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Screen Time: Music and Mayhem in May

By Baisakhi Roy Email By Baisakhi Roy
May 2024
Screen Time: Music and Mayhem in May

Streaming highlights this month include an ode to the Elvis of Punjab, pirates who create havoc on the seas, a brilliant student who games the system, an adorable love triangle that tugs at your heartstrings, and a wronged cop who hunts down a killer.

Chamkila (Hindi/Punjabi)


The electric trio of music director A. R. Rahman, lyricist Irshad Kamil, and director Imtiaz Ali is back. All good things will naturally follow. Ali narrates the story of Punjabi singing star Amar Singh Chamkila (chamkila: glittery), who, at the height of his popularity in the ’80s, fell to an assassin’s bullet in Punjab. Known for his robust performances, where he got the crowds going, especially because of the lewd lyrics of his songs, Chamkila garnered both fans and foes. Chamkila shot to fame despite his Dalit background, but in 1988, he and his wife Amarjyot (Parineeti Chopra) met a grisly end. Diljit Dosanjh as Chamkila is sublime and soulful. A superstar himself, he sells out arenas and, much like Chamkila, has legions of fans. Dosanjh’s portrayal of the exuberant singer feels effortless, as he strums his tumbi and commandeers the microphone in the studio and in live performances. A. R. Rahman’s score and Kamil’s inventive lyrics are glorious. Imtiaz Ali’s films have sparked much conversation. While his fans consider them soulful and devastating, the naysayers find them obtuse and overindulgent. Probably because of the subject, this is his most honest film to date. More than a masterful biopic, it’s a commentary on one of the most urgent issues of our time: freedom of expression and the need to protect artistes, especially those brave outliers who march to the tune of their own tumbi.




Lootere (Hindi)



One of the most ambitious projects to come out of India in terms of scale, Jai Mehta’s pulsating episodic drama is about a cargo ship that gets hijacked by Somali pirates. Somali Indian businessman Vikrant Gandhi (a terrific Vivek Gomber) wants to head the Mogadishu Port Authority, but he is facing stiff opposition from rivals who want “one of their own” at the helm. Gandhi is also mixed up with the militia whose shipment he’s tracking aboard a cargo ship. When his associates deploy a gang of pirates to derail the ship and stop it from reaching the capital Mogadishu, the plan backfires and all hell breaks loose aboard the ship. The captain (Rajat Kapoor) tries to maintain calm while the pirate leader, Barkhad (Martial Batchamen), tries to rein in his temperamental and unhinged goons from harassing the crew members, including a pregnant woman. There’s tons of blood and gore—some of the scenes are unnecessarily grisly. But get past that and you have a roller coaster ride propped up by a brilliant background score by Achint Thakkar (Scam 92).


Farrey (Hindi)



The most talented actor from the Khan clan (Salman’s) is finally here! In this thrilling heist film, Alizeh Agnihotri (she is Salman’s sister and Alvira’s daughter) makes quite the impression in her portrayal of Niyati Singh, an orphan and a topper who has been offered a full scholarship by one of the most prestigious schools in India. At the school, where everyone else but her comes from privileged and moneyed families, Niyati struggles to fit in socially. She gains entry to a group of rich, spoiled kids by helping them with their academics and then, in exchange for cash, helping them cheat. Her classmates are willing to pay her exorbitant sums of money to crack a make-or-break entrance test that will determine university admissions abroad. Niyati along with another scholarship student makes a daring plan to crack the test—a plan that could potentially end in disaster. The film is an official remake of the 2017 Thai film Bad Genius, which wowed critics and was a raging international success. Farrey hits the mark, but you can catch the original on Netflix for some extra thrills.



Premalu (Malayalam)


Screentime_1_05_24.jpgSpring is in the air—and this cushy, comic love story is precisely what the soul needs. A story about heady crushes, unrequited love, and comic coincidences forms the crux of this breezy Girish AD (Super Sharanya) directorial. Sachin (the super cute Naslen), rejected by his classmate on the last day of college, is further dejected when plans to study in the U.K. are dashed after his visa is rejected. He meets his childhood friend, Amal, who suggests they head to Hyderabad to study a course while waiting to reapply for his visa. He then meets Reenu (the adorable Mamitha Baiju) and promptly falls in love. Only to be rejected again! He moves again, but this time he is missed by Reenu who may or may not be inclined to reciprocate his feelings. What follows is a charming story elevated by some stellar performances by the lead cast and the supporting actors. Although it’s an oft-told story, the observational comedy and comic timing make it fresh and authentic. Youthful romances! What’s not to love?



Anweshippin Kandethum (Malayalam)




For fans of police procedurals, here’s another brilliant film. This time the story revolves around Sub Inspector Anand Narayanan (the always reliable Tovino Thomas) who has returned to duty after being suspended for unofficially investigating a murder and then losing the prime suspect in the case. Narayanan is obviously desperate to redeem himself. He finds himself embroiled in another murder mystery, a cold case about a murdered woman, Sridevi, that is intricately connected to the case that led to him being suspended along with his team. The investigation opens a can of worms, implicating some of the most influential members in the village. Narayanan and his team are once again in the same situation, with the odds stacked against them, and their honesty and diligence questioned. Thomas looks and walks the part of the honest, principled cop who won’t rest till the perpetrators are brought to book. The film runs long and unfolds at a deliberate pace, but you won’t feel like taking your eyes off the screen even once.

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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