As the spotlight shines on Bollywood actor Shefali Shah’s gritty cop series ‘Delhi Crime’ after its momentous International Emmy win for Best Drama Series, the awards glory reminds us we have a string of critically acclaimed films and series that demand a re-visit.
‘Delhi Crime’, a grim procedural thriller that recounted the real-life police investigation and arrest of criminals who raped a young woman in a moving bus in Delhi, was a 2018 hit that crept upon us slowly with its solid performances and tense screenplay. But Richie Mehta’s ‘Delhi Crime’ isn’t the only shining series or film that’s out there. Here’s a list of movies and films that wowed critics and viewers alike...
The Lunchbox: Want proof that it’s never too late to find your soulmate? In this case, the proof is literally in the pudding that was served to Irrfan Khan’s character Saajan Fernandes. This delectable romance, also featuring Nimrat Kaur in top form, is a tale of a dowdy, ageing accountant in Mumbai who forms an unlikely bond with a lonely housewife who mistakenly sends him home-cooked food in a tiffin box. Their kinship is worth its weight in caviar. The movie explores the need for companionship in a bustling metropolis like Mumbai in great detail. Be warned, this sumptuous love story will leave you craving for more. Directed by filmmaker Ritesh Batra, the movie was also was the toast of the awards circuit in 2013 as it took home several popular accolades.
Parched: If you are in the mood to watch a fierce film where three rural women smash patriarchy, then director Leena Yadav’s ‘Parched’, set in an arid Indian village is right up your street. Actors Tannishtha Chatterjee, Radhika Apte and Surveen Chawla are compelling in this complex film about toxic gender bias and oppression of women. But despite the dire reality around them, the film never weighs you down. You find yourself smiling as these three friends — each one struggling to find their own identity and social standing — unite to find a sliver of happiness.
A Death In The Gunj: Actress Konkona Sen Sharma donned the director’s hat for the first time in her career and came out with flying colours. She discovered the blazing potential in actor Vikrant Massey and we can’t thank her enough. Set in the 1970s, this film is about a family reunion in the hilly town of Mccluskieganj that goes terribly wrong. The movie explores the murky relationship dynamics and the politics of familial bonds with a sensitivity that’s rare in Indian films. Watching Massey as the vulnerable Shuttu — a hyper-sensitive young man struggling to cope with his insensitive relatives — will make you reach for your tissues.
Masaan: Debutant director Neeraj Ghaywan and writer Varun Grover transports us to the ancient, holy city of Varanasi and weaves in a life-affirming tale that tackles the dark topics of caste divides, patriarchy and gender gaps. Four stories intertwine in this beautifully constructed fable. Richa Chadha’s spirited, angsty character Devi and Vicky Kaushal’s breakthrough character as a young man from a lower caste embroiled in a romance with a woman from a higher caste had my heart.
Raazi: Director Meghna Gulzar brings us a smart and cerebral spy thriller starring Bollywood’s Alia Bhatt as a coltish Kashmiri bride who marries into an influential Pakistani family to distil sensitive intelligence information. The stakes are high in this espionage drama, but Gulzar manages to bring a humane side to this spy saga. The sharp film hits bullseye when it comes to spinning a compelling narrative as it hurtles you back to 1970s India. Bhatt as the waif-like wife, but deceptive by nature, is bang on target, while her sensitive Pakistani husband, played to perfection by Kaushal, is equally attractive. It’s one of those rare films that isn’t unnecessarily jingoistic and shows human frailties.
Pataal Lok: This web series, produced by Anushka Sharma, is a dark and disturbing cop thriller which reels you in with its wicked appeal. The violence in this series may make you wince, but you have to appreciate the makers’ resolve not to sanitise India’s deep caste, class and religious divides. The picture in ‘Pataal Lok’ isn’t always pretty, but actor Jaideep Ahlawat with his brilliant performance and sharp dialogues make you want to reasses the bigger picture. Unlike popular cop-driven Bollywood blockbusters, the central cop here isn’t some all-conquering hero. While Ahlawat may not have biceps to flex, he flexes his acting muscles with aplomb. Ahalwat as a jaded Delhi cop tasked with investigating a foiled assassination attempt on celebrity news anchor Sanjeev Mehra, played efficiently by Neeraj Kabi, is a perfect antidote to the Bollywood’s indestructible cop. The nine-episode series is startlingly shocking and absorbing.
Sacred Games: National Award-winning actor Saif Ali made his digital plunge with this cracker of a web series. Khan played the flawed, down-on-his-luck cop with admirable tenacity and conviction and his mental sparring with a depraved gangster (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) transformed this ambitious series into a disturbingly persuasive watch. There’s plenty of blood, gore and violence, but Khan and his talented cast prove their collective mettle. While the first season is perfect for a marathon watch, the second season isn’t as exciting and falls short of expectations.
Made In Heaven (Streaming on Amazon Prime Video): This glossy series chronicles the lives of two Delhi-based wedding planners Tara Khanna (Shobita Dhulipala) and Karan Mehra (Arjun Mathur). The wedding that they plan for their posh clients may look magical, but we soon learn that there is no happily-ever-after ending guaranteed. The award-winning series also gave Mathur his career’s first International Emmy nomination nod. His turn as the complex Karan Mehra is superb and wicked. The series filled with the insanely rich Indian is also a social commentary on how the well-heeled tribe of South Delhi thrive. Their snootiness and sophistication is at once admirable and detestable. The binge-worthy series also explores the taboo subject of older women having a desire to remarry, dowry and other interesting socially-charged topics. There are no tidy endings here, but every episode is a must-watch.
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