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Screen Time: Making Connections in the Digital Age

By Baisakhi Roy Email By Baisakhi Roy
February 2024
Screen Time: Making Connections in the Digital Age

As the cold weather lingers, there are several comforting options for viewers. Young folks who get restless on social media, women who fight matrimonial fraud online, two older people who enjoy adventures, a woman who is troubled by memories, and an unassuming cafe owner who takes on a drug cartel.

Kho Gaye Hum Kahan (Hindi)

Netflix

The fact that Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti are the brains behind this project makes it instantly intriguing. Debutant director Arjun Varain Singh takes a no-frills approach to this coming-of-age tale of three twentysomething friends—Ahana (Ananya Pandey), Imaad (Siddhant Chaturvedi), and Neil (Adarsh Gourav)—who are trying to navigate their lives in the digital age, seeking connection and validation on social media. While Ahana posts thirst trap (Gen Z lingo for provocative) photos online to entice her ex-boyfriend, Neil aspires to be a personal trainer to the stars, and Imaad (a stand-up comedian) swipes incessantly on a dating app as he deals with a deep-seated childhood trauma. Their close bond is tested when, in an unfortunate incident, Imaad presents an unflattering account of Neil’s life as part of his routine. Feelings are hurt and friendships are tested. It’s a sweet story buoyed by some fantastic performances—the surprise packet being Ananya Pandey, who shows a lot of maturity playing a character that demands both flightiness and resolve. She’s lovely, displaying restraint and effervescence effectively. The film’s emotional impact hits home without any unnecessary drama or shenanigans.


 

Three of Us (Hindi)

Netflix

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Another trio, albeit a vastly different one, is at the center of this melancholic tale of memories, attachments, and letting go. Director Avinash Arun (Killa, Pataal Lok) brings us the wistful saga of Shailaja (Shefali Shah), who asks her husband (Swanand Kirkire) to take a trip with her to the village in Maharashtra she grew up in. Shailaja, who is struggling with dementia1, seeks out her childhood crush, Pradip (Jaideep Ahlawat), who serves as her guide as she goes around the village, visiting her school, meeting old neighbors and acquaintances, desperately trying to hold on to the memories of her life gone by. A quiet, meditative film, this one tugs at the heartstrings. Visually and tonally, there’s a sense of serenity. Jaideep’s character paints a piece of fabric with dye and then is immersed in delicately embroidering the piece. The stunning Konkan coast with its unassuming natural beauty, the measured dialogue between the characters, the stirring background score, and the tenderness with which difficult situations are portrayed, add up to a cinematic experience that’s refreshing and a balm to the soul.


 

Mast Mein Rehne Ka (Hindi)

Amazon Prime Video

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This gem is from actor, writer, and director Vijay Maurya, who wrote the dialogues for Gully Boy and Darlings. The story revolves around Kamath (Jackie Shroff), a dour 75-year-old widower by the seaside. He occasionally gets drunk and gorges on chicken lollipop and Manchurian rice, until one day he gets injured during a burglary. When the police tell him to come out of his isolated existence to make him less vulnerable, a shaken Kamath tries to connect with people in his neighborhood. He strikes up a friendship with Mrs. Handa (Neena Gupta), a spirited woman who has come back to India from Canada after an unsavory experience. They bond and have adventures. Then there’s a young couple whose love story forms a parallel track, and their lives collide in a series of hilarious coincidences. Shroff is a delight. Watch the opening montage as he goes through this daily routine—lighting a lamp for his dead wife, making uttapam for breakfast, doing his stretches at the nana-nani park, downing a bottle of chilled beer.

 


 

Wedding.con (Hindi/English)

Amazon Prime Video

Screentime_01_02_24.jpgNot all love stories have a happy ending. Tanuja Chandra (Dushman, Sangharsh), in her new true crime documentary, explores the murky world of matrimonial fraud, whose elaborate schemes fool women looking for companionship. In this taut five-part series, Chandra speaks to five women scammed by men, misrepresenting themselves and then cheating them of their money. But more than the loss of money, it is the devastating sense of humiliation and shattered self-confidence and trust that has a deeper impact on the psyche of these women. One interviewee spoke about how, just a couple of months before she was to get married, she discovered that her “fiancé” had been married before and had been scamming multiple women over a long period of time. Then there’s the divorcee and mother of a child who fell for a Turkish marine online and helped him out with money to pay for his mother’s hospital bills. Which was a lie. In a particularly heartbreaking moment, one young woman speaks about how her position in her family was devalued after she fell prey to a scamster she had considered marrying. The series also includes experts who talk about how Indian society—with an innate sexism that places such a high value on the institution of marriage, especially for women—is at the root cause of this problem.

 


 

Leo (Tamil)

Netflix

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Nothing is more satisfying than an action film done right. Thalapathy Vijay headlines this pacy action flick and seems to be enjoying every moment of it. He plays Parthiban, a family man, animal rescuer, and a café owner in the peaceful environs of a small town in Himachal Pradesh. One evening when he and his staff are attacked by a gang of robbers, he ends up shooting one of them. Though he’s released by the police for having acted in self-defense, his mugshot is circulated in the newspapers and catches the eye of Harold Das, the brother of a psychotic drug lord in Telangana, Anthony Das (a delightful Sanjay Dutt), who’s convinced that Parthi is his long-lost son, Leo. As Anthony and his gang march towards Shimla to confront him, Parthi scrambles to protect his family. He sports a grey-streaked beard, giving him an older and wiser look. Parthi fights and dances like a dream. Director Lokesh Kanagaraj—known for stylishly mounted films like Kaithi, Master, and Vikram—delivers once again!


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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