The streaming service Zee5 — which is not available in the United States — posted a cryptic teaser on Twitter the other day, probably to appease Salman Khan fans in America who are unable to watch his new movie Radhe at home like almost everyone else in the world:
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with today’s debut of the new Hindi comedy Hello Charlie, starring Jackie Shroff and a gorilla. The Kannada film Yuvarathnaa landed on Prime yesterday, even though it’s still playing in theaters in the United States and India. Another film that recently ended its theatrical run — Jathi Ratnalu — joins Prime on April 11, followed by the Malayalam movie The Priest on April 14.
I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with yesterday’s surprise addition of the horror comedy Roohi, starring Janhvi Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao. Earlier this week, Netflix added a second collection of episodes of the wedding reality series The Big Day and the 2021 Tamil film Mandela. New Indian titles coming to Netflix next week include a bunch of cartoons for kids on April 12, the Telugu movie Uppena on April 13, and the premiere of the Netflix Original Hindi film Ajeeb Daastaans on April 16.
Last but not least, yesterday Hotstar debuted Abhishek Bachchan’s semi-biographical stock market drama The Big Bull. With Hindi theatrical releases on hold for the time being, it’s nice to have a weekend with multiple new Bollywood movies to choose from!
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COVID-19 upended the Hindi movie industry (along with everything else) in 2020, but Bollywood fans still had plenty of new films to choose from — and a lot of great ones at that! My five favorite Hindi movies of 2020 had one thing in common: they all released directly on Netflix. Three were produced specifically for Netflix, while the streamer nabbed exclusive rights for the other two. Let’s see what topped my Best Bollywood Movies of 2020 list!
Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl was supposed to have a theatrical release, before COVID hit. While Janhvi Kapoor didn’t get to command the big screen in her first solo leading role, Netflix gave her patriotic movie plenty of hype for its streaming service debut just before Indian Independence Day. Kapoor proves that she’s got what it takes to carry a film, turning in a delightful performance opposite Pankaj Tripathi, who plays her father in the movie.
The most inventive film on the list is one of the titles produced specifically for Netflix. AK vs AK pits Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap against one another, playing fictionalized versions of themselves in this darkly comical skewering of the Hindi film industry. Director Vikramaditya Motwane’s documentary-style filming makes this a compelling watch from start to finish.
Like AK vs AK, Ludo is another dark comedy made just for Netflix. In contrast to AK vs AK‘s gritty realism, Ludo is full of bright colors and peppy music, as its characters play their part in a game overseen by a pair of celestial narrators (one of whom is the film’s director, Anurag Basu).
Cargo was the only film on my list to screen anywhere before debuting on Netflix, having premiered at the Mumbai Film Festival in late 2019. It’s an endearingly low-tech science fiction movie about the afterlife. Writer-director Arati Kradav demonstrates how to make a movie with a strong visual identity on a comparatively limited budget — and with a charming story, too.
Like Cargo, my Best Bollywood Movie of 2020 was another feature debut by a woman filmmaker with a bold aesthetic sense. Anvita Dutt’s gothic horror flick Bulbbul is almost shocking in its use of color, from the cautionary red glow of the night sky over early 20th century Bengal to the shadowy blue interiors obscuring dangers within the lord’s mansion. Its story condemns not only those who perpetrate violence against women, but the men who enable violence as well, whether deliberately or through willful ignorance. Bulbbul is a movie I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since I saw it.
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s big announcement of more than 40 new Indian movies, TV series, and specials that Netflix plans to release in 2021. Many of these titles were previously announced — I wrote about a number of them for my 2021 Netflix preview for What’s On Netflix — but some are brand new. I’ll go into detail about each of the different categories, but first check out this general teaser video Netflix India released:
First up is movies. Today’s announcement includes 13 titles. Netflix had already announced a March 26 premiere date for Pagglait and released teaser videos for Dhamaka and Jagame Thandhiram. The Karan Johar-produced anthology film which had been called The Other is renamed Ajeeb Daastaans. Three films that I previewed in my piece for What’s On Netflix mentioned above were not included in today’s announcement: Cobalt Blue, Desert Dolphin, and Freedom. Here are all the movies included in today’s press release (Hindi-language, unless otherwise specified) with links to their Netflix entries where available, followed by another video specifically focused on Original films:
The bulk of today’s announcement was made up of fiction TV series, including 9 brand new shows and new seasons of 6 returning series. Bombay Begums already has a March 8 premiere date. The series starring Madhuri Dixit Nene that was rumored to be called Actress is officially titled Finding Anamika. Baahubali: Before the Beginning was conspicuously absent from today’s announcement, as were updates on new seasons for Hashmukh and Selection Day. Here are all of the TV series mentioned in the press release, followed by a video featuring highlights from those series:
Finally, Netflix announced 13 non-fiction movies, series, and stand-up comedy specials. No word on a second season of Indian Matchmaking, but The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives and The Big Day are both returning. Here are the Unscripted Originals coming to Netflix in 2021.
