I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with two big additions to the catalog: Shahid Kapoor’s Hindi remake of Jersey and the Hindi-dubbed version of RRR, which was preponed from its previously announced June 2 streaming release date. The original Telugu version of RRR is streaming now on Zee5, along with dubbed versions in Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam.
Netflix just announced that Season 2 of the crime drama She will release on June 17. And this is the last week to watch Raees (which I sort of liked) on Netflix before it expires May 26.
Other titles like Dear Zindagi have also expired in recent weeks, but I don’t think this necessarily means that Netflix’s deal with Red Chillies is done for good and that the films are headed to another streaming service. Chennai Express returned to Netflix in August 2021, and Yodha and two other titles returned in January of this year. This could just be a reset before the start of a new streaming contract. However, there’s no guarantee that the above titles will return to Netflix, or that they will return quickly if they do, so prioritize watching them if you’re so inclined.
Last week, Netflix added a pair of Hindi movies, including Radhe Shyam and the Original film Thar, which is really good. The Tamil action flick Beast — starring Vijay and Pooja Hegde — debuts on Netflix May 10 (in the afternoon in the US). And Netflix recently moved Masaba Masaba into the “Worth the Wait” row on their New & Popular page, joining She. No Season 2 release dates for either series yet, though.
In other Netflix news, Dear Zindagi expired today. I guess they hit their Alia Bhatt limit with Gangubai Kathiawadi and had to let one of her other pictures go.
I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with a release date for their Hindi anthology Modern Love: Mumbai. It debuts on Friday, May 13 (so probably the afternoon of May 12 in the US). The anthology lineup is seriously impressive:
RAAT RANI – directed by Shonali Bose, starring Fatima Sana Shaikh, Bhupendra Jadawat, and Dilip Prabhavalkar
BAAI – directed by Hansal Mehta, starring Tanuja, Pratik Gandhi, and Ranveer Brar
MUMBAI DRAGON – directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, starring Yeo Yann Yann, Meiyang Chang, Wamiqa Gabbi, and Naseeruddin Shah
MY BEAUTIFUL WRINKLES – directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, starring Sarika, Danesh Razvi, Ahsaas Channa, and Tanvi Azmi
I LOVE THANE – directed by Dhruv Sehgal, starring Masaba Gupta, Ritwik Bhowmik, Prateik Babbar, Aadar Malik, and Dolly Singh
CUTTING CHAI – directed by Nupur Asthana, starring Chitrangda Singh, and Arshad Warsi
Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with the premiere of the limited spin-off series Anupama: Namaste America. New episode debut daily at 1 p.m. CT in the US, with the final episode dropping on April 28. Hulu also revealed the trailer for their new Hotstar Special Hindi series Home Shanti, premiering May 6.
Aranyak is Netflix India’s answer to Twin Peaks. With a compelling story and right-sized episodes, the supernatural (or is it?) murder mystery is made to be binged.
Aranyak takes place in the perpetually overcast fictional mountain town of Sironah, surrounded by a dense forest. Police officer Angad Malik (Parambrata Chattopadhyay) arrives to take over duties from Kasturi Dogra (Raveena Tandon), who’s taking a leave of absence from the force to deal with family issues.
On the day Angad arrives, a French tourist named Julie (Breshna Khan) reports her teenage daughter Aimee (Anna Ador) missing. Angad and Kasturi bicker over who should lead the case until Aimee’s body is found hanged in a tree. The cops agree to work together, putting Kasturi’s leave on hold.
Aimee’s death hits Sironah hard because of its similarities to a series of murders 19 years earlier that left over a dozen young women dead and the residents of the town emotionally scarred — none more so than Kasturi’s father-in-law Mahadev (Ashutosh Rana). He led the investigation into the murders but was unable to find the killer known as the “leopard man.”
The leopard man is a figure of local myth: a murderous beast and also the steward of a crop of “mystery mushrooms” that cure disease, but at a grievous cost to those who consume them. Whether the killer from 19 years ago was a man or a monster remains up for debate in Sironah.
One curious fact about the new crime is that all the rich and politically-connected residents in town seem to know that something bad happened to Aimee before the police do. Local politician Jagdamba (Meghna Malik) and sketchy rich guy Kuber Manhas (Zakir Hussain) try to leverage that information to their advantage.
There are many more characters and possible suspects. The story — written by Rohan Sippy and Charudutt Acharya — does a nice job of keeping all of them somehow connected to the crimes of the present or past. Each of the series’ eight episodes runs about 40 minutes, giving enough time to flesh out characters and their motivations without getting bogged down in backstory.
The runtime gives enough space to deal with the themes that Aranyak shares with Twin Peaks: collective trauma, whether evil exists as an independent entity or whether it’s simply individual moral corruption, and how “good” people reckon with this evil in their midst.
One of the more interesting characters is the politician Jagdamba. Her position is in jeopardy because her young adult son Kanti (Tejaswi Dev Chaudhary) was previously convicted of rape. She wants to protect him, but she also believes that he committed the current crime and fears that he might do it again. She’s concerned not just because he’s a political liability, but because she doesn’t want him to hurt anyone else — yet she’s not sure how to stop him. She loves her son, but he might be irredeemable.
This subplot fits with the show’s focus on the dangers faced by women, be it rape, murder, roofies, or cyberstalking. The stakes are raised for Kasturi because she has a daughter, Nutan (Tanseesha Joshi), who is the same age as Aimee. One of the commonalities between Aimee’s death and the murders from 19 years ago is that the police weren’t able to prevent any of them, only respond to them after the fact.
