Tag Archives: Streaming Video

Movie Review: Ram Setu (2022)

1.5 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Ram Setu on Amazon Prime

Ram Setu is interesting because it explains many of the limitations placed on the Hindi film industry by India’s current political environment, then proceeds to exemplify all of the problems it identifies. It’s a thought-provoking movie, albeit for the wrong reasons.

The story is set in 2007, allowing the filmmakers to plausibly deny that the movie is about present day India. Atheist archeologist Aryan (Akshay Kumar) discovers important artifacts in Afghanistan that reinforce the country’s connections to India via the Silk Road. Aryan notes that the whole region shares a cultural history, regardless which religion predominates, past or present.

It’s significant that writer-director Abhishek Sharma has his main character voice the merit of preserving history based on cultural import — which often aligns closely to religious import, to be fair — because Sharma spends the rest of the movie ignoring that nuanced sentiment in favor of pandering to religious zealots.

Aryan is hired by the Indian government to write a paper declaring that Ram Setu — a now-submerged land bridge connecting India to Sri Lanka — is a naturally occurring structure. This crucial step will allow shipping magnate Indrakant (Nassar) to demolish part of the bridge for speedier ocean transit. There are environmental concerns about the project, too, but they are nothing compared to the vociferous opposition by Hindu groups who believe that Rama himself built the bridge.

Aryan’s wife Gayatri (Nushrratt Baruccha) is a believer and warns Aryan against getting involved. He does anyway. Due to the ferocity of the protests, Aryan is scapegoated and suspended, and the couple’s son is bullied at school. Aryan figures that the only way to clear his name is to accept Indrakant’s offer to investigate Ram Setu personally and prove that it is not a man-made structure.

Indrakant and his villainous lackey Bali (Pravesh Rana) are condemned for demanding Aryan and the other researchers — including environmental scientist Dr. Rebello (Jacqueline Fernandez) and geologist Dr. Gabrielle (Jeniffer Piccinato) — cherry-pick their findings to support the bridge’s destruction rather than follow the evidence where it leads. Yet Ram Setu does the exact same thing. It lays out plenty of plausible counter-arguments, but it ends up with Aryan being converted and publicly declaring that God is real.

Sharma writes a couple of courtroom scenes in which the lawyer for the state argues that that even if Ram Setu was man-made, Aryan hasn’t proven that Rama was the one who built it. And further, why is the bridge’s significance to Hindus more important than its significance to Christians and Muslims? All these claims could fall under the cultural value statement that Aryan himself made earlier in the film, especially if they are considered collectively. But Aryan insists that Rama is the architect and that Hinduism’s claims on the bridge are the only ones that matter.

Based on the positions Sharma writes for the opposition, he knows what a movie that trusts in the intelligence of its audience would sound like. Unfortunately, he took to heart one of the lessons Aryan learns: don’t anger the mob. The end result is a movie that feels pandering, and therefore forgettable.

The adventure aspects of the film are not bad in concept, but there wasn’t the budget to execute them properly. There’s lots of obvious green-screen usage, with backgrounds and environments that feel fake. The practical sets that are used are pretty good.

Performances across the board are uneven, with Kumar being needlessly shouty at times. His emoting in the film’s lone dance number is unappetizing. Telugu star Satyadev Kancharana is a welcome addition to the story as helpful Sri Lankan tour guide AP.

Links

Streaming Video News: February 2, 2023

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s surprise addition of the 2022 Hindi thriller Vadh, starring Sanjay Mishra and Neena Gupta. The new Original series Class — a Hindi remake of Netflix’s Spanish show Elite — debuts on the service tomorrow.

Netflix announced that Ranveer Singh’s Cirkus will be available February 16, and they released a trailer for a new documentary series about Yash Raj Films called The Romantics, which debuts on Valentine’s Day:

If you missed any of the new Indian shows and movies added to Netflix last month, be sure to check out my January roundup for What’s on Netflix.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with today’s addition of the 2023 Malayalam film Ennalum Nteliyaa.

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with today’s addition of the Tamil film Sembi, which is also available in Hindi, 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!]

Streaming Video News: January 20, 2023

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s premiere of the new Hindi spy thriller Mission Majnu, starring Sidharth Malhotra. Earlier in the week, the Malayalam film Kaapa became available for streaming, and the Telugu movie Dhamaka becomes available tomorrow.

Netflix announced earlier this week that it secured the rights to a slate of 18 Tamil movies and 16 Telugu movies that will stream on the service after their theatrical release. Netflix has long been criticized for its heavily Hindi-focused catalog, and this is a strong statement about the company’s desire to expand its Indian offerings into other languages.

This week’s other new direct-to-streaming Hindi film is the comedy Chhatriwali on Zee5.

