Let the bingefest begin
Khalid Mohamed draws up a 'must-watch' list just so you're never short on entertainment
With the outbreak of the coronavirus, Bollywood remained calm even at the prospect of incalculable financial losses. The Irrfan Khan-starrer Angrezi Medium, which was released in the midst of the worldwide pandemic, was severely affected since audiences stayed away from cinema halls.
All film screenings were halted in some of the metropolitan cities. The Tiger Shroff action flick, Baaghi 3, was also hit. Although it had amassed high revenues over its opening weekend, the second week's collections nosedived. The release of the Akshay Kumar cop drama, Sooryavanshi, which was to premiere on March 24, was indefinitely postponed.
A few film shoots did continue, while taking safety measures for the cast and crew. Most, however, cancelled their imminent schedules, particularly those travelling to locations overseas. Needless to add, the nation's prolific filmmaking industry has never faced such a crisis before. And for sure, panic would have been a self-defeating option.
In the circumstances, the attitude of show business was to monitor the news on various sites and TV channels. As for addictive entertainment-seekers, the alternative was to binge on fresh or unwatched content streaming on OTT services - the major ones being Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, ALT Balaji and Zee5.
Here then are a fistful of recommendations, or to put it plainly, the series and films I watched upon being home-bound.
Quite clearly a showcase for Kiara Advani, the Karan Johar-co-produced and the Ruchi Narain-directed original feature film strives to study the impact of the #MeToo movement on the campus of a Delhi college within its two-hour runtime. Kiara is assigned the complex part of an irresponsible, young woman who's awakened when her Ritchie Rich boyfriend is accused of sexual misconduct. Garbed in shocking outfits, tattooed all over her body and provocatively dressed, Kiara is somewhat awkward during the initial scenes but improves immensely as she comes out of her purple haze, and at long last breaks into a strong defence of her gender during the finale.
It's not an easy watch but director Narain deftly turns the tables on male chauvinism in the film's stirring climax. In fact, the end credits, presenting hard facts about the subjugation of women, serves as a wake-up call for those who believe that the #MeToo movement has fizzled out. It hasn't.
TAJ MAHAL 1989 (Netflix)
The seven-episode series created by Pushpendra Nath Misra revolves around couples of varying age-groups - trying to define the meaning of love - set in the eponymous year, around the Lucknow University. Not entirely satisfying or groundbreaking, the show also suffered from technical deficiency and the flimsier portrayal of the younger generation, which was depicted as far too whimsical and self-centred to be true.
Yet, the etching of a married middle-class couple - the husband, a poetry-loving college lecturer and his significant half, a querulous physics teacher - was as lifelike as it was insightful. Enacted excellently by Neeraj Kabi and Geetanjali Kulkarni, you meet a couple who have maintained a bond for years, despite their differing mindsets. They argue, sulk and seem to detest each other and, ultimately, realise that it's their polarised views that add spark to their mundane everyday lives.
Moreover, you can also relate to the lecturer's long-time buddy (sensitively essayed by theatre artiste Danish Husain), who had won the gold medal for philosophy at the university but was compelled to follow his family's profession as a tailor. The dialogue between the ageing characters has a certain wistful and lyrical quality about it that keeps you engaged whenever the camera's focused on them.
YEH DIL MERA (HUM TV)
At 22 episodes, this Pakistani series - written by Farhat Ishtiaq and directed by Aehsun Talish - appears to be too densely-plotted, prompting you to wonder where it's going. But exercise a bit of patience and the story will hook you.
It was a rage among Pakistani viewers and you can understand why. Enhanced by a sumptuous set design, glamorous camerawork and clean editing, here's a work that reminds you of the grace of Urdu dialogue and the unfolding of the dramaturgy in a style that is leisurely and, for most of its length, extremely absorbing. The ensemble cast led by Ahad Raza Mir, Sajal Aly and Adnan Siddiqui are inspiring. If there wasn't a ban on Pakistani artistes in India, there's little doubt that they would have been signed on by Bollywood talent scouts.
MENTALHOOD (ALT Balaji)
Light-hearted and fun, the first four episodes of the soap that marks Karisma Kapoor's debut in digital space are dedicated to the spirit of the homemaker, who has to multitask and yet smile through it all. Problem: the screenplay keeps harping on about the plot premise.
Perfectly cast, Karisma displays her flair for comic timing, and is the prime reason for checking out this paean to motherhood.
CODE M (Zee 5)
The underappreciated Jennifer Winget gets an opportunity to prove her acting chops in this eight-episode series. As an army lawyer who investigates an encounter case involving two militants and a military officer, she carries out her action stunts and sleuthing tactics with consistent elan. The series does become repetitive and dull halfway, though. Just for Ms Winget, it's worth a dekko.