I had initially planned to watch this short film way back in May when it originally released. I couldn’t for almost five months. That’s just the nature of time. It flies as other preoccupations take priority in our lives. But the power of art is such a singular and all-encompassing force that it comes right back to us. Time, it seems, was watching you collect your influences, file them in a vestibule of memory and gently nodding in order to let us make our choices. Profound art is like an emanation, it reaches the soul sooner rather than later.

THE MINIATURIST OF JUNAGADH, written and directed by Kaushal Oza, fulfills all of the promise that I had held from this work. It is simple and profound in equal measure where the passage of time shakes hands with artistic legacy. It is a temporal point in one’s memory where a few hours transcribe a long day’s journey into night, in an era where polarisation defeats human relationships, only to have the latter’s restorative agency bounce back with an uncanny, unpolluted grace. Art and its holistic approach transcends man-made forbidden lines. Art enables a conversation, a transformation, a secular undercurrent that doesn’t simmer so much as it calms stormy waters.

Hence, this tale set in the simmering yet silent continuum of Partition era Western India is judiciously suited to our communally stricken present. But just like good words and deeds outlasted internalised biases then, beautifully illustrated here, we have to put a premium on human kindness even if our common enemy is the ignoble fiend of all- IGNORANCE. Patience is the best friend that moves mountains. It is aptly used as a motif, in the twenty-nine minutes employed for storytelling in this instance.


One man’s( Naseeruddin Shah) artistic legacy puts things in perspectives. Another’s( Raj Arjun) willingness to let the light in his heart shine brighter than the lure of property and doubts lingers in the event of  beautiful camaraderie between both that is built around pauses and observations, around words.

The patient forbearance and reason that actually makes this possible is courtesy the mother-daughter duo( Padmavati Rao and Rasika Dugal respectively) here central to preserving not just a legacy but the last vestiges of humanity. They are guardians of a continuum of culture that will prevail even as homes are left behind and then reclaimed by other occupants. At least, there will be a humility, a balancing of the scales. Instead of a grand or forlorn farewell, there will be a possibility of return.

THE MINIATURIST OF JUNAGADH achieves all of these with an appropriate register of setting, speech, background music and cinematography. The screenplay is conscientious and detailed, just like the titular miniaturist delineates his creative process even in the absence of optical vision.

Above all, the performers are elegance personified ; a further testament of Naseer Sahab’s timeless presence, brilliance and natural dignity can be cited here.

I ask all discerning viewers to be mesmerized by the measured rhythms of this short. It will leave one with a deep appreciation for upholding hope, no matter how emotionally stunted, woebegone or cynical we are at the start of our sojourns.



Trans, in its original dictionary meaning, is a prefix derived from Latin meaning across or beyond. I wanted to make that specific when writing about this 29 minute short on Georgie Stone. I wanted to remind people of the beauty of words and how human interpretation shaping social relationships renders the meaning, intent and resolve behind them obsolete. Trans is a word that is a casualty of boastful human intervention.  But to this writer, it’s a prefix that builds worlds. Think about how the origin of an individual, text or a work of art finds deep resonances when ‘translated’, ‘transliterated’ or ‘transformed’ to reach millions.

That’s the power of a word. In the hands of teen activist Georgie Stone, ‘trans’ is reclaimed in the context of hope, change and equality going ‘across’ constraints of the law, to reach ‘beyond’ this generation.

Director Maya Newell uses home videos, snippets of interviews and an optimistic tenor to thread together a meaningful collage of an extraordinary life that just aspires to achieve basic human dignity as an individual. In effect, the fight is for Georgie Stone and other trans kids who are looked at as ‘others’ and regrettably so.

The documentary style always turns out to be a beacon for representation.  Newell distills the innate humanity of a family and a teenager to create a contemporary archive for our socially conscious times. Compassion and inclusivity are the calling cards here.

