The aftermath of the Oscar fever still lingers in the air. It is clearly advantage OTT for now, as theatres remain firmly shut in the second wave. After watching Chinese filmmaker Chloe Zhao in her two pigtail braids, confess to the world in her Oscar acceptance speech that people are inherently good, and how she had found goodness in people she had met wherever she went in the world, you want to believe her, living through a scam-taintedpandemic.
If you need that faith, Nomadland is an effective voyage to embark on along with Fern, the character that won the doughty Frances McDormand the Best Actress Academy award. She envelops herself in the role of a “houseless” (not homeless because home is where you make it) nomad. She is a grieving but gritty widow, who travels in her van across sweeping landscapes of mid-west America,doing odd jobs in factories and construction sites, crossing paths with different people (the director has used real life nomads along with professional actors), opening herself to their stories with empathy, sharing her angst over losing her husband and ultimately embracing the unfettered existence since it gives her more than solace.
Nomadland streaming on Disney+Hotstar makes you mull about, especially with economic loss looming around the corner, how material life can easily dissolve around you. But, there’s poetry to be found from nature and forging connections with people who can teach you a real thing or two about life.
Amazon Prime is showing Sound of Metal, which bagged British Pakistani actor, Riz Ahmed a best actor nomination. The first Muslim to be ever nominated by the Academy, this actor is popularly known from the 2010’s dark comedy Four Lions and his villainous role in superhero movie, Venom. Here, Riz plays a drummer in a heavy metal band, who has to cope with sudden hearing loss. He joins a hearing impaired community who are encouraged to believe that ‘silence’ is not a disability but Riz wants to play music which is his first love.
Riz nails the sense of loss with a sensitivity and honesty that makes you squirm for him. There’s Mank and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom on Netflix as well. Mank is a salute to Hollywood of the 1920s-30s, with Gary Oldman delivering a masterful performance as a perpetually inebriated Herman Mankiewicz. He is the tortured artist demanding his due for writing the screenplay for the most iconic film to be ever made, Citizen Kane. If you ask about Orson Welles, he doesn’t come out looking good in this film at all. May be a good idea however to read up a bit about the political battles at that time to grasp some of the context.
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Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom meanwhile set in the 1920s as well, taps into the explosive relationship between legendary blues singer and her trumpet player Levee, essayed by the late ‘Black Panther actor’, Chadwick Boseman (who everyone thought will bag a posthumous Best Actor win). If you scroll more on your favourite platform, you can stumble across a documentary or movie or animation film that has either won the Oscar or been nominated.
Away from the Oscars, one of those binge-worthy crime series, Mare of Easttown is streaming on Disney+Hotstar. It is very much on the lines of the acclaimed British mystery series, Broadchurch, which had picked up quite a fan following in India.
Broadchurch had Olivia Coleman, (another amazing actress) and Mare…has Kate Winslet. What is it with these actors? They throw themselves into their roles making it seem so effortless. A scrubbed-down, un-glam Kate essays a sharp, empathetic detective from a small Pennsylvanian town, whose personal life is in a mess. She has to investigate the murder of a teenage mother in a town, where she knows everyone and is under tremendous pressure from the community to locate another girl missing for the past 10 years. This series, set in suburban America, sheds light on lives in small towns, and they are not a very cheery lot.
Of late, life in small town India is also a favourite among Bollywood filmmakers. Set in a nondescript town in north India, Ramprasad ki Tehrvi on Netflix, revolves around the Bhargava family that come together to perform the “tehrvi” (13th day) function after the head of the family (Naseeruddin Shah) passes away. It captures all the nuances and the customary dynamics between family members, the tensions that erupt over money between siblings, the rivalries among daughter-in-laws, and squabbles over who has to pay back the father’s loan and take the widowed mother under their wing. It is a slice-of-life film, headlined by an amazing cast like Supriya Pathak, Konkana Sen, Parambrata Chatterjee, Vinay Pathak etc.
It is a light watch, a well-received, debut directorial by Seema Pahwa, who is often seen as the lovable mother in Hindi cinema. Yet another family drama, Sardar Ka Grandson will land on Netflix in mid-May, with Arjun Kapoor, Neena Gupta and Rakul Preet Singh. Kapoor is Gupta’s US-return grandson who will go to any lengths to fulfil his grandmother’s last wish is all we know now.
Two big-ticket films, Farhan Akhtar’s Toofan, for which he has teamed up with his BhaagMilkha Bhaag director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, for a sports story about a goon from the streets of Dongri who becomes a boxer, and Salman Khan’s Radhe Radhe have postponed their digital releases, as of now. Both were meant to release in May.
Netflix, however, has advertised that Dhanush starrer, Jagame Thandhiram, and directed by Karthik Subbaraj will make its worldwide debut on June 18. It is the story of a nomadic gangster who has to choose between good and evil. One of the highlights being that the director has roped in 72-year-old Scottish actor, of Game of Thrones fame, James Cosmo. Uh, why is Tamil cinema so fascinated by Hollywood actors – Michael Madsen, Johnny Tri Nyugen, even Jackie Chan…?
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According to Karthik Subburaj, Jagame…is his ‘dream film…to tell a gripping story about a globally prevalent issue through a locally rooted character’. There are rumours floating around that Dhanush is not happy with the film skipping the theatres and going straight for a digital release. Meanwhile, his Karnan is slated to hit OTT this month. If you are a Mari Selvaraj fan, then this is a must watch.
Also, if you are in the mood for a masala film that crackles with all brawn and high-faluting drama, you can catch Karthi’s Sulthan in Disney+Hotstar. Though, the film’s message is that violence is pointless and you reap what you sow, there’s plenty of gore and gruesomely mauled bodies. A well-toned Karthi brought up by knife-wielding ruffians tries to reform them, much like MGR did in Pallandu Vazhga, when he decided to reform hardened criminals by putting them to work on a dilapidated farm.
In Sulthan too, Karthi puts his “annas” (brothers), who even wake up from deep slumber when they smell blood, to work on the fields to ensure they shed their violent ways!
Like national award-winning Vetri Maaran’s Visaaranai, Tamil film, Kavalthurai Ungal Nanbanis a harrowing account of a food delivery boy who unwittingly falls into the hands of the police. This film has released on Zee5, while Selvaraghavan’s horror film, Nenjam Marapathillai, with SJ Suryah playing Ramsay, a lustful employerand a revengeful ghost on the prowl, will release on the same platform on May 14.
To return to the sombre subject of the pandemic raging around us, here’s another road journey on Disney+Hotstar –1232Kms, a documentary that chronicles the lives ofa few Indian migrant workers and how they cycled home back to their villages during the national lockdown last year.