Screen Time: Streaming Gems: Top 12 of 2022
A year of nonstop viewing has brought memorable lovers, murderers, superheroes, criminals, and others into our living rooms. Compelling content included the story of a not-so-well-known cricketer and narratives with smart characters like India’s first homegrown superhero. We present our top dozen shows of the year on various platforms. Catch them while you can.
Delhi Crime (Hindi, English)
After the resounding success of the first season, which premiered in 2019, fans had to wait till this year for the second season. Shefali Shah, whose turn as the avenging mother in Jasmeet K Reen’s Darlings brought acclaim from fans and critics alike, plays DCP Vartika Chaturvedi, a no-nonsense cop who’s on the hunt for a gang of killers known as the Kachcha-Baniyan gang. The series featured an ensemble of fantastic actors like Rajesh Tailang and Rasika Dugal. The highlight in the second season is Tillotama Shome (Sir) as a disgruntled salon worker who goes down a dark path. Though it's somber, both seasons are worth watching.
Guilty Minds (Hindi)
A courtroom drama hasn’t been so much fun in a while. Kashaf Quaze (Shriya Pilgaonkar) and Deepak Rana (Varun Mitra) play friends, lovers, and lawyers pitted against each other. Their chemistry is a treat to watch as are the unique cases they handle—the one on the ill effects of gaming on young minds is gripping. The realistic setting of the series, the social issues that the cases bring up, and the smart repartee between the characters makes for some binge-worthy drama. It’s appealing and fresh and relevant.
Minnal Murali (Malayalam)
The most original script in a long time gives us our first true blue desi superhero. When Jaison (Tovino Thomas) and Shibu (Guru Somasundaram) get hit by the same bolt of lightning, they both inherit superpowers. While Jaison, fed up with his mundane existence, uses them for the good of the people of his village, Shibu, hurt and heartbroken, deviates towards evil. But it’s not as black and white. You will shed a tear for the villain and the fine clutch of supporting characters will have you smiling widely at their sweetness and rootedness.
Revenge is served! This delicious tale about murder and mayhem is the story of three brothers—Chikku, Ila, and Periya Pandi—who break into the estate of their father’s killer, a local landlord, to kill him. But the landlord’s son has other plans for them and begins to hunt them down. What follows is maniacal, bizarre, and uproariously funny, especially the first 20 minutes of the film. One of the most visually stunning films of the year, Kadaseela Biriyani is a triumph in moviemaking. The psychopathic son, played by Hakkim Shah, is a villain for the ages. As we noted in an earlier column, it remains one of the best films to hit OTT this year.
Masaba Masaba (Hindi, English)
One of the biggest revelations this year was the fact that fashion designer Masaba Gupta is more than competent. At acting, that is. Playing herself, Masaba spars and cuddles with momactress Neena Gupta (playing herself) in the second season of this delightful series. The storyline has Masaba launching a brand-new wedding line and getting entangled with an about- to-be married client, while Neena is trying to resuscitate her career. The mother-daughter duo keep it real and keep the series engaging as well, especially in parts where the pace and storyline seem to be flagging. We want more Masaba—and we can’t get enough of Neenaji!
Directors Pushkar and Gayatri, who are also a married couple, recently remade their own Tamil hit, Vikram Vedha, with Saif Ali Khan and Hrithik Roshan. That didn’t really take off but let that not deter you from binging on their eight-part web series co-directed with Bramma and Anucharan. This one, a dazzling drama set in a fictional town in Tamil Nadu, will keep you on the edge of your seat till the last episode. When a factory union leader has to deal with a disaster at work and the disappearance of his teenage daughter, two determined cops (Shreya Reddy and Kathir) set out to investigate and uncover some disturbing truths about the people in their town. Mayana Kollai, a colorful local festival celebrated by the fishing community in Tamil Nadu, forms the backdrop of this intriguing tale. It’s a treat for the senses.