Just looking at the innocence of a young person and their genuine sense of hope for a better life, for a whole posterity, will make one wonder how  countless others can possibly be cruel to them. The clarity espoused in THE DREAMLIFE OF GEORGIE STONE brings in positive glimmers, for a future built on recognition of humanity. I absolutely loved it.




Apichatpong Weerasethakul has designed a personal travelogue of images and sensations so transporting that MEMORIA becomes an unusual exercise in going beyond the literal title. It isn’t memory alone but rather the journey of feeling displaced as a global traveller, pointing to no particular centre where it all began.

The elegantly propulsive Tilda Swinton masters control over her experiences here, as a mysterious aural element becomes the recurring motif of her insomnia-fuelled realisation. She is an English woman living in Colombia and the mystery of that sound she seems to hear traces her multiple interactions with the people around her, some related to her and others she stumbles along the stretch of her journey.  The director’s tact lies in how well he crafts her solitary moments as well as those definitive interactions, making them humble exchanges where Jessica isn’t another protagonist in a motion picture. In essence, she is a wanderer, explorer of the mysteries of life. Her relationship with these people, even if they last just few minutes, root her firmly as an absorber of what they have to say and share. The ‘sound’ and its source then get offset without occupying an uneven part of this scenario.

She meets her sister(Agnes Brekke) in a restaurant and the latter relates the anecdote of a tribe in the Amazon rainforest known to cast a spell on those enroaching on their sacred land, leading to many unexplained disappearances and even deaths. Her own illness from which she has recuperated gets intrinsically linked with her research on the same tribe even though she is not physically at the location as other capitalist corporations and their representatives. Superstition or a concentrated belief in the unknowable is of primary interest in this particular conversation. Weerasethakul scores by not revealing the exact nature of her illness or her professional background, choosing to foreground the folkloric tone, mythic aura around this native tale.

Secondly, her chance meeting with a doctor( Jeanne Balibar) at the hospital where her sister was admitted previously leads her to the world of anthropology where centuries old fossils are exhumed and probed. Her interest in discovering these intricacies leads her further to a site in the hills where excavation work within a tunnel grips her attention. History and culture hence get coalesced. The past, in the form of myths and legends, subsume the mysteries of a skull in a researchers’ laboratory as well as her exchange with her sister. These two especially aid in foregrounding Jessica as charting an anthropological journey of her own, given she’s not a native of the place she’s in and that the instances heighten the enigma of her own exposure to a ‘boom’ and shrinking auditory effect she is exposed to recurringly. It never, however, becomes an obsession as the present situation occupies her. Again, the lack of a personal background to Jessica becomes intriguing. The timeline here is the immediate present. Ditto that one stirring interaction with a doctor ( Constanza Gutierrez) who references Salvador Dali while delving into the possible causes of Jessica’s disorientation and insomnia.

There is empathy, a natural rhythm and tender concern to the dialogues in this screenplay, extending to Jessica’s meeting with the young sound engineer Hernan(Juan Pablo Urrego) who exposes her to multiple variations of the possible ‘sound’ she’s been rattled by. This scene is a clear standout in the way it is structured, with trickles of tension and discovery for our protagonist.

The world of sounds and sights dominates this narrative but never in the conventional dramatic capacity. Note the use of poetry in two scenes and how music enlivens the proceedings in two other instances.  Its realism is in how beautifully those cadences are captured with the use of natural sound and cinematography. That way, the psychological mysticism of the final half captures our attention like none other. Trauma of a local and an universal nature unfold in the words said and more so felt there.


