Tag Archives: 2023

Streaming Video News: December 1, 2023

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the addition of a couple of theatrical releases: Akshay Kumar’s disaster drama Mission Raniganj and Bhumi Pednekar’s comedy Thank You for Coming (which I thought was okay). Some older Telugu films were added as well:

If you missed any of the Indian content Netflix added last month, my November roundup is now up at What’s on Netflix.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the addition of the Malayalam film Garudan and two new Amazon Original series: Shehar Lakhot (Hindi) and Dhootha (Telugu).

Next week is going to be really busy for new streaming-exclusive Hindi films. The big one, of course, is The Archies (read my preview at What’s on Netflix) on Netflix on Thursday, December 7. [For some reason, Netflix is adding the theatrical release Dhak Dhak that day as well.] Then, on December 8 — although more likely the afternoon of the 7th in North America — Amazon Prime debuts the comedy Mast Mein Rehna Ka starring Jackie Shroff and Neena Gupta and Zee5 launches the Pankaj Tripathi thriller Kadak Singh. Clear your schedule, ’cause there’s gonna be a lot of new stuff to watch!

[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: Apurva (2023)

1 Star (out of 4)

Watch Apurva on Hulu

A kidnapped woman fights for her life in the survival thriller Apurva, which is nowhere near as exciting as that summary makes it sound.

Apurva opens not with the title character — played by Tara Sutaria in what is clearly supposed to be her breakout, solo-heroine role — but with her kidnappers: a dull quartet of crude, violent thieves lead by Jugnu (Rajpal Yadav). Sukkha (Abhishek Banerjee) is second in command, with Balli (Sumit Gulati) and Chhota (Aaditya Gupta) rounding out the group. They beat people to death and have literal pissing contests out in the bleak Chambal desert. They’re too cliched to be scary, even though composer Ketan Sodha tries his best to make them seem so with some threatening background music.

After spending too much time with these dullards, we finally meet Apurva. She’s on a bus to Agra to surprise her fiance Sid (Dhairya Karwa) for his birthday. En route, Jugnu & Co kill the bus driver and rob the passengers. Sid calls during the robbery, and Sukkha answers, telling him they’re taking beautiful Apurva with them.

Just in case we doubted whether a man engaged to a woman who cares enough to surprise him for his birthday would actually want her back, we get a flashback and song montage detailing Apurva’s introduction to Sid and their bubbly courtship. With their mutual affection confirmed, we can rest assured that Apurva has a reason to live and that Sid will try to save her.

Thus Apurva endures one of the least-interesting movie kidnappings ever. She spends a good chunk of time knocked out after Chhota slaps her. At one point, an astrologer (Rakesh Chaturvedi Om) randomly wanders into the ruins of the village where they’re holding her, despite it being well off the road and miles from anyplace inhabited.

Things get even sillier when writer-director Nikhil Nagesh Bhat — the filmmaker responsible for last year’s awful movie Hurdang — tries to tie the astrologer’s presence into the plot via a flashback with Sid that only highlights just how illogical his involvement is. Then again, that kind of fits in a movie where I repeatedly yelled at the main character to “just run!” when she was sitting there, waiting for her captors to find her.

Apurva is so insubstantial that there’s little chance for Sutaria to show off any heretofore unseen acting chops. She spends much of the film slowly moving barefoot through the ruins or yelling while lifting heavy objects, despite the fact that there’s nothing around to muffle sounds and her captors would obviously hear her. The thieves are a bunch of hapless jackasses, and Sid isn’t present enough for Karwa to have an impact. If you want to watch a “woman in trouble” film, watch Anushka Sharma in NH10 instead.


Streaming Video News: November 16, 2023

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s addition of Shilpa Shetty’s comedy Sukhee. The new Hindi series The Railway Men premieres on Saturday, November 18.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with today’s additions of Vicky Kaushal’s film The Great Indian Family, Boyz 4 (Marathi), Good Night (Tamil), and Tiger Nageswara Rao (Telugu). Yesterday, Prime added the Thai-English romantic comedy about drama at an Indian wedding, Congrats My Ex.

