I just updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the return of 28 titles from Red Chillies Entertainment. (Thanks to @CinemaRareIN on Twitter for posting the list!) A few of the returning titles expired as recently as September 1. Here’s a list of all of the Red Chillies movies that are available on Netflix once again:
Though the impending theatrical release of Brahmastra: Part One — Shiva is dominating headlines right now, it’s actually a pretty busy week on the streaming services. Here’s what’s debuting on Netflix and Amazon Prime in the next several days:
Netflix India released some updates today about their slate of Indian Original Films for the rest of 2022 and beyond. The announcement included a bunch of videos about upcoming projects, in addition to a video celebrating the success of Darlings. The biggest news to come out today is a September 30 release date for the romantic comedy Plan A Plan B, starring Riteish Deshmukh and Tamannaah Bhatia.
The sizzle reel below mentions all of the projects coming soon-ish to Netflix.
Monica, O My Darling and Jogi (which debuts September 16) didn’t get their own videos, but everything else did. Here they are, organized alphabetically by movie title, starting with The Archies:
First-time producer Alia Bhatt stars in the dark comedy Darlings. Bhatt and the rest of the talented cast turn in sterling performances that outshine a script that derails its main character’s growth.
After three years of marriage to Hamza (Vijay Varma), Badru (Alia Bhatt) isn’t living the life she planned. She’d hoped to have a baby by now and maybe be looking for a nicer home. But Hamza turned out to be an abusive alcoholic — a well-known fact in the apartment colony where they live.
One of the neighbors in the know is Badru’s mother, Shamshu (Shefali Shah), who lives in an apartment across the courtyard from Badru. The older, wiser woman believes her daughter’s abusive marriage will only get worse, so she encourages Badru to just murder Hamza and be done with it.
Badru can’t accept that Hamza won’t change, despite his mistreatment of her and her mother. So often, women in abusive relationships are criticized for not leaving after the first instance of violence, but Badru shows why it’s not always so simple. She fervently wishes for her husband not to be the monster he’s become, and she doesn’t want to be wrong for having missed the warning signs.
The grace extended to Badru and women in similar situations is the most compelling aspect of Darlings. Bhatt does a wonderful job as Badru, and Shah and Varma are equally as good as the two people pulling Badru in opposite directions. Roshan Mathew is fun as the helpful jack-of-all-trades Zulfi. Rajesh Sharma is solid as the butcher Kasim, but it feels like much of his backstory didn’t make the final cut.
When Badru announces her pregnancy and Hamza swears off alcohol, she’s convinced that things will be better. But it’s not long before he gets violent again, and Badru pays a heavy price.
Badru has two choices if she hopes to survive: run and hide, or murder Hamza before he murders her. (Badru feels she can’t report Hamza to the police after she refused to press charges against him for earlier abuse allegations.) Hiding isn’t an option since Badru’s only family member lives in the building next door, so it looks like Shamshu was right all along.
Instead, Badru opts for a third course of action. She wants to turn the tables on Hamza — make him respect her and feel what it’s like to be the powerless one in the relationship. She drugs Hamza and ties him up.
While the intention may be to show Badru finally taking control, it’s a mirage and not real character development. The very idea that Badru still thinks that she can make Hamza respect her or that he won’t follow through on his threats to kill her make Badru seem more foolish than she is. All of the comic bits where the authorities almost discover a drugged-and-bound Hamza, or whereby he almost escapes, stem from Badru and Shamshu making careless mistakes.
While watching Darlings, I was repeatedly reminded of Delilah S. Dawson’s page-turner The Violence. The main character in that book knows that someday her abusive husband will kill her unless she can find a way to escape. And even if she does get out, she won’t be truly safe until he is dead. Badru never reaches that same realization about Hamza. Despite all the trauma he has done and intends to do to her, she seems to think it’s possible for them to just go their separate ways. That’ll he’ll allow her to exist without him.
Badru’s reluctance to see violence as an option for her robs her of agency. It makes her survival contingent upon the intervention of a deus ex machina, rather than the results of her own actions. Badru tells Shamshu that the reason she doesn’t want to murder Hamza is that she doesn’t want to be haunted by his ghost — but the alternative is be hunted by him in the flesh. Moral victories don’t mean much when you’re dead.
