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Screen Time: Shows for Springtime

By Baisakhi Roy Email By Baisakhi Roy
April 2024
Screen Time: Shows for Springtime

Humans clash with nature in one saga, while in another series lawyers slug it out. Elsewhere, a murder exposes the rich and famous. There’s also a celebration of sisterhood, and we have a father who empowers his child.

Poacher (Malayalam/Hindi)


In 2019, Canadian director Richie Mehta took streaming by storm with Delhi Crime, a series based on the 2012 gang rape case in Delhi. Vowing audiences and critics alike, Mehta set the bar high for content coming out of India. It won the 2020 International Emmy for Best Drama Series. I’m happy to report that his next project is worth the wait. Produced by Alia Bhatt, the series delivers a gut punch right from the opening scene showing a dead elephant. Poachers, in their bloodlust for ivory, have removed the tusks. Set in Kerala’s lush forests, the series has the fantastic Nimisha Sajayan in the role of Maala, a forest officer determined to nab the gang. It’s also a story of redemption, for her own father was a poacher. Ably assisted by Alan (Roshan Mathew), a numbers whiz, and their boss Neel (Dibyendu Bhattacharya), Maala pursues the killers with an intensity that is moving. I did not expect to feel all torn up when confronted with the bloodied, lifeless bodies of these beautiful and gentle animals. The gory details were created with special effects. It’s the storytelling skill of Mehta that compels us to care.




To Kill a Tiger (Hindi/English)



“It’s not easy to film love.” These were the words from the jury members at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival for Canadian director Nisha Pahuja’s documentary about J, a teenager who was gang raped in her village, and about her father, who took the lead in a campaign to secure justice for his child. The bond of love and trust between father and daughter is the beating heart of the documentary. Ranjit, a villager in Jharkhand, remains stoic as his fellow villagers put pressure on him to marry off his 13-year-old daughter and not make a “fuss” about her rape. Guilt-ridden that he couldn’t protect her, he makes seeking justice his life’smission. He and his daughter are shamed, shunned, and threatened by villagers who blame J for the incident. It's a searing tale—and largely because of the access Pahuja had to tell the story, the documentary makes a devastating impact. For the 2024 Academy Awards, it was shortlisted in the Documentary Feature category. Ranjit and his daughter speak fearlessly as they recount the horrors of the rape and its aftermath. It’s disturbing and moving in equal parts. I was on the fence about the director’s decision to reveal J’s identity (Pahuja mentions that she had her consent), but I was also struck by J’s resolution to tell her own story on camera.


Maamla Legal Hai (Hindi)



Ravi Kishan is clearly having a moment. After his comic turn as the bribe-taking cop with a heart of gold in Kiran Rao’s breezy caper, Laapataa Ladies, the veteran Bhojpuri film star shines again, this time as VD Tyagi, a lawyer who has his heart set on the post of president of the Delhi Bar association. His colleagues include Sujata (Nidhi Bisht), who dreams of a chamber of her own, the idealistic—and fresh from Harvard Law—Ananya Shroff (Naila Grewal), and Mahendra Phorey (Yashpal Sharma), an advocate who is Tyagi’s rival and nemesis, and may or may not have a law degree. This quirky set of characters is only rivaled by bizarre cases that come to court: a foul-mouthed parrot being sued by the offended party, a man wanting to divorce his new wife for not being coy enough on their wedding night, and a prison inmate fighting for her right to consummate her marriage and not being shamed for it. The series has laughs galore but also shines a light on the gaps in the legal system and how it affects not only those who seek justice but also those who work within it.



Big Girls Don’t Cry (English/Hindi)

Amazon Prime Video

Screentime_5_04_24.jpgFinally, a desi version of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers, which I loved reading as a young teen. If you’ve ever been a boarding school kid or lived in a hostel, as I did, a lot of BGDC will make you nostalgic. Set in a fictional boarding school for girls, Vandana Valley, the story tracks the lives—and the dramatic highs and lows that go with it—of a group of girls who form a bond, experiencing the pangs and thrills of growing up in a school that’s likened to a prison. Chocolates, gum, phones, boys are simply not tolerated! There’s Anandita, also known as Pluggy (Dalai), who is on a quest to be deflowered; JC (Lhakhyila), a princess from Nepal who feels suffocated by tradition; Kavya (Vidushi), a scholarship student who clearly doesn’t fit in with her more urbane peers; and Leah, also known as Ludo (Avantika of Mean Girls fame), a sports star who has a secret. Pooja Bhatt is solid as the principal Anita Verma who insists on all her students upholding all the school traditions, much like Amitabh Bachchan’s character in Mohabattein (pratishtha parampara, anushasan . . . you know the drill).The overall tone of the series is fresh and giggly—and you go along for the ride and a fun celebration of sisterhood.



Murder Mubarak (Hindi)



If you love the world created by celebrated author Anuja Chauhan (The Zoya Factor, Battle for Bittora, Those Pricey Thakur Girls), this latest murder whodunit-cum-social satire is right up your alley. And it has a cast to die for. The story is set in a posh Delhi club, where the glitterati converge for gossip and general merrymaking. The members have little bells to summon the bearers and servers to attend to their tiniest needs—it’s that kind of club. Then the fitness trainer is found dead, his neck crushed under a barbell. ACP Bhavani Singh (an utterly delightful Pankaj Tripathi) appears on the scene to investigate. As the sensation in the pit of his stomach tells him, Bhavani declares that the killer could be anyone: the young widow Bambi (the gorgeous Sara Ali Khan, who tries a bit too hard); a young lawyer named Akash (Vijay Varma); famed actress Shehnaz (Karisma Kapoor, who should act more); a kooky artist named Cookie (Dimple Kapadia, whose role is too short); and my favorite— Ranvijay Singh (Sanjay Kapoor), a former royal with a couple of secrets. Kapoor is an absolute delight in every role he’s been in recently (Merry Christmas), bringing a razor-sharp comic timing and conviction to his performances.

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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