she start looking and acting like their idea of a proper lady.

While I’ve not read the book on which Cobalt Blue is based, I suspect much of the dialogue is taken directly from it, because it sounds like dialogue written to be read, and not actually spoken. Few of the conversations in the film actually sound conversational. Most lines are delivered with flat affect and punctuated with unnatural dramatic pauses.

The performances across the board are quite stiff, but none more so than that by Mehendale as Tanay. His posture and gait are so rigid as to make Buckingham Palace guards look relaxed by comparison. On top of that, some of his facial expressions — especially in the final shot of the film — are plain odd.

This is Mehendale’s first film, but his inexperience isn’t solely to blame for his awkward performance. That’s on the director, who should have given him better guidance. Kundalkar himself is not new behind the camera, with eight Marathi and Hindi films under his belt before this one.

Considering that Kundalkar wrote the book on which this movie based and adapted the screenplay himself, it’s reasonable to conclude that this is precisely the film he wanted to make. But its flaws feel like issues that could have been rectified by someone with a fresh perspective — someone who hasn’t had these characters in his head for more than two decades. The film has interesting things to say about the loneliness of being gay in a time before widespread internet access. The story isn’t the problem, just the way it’s presented.

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Movie Review: Sharmaji Namkeen (2022)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Sharmaji Namkeen on Amazon Prime

Rishi Kapoor’s final film is a charming story of a man trying to navigate his unplanned retirement. Sharmaji Namkeen is a lovely way to send off a legend.

A critical fact to know going in is that Kapoor passed away before the filming of Sharmaji Namkeen was complete. In a brief video before the movie starts, Kapoor’s son Ranbir explains that they considered various ways to finish the film but ultimately settled on having actor Paresh Rawal take over Kapoor’s role for the scenes he wasn’t able to film.

Though Kapoor and Rawal aren’t exactly lookalikes, the transitions between scenes are pretty seamless, thanks to rigorous attention to costume continuity. Though one doesn’t become blind to the difference, the premise of two actors sharing the same role is easy to roll with.

Kapoor and Rawal play Brij Gopal Sharma, a manager at an appliance company who’s forced to take an early retirement at age 58. Having devoted his whole life to his work, Sharmaji doesn’t know what to do with his newfound free time.

Sharmaji’s eldest son Rinku (Suhail Nayyar) has strong opinions about proper activities for a retiree — opinions he’s more comfortable expressing now that he’s the family breadwinner. Younger son Vincy (Taaruk Raina) just wants to go unnoticed as he fails his way through college.

One thing Sharmaji is good at is cooking, having taken over kitchen duties after his wife passed away. Rinku rejects Sharmaji’s idea of opening a snack shop, deeming cooking an unseemly profession for a middle-class retiree. Sharmaji’s best friend Chaddha (Satish Kaushik) suggests that he cater a party for a group of well-heeled women — a gig that would be easy enough to keep secret from Rinku. Thus begins Sharmaji’s second chapter as a professional chef and his friendship with a bunch of fun-loving ladies.

On a related note, the footage of food in Sharmaji Namkeen is beautifully shot by cinematographer Piyush Puty. Everything Sharmaji cooks looks scrumptious.

Sharmaji Namkeen is refreshing because it has plenty of conflict but no villains. Sharmaji and Rinku are both stubborn, with strong opinions about how the other one should live his life. Their cycle of keeping secrets from each other just to avoid a fight isn’t healthy or sustainable, but there isn’t any malice in it. They’re both just slow to adjust to their new reality.

While the theme about love and loyalty between family members is stated overtly, there’s a related theme about the importance of friends. The love-hate friendship between Sharmaji and Chaddha is adorable, but the support Sharmaji finds with his new circle of women is equally endearing. Given the prevalence of loneliness among seniors, Sharmaji Namkeen is a nice reminder that it’s never too late to make new friends.

Kapoor’s performance is very strong, establishing Sharmaji as persnickety but kind-hearted. Rawal matches Kapoor’s tone so well that the character feels totally cohesive. It’s wonderful that writer-director Hitesh Bhatia and his crew found a way to complete Sharmaji Namkeen. It’s a very enjoyable film.

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Movie Review: Jalsa (2022)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Jalsa on Amazon Prime

A hit-and-run accident upends the lives of a popular broadcaster and her cook in the drama Jalsa. Strong performances are the saving grace of a film that feels incomplete.