Checking the Amazon Prime catalog the other day, I found updated links for a bunch of Bollywood movies that expired a while ago. Here’s what’s available on Prime once more:

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with the straight-to-streaming debut of the thriller Apurva, starring Tara Sutaria. The Malayalam movie Kannur Squad is also now streaming (available in Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, and Telugu as well).

[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: Pippa (2023)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Pippa on Amazon Prime

Pippa is a welcome counterpoint to the many mediocre war films Bollywood has churned out in recent years. This adaptation of the autobiographical book The Burning Chaffees by Brigadier Balram Singh Mehta balances family drama with well-shot battle scenes.

At first, Pippa seems like Top Gun with tanks. Set during the run-up to India’s war with Pakistan in late 1971, Balli Mehta (Ishaan Khatter, playing the book’s author) is his squad’s best leader, but he’s a bit of a maverick. While training on a new Russian amphibious tank nicknamed the Pippa, Balli ignores commands to return to shore, pushing his crew and their tank into deep water. Men and machine survive unharmed, and Balli celebrates by wooing a pretty Russian translator in the film’s only — and very entertaining — dance number, “Main Parwaana.”

One thing to notice in “Main Parwaana” is how long many of the shots are and how few edits are used to piece the finished number together. That’s only possible because Khatter and Leysan Karimova (who plays the translator) are such talented dancers, but it’s a technique director Raja Krishna Menon reuses later in the film to make for some gripping action sequences.

Despite the story’s early focus on Balli, Pippa isn’t about a singular hero, but about where he fits among his fellow soldiers and within his military family. Balli’s father died in combat decades earlier. Balli’s upright older brother Ram (Priyanshu Painyuli) followed Dad’s career path and enlisted Balli against his will. Their sister Radha (Mrunal Thakur) is in medical school, where her interest in cryptography catches the eye of India’s secretive Communications Analysis Wing.

All three siblings play their part in the war, with Ram assigned to go undercover with freedom fighters in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and Radha deciphering coded messages from West Pakistan. After a brief punishment for his tank stunt, Balli is sent to the front, where he hopes to reunite with his brother and repair their contentious relationship. Being able to jump from one sibling’s vantage on the war to another gives a comprehensive view that connects the narrative in a natural way.

Khatter has the most to do in the film, and he’s more than capable as the story’s fulcrum. But terrific, focused performances by Thakur and Painyuli are essential to Pippa‘s success. The rest of the supporting cast is also quite good, including Chandrachoor Rai and Anuj Singh Duhan as Balli’s comrades Chiefy and Speedy, respectively.

Pippa has some great period details, including Radha’s killer wardrobe. Best of all are the tanks themselves. The way they roll slowly, menacingly over the terrain while belching clouds of dark grey exhaust makes one appreciate filmmakers who utilize physical props, not just computer generated effects. Scores of extras enhance the movie’s realism.

After all, the ultimate point of Menon’s story is to showcase the effects that war has on people. The characters state explicitly that this conflict is not just about one country versus another — the reductive way many directors have framed their movies about the 1971 war in recent years — but rather a war against tyranny. The suffering of the people of East Pakistan is centered, with Indian soldiers seeing themselves as agents to alleviate that suffering. Balli’s mother (played by Soni Razdan) reminds him that they were refugees after Partition, too, and seeing the dire state of the refugees on his way to the front helps him become the responsible leader he needs to be. It’s a refreshing, humanizing perspective.


[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: Jawan (2023)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

When successful Tamil-film director Atlee decided to make his first Hindi movie, he went straight to the top of the Bollywood food chain and nabbed Shah Rukh Khan as his star. The resultant action-fest Jawan (“Soldier“) is a novel treat for fans of Hindi cinema.

