Tag Archives: #shakuntaladevi

Top 10 Hindi Movies That Got Me Through 2020

When we moved to Bombay from Amritsar in the seventies, my mother had her heart set on a bungalow on the Juhu beach but my dad did not agree. He wanted us to be far from the “Bollywood types”. We settled in the suburb of Chembur but as luck would have it we were in Atur Park, a stone’s throw away from the legendary RK studios.

We had a handcrafted childhood: A good school. A beautiful home. The good company of friends. Bushels of books. Television was noticeably absent. My dad knew some Bollywood families. We visited Prem Chopra’s home and Anil Kapoor’s grandpa came to our apartment but we were not star-struck! We watched a few films at the Regal, the Art Deco cinema hall at Colaba causeway. My first movie and all-time favorite was The Sound of Music

I enjoyed a few Hindi movies too like Bobby, Guddi, Amar Akbar Anthony, and Parichay.  We memorized the songs and dialogues and emulated hairstyles and dresses. Much to the surprise of my friends and family, I managed without a TV in my home for over ten years but when COVID-19 forced us to remain indoors, I had to turn the TV on. I have couch-watched more movies than ever before. Some movies were entertaining more than others. A few raised important social issues. My list is not exhaustive but includes the movies I watched. There are one or two that will be committed to long-term memory. Enjoy!

1. Thappad: A resounding slap on Indian male-dominated society that believes: It’s acceptable for a husband to slap his wife. But is it? Not everyone agrees if the wife (Taapsee Pannu) should leave her marriage because of the thappad.  It’s about time the women say NO to any form of abuse!

2.Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl: A biopic on the life of a female fighter pilot’s personal war against a male chauvinist mindset and sexist discrimination. Pankaj Tripathi shines as a supportive father and Janhvi Kapoor is believable as a girl next door who has higher aspirations. 

3.Panga: A film about a kabaddi champion who accepts the challenge of following her dream to participate in the national championship. Kangana Ranaut breaks all stereotypes supported by her cute husband Jassi Gill and her son. Neena Gupta is delightful as always!

4.Gulabo Sitabo, Is an unexpected quick-witted “Punch and Judy” satire directed by Shoojit Sircar. Amitabh Bachchan‘s character as the greedy miser Mirza is one of my all-time favorite roles. Pitted against him is Ayushmann Khurrana who delivers sharp and quixotic dialogue! But the show-stealer hands down is Farukh Jaffar, who is the insouciant begum of Lucknow.

5. Shakuntala Devi: Vidya Balan flawlessly enters the titular character and the titular role scintillates!  An award-winning performance about a larger than life “math” genius and her fascinating “rags to riches” story. Amit Sadh adds an interesting facet as the one man she marries.

6. Dil Bechara: This was released a few days after the world was shocked by the most tragic death of a sensitive actor, Sushant Singh Rajput. I could not bring myself to watch this remake of “The Fault in Our Stars”. The score and soundtrack composed by Amitabh Bhattacharya and A. R. Rahman are haunting.

7. Ludo: This was released on the Diwali weekend. I watched parts of it because I love Ludo, the board game, and play it often with my grandson. Although the story is ruggedly whimsical, I had a difficult time trying to get into it. It seemed like a chaotic chimera of four wildly disparate themes!  Abhishek Bachchan, Rajkumar Rao, Aditya Rao Kapur, Pankaj Tripathi, and Sanya Malhotra had the advantage of not playing Ludo together! 

8. Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan: A parody with a twist that encourages parents (Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao – a terrific onscreen pair) to shrug off their judgemental saris and lungis and accept their children in new gender roles and life choices. Ayushmann Khurrana is brilliantly flamboyant. Jitendra Kumar’s tentative performance is endearing. Maanvi Gagroo as the irrepressible “Goggle” adds to the fun!

9. Chhapaak: A heartrending film exposing another heinous crime against women. Why the deplorable perpetrators get away scot-free is an expose about the Indian justice system. A must watch! A bit of a Cracker Jack performance by the glamorous actress Deepika Padukone. Vikrant Massey and Madhurjeet Sarghi don’t fail to inspire,

10. Raat Akeli Hai: An unexpected dark family secret is uncovered by the misfit cop played by the suave Nawazuddin Siddiqui who is determined to solve the murder of a landlord on his wedding night! The intense Radhika Apte, Ila Arun, and Shweta Tripathi rock it!


Monita Soni has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India and a heart steeped in humanity, writing is a contemplative practice for Monita Soni. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books: My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.

