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On the radar screen

| Updated on: Dec 29, 2017

Karnataka : Bengaluru  : 30/03/2017 :  Stand Up Comedian Sumukhi Suresh at an interaction with The Hindu. ( Pic to go with Susanna Myrtle Lazarvs for Weekend cover story )  on 30 March 2017.  Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Karnataka : Bengaluru : 30/03/2017 : Stand Up Comedian Sumukhi Suresh at an interaction with The Hindu. ( Pic to go with Susanna Myrtle Lazarvs for Weekend cover story ) on 30 March 2017. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

For those who turned off the TV and hooked up to online streaming services — Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, Hotstar, YouTube et al — here are the must-sees before 2017 ends

’Tis the season… for regrets about the extra weight, extra helpings of cake, and being stuck in traffic. But all is not lost, you can still stay put at home, and finish this year’s binge-watching sessions instead of going for that barbecue and negotiating with the drunk guy who’s taken control of the music. Here are our takeaways from 2017, a year that was marked by period dramas, the new Game of Thrones, and almost everyone giving up on TV (except to watch re-runs of Masterchef Australia, maybe). For those who have switched to online streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, Hotstar, YouTube — here are the must-not-misses before 2017 ends.

Pushpavalli

A girl who shifts cities in search of the boy she’s infatuated with, and finds a job there to be close to him? Yes, please, Sumukhi Suresh, you’ve got our attention. Suresh plays the lead character Pushpavalli, who leaves Bhopal with a food science degree, and reaches Bengaluru to join a children’s library run by Pankaj, her childhood friend and now boss (played by Naveen Richard). The love of her life, Nikhil (Manish Anand), works in an office nearby. Pushpavalli grapples with several ordeals along the way — she has to evade her vicious landlady, to whom she owes rent; she has to deal with her boss, who keeps screaming all the time (Richard and Suresh have worked together before in the digital show Good Life Foundation); and she has to escape from her mother, who is hell-bent on getting her married. The thing is, Pushpavalli isn’t the hapless victim worthy of your sympathy. No, sir, she is a complex mire of craziness and incredulity, and with a one-track mind — namely, keeping track of Nikhil’s whereabouts. This madhouse of a show is perfect for a binge watch. On Amazon Prime.

Keep It Real

While the eternal debate — whether Biswa Kalyan Rath is funnier or Kanan Gill (they did hilarious sketches together where they reviewed godawful movies for fun) — has not been solved, Gill’s one-hour stand-up show Keep It Real has left us gasping for breath. While Rath may write the best jokes, Gill’s delivery has us coming back for more. For those obsessing about the Bengaluru-based comedian’s new material, the Amazon special is going to light up the festival season.

Stranger Things Season 2

This season has spawned many Steve Harrington memes, and with good reason. While the first season had most of us talking about the huge ’90s nostalgia gap it left us with, Season 2 has thickened the plot, added love stories between our favourite characters, and got us knee-deep in this weird shit. I already feel the pull of the show’s The Upside Down parallel universe asking for a re-watch. On Netflix.

Planet Earth II

This one premièred on Indian television this September with Sony, and while prints were available online, it was worth the wait to watch it in ultra HD. Each of the seven episodes of the part-series documentary has been brilliantly edited to keep us on the edge of the seat. Hans Zimmer has done the score for this show, and David Attenborough is the omnipresent narrrator. In all, the decade-long wait for the sequel has been well worth it. Divided into six habitats — islands, mountains, jungles, deserts, grasslands and cities — there are plenty of thrilling moments to go back to. Examples: the ibex and the foxes’ long-drawn game of hide-and-seek in the Arabian cliffs, or the racer snakes chasing just-hatched baby iguanas at Galapagos islands... which one will survive, which will perish? Or the proud dad moment in the jungle episode where a glass frog in Costa Rica manages to save some of his hatching tadpoles from the furious attack of a wasp — will he, won’t he? Or the overwhelming bird’s-eye view of snowy cliffs, as an eagle swoops down to feed on the carcass of a fox. There are many moments to treasure. Available in Blu-Ray.

