I thought it would be interesting to watch something about Bollywood post-independence. I thought it would be interesting to figure out who were the actors the show was based on (I quickly lost interest in that). But in this show by Vikramaditya Motwane that traces the story of a studio loosely based on Bombay Talkies, the research and the production values blew me away; the sets (most of all the studios and the refugee camps), by the depiction of the era, the music, and the camera work and light and shadows. Slightly tedious towards the end, this ode to film-making and the magic of cinema post-independence is a labour of love.
An Indian adaptation of the Spanish teen drama Elite, Class holds its own with solid desi grit and grime and circumstances that are definitely Indian. It begins with a shot of a teenage girl lying in a pool of blood, and the series paces back and forth across past and present, featuring solid characters and a fresh cast. It has an intense, Riverdale-esque vibe that straddles portrayals of privilege, prejudice, vengeance, and violence with a lingering sensitivity. The young cast essays their flawed characters with a marked earnestness. If, like me, you've been disappointed by The Archies, Class might fill that hole—but with a lot more darkness.
Rocket Boys had been on my watch list for months, and it was only towards the last quarter of the year that I got to watch, nay, binge-watch it. The brilliant portrayal of India during the fight for independence and the subtle yet poignant showcasing of the rising gender equality struggle, friendship, family, and love for one's country were some of the highlights of the show for me. Each episode, which, in my opinion, was brilliantly researched, left me with a sense of pride for the country, especially discovering the fear that other nations felt owing to the brilliant Indian minds back then. The dialogues were just right, the different kinds of background music were apt for all the instances it came for, and the portrayal of pre-independence India was superb! The show taught me more about the heroes' lives—Dr Bhabha, APJ Abdul Kalam, and Vikram Sarabhai—of whom I had little knowledge.
Having said all this, the best part of the show was Jim Sarbh!
Dahaad, directed by Reema Kagti and Ruchika Oberoi, is a thriller set around the search for a serial killer in a small region in Rajasthan. It explores issues around caste and gender dynamics while creating memorable characters that stay with you long after you're finished watching the show. Take cop Devi Singh, played by actor Gulshan Devaiah, who became all the rage on social media for his sensitivity and feminist attitude. On the other end is Anand Swarnakar (played by Vijay Varma), who hides behind veils like caste superiority and the good reputation of a teacher and a 'family man' to execute his killing of innocent women. At the centre of this drama is Sonakshi Sinha's protagonist, Anjali Bhaati, a spunky Dalit cop who smashes stereotypes, one misogynist incident at a time. A strength of this show is how it subtly weaves in instances of everyday patriarchy, caste and religion-based suppression faced by people. Where to watch - Prime VideoAlso read: From Jawan to Bigg Boss 17, most searched movies and shows in India in 2023 according to Google Trends
Only Murders in the Building, Season 3
This season, show regulars Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez are joined by Meryl Streep and Paul Rudd. What's not to like?! I was a bit let down and had a "meh" aftertaste with the 'grand' reveal of the killer and the finale, but even with that, Only Murders... remains one of the best shows I have watched this year. It ended with a brilliant cliffhanger, and I can't wait for Season 4. Where to watch - Disney+Hotstar, Hulu
The intensity of a professional kitchen is never evident when you are enjoying the meal at the restaurant table. But from the first episode of The Bear, you get a detailed understanding of what havoc can be created when you live to please people. The story of a chef, Carmen Berzatto, played by Jeremy Allen White, trying to revive his deceased brother's sandwich shop in Boston deals with the themes of resistance to change, trust, courage, leadership and redemption. The last gift is available for all the characters by the time we reach the final episode of season two. But Bear, Carmen's nickname, is deprived. This chef strives to improve his staff and his family, but it will take him a while to understand that he deserves the same redemption and love. Please do not listen to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association when they tell you The Bear is a comedy. When you watch episodes Honeydew, Forks (my favourite), and the second season finale, you will see that it is one of the finest drama series around.Where to watch - Disney+Hotstar, Hulu
The Last of Us
If we look at the history of entertainment content, not many shows or movies based on video games have managed to capture the broader audience that has never heard of the game. The Last of Us is a loud, evocative, and phenomenal exception to this trend. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Pedro Pascal's Joel is responsible for escorting a teenager—Ellie, played by the brilliant Bella Ramsey—who might be the cure for the infection that has plagued the world. While trying to save humanity's last hope, they also have to struggle with the morality of this mission, try to learn and trust each other and find ways to survive the next hour. Pascal and Ramsey are the story's heart and soul and deliver performances of their lifetimes. Where to watch - Jio Cinema, Max
Filmmaker Rian Johnson, famous for delivering Knives Out series, is the producer of this show led by Natasha Lyonne of Russian Doll fame. When you see these two names on the show bill, you keep everything aside and let yourself be swept into the world of various whodunnits that unfold with each episode. The set up of the show covers a poker player's life—Charlie Cale, played by Lynonne—on the run after she's framed for a suicide. Every episode lands Charlie in the middle of a murder, and she cannot help but call out the bullshit and find the culprit at the end. From domestic terrorists at a senior centre to a pair of has-been actors, nobody is spared when they resort to wrongful ways. The best part of the show is Charlie's journey to figure out the clues and find the murderer when audiences already know the details. It's like watching a mouse reach for the cheese in a maze—fascinating!Where to watch - Jio Cinema, Peacock