Jessica’s meeting with a man also named Hernan( Elkin Diaz) in the countryside creates the most striking impact for any cinephile. The anthropological odyssey on her part intertwines with his salt of the earth musings on the way he has lived and views the world. The verdure around them, the calmness of nature enveloping them as if in a mutual embrace, fuses the physical reality of their human interaction and humble surroundings with a more metaphysical realm. It’s as if a source of telepathy made them come face to face. It also ties in with how the younger Hernan seems to be found nowhere or isn’t known by anyone around the studio where Jessica visited him. Diaz occupies the maximum running time in MEMORIA and his performance is on another level. Watch as he goes into a state of deep sleep, with his eyes open, as if in a deathly grip or trance for many unbroken minutes. This scene and the abstract nature of the final half run parallel with my viewing of Dea Kulumbegashvili’s BEGINNING and Joao Pedro Rodrigues’ THE ORNITHOLOGIST in the last few days. Which  is why cinephiles need to delve deep into these experiences that commerce-driven cinema can hardly offer to us.

This meeting of two seemingly unknown individuals and the imaginative prowess invested in that mystery, culminating with a spacecraft’s flight from an open space among the wilderness, and the panorama of the landscape and monsoon clouds, make MEMORIA a complex but reflective piece on the way fragments become whole or rudimentary in the telling of tales. The final half psychologically may unnerve and dismantle the stable structure of the film’s many interactions grounded in facts and realism. To me, they added to the element of mystery that began with the ‘sound’.

There’s a point among the final images in which a figure in silhouette, possibly Jessica, is writing while the hilly countryside can be seen from her window. Maybe, MEMORIA is a culmination of her unfinished novel where the real and the metaphysical plane of thoughts coalesce. It’s not about horror, fantasy or plain boxes of genre. It’s about the many unpredictable contours of our imagination. But for me, the humanity of this work arises out of its many interactions and spatial frontiers.



This is my first foray into discovering David Cronenberg’s cinematic provocations. To me, CRIMES OF THE FUTURE is about ethical dilemmas that have always been the science fiction genre’s propulsive mainstay, whether in text or visual on-screen imagery.

As far as the word ‘provocation’ goes, Cronenberg’s input here doesn’t rely exclusively on gratituous body horror tropes. It is tempered with the way our current fixation with technology and its prophetic prognosis for coming eras dictates our human discourse in the here and now. Be it A.I., sophisticated laser surgery skills, plastic surgery as a veritable empire of anatomical metamorphosis or even the prevalence of our visual crudity, equating misshapen bodies with public spectacles being transmitted from screen to screen in rapid succession. So CRIMES OF THE FUTURE has its blueprint in the here and now and predicates its compelling ideas around a world without pain, where organ donation takes on a transactional value while art becomes, as usual, a means of reaching out. Performance art is of particular sinuous and sinister quality in Cronenberg’s vision.

So the socio-cultural commentary is about a future that takes its vital clues from the present epoch of registering everything in terms of overexposure, be it scientific, quasi-logical concepts, mysteries of the mind or the body as a site of destruction and deconstruction.

I also felt that an appropriate amount of detachment was maintained as regards a cultural understanding where the absence of physical pain and voiding the inner core of compassion generated a clique-like mentality. Grubby sets, unflattering bodies and the erotic underpinning to every surgical act committed to weed out extraneous elements within the anatomy posits a humanity where intimate relations have ceased and a default mode of platonic cohabitation pervades.

This allegory is complemented by performances that have an icy, detached, clinical sense of things that have been normalized in our own apathetic state. Except for the strange sense of Kristen Stewart’s accent and mannerisms suggesting a Spencer hangover.

But the poignant ramifications of a child’s death makes way for a father’s turmoil, a powerful climactic performance art  where a surgeon’s inner maternal instincts come to the fore while toxic waste is shown to be ingested morally and literally by a populace trading death for constant reinvention. All under the spotlight of high-end technological gimmicks.

Hence, CRIMES OF THE FUTURE is gripping on all these counts. It’s the imagery and its import that is chillingly true the more you think about it, let it linger in your minds.



I wrote these lines at the behest of my father on his Facebook page, to ring in the historic Gold Medal victory of Neeraj Chopra at the Olympics.