Netflix recently launched a “Browse by Languages” tool to help filter content within their massive catalog. This is actually a useful feature for every subscriber, but it’s especially important as Netflix tries to expand their subscriber base outside of majority-English-speaking countries. Let’s see what this new filtering and sorting tool can do!
At the time of this writing, this feature is only available while viewing Netflix in a web browser. On the Browse by Languages page, users are presented with three dropdown menus next to the phrase “Select Your Preferences.” The first dropdown menu allows users to choose between “Original Language,” “Dubbing,” and “Subtitles.”
The second menu allows users to choose from a list of dozens of languages, including Bengali, Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu. Netflix offers movies in other Indian languages that aren’t included in the “Browse by” tool, so check my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix to see what Indian and Pakistani films and shows Netflix offers in Assamese, Gujarati, Kannada, Punjabi, and Urdu.
The third “Sort by” menu allows users to organize results by “Suggestions for You,” “Year Released,” “A-Z,” and “Z-A.” The Netflix algorithm selects the display order when “Suggestions for You” is selected. Choosing “Year Released” displays content in reverse chronological order, starting with the newest releases.
Note that changing a selection in a menu resets the menus to its right to their default settings. If the left-most menu is set to “Original Language” and you choose “Dubbing,” it resets the “Language” and “Sort by” menus to their defaults of “English” and “Suggestions for You.” If you change the language, it resets “Sort by” to “Suggestions for You.”
There is no ability to filter the content to choose only movies or TV series, making this tool only so useful for languages with a large catalog presence like English or Hindi. (Although apparently a lot of users have been looking for a way to exclude non-English titles from their searches, according to What’s on Netflix.) What the tool is best for is showing a wider array of options than might be first apparent for languages with a smaller catalog footprint.
The tool is also good about accurately displaying titles under their “Original Language.” Netflix has a quirk whereby some Indian movies have dubbed versions that have to be selected from within the film’s audio options menu (like the Tamil movie Don), while other Indian movies get separate catalog ID numbers for every audio version of the film. The movie Kurup has five distinct catalog IDs: one for the original Malayalam, plus dubbed versions in Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, and Telugu. Thankfully, the new “Browse by Languages” tool only displays Kurup when Malayalam is selected as the “Original Language.”
One exception is Baahubali, which appears under “Original Language” whether English, Hindi, Malayalam, or Tamil are selected. But Baahubali is the exception to many rules.
Overall, this tool is a really welcome addition to Netflix’s website. Anything that helps users find and organize content by their preferred language — and with the additional ability to display the most recently added content first — gives Netflix an advantage over competing streaming services.
Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with today’s addition of the Hindi film JugJugg Jeeyo, which released in theaters June 24. Look for the Punjabi film Sher Bagga to arrive on Prime on the 24th and R. Madhavan’s directorial debut Rocketry: The Nambi Effect on the 25th.
[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!]
The social drama Hurdang fails to build a persuasive case for the odious politics it endorses.
Hurdang is set at a college campus in Allahabad in 1990. Local goon and opportunist Loha Singh (Vijay Varma) wants to increase his political profile. He seizes upon the announced implementation of the Mandal Commission’s recommendations — which would increase the number of university admissions and government jobs reserved for people from Other Backward Classes — as an opportunity to stoke unrest on campus and gain attention.
Loha uses his right-hand man Daddu (Sunny Kaushal) to activate the upper caste students at several area colleges. Daddu is enrolled in university, but you’d hardly know it since he never studies or goes to class. He carries multiple guns with him and is quick to point them at anyone who gives him even a minor hassle.
Daddu’s pitch to get the students to protest against the government is that the predominantly upper caste students currently enrolled in university have made their plans expecting a certain amount of government jobs to be available to them upon graduation, and that changing the rules now unfairly penalizes them. The movie makes only passing mention of the generational damage caused by systemic caste discrimination.
Writer-director Nikhil Nagesh Bhat’s choice to put Daddu at the center of this story is absurd. Daddu has no chance of graduating as a result of his own (non-existent) efforts, so he plans to get the final exam questions from Loha in advance and cheat. He does not see his own cheating as being at odds with the system of meritocracy he believes exists and that the reservation system supposedly undermines. What matters to the narrative is that Daddu is a victim.