Aranyak has a few glaring flaws. Kasturi does stupid things that put people in danger, and she’s never heard of the jugular vein. Action scenes in the final episode defy the laws of space-time. The finale’s closing shot is sincerely crazy. The whole reason I watched the show was because Shah Shahid of the Split Screen Podcast warned me that the show’s final seconds were nuts, and he was right.
That said, the story build-up to that point is solid enough to make time invested in Aranyak worthwhile. Consistently good performances help, too, with special acknowledgement of Joshi as Nutan and Wishveash Sharkholi as Bunty, her boyfriend. Though the story feels complete as is, I’m very curious to see where Season 2 would go, based on the finale’s closing seconds.
In other Netflix news, the Malayalam film Night Drive debuts on the service in the US in the early afternoon on April 9. Also, the title of the upcoming Netflix Original Hindi film Jaadugar — which I wrote about in my 2022 preview for What’s on Netflix — has been changed to Love Goals.
Authors don’t often direct the movie versions of their books, and perhaps with good reason. The Netflix Original film Cobalt Blue — based on a novel written by Sachin Kundalkar, who also directed the movie — could have benefited from an outsider’s perspective.
The story takes place in 1996 in Kerala. Literature student Tanay (Neelay Mehendale) lives with his grandparents, parents, brother Aseem (Anant V Joshi), and sister Anuja (Anjali Sivaraman). When the grandparents die, Tanay’s parents rent their vacant room to a paying guest, who is never named (played by Prateik Babbar).
The Guest is an artsy beefcake, prone to shirtlessness. His looks draw the admiration of Anuja and the other young women in the neighborhood, as well as Tanay. The Guest correctly interprets Tanay’s constant hovering as romantic interest, and the two have sex. Tanay is in love, but the Guest is coy about his feelings.
Meanwhile, Tanay’s parents are trying to find a groom for tomboy Anuja. She wants to take her field hockey career to the next level, but her parents insist that she start looking and acting like their idea of a proper lady.
While I’ve not read the book on which Cobalt Blue is based, I suspect much of the dialogue is taken directly from it, because it sounds like dialogue written to be read, and not actually spoken. Few of the conversations in the film actually sound conversational. Most lines are delivered with flat affect and punctuated with unnatural dramatic pauses.
The performances across the board are quite stiff, but none more so than that by Mehendale as Tanay. His posture and gait are so rigid as to make Buckingham Palace guards look relaxed by comparison. On top of that, some of his facial expressions — especially in the final shot of the film — are plain odd.
This is Mehendale’s first film, but his inexperience isn’t solely to blame for his awkward performance. That’s on the director, who should have given him better guidance. Kundalkar himself is not new behind the camera, with eight Marathi and Hindi films under his belt before this one.
Considering that Kundalkar wrote the book on which this movie based and adapted the screenplay himself, it’s reasonable to conclude that this is precisely the film he wanted to make. But its flaws feel like issues that could have been rectified by someone with a fresh perspective — someone who hasn’t had these characters in his head for more than two decades. The film has interesting things to say about the loneliness of being gay in a time before widespread internet access. The story isn’t the problem, just the way it’s presented.
In honor of International Women’s Day, the Netflix India Twitter account drew special attention to six upcoming projects with strong women characters, including some new photos. The account tweeted about the recently announced films Kathal, Thar, and Qala, as well as the upcoming second seasons of Masaba Masaba and She. Most exciting was a tweet about the forthcoming series Mai, which was announced a couple of years ago and hasn’t gotten much attention since. All of the titles were mentioned as “coming soon,” so here’s hoping that’s true.
Netflix recently brought together a bunch of the women filmmakers and actors responsible for the streamer’s biggest Indian hits to film a promotional video for Netflix and take questions from the media. Friend of Access Bollywood Suchin Mehrotra was at the event reporting for The Hindu, and Anupama Chopra recorded a video interview for Film Companion. Check it out:
As if this wasn’t enough, yesterday Netflix revealed that Alia Bhatt’s first foray into Hollywood will be a role in the Netflix Original film Heart of Stone, starring Gal Gadot and Jamie Dornan. Exciting stuff!
In the last week, Netflix announced three new Indian productions. First up is a series I covered in my 2022 Netflix India preview for What’s on Netflix — Eternally Confused and Eager for Love. The new series from Farhan Akhtar’s Excel Entertainment and Zoya Akhtar’s Tiger Baby Films stars Vihaan Samat as a guy with a floundering love life and a wizard figurine that talks to him. Eternally Confused and Eager for Love premieres on March 18. Check out the trailer below:
The two other series that Netflix announced in the last couple of days are brand new and classified as “coming soon.” The Western noir Thar stars Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor as a man seeking revenge in Rajasthan. Anil Kapoor co-produces and co-stars in the project, reuniting father and son on screen again after the excellent 2020 Netflix Original thriller AK vs AK.
Today, Netflix announced the hinterlands revenge drama series (I’m sensing a theme) CAT, starring Randeep Hooda. Given how often the press release mentions Randeep’s role in the 2020 action flick Extraction, I’m a little surprised it’s taken this long for Netflix to announce a project with him.
The timing of these announcements is interesting. Last year, Netflix held it’s “See What’s Next India” event on March 3, in which it revealed more than 40 new Indian series and movies in the works. Are these announcements from the last week leading up to another big event, or are they happening in lieu of one? We’ll have to wait and see.
This post seems like a good opportunity to link to press releases about the two other Indian series Netflix has announced since the start of the year. Filmmaking duo Raj & DK are working on the crime comedy Guns & Gulaabs, and director Hansal Mehta is adapting the character drama Scoop from the book Behind the Bars in Byculla.
Which of these upcoming projects are you looking forward to the most?