Even before his first event commenced, I had predicted that the young lad would claim his golden share. Blame it on my instincts but I expected nothing less from this world champion who I had read extensively about, over the years. So let’s celebrate his jubilant victory along with his undying hard work and dedication to the sport of javelin.


“His mind calm as a steady river, his movements and rhythm like the very wind, this young man gave us the poetry of pure athleticism.

The Golden Hour of 2020 Olympics came with the force of victory. Hail NEERAJ CHOPRA for becoming the first Indian to win a Gold Medal in Javelin. I’ve never felt the adrenaline rush of victory for the country like this.



Look at her facial expressions, the way her mouth registers every contorted life script and scarred body marked by racism. In this rendition of STRANGE FRUIT, a song based on a seminal poem detailing lynching in the American south, delivered by the inimitable Billie Holiday, Oscar nominee Andra Day embodies the great and provocative singer’s unique tonal quality. The melancholy of her words hence come to define her own identity as an African American occupying a divisive social rostrum.

As someone who has always taken STRANGE FRUIT to be a true blue benchmark in the liberation of musical sensibilities,  I believe Ms. Andra gives it not only a vocal heft in the vein of Holiday without imitating her but also the communication through eyes and face that elevate her performance altogether. It’s a miracle to have in 2021.




Actor extraordinaire turned director Regina King avoids the formalities of a biographical presentation, down to the constraints of dynamic spacing and a roster of supporting speaking parts, to hone ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI as a character study of four legends. Fictionalizing a meeting among them in real life, back in the turbulent 1960s, liberates King to show us how the march of civilization is contingent not only with our past but on the present, more than anything else.

Mostly confined to a motel room and consisting of verbal fireworks among the likes of MALCOLM X(KINGSLEY BEN-ADIR), SAM COOKE(LESLIE ODOM JR.), CASSIUS CLAY (ELI GOREE) and JIM BROWN(ALDIS HODGE), this Kemp Powers written screenplay (adapted from his own play) is, of course, reliant on the power of words. The power of words here is to interrogate America’s history of racism and how deftly personal ideologies get integrated with socio-political grounding in facts and unchanging realities. Each a formidable force to be reckoned with in his respective field, from sports to entertainment and most importantly civil rights, together they plunge into the deepest trenches of what makes them stand out and still be vulnerable to racial fiats.

The intense exchanges between Malcolm and Sam especially stir our conscience so that the verbosity of this script doesn’t just remain a central conceit to grab attention. I remember my father being silent and fixedly attentive throughout these passages. Also give both Leslie and Kingsley all the plaudits there are for being so true to the personalities they portray based on their body language and effortless embodiment alone, coming from a place of pure instinct and contemporary relevance.

ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI is a celebration of BLACK HISTORY but is very particular about the complexities of that term as it affects us in the here and now. It hones in on the ennui and unexpected outcomes of this one night, to capture the highs and lows of being men of colour in powerful positions and reckoning with that double edged reality each day.


VIOLA DAVIS is, to me, the ultimate purveyor of stifled emotions and internalized pain, drawing us in to the racial forbears behind those feelings ever so competently, like she knows that being authentic in her own skin is a mirror to the lives of those who get to be seen and heard through her subtle artistry.

In WIDOWS(2018), she is witness to an amoral landscape of male hegemony in modern day Chicago, a city with class consciousness engraved everywhere, be it on high rises, ghettos or private apartment rooms. Profiteers(exemplified by the presence of DANIEL KALUUYA, BRIAN TYREE, COLIN FARRELL and ROBERT DUVALL) are on every stretch of this cityscape and the titular protagonists’ husbands’ deaths come in the crossfire of all it stands for. Davis opens up her heart and soul to tug at the depths of her son’s loss at the hands of police shooting him dead in broad daylight, being in a position of debt to threatening men and having a husband (Liam Neeson) who maintains a double life with another wife(Carrie Coon) and infant son.

