I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with twenty-nine new additions to the streaming catalog. Twenty of those titles are Marathi-language films, several of which star Atul Kulkarni. The Hindi movies added include the horror flicks 1920 and Rise of the Zombie and the 2017 indie releases Manostaan and Mantra. Netflix also added the Bengali and Hindi versions of Dark Chocolate, plus the Hindi-dubbed version of Rajinikanth’s Kabali. For everything else new on Netflix — Bollywood or not — check out Instant Watcher.
Bollywood fans may also want to check out the second season (titled “No Surrender”) of Netflix’s Ultimate Beastmaster, an obstacle course competition show featuring competitors from six countries, including India. The show’s Indian announcers are Vidyut Jammwal and Sarah-Jane Dias, who provide the main commentary track for the show’s broadcast in India and supplementary commentary for Netflix broadcasts in other countries. In the United States, Tiki Barber and Chris Distefano handle the main commentary, and Vidyut and Sarah-Jane show up to scold the Indian contestants when the fall off the obstacles (at least from what I’ve seen in the opening 15 minutes of the first episode). It’s a fun show, and I’m going to keep watching it.
A great opening sequence, compelling characters, and an unexpected climax make Angry Indian Goddesses a treat from start to finish.
Director Pan Nalin finds an inventive way to introduce the film’s six main characters, showing each woman encountering some form of sexism. Lakshmi (Rajshri Deshpande), a maid, is catcalled on her way to work. Housewife Pammy (Pavleen Gujral) overhears men commenting about her physique at the gym. Singer Mad (Anushka Manchanda) gets heckled during a performance. Jo (Amrit Maghera), an actress, is chided by her male director for not acting sexy enough as a damsel in distress.
Some of the sexism the characters experience has to do with traditional concepts of femininity rather than sexual harassment. A client mansplains how to shoot an ad for fairness cream to experienced photographer Frieda (Sarah-Jane Dias). CEO Su’s (Sandhya Mridul) employees expect her to show more compassion to her opponents in a land dispute.
As the background music builds to a crescendo, the women reach their boiling points, the camera cutting from woman to woman as each explodes in rage. It’s fun and satisfying, calling out to the desires of women to get really angry in a society that often demands that we repress those urges, lest we be viewed as unladylike.
Particularly satisfying are the responses of the women who are sexually harassed. Pammy tells off the muscly bro ogling her and drops a weight on his foot. Mad leaps off the stage to attack her heckler. Lakshmi grabs her harasser’s testicles and squeezes. The catharsis of the opening sequence alone makes Angry Indian Goddesses a worthwhile watch.
The characters are a group of old friends who gather at Frieda’s house in Goa, where Lakshmi works as a maid. Frieda is getting married, though she won’t say to whom. Her refusal to disclose the identity of her betrothed and the group’s patience with her deflections are the only unbelievable parts of the film.
As the pals reconnect, it becomes clear that their friendships aren’t as close as they once were. Frieda’s relocation to Goa is itself a surprise, as is Mad’s depression over her stagnant music career. Lakshmi’s legal troubles also affect the dynamic in the house.
After several days, the group is joined by Nargis (Tannishtha Chatterjee), a friend of Frieda’s who also happens to be the source of the land dispute troubling Su. Nargis’ integration into the group is awkward, though perhaps that’s to be expected given her enmity with Su and lack of connection to the other women.
If Angry Indian Goddesses were to just be a movie about a group of women reevaluating their lives and relationships while on vacation, that would be enough. The performances are that good. But that’s not where the story goes. Nalin steers the narrative toward a thrilling climax, providing a novel payoff that enables the characters to fulfill a wish expressed by Nargis: that women be allowed to author their own stories.
Narrative focus is nicely balanced between the characters, giving opportunities for all of the performers to shine. There are no duds in the bunch, and it’s nice to discover actresses who — unlike Chatterjee — don’t have many lead roles to their credit.
The one who steals the show is Pavleen Gujral as Pammy. Pammy is the most traditional of the friends, wearing a sari to a beach vacation, and Gujral portrays her as funny, challenging, and relatable. Gujral doesn’t even have her own Wikipedia page yet, but I’m hoping that changes as offers flow her way following her winsome performance in Angry Indian Goddesses.
The murder mystery genre is a well-established one — so much so that audiences have internalized the genre’s rules, whether consciously or not. Game breaks a number of rules that the genre demands must be followed, ruining what is otherwise a great-looking and well-acted movie.
Game starts with a promising contrivance. Billionaire Kabir Malhotra (Anupam Kher) summons four people to his private Greek island right at the moment they are most in need of rescue. Tisha (Shahana Goswami) is caught driving drunk, O.P. (Boman Irani) is about to lose his political career, Neil (Abhishek Bachchan) is on the run from Colombian drug dealers, and Vikram (Jimmy Shergill) has a suitcase with a dead body stuffed inside.
Malhotra’s generous offer isn’t quite what it seems. He holds the three men responsible for the untimely death of a daughter he never knew he had. And Tisha is his dead daughter Maya’s fraternal twin sister. Malhotra has enough dirt on the men to ruin their lives, dirt which he plans to turn over to international authorities in the morning.
The circumstances of Maya’s death are divulged within the first 30 minutes of a 135 minute movie, so that’s clearly not the movie’s real mystery. Instead of moving the story forward from that point, the plot is interrupted by Neil flashing back to Maya (Sarah-Jane Dias) performing a burlesque dance number, ruining the flow of the film.
At the fifty minute mark, the true mystery is finally revealed. Malhotra dies alone in his office — presumably by his own hand — and all of his evidence on the men is destroyed. The international authorities arrive, but lead inspector Sia (Kangana Ranaut) is forced to let the four invitees go home. Her primary suspect, for no apparent reason, is Neil, and she begins trailing him to uncover his guilt.
There’s a lot to like about Game. Bachchan and Ranaut are compelling leads, and veterans Kher and Irani deliver as always. Goswami and Shergill make the most of their supporting roles. The movie is beautifully shot in gorgeous locations in India, Turkey, Thailand, England and Greece. There are a few great action sequences and one painful jogging chase scene that ends when the pursuers succumb to sprained ankles and side cramps.
But the film’s plot has some issues that are too large to be glossed over. To paraphrase a familiar axiom about mysteries, the outcome must, in retrospect, feel unpredictable but inevitable. There’s nothing about the ultimate outcome of Game that is any way inevitable, despite a few half-hearted attempts at retroactive continuity.
The introduction of new major characters, illogical plot twists, and ludicrous revelations dominate the last 30 minutes of the movie. Plot twists can’t exist independently for the sake of shock value alone; they must exist in service of the larger story (or else they’d just be called “twists”).
The filmmakers didn’t understand that, after a good mystery, the audience should leave saying, “I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming.” Instead, Game‘s audiences will exit theaters wondering, “Where the hell did that come from?”