The notion of Daddu as a victim is even more ridiculous considering the privileges Daddu enjoys thanks to his relationship with Loha — and by extension the politicians Loha works for. Twice, Daddu steals a baton from a police officer and beats the officer with it, and he never faces any consequences for it. Daddu is above the law in almost every respect, but the film really wants viewers to feel sorry for him.
Bhat’s story is so lopsided that it barely acknowledges that people from lower castes exist, let alone suffer under a system rigged against them. Daddu’s much more academically talented girlfriend Jhulan (Nushrratt Bharuccha) is herself from a lower caste — a fact that’s only relevant for a scene in which her father tells her to wait until the reservation quota has been updated to take her finals so that she’ll have an easier time getting a government job. Jhulan is portrayed as virtuous for wanting to test right away and pass on her own merits. From the movie’s perspective, benefiting from a rule change is more egregious than stealing an exam and cheating.
The political position Bhat takes with his story is gross, but he doesn’t even do a good job of defending it. Hurdang is awful.
An overly-long first half keeps Toolsidas Junior from reaching its full potential, but a strong second half rewards those willing to stick with this underdog story.
Writer-director Mridul Mahendra (listed in the credits as Mridul Toolsidass) based his film on a true story: his own. Perhaps that’s why it feels like there’s a lot of extraneous material in Toolsidas Junior — stuff personally important to the filmmaker that he wanted to include, even though it slows the pace of the film.
The movie opens with a snooker tournament at the Calcutta Sports Club in 1994. Toolsidas (Rajiv Kapoor, in his final film) is a bit of a showboat, doing tricks to impress his adoring 13-year-old son Midi (Varun Buddhadev). Toolsidas earns his spot in the next day’s finals, set to face the reigning champ: the villainous Jimmy Tandon (Dalip Tahil).
Toolsidas celebrates at the club bar with what he promises is just one drink. Hours later, Midi’s furious mom (Tasveer Kamil) sends him to collect his drunken dad. This is something Midi has clearly done numerous times. At the tournament finals, Jimmy uses a break in the action to trick Toolsidas into getting drunk, allowing the villain to come from behind and win for a sixth consecutive time.
Sensing turmoil in the family, Midi’s older brother Goti (Chinmai Chandranshuh) becomes convinced that the boys have to start earning money. A fan of get-rich-quick schemes, Goti wants to use Midi’s diligence and athletic aptitude to make a ton of money. Goti’s assumption that Midi will be naturally gifted at whatever sport he tries is ridiculous, but the film treats it seriously, devoting way too much time to Midi failing repeatedly and Goti getting mad at him. What should have been a brief montage drags on interminably.
The pace plods along even after Midi convinces Goti that there’s money to be made gambling on snooker. Plus, learning to play will give Midi the chance to avenge his dad’s loss and defeat Jimmy. Midi’s too young to play at the Sports Club, so he finds a pool hall in a seedy part of town where he meets his mentor: crusty, enigmatic former national champion Salaam Bhai (Sanjay Dutt). The process is so protracted that Midi’s training doesn’t begin until an hour into the film.
One can’t blame viewers for bailing out before this point, but this is when Toolsidas Junior gets good. Salaam Bhai has clever ways of explaining techniques to Midi, like equating various methods for striking the ball to the punching styles of Amitabh Bachchan, Rajinikanth, and Mithun Chakraborthy.
Salaam Bhai also uses the opportunity to teach Midi a lesson about economic class. Midi’s family has membership at an exclusive country club. Salaam Bhai is poor and always has been. When Midi takes a win on a technicality and passes up a chance to play, Salaam Bhai lights into Midi. A privileged kid like him can’t understand what it’s like to skip eating just to save enough money to play. Midi leaves food on his plate because he’s never has to worry where his next meal will come from. Ever the good student, Midi takes Salaam Bhai’s lesson to heart. There’s plenty of cruft in Toolsidas Junior, but Mridul Mahendra deserves credit for including this subplot in his story.
Varun Buddhadev is Bollywood’s go-to child actor of the moment for good reason. His performance in Toolsidas Junior is really solid, and it’s obvious how much effort he put into learning snooker for the film. The movie is at its best when Buddhadev and Sanjay Dutt interact with one another. They make a winning team.