The perfect series to watch with a cup of hot masala chai. It revolves around Abhishek Tripathi, an engineering graduate who has been appointed as secretary of the gram panchayat in the fictional village of Phulera, Uttar Pradesh. But he really doesn’t want to be here. He’d rather work abroad for an MNC like his batch mates. As he struggles to adapt to village life, Tripathi gets involved in the lives and laments of the head Pradhanji (Raghubir Yadav), his wife Manju Devi (Neena Gupta), and two other officials—the hilarious Vikas (Chandan Roy) and Prahlad (Faisal Malik). Slowly but surely, bonds are made for life. Fans can rejoice—a third season is in the works!
The parivaar of all parivaars is the Mishra parivaar! In the first two seasons, Santosh (Jameel Khan) and Shanti (Geetanjali Kulkarni) Mishra, along with their sons Anu and Aman, deal with typical middle-class problems. By the time we head into Season 3, their joys and sorrows will resonate with you. Every frame is relatable and heartwarming in its simplicity. The opening credits take you through a little gully to a modest home with an aangan. The mother wipes her brow as she makes her husband’s favorite chicken curry in the kitchen. The dad enjoys a meaty gossip session with his older son while the younger son frets over a class test. It’s all very nostalgic.
Kaun Pravin Tambe (Hindi)
In the mood for a rousing inspirational tale of grit and determination? Pravin Tambe’s story will make you root for this unlikely hero even if cricket’s not your jam. This is the true story of a Mumbai cricketer who made his Indian Premier League debut at the age of 41, never having played professional cricket before that. Shreyas Talpade in a role of a lifetime captures Tambe’s tenacity with a sincerity that one has come to expect of him. This isn’t Talpade’s first outing on the cricket pitch. He played a bowler in Nagesh Kukunor’s acclaimed Iqbal, which also included the formidable Naseeruddin Shah.
One of my main grouses is the lack of quality Bengali content on OTT. Then I found Mandaar, director Anirban Bhattacharya’s visceral, visually stunning remake of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The titular role is played with much ferocity by actor Debashish Mondal and equally stunning is Sohini Sarkar as Lady Macbeth, who sets the bloodletting in motion. Then there’s Bhattacharya’s greasy turn as a corrupt and creepy cop, Mukkadar Mukherjee, adding layers to this grisly tale of greed and ambition. We are all familiar with Macbeth, but this one—if only we could watch it on the big screen!—will leave you breathless.
Karkhanishanchi Waari (Marathi)
This black comedy is about the dysfunctional Karkhanis family who get together to scatter the ashes of the eldest brother. He has left an envelope, which is to be opened only after the ashes are dispersed. Predictably, familial conflicts ensue with hilarious results. Director Mangesh Joshi rounds up some of the most talented artistes in the Marathi film industry, including Mohan Agashe, who plays the second eldest brother, and Geetanjali Kulkarni, the only sister among the siblings who is carrying the burden of a secret life. There are poignant moments galore, but just when you feel your heart breaking, the director and the characters urge us to smile again. Visually, too, the film has a calming effect, thanks to the lush beauty of the Western Ghats.
Monica O My Darling (Hindi)
And, finally, director Vasan Bala lets us end the year with a bang. In his latest noir, adapted from bestselling Japanese novelist Keigo Higashino’s Burutasu No Shinzou, we have Huma Qureshi, Sikander Kher, Bucks (Bagavathi Perumal from Super Deluxe), Radhika Apte, Rajkummar Rao, and others. Bala tells a tale of intrigue, murder, and revenge with delightfully twisted characters, lots of pulpy action, and music that is reminiscent of the great hits of maestro RD Burman. The plot involves the employees of a robotic company where Monica (Huma), the secretary to the top boss, is using her pregnancy to blackmail the boss’s son, Kher (Rao), the rising star of the company, and a married accountant (Bucks). The three men gang up to get rid of Monica, but the tables are turned and the body count starts climbing. Macabre, funny, and sad. You will keep hitting the rewind button!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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