But WIDOWS is very much about the other ladies who challenge status quo of a male hegemony along with Davis and it’s here that the roll of honour includes the likes of MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ, ELIZABETH DEBICKI and CYNTHIA ERIVO. They are front and center here. WIDOWS doesn’t wallow in the titular status of these women and instead unravels the diversity of a city and its people colluding with baser instincts of humanity. These women counter those impulses with tact and a keen knowledge of operating within binaries. Director Steve McQueen gives them the space to acknowledge that harsh reality and yet transcend those limits.


TROOP ZERO(2020) too benefits from the star power of Ms. Davis and I had longed to see it ever since I caught its Sundance interactive session. But the real stars here aim for a destiny far beyond mysteries of the universe, battling prejudices and conventional mindsets with the sweetness and lack of rancour that one can only associate with childhood. Davis leads this ensemble with a sensitivity attuned to its evolving sense of empathy and enterprise, in the process looking back and forward for her own prospects as a professional lawyer.

Beckon this delightfully executed tale’s cast with such colourful names like CHRISTMAS (MCKENNA GRACE), HELL-NO(MILAN RAY), SMASH(JOHANNA COLON) as well as ANNE CLAIRE(BELLA HIGGINBOTHAM) and JOSEPH (CHARLIE SHOTWELL); it empowers and entertains with its thrust on corraling a motley crew of underdogs who are more alike than they imagine, with the adult cast comprising of stellar performers like ALLISON JANNEY, JIM GAFFIGAN and MIKE EPPS.

TROOP ZERO is exactly what children and families need to see to get a sense of what dreams are made of and how adults have a large role to play in steering a generation towards achievement of often unattainable goals. Directing duo Bert and Bertie infuse it with innocence that earns its sheen.



VOX LUX(2018)

Opening with the gruesome incidence of a school shooting, VOX LUX employs, very ably and with a sense of acceptance, the iconography of violence that has carved a brutal face of the New Age. Like a Biblical odyssey, Willem Dafoe’s prophetic narration and its division into distinct chapters charts the loss of innocence, a fact splayed wide open for the youth of this century.

Lead protagonist Celeste (Raffey Cassidy and then Natalie Portman in adult form) becomes the unlikely eyes, ears and voice of a generation grappling with its history of violence. It is effectively reflected in her ascent to teenage stardom post the success of her tribute song WRAPPED UP, performed at her school’s memorial service, as we witness her churning within a socially feeble scenario, with Celeste standing there with a flickering spirit as the only survivor from the bloody carnage, after seeing death from such intimacy.

This history of violence continues to dot her turbulent odyssey through an unsparing media blitzkrieg and celebrity culture, as she is befuddled by the events of 9/11 and as an adult is answerable to a world questioning her artistry after masked assailants massacre a beachside town in Europe, imitating her music video’s iconography.

Director Brady Corbet and co-scriptwriter Mona Fastvold, music director Scott Walker and cinematographer Lol Crawley trace the fallout of this journey through the violence of the spirit and pop culture consumption for Celeste. Watch as she becomes a puddle of tears, like the child she could not fully become owing to her preternaturally early success, and lashes out like a tempest against all beneficiaries who treat her like a halo rather than a human being.

All the complacency of fame and tension of her unaddressed post traumatic stress is beautifully made bare by the ever-exquisite Natalie Portman and Raffey doubling up in the second half as her teenage daughter. Jude Law, Jennifer Ehle and especially Stacy Martin(no stranger to a kind of extraordinary reckoning with violence after appearing in the Bombay set, 26/11 survival saga TAJ MAHAL) aid her with gravitas.

This is essential viewing, sought after for its serrated edge and substantive content.



I will not divulge much about this Ari Aster directed piece of immersive filmmaking except to say that like every horror paradigm slinging at the hard facts of life, HEREDITARY lives up to its name.