Jawan‘s gorgeously shot introductory sequence sets the tone for the film. A man’s body floats down a river near a village along India’s border with China. He’s so severely injured that the local healer wraps him entirely in bandages, like a mummy. Months later, as the man lays comatose, Chinese troops stage a nighttime raid on the village, brutally slaughtering men, women, and children. As the healer prays to god to send them aid, the man (Shah Rukh Khan) awakens and kills all the Chinese troops.

From this sequence, we learn that this is intended to be a larger-than-life story not strictly grounded in realism. It’s also very bloody and violent. It introduces recurring themes like government indifference to the suffering of its citizens and a subsequent need for vigilante justice.

The story jumps thirty years into the future as a band of six women and another man whose head is wrapped in bandages (also Khan) hijack a Mumbai Metro train. One of the passengers is the daughter of crooked businessman Kalee Gaikwad (Vijay Sethupathi), and the hijackers demand a large ransom from him. They use that money to pay the debts of 700,000 impoverished farmers, earning the respect of both the hijacked passengers and the general public.

The hijackers escape and return to their hideout: a women’s prison where the now-unbandaged man, Azad, is the warden. Because of its zero recidivism rate and emphasis on social welfare projects, Azad and the inmates win an international award. Cue a prison dance number!

If all this seems wild, well, it is. A ton of stuff happens across multiple timelines featuring a huge cast of characters. And I haven’t even touched on Azad’s matchmaking subplot, the cop Narmada (Nayanthara) who’s out to nab the hijackers, and an extended flashback starring Deepika Padukone.

Yet because of the terms laid out in Jawan‘s opening, none of this seems “too much.” Or maybe it’s “too much” in a good way. All these plot points are punctuated by exciting fights and chase scenes and a number of entertaining dance numbers. Atlee puts the pedal to the floor at the beginning and never lets up. There isn’t a boring moment in Jawan.

[Side note: I watched the “Extended Cut” of Jawan on Netflix, which is only one minute longer than the version released in theaters, as far as I can tell. The story is so dense as is that it doesn’t feel like it needs anything else, except for perhaps more backstory for all of Azad’s accomplices.]

Khan is thoroughly enjoyable in his multiple avatars and looks like he’s having fun while treating the material sincerely. Nayanthara and the women in Azad’s crew — including Sanya Malhotra — give nice performances in their supporting roles.

Padukone’s extended cameo appearance is a delightful surprise. Hers is the film’s most emotional subplot, and it’s enhanced not just by her steady acting but by some terrific music as well.

If there’s a weak point in Jawan, it’s Sethupathi’s turn as the villain. Sethupathi seems distant from the material and doesn’t make Kalee Gaikwad as menacing an adversary as Azad and company deserve.

But Jawan is bigger than any individual performance. It’s understandable that regular lead performers like Malhotra and Sunil Grover (who plays Narmada’s assistant Irani) would be willing to take small supporting roles to participate in such an epic story. Atlee and Shah Rukh Khan swung for the fences and hit a home run with Jawan.


Streaming Video News: November 9, 2023

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with today’s world premiere of the Hindi war drama Pippa, starring Ishaan Khatter and Mrunal Thakur. Amazon also added the Tamil film Pulikkuthi Pandi today.

While Tiger 3 gets ready to hit theaters this weekend, its eventual streaming home is Amazon Prime, likely sometime in January.

After a forgettable theatrical run, the Abhishek Bachchan-Saiyami Kher cricket drama Ghoomer debuted today on Zee5.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with today’s debut of the Tamil series Label (available in Bengali, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, and Telugu as well). The first three episodes are streaming now, with new episodes coming every Friday.

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the addition of the Tamil film Irugapatru. Netflix also released the official trailer for The Archies, which launches December 7. It looks really cute:

[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: November 3, 2023

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s addition of the Telugu movie MAD and Wednesday’s streaming debut of Shah Rukh Khan’s blockbuster Jawan (also available in Tamil and Telugu). While Netflix bills their version as the “Extended Cut,” it’s only one minute longer than the theatrical release.