Marvellous Mrs Maisel

Amazon Prime Video’s latest holiday offering is another ’60s-based show — we know, the whole ’60s American theme might be getting a little old, post Mad Men aeons ago, but this one is different. Mrs Maisel is no Betty Draper. While she’s got the night cream and perfect figure down pat, her sense of humour gives us plenty of moments where we actually laugh out loud, not just type it to friends while recommending the show. The storyline tracks a young Jewish woman who lives on the Upper East Side with a nervy husband trying to hustle as a stand-up comic alongside a day job. She seems to have everything that convention would have deemed ideal for her — two children, big house, brisket-baking skills and a sense of humour, and yet she’s drinking a bottle of wine in her pastel-blue nightie on the stage of the shady Brooklyn club her ex-husband did sets for. Time to plug in, put those Christmas socks-clad feet up and celebrate sisterhood.

The Hungry

Tisca Chopra has shone in the two short films of the year, Chutney and Chhuri, where she plays the housewife with the upper hand with aplomb. Here, she is the middle-aged daughter of a late business tycoon, now remarrying his business partner’s son. Her husband died years earlier, leaving behind two sons. A contemporary adaptation of the Shakespearan play Titus Andronicus, The Hungry is entirely an actor’s movie. Tisca Chopra and Naseeruddin Shah deliver stellar performances, as the tension becomes too much to bear in this devious Delhi wedding. On Amazon Prime.

Mudbound

Another period drama, this is a throwback to World War II Mississippi, where two soldiers — one white, one black — return to a segregated world, leaving the liberated war-torn Europe behind, where black and white soldiers stood shoulder-to-shoulder. Back in Mississippi, the soldiers — Jamie McAllan and Ronsel Jackson — become friends, and while their families are tied up in racist politics. Their friendship survives the horrors of Ronsel’s treatment at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan. Called Netflix’s shot at the Oscars, it stars Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell.

Newton

India’s official entry to the Oscars, Newton is every bit worthy of your time. The plot follows a young officer who is sent to the jungles of Dandakaranya to conduct polls. The task leaves him exhausted, hapless, discouraged, but not defeated. His determination to conduct the elections at any cost leaves him curiously flirting with the law. Directed by Amit Masurkar, Newton has been brilliantly cast, something which adds to its charm — the principal protagonist is played by Rajkummar Rao, who portrays the unpredictability of his character perfectly. On Amazon Prime.

Lipstick Under My Burkha

Another refreshing film by Alankrita Shrivastava (Turning 30, her début film, unfortunately sank without a trace), Lipstick Under My Burkha explores the lives of five women who are neighbours in a conservative Bhopal neighbourhood. While on the surface, they lead lives that are the very stereotype of middle-class India, on digging deeper, their fantastical secret/inner/fantasy lives make for an unusual and delightful movie. Available on Amazon Prime.

Juice

Juice, directed by Neeraj Ghaywan, is a difficult film to watch at home. It is going to be as uncomfortable to sit through as the customary condom ad, as presumed by the government, because it holds a mirror to the sexist nuances of an Indian household. Juice begins with a band of men sitting in a drawing room, passing around food and wife jokes. The host’s wife, along with her female guests (the wives of the men) toil in a very hot kitchen, trying to look after the needs of the men sitting outside. While the men’s conversation revolves around various topics that make for ‘drawing room’ adda, the women chit-chat about their children, domestic affairs and the food. The hostess, played by Shefali Shah, however, is quiet. It is clear from her expression that she abhors the situation she is in, to be taken for granted, expected to provide while the rest of her family has a great time, but she takes it all silently. The build-up leaves us tense, and the ending with a deep sense of unquiet. Available on YouTube.

Published on March 10, 2018

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