It’s a painful meditation on the unsavoury personal histories which we are often unable to omit from our daily lives. The most gutting aspect of it all is that things implode with the finality of genetic inheritance. Mental health issues, the hint of hallucinatory nightmares getting too close to the bone and grief for losing loved ones get conveyed through the process of broken communication within a family.

The screenplay is designed with a dozen or so micro and macro scenes that are held firm by the photography of Pawel Pogorzelski and music by Colin Stetson. But Toni Colette’s bouts with anger offset by moments of tenderness and barely contained grief are etched memorably by her facial transparency while Gabriel Byrne shows the devastation of lifelong pain with the power of silence. Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro are the younger perfects facing happenings beyond their control. Last but not the least, Ann Dowd fills her supporting arc with menace and an irreconcilable emotional tenor, to exhibit her range drawn from years of experience.

HEREDITARY is hauntingly devastating and gives an urgency to the horror genre. The horror that springs forth from the knowledge that we may become mirror images of our parents at their worst.

(Also can we please praise the casting here as this actually looks like a real family. Note the facial similarity, especially the nose structure)



David Fincher must be heavily lauded for not only delving into the particulars of a period piece but making sure that no modern insinuation floods his verbally prominent screenplay. Thank God that CITIZEN KANE screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz is made the star of the show and the brilliant Gary Oldman breathes life to this Haazirjawaab( witty man with a quip and verbal cascade for every occasion); it’s rare to see a high-spirited writer to counter all the stereotypes we associate with them, the Achilles heel being the thoughtful depressive governed only by melancholy.

MANK has a lust for life and an expansive vision which translates to the biographical imprints constituting the KANE scenario. Which is a great feat considering that Fincher pays tribute to his own father, Late Jack Fincher’s original screenplay. The cyclical sense of generational acknowledgement is hence rewarding for all wordsmiths.

From Erik Messerschmitt’s photographic layers to the cast comprising of AMANDA SEYFRIED, LILY COLLINS, ARLISS HOWARD, CHARLES DANCE, TOM BURKE and TOM PELPHREY, they all come up with aces. The affable friendship of sharing confidences and hypocrisies of the Hollywood milling machine between Marion Davies(Seyfried) and Mank(Oldman) is in the classic mould. As is this production on the whole. For me, Oldman’s dexterity with words is almost on a Shakespearean level.




My poem LUCKNOW- AN ODE TO THE CITY is my ultimate love letter to the aesthetic musicality of my hometown, the cultural epicenter Lucknow. This has been published by RHETORICA QUARTERLY. What makes it particularly special is that the poem has graced the magazine of my own department, DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH AND MODERN EUROPEAN LANGUAGES, UNIVERSITY OF LUCKNOW, the home that literally raised me as one of its own and which I cherish with a great sense of gratitude and pride.


Also on Friday, March 12th, 2021, I received the betokened opportunity to read the poem as part of the highlighting event of the LUCKNOW LITERARY FESTIVAL, an annual celebration of the city’s rich cultural and literary profusion. An initiative for new and emerging writers, it was such a blessing to be the first poet to headline this august occasion and share the stage with some visionary minds, all from my own department.

It was also distinctive as it was in partnership with our host department and was the only offline event of the fest so in a post Covid world, it sprinkled the amorphous, eternal ethos of literature, creativity and unity among like-minded individuals. It was such a joy to be among friends, distinguished guests, beloved teachers and emerging writers of great potential.

Hence, read this poem as it encapsulates all that its creation meant for this writer. Gratitude. Hope. Unceasing imagination. Spirit of Unity, above all in a communal love for self-expression.




