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.