I’m planning to review Mission Majnu and Chhatriwali next week. Today and tomorrow, I’m catching up on movies so I can vote in the annual Online Film Critics Society awards. The winners will be announced on January 23. This year’s list of nominees contains some really, really good movies, including RRR, which is nominated in three categories.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with yesterday’s debut of the documentary series Cinema Marte Dum Tak, which covers cult films from the 1990s. Gunda is featured, so obviously I have to watch it at some point.

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with the addition of the 2022 Marathi film Sarsenapati Hambirrao and the debut of Season 2 of the Telugu series Jhansi (also available in Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, and Tamil). Hulu/Disney+Hotstar just released the trailer for the new Anil Kapoor-Aditya Roy Kapur series The Night Manager, which premieres February 17:

[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: January 13, 2023

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with two new additions today: the 2022 Hindi comedy Mister Mummy — starring married couple Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia D’Souza — and the new Netflix Original series Trial By Fire, which is based on a true story. The Tamil film Varalaru Mukkiyam becomes available for streaming tomorrow.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with today’s surprise streaming debut of Ajay Devgn’s thriller sequel Drishyam 2. Amazon also released the trailer for Shahid Kapoor’s first OTT series Farzi, which debuts on February 10:

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with yesterday’s addition of the 2022 Malayalam film Mukundan Unni Associates, which is also available in Hindi 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!]

Streaming Video News: December 22, 2022

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with today’s streaming debut of Akshay Kumar’s adventure flick Ram Setu and the Kannada sports movie 10. Earlier this week, Prime added the Ajay Devgn-Sidharth Malhotra film Thank God and the Telugu movie Jayamma Panchayathi to the catalog.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with today’s addition of the Malayalam film Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey (also in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu).

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the streaming premiere of the Hindi flick Tara VS. Bilalthe Malayalam movie The Teacher, and the addition of some older Telugu films: Anukokunda Oka Roju, Dikkulu Choodaku Ramayya, Dongala Muta, and Oohalu Gusagusalade. Check the “Coming Soon” and “Expiring Soon” sections of my Netflix page to see which Indian titles are on their way in and out of the catalog before the end of the month.

Posts will be sparse over Christmas break. In the meantime, please check out the MASSIVE update on all of the new Netflix Indian Originals coming in 2023 that I wrote for What’s on Netflix. Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year! — Kathy

[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: Govinda Naam Mera (2022)

1 Star (out of 4)

Watch Govinda Naam Mera on Hulu

Watching Govinda Naam Mera feels like watching a video played backwards. Writer-director Shashank Khaitan started with the outcome he wanted, then engineered his story in reverse to achieve that end amidst a series of shocking revelations. But when you play the story forward, you find that the biggest reveals of all are an inscrutable plot and characters that never engender sympathy.

The title character is played by Vicky Kaushal, who projects far more charisma than the movie deserves. Govinda is a wannabe choreographer and background dancer living in large home bequeathed to him by his father — who ditched his first wife and son to marry Govinda’s mom, Asha (Renuka Shahane). Govinda is married to Gauri (Bhumi Pednekar), a woman who hates him as much as he hates her. His dance partner Suku (Kiara Advani) is also his mistress.

Several axes hang over Govinda’s head, though there’s no timeline as to when any of them will fall. Suku wants Govinda to divorce Gauri, but Gauri won’t agree until he repays her dowry money. Govinda owes money to a cop from whom he illegally bought a gun, for some reason. And Govinda’s stepbrother Vishnu is about to win a lawsuit that will force Govinda to relinquish rights to his house, leaving him homeless and penniless. Then Govinda gets involved with a drug dealer, further complicating matters.

As the story proceeds, characters act in ways that suit neither their personalities nor the situation. Just as the audience reaches a maximum level of confusion, a card appears on screen reading something like “3 Days Earlier.” This happens over and over again — as though the point of the story structure is to trick the audience.

Because we don’t see the events in sequence, there is no tension or ambiguity about the outcome. We only ever learn the truth of characters plans after they’ve succeeded (or not). It also means we don’t get to see relationships between the characters develop. We only get the “ta-da!” reveal that people were working together all along, but not how such cooperation changed their relationship.

The worst example of a story element that exists solely for the reveal is Govinda’s mom. The audience learns early in the film that she’s not really partially paralyzed and in need of a wheelchair, but is faking it all to garner sympathy. Yet she’s been doing it for fifteen years! There’s no story reason for her to perform this long con (and make her own life more difficult), except to shock other characters when she eventually reveals the truth.

One of the selling points of Govinda Naam Mera is the chance to watch Kaushal and Advani dance together. Their performances in that regard do not disappoint. But save yourself a bunch of time and trouble and just watch this YouTube playlist of songs from the movie.