Jalsa opens with a shocking crime. A teenage girl is with a boy on a deserted railway overpass late at night. They fight and she runs away, straight into the path of an oncoming car. The driver and the boy flee, neither knowing if the girl is alive or dead.

Then the story rewinds to earlier in the day, before the accident. Flash-forward opens aren’t generally my favorite plot device, but this one effectively builds tension in Jalsa, because the story catches back up to the crash in about 20 minutes.

During that intervening time, the audience is introduced to Maya Menon (Vidya Balan), a TV journalist known for her tough — and maybe a little self-righteous — interviews of powerful people. Her long hours keep her away from her 10-year-old son Ayush (Surya Kasibhatla), who has cerebral palsy. Ayush is looked after by Maya’s mom (Rohini Hattangadi) and Ruksana (Shefali Shah), the family cook, whose long hours keep her away from her own family.

Since the audience and several of the characters quickly learn the identity of the hit-and-run driver, Jalsa isn’t a true mystery but more of an examination of the consequences of the crime. A subplot with a pair of cops trying to stall the investigation serves as a bit of a red herring, but it doesn’t feel organically integrated into the plot. Likewise, the speed with which a newly hired junior reporter at Maya’s station — who has only just moved to the city and knows no one — uncovers evidence of the police coverup is unconvincing.

Class plays a strong role in the narrative, as Maya and Ruksana face the challenges of parenting with dramatically different resources at their disposal. As someone from outside India and the diaspora (and as someone who’s not rich), I felt like I was missing context about the relationships between wealthy employers and members of their household staff. Without knowing what the expected level of intimacy between the employers and employees should be, I had trouble deciphering when people were acting abnormally or what should be read into certain interactions. Whether that’s my own lack of context or a fault of the writing, I can’t say.

It is worth noting that in my review of Jalsa director Suresh Triveni’s 2017 debut, Tumhari Sulu, I also felt like the movie wasn’t clear about the characters’ feelings or how the audience was supposed to feel about them. Maybe this is just an aspect of Triveni’s storytelling style that I don’t connect with. I also suggested in my Tumhari Sulu review that he bring on a co-writer for his next film, and he did: Prajwal Chandrashekar. Perhaps that’s why I found Jalsa slightly more successful.

Despite Triveni’s storytelling faults, Balan and Shah are such gifted actors that it’s hard not to be invested in their characters. Both women experience pain, anxiety, and anger, and the performances by Balan and Shah are right on point. Manav Kaul — who played Balan’s husband in Tumhari Sulu — has a nice cameo as Maya’s ex-husband/Ayush’s dad.

Another quality performance comes from Surya Kasibhatla as Maya’s son Ayush. Casting a boy who actually has cerebral palsy makes the role that much more impactful. We can understand why the adults around Ayush feel so protective of him, but also why he’s more independent than they think he is. Kasibhatla plays Ayush with just the right amount of cheek for a kid who’s trying to assert more control over his life but who still loves his family. Casting Kasibhatla was a great choice, and I hope to see him in other films in the future.

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Netflix Women’s Day 2022 News

In honor of International Women’s Day, the Netflix India Twitter account drew special attention to six upcoming projects with strong women characters, including some new photos. The account tweeted about the recently announced films Kathal, Thar, and Qala, as well as the upcoming second seasons of Masaba Masaba and She. Most exciting was a tweet about the forthcoming series Mai, which was announced a couple of years ago and hasn’t gotten much attention since. All of the titles were mentioned as “coming soon,” so here’s hoping that’s true.

Netflix recently brought together a bunch of the women filmmakers and actors responsible for the streamer’s biggest Indian hits to film a promotional video for Netflix and take questions from the media. Friend of Access Bollywood Suchin Mehrotra was at the event reporting for The Hindu, and Anupama Chopra recorded a video interview for Film Companion. Check it out:

As if this wasn’t enough, yesterday Netflix revealed that Alia Bhatt’s first foray into Hollywood will be a role in the Netflix Original film Heart of Stone, starring Gal Gadot and Jamie Dornan. Exciting stuff!

