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Screen Time: Compelling Docuseries and Dramas

By Baisakhi Roy Email By Baisakhi Roy
March 2023
Screen Time: Compelling Docuseries and Dramas

Fans of documentaries can watch two shows focusing on India’s national obsession (no, it’s not cricket). Also, while two megastars go head-to-head in a gritty thriller, in another series, love and anarchy clash in a town in Bihar.

The Romantics (Hindi)


This is for cinema lovers and unabashed movie star fans. Directed by Smriti Mundhra (Indian Matchmaking), this four-part docuseries chronicles the rise of iconic director Yash Chopra, his massive hits and flops, and the legacy of Yash Raj Films, one of India’s largest film studios. Mundhra also pulls off the impossible—an in-depth interview with Aditya Chopra, his notoriously media-shy son. And everyone associated with his films makes an appearance: Amitabh Bachchan recalling his Deewar days; Chopra’s blue-eyed boy, Shah Rukh Khan getting emotional over doing the director’s last film, Jab Tak Hai Jaan; and the late Rishi Kapoor alongside wife Neetu Singh reminiscing about Chopra’s heydays. A star-packed series no doubt. Younger stars like Ranveer Singh, Ayushmann Khurana, and Bhumi Pednekar talk about their successful launches with the banner. Singh almost did not make it but Aditya Chopra was sure that he had a long “25-year career” ahead of him. There are many memorable moments—such as archival photos of the Chopra family birthday parties where a teen Hrithik Roshan (family friends with the Chopras) is poised for a dance-off with Aditya Chopra (who was the better dancer of the two); the senior Chopra agonizing over his flops; and horsing around on the sets of his films with his actors. It’s a warm nostalgic trip with lots to savor.


Cinema Marte Dum Tak (Hindi)


Amazon Prime

Known as B and C grade movies, pulpy movies of ’90s Bollywood were replete with bikini-clad leading ladies, ridiculously unscary ghouls, and lecherous villains spouting the most cringe-inducing lines. But, boy, did those potboilers mint money! Filmmaker Vasan Bala (Monica, O My Darling!) serves up a delicious ode to this genre by following four directors on the sets of their films. These makers were considered masters of this genre of filmmaking: Dilip Gulati, who directed Jungle Beauty in 1991 (the keywords on IMDB for the film are “bare chested male bondage”); J. Neelam (Main Hoon Kunwari Dulhan and Tadapti Jawani); Vinod Talwar, the master of sleazy horror flicks (Raat Ke Andhere Main and Khooni Panja); and Kishan Shah (Tan Agan), brother of the more successful Kanti Shah, who made Loha with Dharmendra and Gunda with Mithun Chakraborty, among other multistarrers. There are bits that left a lump in my throat. A top adult actress quitting because it wasn’t considered honorable work and then being forced to come back because they needed to put food on the table had me bawling. So did Kishan Shah breaking down when talking about how his kids were rude to him when he was going through a rough patch professionally. Viewers interested in the history of Indian cinema will love this nuanced take by Bala.


Class (Hindi)




The kids are not all right! A remake of the hit Spanish series Elite (2018), Class examines exactly that—class conflicts within an elite school among six students who play the main characters. The rich, spoiled brats of Hampton International School in Delhi are in for a rude shock when a group of lower-class students—whose school burned down in a fire that may or may not have been intentional— join them in their classrooms. And enter their personal lives as well. Tack onto this the mysterious death of a student and things begin to unravel. If you are a fan of the original series, this one might be underwhelming but only a bit. Class is intensely watchable because of the characters—flawed, human, complex, ruthless—and their backstories. The young star cast is impressive as they play characters dealing with tortuous backstories filled with insecurities about money, sexuality, love, familial love, and neglect.



Jehanabad (Hindi)



Any series with Parambrata Chatterjee (Kahanii) in it immediately piques my interest. The charismatic Bengali actor was not really present in the first few episodes but young guns Harshita Gaur and Ritwik Bhowmik   (Bandish Bandits and Modern Love Mumbai) did not let me miss him much. Set in a small town called Jehanabad, Bihar, the story follows English professor Abhimanyu Singh (Bhowmik) who is slowly but surely falling for the charms of Kasturi Mishra (Gaur), his student who pursues him relentlessly. But Singh is not everything he says he is. Then there is a parallel narrative about the Naxal conflict in the region. A popular Naxal commander (Chatterjee) is planning to break out of jail with the help of his comrades. What follows is a tale of love and betrayal in equal measure. The pace falters pace sometimes and it seems to take forever to arrive at a point. But Bhowmik, with his deadpan facade tinged with an innocent smile, and Gaur, radiating freshness and energy, are the stars who make this series worth watching.


An Action Hero (Hindi)




This Ayushmann Khurana movie is a lot of fun, making it one of his best releases in a while. He plays Manav, a macho action star whose life changes dramatically one night. He’s just left his shoot for the day to take his new car for a spin. A rebuffed and hence disgruntled fan who’s been waiting to meet the star all day chases him down and gets into a scuffle with Manaav. And dies. Unfortunately for Manaav, the deceased is the younger brother of local strongman, Bhoora Solanki (Jaideep Ahlawat), who now wants Manav dead. Thus ensues a comical cat and mouse game where Bhoora and Manav both try to outfox each other. What’s more, a local don is also after Manav to dance at his daughter’s wedding. Watch out for a brief but fun cameo by Malaika Arora who has been asked by the don to . . . what else? Dance at his daughter’s wedding! The film is short and sweet and did not make a huge wave at the box office. Here’s hoping that streaming gives it the love it deserves.

Baisakhi Roy is a culture writer and journalist based in Ontario, Canada. Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post Canada, Chatelaine, Broadview and CBC. Formerly a reporter with The Indian Express in India, Roy is an avid Bollywood fan and co-hosts the Hindi language podcast KhabardaarPodcast.com. Email: baisakhi.roy@gmail.com

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