It seemed strange for actor Parineeti Chopra and others associated with the Hindi adaptation of The Girl on the Train to tweet a message the day before the film’s release asking people to avoid spoiling the ending of the film on social media. This is a movie based upon another movie based upon a book, all sharing the same name. It’s easy to find plot summaries of the previous two versions of The Girl on The Train online. What could there be to spoil?
In an effort to distinguish this version of The Girl on the Train (TGOTT, henceforth), writer-director Ribhu Dasgupta added and changed elements of the original novel and the Hollywood film based on it. The results of those alterations make TGOTT feel as though it was written for the sake of its plot twists, and not for the purpose of telling a meaningful story.
Parineeti Chopra plays Mira Kapoor, a lawyer living in London and coping with tragedy. Mira and her husband Shekhar (Avinash Tiwary) were in a car accident three years earlier that left her with mild amnesia and caused her to lose the baby she was carrying. She turned to alcohol to deal with the grief, and Shekhar left and married someone new, compounding Mira’s loss.
Every day, Mira takes the train past her old house to torment herself. She’s also become obsessed with a woman who lives a few doors down from her old place who looks like she has the perfect life. Nusrat (Aditi Rao Hydari) is pretty, a beautiful dancer, and has a handsome husband. When Mira rides past the house and sees Nusrat hugging a man other than her husband one day, Mira becomes incensed. She drunkenly goes to Nusrat’s home, determined to stop her from ruining her marriage the way that Mira feels she did with her own relationship with Shekhar.
When Mira wakes up the next day, she has a massive wound on her forehead and no memory of how it got there. Police inspector Dalbir Kaur (Kirti Kulhari) questions Mira, whose identification card was found near the scene of a violent crime that occurred during Mira’s blackout. As Kaur and the cops try to link Mira to the crime, Mira undertakes her own investigation. Could Mira really have been capable of violence, even if she doesn’t remember it?
The success of the movie hinges on Chopra’s performance. Bless her heart, she tries. To be fair, Mira is drunk and angry for most of the film, so it’s not a role that requires much subtlety. But Chopra’s yelling, snorting, and stuporous lolling about push Mira into something more darkly comical than befits the film.
Let’s revisit Mira’s head wound. It covers half of her forehead, and it is disgusting. Why Mira opts not to cover it with a bandage to prevent infection or at least spare others from having to look at it, no one knows. Then again, it doesn’t much matter since only one person even remarks on it — and then only after she’s greeted Mira and hugged her. That no one asks Mira normal questions like “How do you feel?” or “Do you need a doctor?” defies explanation.
The bones of the the story are good, providing director Dasgupta with themes of psychological trauma, women’s fertility, substance abuse, and toxic relationships to draw upon. But in the end he discards them all for a finale that has nothing to say about anything. If the goal of TGOTT is purely to deceive the audience, then mission accomplished, I guess.
YRF’s catalog streams on Amazon Prime in the United States, so the same should hold true for these releases. What will be interesting is how long of an exclusivity window YRF gives to theaters. Six weeks to two months was the standard pre-pandemic, but I won’t be surprised if the window is flexible based on box office returns, if not shortened outright. Keep in mind that, even if theaters are allowed to operate at 100% capacity in India, not all states are currently doing so. US theaters have occupancy limits (where they are operating at all), and other countries may have similar restrictions.
A smaller movie like Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar would be an interesting test case for a day-and-date digital rental via Amazon, even if only outside India. (I’m not holding out hope that’ll happen — just throwing that wish out into the world.) With so many people unable or unwilling to watch films in theaters, there is a need to make new titles available as widely as possible before people turn to pirated copies.