Movie Review: Looop Lapeta (2022)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Looop Lapeta on Netflix

Looop Lapeta is an official remake of the 1998 German film Run Lola Run (complete with a couple of cute nods to the original). To give a hint to the Hindi adaptation’s main problem, consider this: Looop Lapeta is 2 hours and 11 minutes long, while Run Lola Run has a runtime of just 1 hour and 20 minutes.

From the start, debutant feature director Aakash Bhatia makes a statement with the film’s bold visual style. The color palette tends toward saturated greens and reds, and the camera makes frequent use of closeups of the actors’ faces. The style, coupled with a raucous soundtrack, preps the audience for a film that could be colloquially described as a bit “extra.”

Taapsee Pannu plays Savi, a former track athlete whose plans were dashed by a career-ending knee injury. She’s saved in her moment of despair by Satya (Tahir Raj Bhasin), a guy who means well even if he struggles to do well. Though they love each other, they’re getting nowhere, with Savi addicted to prescription drugs she steals from the elderly man she takes care of and Satya gambling away whatever money he earns.

Things get serious when Satya loses $5 million and has less than an hour to replace it before his gangster boss cooks him alive. Savi jumps into action to save Satya, stymied in her quest by a lovelorn cab driver named Jacob (Sameer Kevin Roy) and bumbling brothers Appu (Manik Papneja) and Gappu (Raghav Raj Kakker), among others.

There’s more to Savi’s mission than simply saving Satya’s life — Savi has to stop hurting herself and others and reengage with society in a productive way — but the film doesn’t do the early work to establish why we should care whether Savi and Satya succeed. It’s taken for granted that we will because they’re the main characters and because Savi is pregnant (something she’s not happy about).

That said, when the film finally establishes what Savi’s real goal is, the story is quite enjoyable. Pannu does a nice job switching from a woman angry with the world to one with a purpose. Her subplot with Jacob the cabbie is pretty fun.

Yet the movie would’ve been better if it were quite a bit shorter. Bhatia’s remake is 50 minutes longer than the original, and without good reason. The script relies on repetition for humor, to its detriment. Characters repeat the phrase “pachaas laakh” (“five million”) to each other over and over in a scene that repeats itself multiple times throughout the film. It’s not amusing.

Worse still is the time devoted to the bumbling brothers Appu and Gappu, sons of a jewelry store owner who feel unappreciated by their dad. They plan to rob the jewelry store at the same time Satya is trying to rob the same store. The brothers are irritating and repetitive, subtracting more than they add to the story.

Director Bhatia’s first feature film shows some promise, but he missed a crucial lesson from his source material: less is more.

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Streaming Video News: February 22, 2022

In the last week, Netflix announced three new Indian productions. First up is a series I covered in my 2022 Netflix India preview for What’s on Netflix — Eternally Confused and Eager for Love. The new series from Farhan Akhtar’s Excel Entertainment and Zoya Akhtar’s Tiger Baby Films stars Vihaan Samat as a guy with a floundering love life and a wizard figurine that talks to him. Eternally Confused and Eager for Love premieres on March 18. Check out the trailer below:

The two other series that Netflix announced in the last couple of days are brand new and classified as “coming soon.” The Western noir Thar stars Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor as a man seeking revenge in Rajasthan. Anil Kapoor co-produces and co-stars in the project, reuniting father and son on screen again after the excellent 2020 Netflix Original thriller AK vs AK.

(On a related note, I was intrigued by the “Western noir” descriptor and found an interesting explanation of the sub-genre at CrimeReads. Check out the Chris Pine-Jeff Bridges flick Hell or High Water on Netflix for a great recent example of Western noir.)

Today, Netflix announced the hinterlands revenge drama series (I’m sensing a theme) CAT, starring Randeep Hooda. Given how often the press release mentions Randeep’s role in the 2020 action flick Extraction, I’m a little surprised it’s taken this long for Netflix to announce a project with him.

The timing of these announcements is interesting. Last year, Netflix held it’s “See What’s Next India” event on March 3, in which it revealed more than 40 new Indian series and movies in the works. Are these announcements from the last week leading up to another big event, or are they happening in lieu of one? We’ll have to wait and see.

This post seems like a good opportunity to link to press releases about the two other Indian series Netflix has announced since the start of the year. Filmmaking duo Raj & DK are working on the crime comedy Guns & Gulaabs, and director Hansal Mehta is adapting the character drama Scoop from the book Behind the Bars in Byculla.

Which of these upcoming projects are you looking forward to the most?