Links

Streaming Video News: December 16, 2022

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with a bunch of recently added titles, including today’s premiere of the Original true crime series Indian Predator: Beast of Bangalore. Two Hindi theatrical releases — Parineeti Chopra’s thriller Code Name: Tiranga and Ayushmann Khurrana’s social issue picture Doctor G — were added in the last week, along with nine other movies:

There are a lot of movies still to come to Netflix before the end of December, so head to my Netflix page to see the titles we already know about. I’m half-expecting to see one more big Hindi theatrical release debut on the service during Christmas break, but that’s just a hunch.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with yesterday’s premiere of the comedy Govinda Naam Mera, starring Vicky Kaushal, Bhumi Pednekar, and Kiara Advani.

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with yesterday’s debut of the new Hindi family series Half Pants Full Pants.

[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: Blurr (2022)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Blurr on Zee5

Blurr — a remake of the 2010 Spanish movie Julia’s Eyes — is like two movies in one. The first half is a compelling thriller about a married couple at odds with each other about how to deal with a family tragedy. The second half is an inadequately-set-up horror film.

Gayatri (Taapsee Pannu) gasps for breath as she wakes from a nightmare about her identical twin sister, Gautami (also Pannu). She convinces her reluctant husband Neel (Gulshan Devaiah) to drive to the forest cabin where Gautami lives to check on her. There, they find Gautami’s body hanging from a noose in the attic.

The police are eager to close the case on Gautami’s apparent suicide, but Gayatri sensed in her dream that her sister wasn’t alone when she died. Gautami hated rap music, but her stereo blasts it out at full volume when turned on. Gayatri heard the whining sound of a camera flash in her dream — a sound she hears again in the house and around town as she and Neel decide their next steps.

Gayatri’s relationship with Neel is the most interesting part of Blurr. He acts sketchy, but he’s also right that maybe Gayatri doesn’t want to accept the obvious. After all, Gautami had been blind for the last year, the result of a degenerative eye condition that Gayatri also has. Given that the condition is exacerbated by stress, Neel’s worried about his wife’s health. Pannu and Devaiah have a terrific chemistry whether their characters are fighting or reminiscing about the good times. They make a great on-screen duo.

Eventually, Neel’s fears come true, and Gayatri is forced to undergo emergency surgery to restore her sight. She must keep her eyes bandaged for two full weeks in order for them to properly heal. Instead of recovering in the hospital, Gayatri insists on returning to her sister’s house.

This is purely a plot convenience to endanger Gayatri, but it makes little sense given her state of mind to this point. Before the surgery, she was convinced that the unknown person she believes killed her sister was following her and was able to enter her house at night. Staying in a fully staffed hospital is obviously safer, so her insistence on recuperating at home is absurd.

Gayatri’s loss of eyesight dovetails with the film’s theme of social invisibility. Multiple characters mention feeling as though people look past them — a cue to the audience to pay attention to characters on the periphery of the story. But writer-director Ajay Bahl is so stingy with clues that invested viewers will not find their diligence rewarded. The film’s last act is more of a survival horror story than it is a mystery.

Even though the second half of Blurr is a letdown, it’s generally an engaging and watchable thriller. Yet the biggest mystery of all is not what happened to Gautami, but why the killer needs a darkroom to develop Polaroid photos.

Links

Streaming Video News: December 1, 2022

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s premier of the Netflix Original film Qala, starring Bulbbul‘s Triptii Dimri and Babil Khan, son of the late Irrfan Khan. Today also saw the additions of Amitabh Bachchan’s movie Goodbye, the Tamil film Nitham Oru Vaanam, and a trio of kids’ cartoons: Chhota Bheem aur Mahavinashini ka Vinaash, Chhota Bheem aur Malongh ka Raaz, and Chhota Bheem ki Citi Pitti Gul.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with today’s premier of Kartik Aaryan’s romantic thriller Freddy. The Telugu movie Repeat was added to Hulu yesterday.

Today also marked the straight-to-streaming release of the Covid-themed drama India Lockdown on Zee5.

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the premier of the Tamil series Vandandhi and the streaming debut of the Malayalam movie Kooman. Comedian Zakir Khan’s latest stand-up special Tathastu released yesterday on Prime.

[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 18, 2022

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s additions of the Hindi thriller Dhokha: Round D Corner and the political drama Godfather, available in its original Telugu and in Hindi. Yesterday, Netflix added the Malayalam horror movie Kumari for streaming.

In other Netflix news, though the streamer hasn’t officially announced it, Pinkvilla reports that Sidharth Malhotra’s forthcoming movie Mission Majnu is releasing directly on Netflix on January 18, 2023. What’s on Netflix noticed that the Excel Entertainment movies will expire on December 15. Netflix just released a trailer for Randeep Hooda’s undercover series CAT, which debuts December 9.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with Wednesday’s addition of the Telugu film Iravatham. Disney+ Hotstar announced that Vicky Kaushal’s comedy Govinda Naam Mera will premiere directly on Disney+ Hotstar/Hulu on December 16.

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the addition of the Tamil film Iravin Nizhal. Have a great weekend!

[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!]