So often internationally helmed productions seem to ingratiate themselves when handling the diverse and universal panorama of an India-set story; this is almost as if the ‘cultural aspect’ itself is alien from the rest of the world and hence has to stand out without any deep probing of its unity with social structures everywhere/anywhere. A SUITABLE BOY, a screen adaptation of Vikram Seth’s classic novel, finds the astute Mira Nair refusing to tie down her saga of newly independent India in knots or a singular perspective. Of course the ‘marriage-obsessed’ narrative vis a vis a nubile young girl’s future prospects seems like a fairly conventional trap for a story made within the nation’s backdrop. (So are end number of Austen adaptations then) But since I haven’t read the novel yet, the BBC/NETFLIX six part mini-series turned out to be so much more. It is a wide-ranging tale traversing a volley of emotions and experiences. Each interpersonal relationship is memorably etched, whether filial or conjugal and by extension societal and especially romantic.

Ms. Nair, like the other great chronicler of multiple, transnational narratives Deepa Mehta, strings together socio-political unrest tantamount to nationalistic tendencies and religious strife, in the run-up to the first general election of independent India, with delicacy, befitting the contemporary flavours of its import within each episode capsule. But the secular and syncretic collaboration of hearts and generations lends it a timeless charm.

What always made it stand out for me was that it was shot in and around some of the best locations of my own culturally prominent city Lucknow(including some close to my own apartment). It employed not only its citizens in bit parts and supporting arcs but truly captured the diaphanous and enduring legacy of its time-honoured diversity, cutting across religions and class divides. Contingent with the novel’s setting Bhrampur, Lucknow comes alive like none other, becoming the sum total of its classical and metropolitan heritage. I was so proud to have all the places I love and recognize visually put up on the big screen with such grace. Ditto the sequences involving the river shot in Maheshwar ( in the neighbouring state of Madhya Pradesh)

Then there’s the wholesome cast, with Tanya Maniktala debuting with luminous and confident screen presence as central protagonist Lata Mehra. It was such a beauteous experience to have the story of a nation set in Lucknow and reach out to the world with its sundry beats, staying true to the timeless universality of human resources.



Madhur Bhandarkar’s highly underrated INDU SARKAR cleverly uses its title to not only capture a fiendish era under an Indian premier but the titular protagonist’s journey from silence to conveying truth to power. The brilliant conceit here being that INDU SARKAR ( the mesmerisingly talented KIRTI KULHARI) suffers from a stutter and has brought herself up in a world with no guardians to speak of. A conventional marriage doesn’t ensure peace either as we discover, given the many chapters her life goes through .

The literal and figurative hence come together, spotlighting the very real dangers of gagged speech and press censorship under the Emergency during the later years of 1970s, a historical blackout of democracy that will forever haunt the pan-Indian consciousness. Real figures from Indian polity, the elite classes and a post-independent nation’s ambitious middle classes all enter this minefield of wheeling-dealings, to posit that the roots of corruption reach from top to bottom and vice versa, influencing both genders and ideologies.

KIRTI, forever etched in the annals of Indian cinema with her presence in the powerful ensemble of PINK(2016) is gifted with a well-rounded characterisation that is written with sensitivity and zest for personal and political agency here, refusing to be guarded in her opinions or innate dignity by her speech impediment. Stellar supporting actors like ANUPAM KHER, SHEEBA CHADDA, NEIL NITIN MUKESH, SATYAJEET SHARMA and TOTA ROY CHOUDHARY justify their acquired worldviews, dividing the righteous from the power brokers with distinctive strokes.

Coming from Bhandarkar, a filmmaker who ushered in the emotional structures of various classes and set-ups in such classics as CHANDNI BAR, PAGE 3, CORPORATE, TRAFFIC SIGNAL and of course FASHION, it designs his most courageous and politically astute screenplay, without it ever picking sides, atleast according to me. The dialogues by Sanjay Chhel especially register their impact. Minor hiccups aside, INDU SARKAR rises with the evolution of its protagonist and matters because it owes its debt to historical facts and the loss of democratic values, something that deeply resonates in the modern era, owing to the wave of self-destructive nationalist politics of our age.