Shakuntala Devi: A Curious Woman

Shakuntala Devi is a biopic dramedy produced by Sony Pictures Network India and Vìkram Malhotra’s Abhyudaya Entertainment.  Directed by Anu Menon, the film is a curious tale of a mathematical genius whose ability for mental mathematics is discovered when she is a toddler.

From then onwards she makes her mark performing for general and erudite audiences in India and abroad. Vidya Balan is remarkably tuned into the spontaneity, spunk, and sense of humor that the character requires; she is engaging as Shakuntala Devi in her beautiful sarees and long dangling earrings.

Over her lifetime Devi earns money and fame, pitting her wit against computers. She achieves accolades independently without the help of a man. It’s true that men are afraid of a girl who laughs wholeheartedly and follows her heart.

Subconsciously distraught by childhood trauma of an “apparently unloving father and a subservient mother” she struggles to settle down in a traditional home.” Later in life, Devi does have a daughter whose childhood is also equally unusual.

Vidya Balan with Anupama Banerji (Shakuntala’s daughter) on the set of Shakuntala Devi

Some of the questions this film raises are: Is Devi’s daughter a math genius or does she have her own innate ability? Does she want to follow in her mother’s in her enterprising footsteps? Does she want to stay home with her father and choose a life more grounded to the terra firma? Is Devi able to find the companionship of a lost sister in her daughter?

To get answers to these poignant questions about the emotions of a woman as an individual, a daughter, and a mother, I recommend Shakuntala Devi. Vidya Balan is a joy! If I had witnessed Shakuntala Devi in my childhood, the magic of numbers would have inspired me to comprehend equations better. But I stayed home to eat and read my stories and inscribe patterns of snowflakes on my books…

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.

Bollywood Blockbusters Straight to Your Screen

Although social distancing has brought our daily lives to a grinding halt, the latest update from Amazon Prime Video proves that the show must truly go on. It is heartening to know that amid the chilling outbreak of the coronavirus, Bollywood has persevered in its attempts to amuse and bring us together. These latest releases are a reminder of how critical online entertainment truly is during this pandemic. Hopefully, Shakuntala Devi and Gulaabo Sitabo will bring a necessary slice of positivity into your lives.  

To satiate your appetite for some B-town, Amazon Prime announced the premiere of Gulabo Sitabo, an Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana collaboration. The two leads amuse audiences in an intricate game of cat-and-mouse, offset by the conflicting agendas of the supporting cast. 

Regarding the film, Mr. Bachchan said, “I was excited about my role since the first time Shoojit showed me the character’s look. It took me almost 3 hours each day to get into character with its different look. I had a wonderful time working with my very talented co-star Ayushmann Khurrana. Even though we are constantly bantering in the film, it has been a pleasure working with him for the first time. This family entertainer has the power to cut across geographic boundaries and we are pleased to bring Gulabo Sitabo to audiences.”

Amazon Prime also recently announced the premiere of the highly publicized Shakuntala Devi. The film will be available to audiences across the globe and is available on the Amazon Prime app on nearly every device. With the formidable Vidya Balan at the forefront, Anu Menon’s latest film certainly cannot go wrong. Vidya Balan intrigues audiences in her retelling of the life of Shakuntala Devi, India’s “human computer.”

Devi is one of the world’s most celebrated geniuses, bringing her talents to India, Hong Kong, and all over the globe. Not only was she recognized for her inexplicable mathematical prowess, but also because she was India’s first woman to publish a paper on homosexuality

When asked about her role, Balan said, “She was truly someone who embraced her individuality, had a strong feminist voice, and braved many a naysayer to reach the pinnacle of success. But what truly fascinates me is that you wouldn’t normally associate a fun person with math…and she completely turns that perception on its head.” Balan later added that Ms. Devi was  “one of the most inspiring women of this country,” and that she was “extremely excited” to bring such an extraordinary woman’s tale to life. 

Other Amazon Prime Movies direct-to-service slate:

Ponmagal Vandhal (Tamil) – May 29th

Gulabo Sitabo (Hindi) – June 12th

Penguin (Tamil and Telugu) – June 19th

Law (Kannada) – June 26th

French Biryani (Kannada) – July 24th

Shakuntala Devi (Hindi) – TBD

Sufiyum Sujatayum (Malayalam) – TBD

Kanchan Naik is a junior at The Quarry Lane School in Dublin, CA. Aside from being the youth editor of India Currents, she is the editor-in-chief of her school’s news-zine The Roar. She is also the Teen Poet Laureate of Pleasanton and uses her role to spread a love of poetry in her community.