There are a few Indian titles scheduled to expire from Netflix this month, but the real news is that Netflix is poised to lose almost its entire Punjabi collection on December 1:

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with the addition of the Telugu film Skanda: The Attacker (also in Kannada, Malayalam, and Tamil) and the debut of Season 3 of the Hindi series Aarya (also in Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu).

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the Tamil film Raththam and the premiere of the Hindi mystery series PI Meena. Keep in mind that searching for it as “P. I. Meena” returns no results. It can only be found by searching for “PI Meena.”

Amazon Prime is getting a big direct-to-streaming release with Pippa, starring Ishaan Khattar and Mrunal Thakur. The war drama debuts on Prime on November 10 (likely the afternoon of November 9 in the US):

[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: Tumse Na Ho Payega (2023)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Tumse Na Ho Payega on Hulu

Do yourself a favor and only watch the first two-thirds of Tumse Na Ho Payega (“You Won’t Be Able to Do It“), when it appears to be an anti-capitalist parable about the moral, psychological, and social cost of growing a business to sate the voracious appetites of institutional investors.

Turn it off before you get to the part where, actually, turns out you just need to align yourself with a beneficent venture capital firm that will allow you to engage in “good” capitalism.

Ishwak Singh plays Gaurav, an office drone who gets fired when his boss overhears him complaining that his boring engineering job is boring. Against the advice of his mom Pooja (Amala Akkineni) and bossy neighborhood gossip Anu Aunty (Meghna Malik) — whose snobbish son Arjun (Karan Jotwani) is the youngest general manager in his financial firm’s history — Gaurav decides to start his own business.

Gaurav’s downstairs neighbor Pummy Aunty (Farida Dadi) is a great cook. Whenever he would bring a tiffin full of her dishes for lunch, his coworkers — young, single people living in Mumbai away from their parents — would go crazy for her tasty home-cooked meals. Gaurav gets the idea to recruit other aunties to make extra food to sell to office workers who are sick of takeout. Thus is born the food delivery service Maa’s Magic.

Maa’s Magic takes off with the help of Gaurav’s programmer buddy Mal (Gaurav Pandey) and his social media manager crush Devika (Mahima Makwana), who is currently dating that jerk Arjun. But being able to support themselves doing work they like isn’t enough to impress Arjun and Anu Aunty. Soon, Gaurav and Mal make a deal with an unscrupulous venture capitalist who pushes them to expand their business, even if it ruins everything good about Maa’s Magic.

At this point in the story, the movie’s message is obvious: don’t sell out for the sake of money. Being successful is about more than just money, and no amount will ever be enough to satisfy your naysayers. Making a difference in your community and being happy day-to-day is priceless.

Then Tumse Na Ho Payega throws all that feel-good stuff out the window to remind us that growth is paramount. In fact, you owe it to your customers to always grow your company. Speaking on behalf of customers, that’s a load of bunk.

The story’s disappointing twist stems from the fact that the movie is adapted from the mostly autobiographical book How I Braved Anu Aunty and Co-Founded a Million Dollar Company by Varun Agarwal. While the plot may be accurate to Agarwal’s experience, it makes for an inconsistent and ultimately disappointing narrative.

Also working against Tumse Na Ho Payega are dialogue and performances that are strictly utilitarian. There are some interesting sequences where the characters address the camera directly or in mocking voice-over conversations, but the film overall is forgettable.


[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: Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani (2023)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani on Amazon Prime

Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani is an overwhelming sensory experience. Every frame is full of vibrant colors, dynamic visuals, and stirring music. A packed movie theater provides the ideal immersive experience for this kind of film. However, watching at home — as I did on a TV screen with an audience of two — it’s harder to ignore the things about Rocky Aur Rani that don’t work.

The performances by the all-star cast are firmly in the category of Things That Work. Ranveer Singh plays the titular Rocky, heir to a sweets company established by his stern grandmother Dhanalaxmi Randhawa (Jaya Bachchan) and run by his equally stern father Tijori (Aamir Bashir). Rocky is nothing like his buttoned-up progenitors, as in he prefers to wear his garishly patterned shirts mostly unbuttoned. He speaks mangled English as he drives around in his expensive sports cars.

