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Screen Time: Sizzle of Summer: Wild Boys & Others

By Baisakhi Roy Email By Baisakhi Roy
June 2024
Screen Time: Sizzle of Summer: Wild Boys & Others

This month, a group of friends brave the elements, gangsters get goofy, a boy's trip goes off the rails, a murderer lurks in the city, and the queens of Lahore hold court.

Heeramandi (Hindi/Urdu)

Netflix

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s streaming debut is finally here and what a spectacle it is! The master of grandiosity and drama delivers in this magnificent tale of love, romance, and revolution. The series centers around the courtesans (tawaifs) of Heeramandi, the famed bazaar in Lahore. Much before it gained notoriety for being a red-light area under British rule, it used to be a hub for the performing arts during the Mughal era. In this fictionalized account, Mallikajaan (Manisha Koirala, back with Bhansali after her debut in Khamoshi) is the queen bee who runs Heeramandi with ruthless detachment, courting rich nawabs for their patronage and keeping her coterie of courtesans in line. We have daughter Bibbojaan (Aditi Rao Hydari, lauded for her breathtakingly choreographed dance sequences) who gets involved in the Indian freedom movement, and younger child, Alamzeb (Sharmin Sehgal), who wants nothing to do with the family business. She is an aspiring poet in love with a dashing nawabzaada, Tajdaar (Taha Shah). Mallikajaan is guarding a secret and also fending off her rival, Fareedan (Sonakshi Sinha), who is hell bent on revenge. Predictably, Bhansali goes all out with the costumes and sets, coming close to creating a masterpiece. The storyline falters in places, as do some of the performances, but Bhansali keeps your attention almost till the end. Watch it for Manisha Koirala, who doesn’t miss a beat. Defiant, scheming, and entrancing with her delicate beauty, she is delightfully menacing as Mallikajaan.

 


 

 

Manjummel Boys (Malayalam)

Disney Hotstar

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Inspired by a true incident where a young man miraculously survived after falling into the treacherous Gunaa Caves (also called Devil’s Kitchen) in Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, this moving film about friendship and faith had me tearing up more than once. Named after veteran actor Kamal Haasan’s film Gunaa, which was shot there in 1991, the caves are considered dangerous as many people over the years have disappeared in them (except for the one survivor on whom this story is based). A group of young men from a small town called Manjummel near Kochi decide to take a trip and end up at the caves. Despite being warned of the imminent danger, they decide to jump the restrictive barriers and explore the caves. Disaster strikes when one of them falls hundreds of feet deep into a pit, narrow enough to fit only one person. The group is told that their friend is probably dead but they don’t give up, enlisting the help of villagers and apathetic policemen who refuse to come to their aid. Then the elements too turn against them— heavy rain lashes the area, threatening to flood the cave and drown their friend, who as it happens is still alive in the cave. We all know how it ends but the ordeal is told with such urgency that the thrill factor is maintained right till the end. Watch the sequence when the friends lie down to stop the rainwater from rushing into the pit. It’s another masterpiece from the Malayalam film industry. Helmed by director Chidambaram and featuring a stellar group of actors, it is led by Soubhin Shahir (Kumbalangi Nights, Sudani from Nigeria), who as one the older members of the group refuses to abandon his friend.


 

Madgaon Express (Hindi)

Amazon Prime Video

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Another group of vacationing boys find themselves in a tight spot, though it’s not as dire as a cave. Kunal Kemmu makes his directorial debut with this madcap film, dubbed the “garibon ka (poor man’s) Dil Chahta Hai.” Three friends—Dodo (Divyendu), Pratik (Pratik Gandhi),
and Ayush (Avinash Tiwary)—decide to fulfill their childhood dream of taking a trip to Goa, but life takes them in different directions. While Pratik moves to South Africa to set up his business and Ayush sets up base in New York, Dodo feels stuck in his mundane life in Mumbai. To maintain a facade in front of his more successful friends, Dodo conjures up a fake life by resorting to all kinds of shenanigans on social media. When his friends plan a trip to India for a reunion, Dodo plans a trip to Goa and all three travel on the Madgaon Express to take them to their dream destination. En route, they encounter drug dealers, murderous gangsters, and a dubious doctor with hilarious results. The film has some brilliant cameos by Chhaya Kadam who plays Kanchan Kombdi, a gangster who runs a cocaine business with her all-woman gang. She is at war with her ex-husband and rival gangster.

 


 

Aavesham (Malayalam)

Amazon Prime Video

ScreenTime_5_06_24.jpgAs already seen, the theme seems to be boys in trouble. This one is about three Bengaluru college students—Bibi (Midhun), Aju (Hipzter), and Shanthan (Roshan Shanavas)—who are bullied and beaten up by their seniors led by Kutty. They try to fight back but are thrashed brutally. Frustrated and desperate for revenge, the three decide to enlist the help of some local goons to strike back. They meet Ranga (an over-the-top and highly entertaining Fahadh Faasil), a local gangster with a bloody past, who takes them under his wing. Under his protection the three youngsters stand up to Kutty and his gang. They also start hanging out with Ranga and his gang and as a result start slacking offin their studies. Ranga is now attached to the three young men, especially Bibi, whom he considers his younger brother. The three youngsters, fearing that their association with Ranga is leading them down the wrong path, attempt to make a clean break. But will the eccentric Ranga let them go? The film moves at a crisp pace.

 


 

Murder in Mahim (Hindi)

Jio Cinema

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Based on the novel with the same title, by famed journalist and poet Jerry Pinto, the story opens with a grisly murder of a male sex worker in a public toilet at Mahim railway station in Mumbai. The case is taken up by Inspector Shiva Jende (Vijay Raaz), who is dealing with his own complex family issues. He is aided by his junior, Firdaus Rabbani (Shivani Raghuvanshi), who has a secret and forbidden love. The story set in 2013, years before Section 377 was thrown out by the Supreme Court, trains its lens on the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community within their families and the larger society. Jende is assisted by retired journalist Peter Fernandes (Ashutosh Rana), whose relationship with his son also unravels in the course of the series. As the body count increases, Jende and Fernandes are in a desperate race against time to catch the killer while dealing with their own attitudes and perceptions about the LGBTQ+ community. It is tough to watch in parts. The novel was tighter, while the series introduces subplots that aren’t in the book. Watch it for the poignant scenes where Raaz and Rana share screen space.


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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