Continuing the trend of period settings and their illuminating spotlight in the present epoch, I pick one of my personal favourites first. Yes, that is the mother of stand-up comedy THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL. As a series in its third year running and being released in December 2019, its resonance was felt throughout 2020 and that’s when I watched it too.

It found its footing again, keeping the roster of characters and episodes afloat with lively period appropriate comedy and social commentary. I loved it owing to its incorporation of Midge’s cresting career opportunities leading to on-location shooting in Miami, Las Vegas and elsewhere and slyly attuning itself to the class consciousness of the Maisel and Wiseman families.

But the most beautiful gift of this season was in the form of Leroy McClain as Shy Baldwin, an iconic singer whose fame and fortune corresponds with his racial and personal narrative. His scenes with Midge( the always reliable Rachel Brosnahan) and Sterling K. Brown are suffused with all the heart and glow that puts this show above the heap of laugh tracks and weekly episodic attributes. Plus, he emotes so well that it is impossible to believe he’s not singing himself. Then there’s Luke Kirby and he’s full of suave, vulnerable charm as the rabble rousing, truthful comic mentor and ally Lenny Bruce. His Miami arc with Midge was beautifully written and made me swoon with its innate dignity of characterisation.

From among the ensemble, keep an eye out for a memorable extended sequence featuring Jason Alexander as Abe’s (Tony Shalhoub) best friend, Marin Hinkle’s journey back home to a generational patriarchal nightmare, Alex Borstein’s double duty as manager to Midge and the temperamental Sophie Lennon ( an excellent Jane Lynch) as also the Maisels ( Caroline Aaron, Kevin Pollak and Michael Zegen) keeping us entertained with their quirky and earnest ways, in that order. Also, Liza Weil (Bonnie from HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER fame) is unrecognizable as the supportive, self-dependent tour member in Shy’s musical entourage while WANDA SYKES is well her legendary self as the iconic Moms Mabley.

The third time’s definitely the charm for THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL and I don’t think that after MAD MEN, there is a show this carefully detailed, cinematically proficient in its period composition and social matrix. It’s a win-win situation then as the Palladino couple (Amy Sherman and Daniel) employ sharp comic perspectives and deeper emotional conflicts, creatively assured in their intermingling currents, just like life itself.



There are twists and turns in Ryan Murphy’s otherwise compelling RATCHED that resemble maneuvers from a period dime-store novel or even soap opera, given its pulpy reimagining of the brutally honest and shockingly restrained Nurse Ratched’s origins from ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. Louise Fletcher gave her restrained and brutal aura in the 1975 classic a timeless, Oscar winning stamp of approval. It was a portrayal of anti-social consciousness in cahoots with institutional corruption.

RATCHED actually benefits from those twists and turns, given its late 1940s period setting and all departments come up aces in giving it that retro sheen, from the cinematography to the impeccable production design. These two aspects also highlight how under the veneer of post-war reconstruction, society was burrowing deeper into a hell of its own making, down to the vistas of mental health and its practitioners. After all, picture perfect postcards can seldom convey the horrors of the homefront.

RATCHED lets Sarah Paulson’s star turn as the titular protagonist cover a lot of socio-political ground, from controversial lobotomy trials to child abuse, state-sanctioned institutional rot to sexuality. All of these points land with impact. However, this series cannot be praised without according plaudits to SOPHIE OKONEDO and VINCENT D’ONOFRIO for their pitch perfect performances as a victim of multiple personality disorder brought on by racial forebears and as the slimy governer attesting state apathy respectively. Both deserve all awards for their contributions. JUDY DAVIS, CYNTHIA NIXON, JON JON BRIONES, SHARON STONE etc are similarly efficient.

Put together, RATCHED has an interesting screenplay divided over eight episodes and succeeds in capturing our attention. Its period essence is particularly earned, including the Bernard Herrmanesque score ala PSYCHO and Stanley Kubrickian influences.