Rocky dotes on his grandfather Kanwal (Dharmendra), who suffers from mobility and memory issues. When grandpa utters the name “Jamini” and points to a torn old photo of a woman, Rocky sets out to find her.

Jamini (Shabana Azmi) turns out to be a former flame Kanwal met at a poetry conference, after he was already married to Dhanalaxmi. Rocky meets Jamini’s granddaughter Rani (Alia Bhatt) — a quick-witted TV news anchor — who helps reunite the former lovers on the sly. Coordinating secret meetings between the older couple sparks romance between the younger couple, despite some big differences between them. Rani is as educated and driven as Rocky is not, but ultimately hotness trumps all.

As with every Karan Johar-directed picture, it’s all about loving your family, so Rocky and Rani agree to spend three months (!!!) living with their respective future-in-laws to see if the two clans can co-exist. (Apparently, the love affair between Rocky’s grandpa and Rani’s grandma is not a deal breaker.) Rocky moves in with Rani’s cultured, liberal Bengali family and is immediately clowned upon, and granny Dhanalaxmi freezes out Rani. Things look bleak for our sexy heroes.

The drama, laughs, and heartache in Rocky Aur Rani are punctuated with some grand and truly memorable musical numbers, like the catchy “What Jhumka?” and the visually stunning celebration “Dhindhora Baje Re.” In a funny twist, the only time Rocky ever dresses in a sophisticated manner is during the song “Tum Kya Mile,” when he’s a figment of Rani’s imagination while she’s on a work trip in Kashmir.

The performances overall are charming, with Bhatt again showing that she’s at the top of her game as Rani. Singh is careful to make Rocky a goofball but not an irritant, and it’s always clear that there’s a real person inside the flashy attire. Bachchan also makes the most of her role as mean grandma.

That leads to one of the things that didn’t work for me about Rocky Aur Rani. I’m not sure how an unsophisticated guy like Rocky comes from the family he does. Knowing that he will one day take over the family business, wouldn’t his dad and grandma have sent him overseas to get an MBA and made sure he behaved with perfect decorum? Other than shaming him for his love of dancing, they don’t seem to care what he does. Rocky and his family feel like they belong in two different movies.

I also struggled to nail down the movie’s moral point of view. Rocky Aur Rani makes no secret of when it’s moralizing, with poignant music cueing the audience to pay attention to the meaningful bits. But some of the messages come from strange angles, such as when Rani’s mom Anjali (Churni Ganguly) makes Rocky wear a bra in public in order to teach him gender equality. I have doubts about the lingerie store’s employees participating in an act deliberately meant to humiliate a patron.

Then there’s Rocky’s speech about making socially regressive missteps because he wasn’t taught not to. Singh’s delivery is heartfelt, but it’s strange to hear Rocky ask for leniency because he didn’t know it was rude to make fun of people for their skin color or weight. The whole thing feels like a aging white male standup comic in America lamenting that “you can’t say anything anymore” before ranting about “snowflakes.”

To reiterate what I stated at the start of this review, I think these plot issues may be less glaring when one is watching Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani in a theater on a giant screen with surround sound. Unfortunately, now that its theatrical run is over, the inconsistencies are more apparent.


[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 19, 2023

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s streaming debut of Ayushmann Khurrana’s comedy Dream Girl 2. [You can watch the first Dream Girl on Zee5.] Yesterday, the Original Hindi survival series Kaala Paani (“Dark Water“) premiered on Netflix.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with today’s addition of the Telugu movie Maama Mascheendra. Earlier this week, the third season of the Hindi series Permanent Roommates premiered on Prime, although previous seasons are not available for streaming in the United States. And I noticed that the 2022 Gujarati movie Last Film Show — India’s official submission to the most recent Oscars — was added to Prime recently, with no fanfare.

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with the launch of the Telugu horror series Mansion 24, (also available in Bengali, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, and Tamil).

[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!]