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The Crown, Killing Eve, Big Little Lies: 6 webseries that you cannot miss if you are a woman

Abhishek Srivastava picks six webseries that proves women have taken lead in the OTT space!

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The world of OTT content is a different beast altogether. It does not differentiate between content based on gender, as one normally witnesses in the world of cinema. To put it plainly, it’s a fair ground. In fact, 2018 will be remembered as the year when female-led content superseded its male counterparts. With powerhouse performers like Meryl Streep and Frances McDormand expected to join the party, 2019 is surely going to be one helluva ride. Abhishek Srivastava picks six series which clearly show that women have successfully taken the lead.

# The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

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Set in New York of 1958, this series is about a housewife who takes the unconventional decision of becoming a stand-up comedian. With a performance devoid of any false note, Rachel Brosnahan as Miriam Maisel left competition far behind. Two back-to-back Golden Globe awards in 2018 and 2019 are testimony to the appeal of the series. Apart from a story which keeps one invested, it, in a subtle manner, also talked about women’s emancipation. The crisp, witty dialogues of Amy Sherman Palladino (of Gilmore Girls fame), and the charm of Rachel Brosnahan proved to be a winning combination for this Amazon drama. This is also one of the few series which maintained a constant momentum in both its seasons. It never dipped for a moment, a miracle indeed!

# The Crown

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The mega success of The Crown, the biographical story of Queen Elizabeth II, rests largely on the histrionics of Claire Foy. In the role of young Elizabeth, she delivered a performance that took the world by storm. It also made her an instant star for sinking her teeth into the character. John Lithgow as Winston Churchill and Matt Smith as Prince Philip occupied magazine space for their riveting performances. But none could match the euphoria which Claire Foy generated. With Olivia Colman, Helena Bonham Carter, and Gillian Anderson slated to join season three and four of the most talked about series, one can only expect sparks from The Crown in the future. It is a classic example of what women are capable of achieving with their combined might.

# The Handmaid’s Tale

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This dystopian drama, based on the 1985 novel of Margaret Atwood, was an instant sensation. It single-handedly changed the fortunes of Hulu network, the home of The Handmaid’s Tale. Elisabeth Moss as June Osborne, a handmaid to a commander and his wife, gave a tour de force performance. With some great performances in Mad Men and The West Wing in the past, Elisabeth Moss was always considered a bonafide actress. But the success of The Handmaid’s Tale put her on a pedestal, which even the actress had never imagined. The success of the series and Elisabeth Moss’ performance became synonymous with each other.

# Killing Eve

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BBC’s Killing Eve became an overnight sensation. And the credit for the same goes to three women – Phoebe Waller-Bridge for her screenplay, actresses Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer. The cat-and-mouse game, played between MI 5 officer Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) for 10 episodes, made the series a binge affair. The two protagonists remain at the core throughout the story. And helped bring out all the possible emotions that humans can emote. The ‘tough woman with a heart’ act of Sandra Oh, besides fetching her a Golden Globe, also helped her garner immense love.

#Insecure

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Insecure came out of nowhere and proved to be a revelation. The series, from the viewpoint of two black women, deals with modern America’s contemporary issues. It show issues that most black women have to deal with namely relationships, racism, sex-lives and cultural conflicts. It was instant fame and success for Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji, the two protagonists of the show. Through comic situations and raunchy affairs, they together poked fun at themselves and society. For twenty-something black women, Insecure proved to be revolutionary and also added another feather in the crowded cap of HBO.

# Big Little Lies

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The success of season one of Big Little Lies can be gauged by the fact that Meryl Streep will appear in the second season of the show. Needless to say, expectations have simply sky-rocketed. The series is based on the book of the same name by Australian author Liane Moriarty. The first season was fronted by the joint might of Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley. And it dealt with their emotionally troubled lives. The eight Emmy Awards it won out of its 16 nominations say a lot about the series.

Which is your favourite of the lot? Share with us your thoughts in the comments section below! Also stay tuned to CineBlitz for more Bollywood news, updates and gossip.

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The TURBAN gets uber-chic: Sheetal Mafatlal decodes the timeless headgear

Style maven Sheetal Mafatlal dwells on the transformative appeal of the timeless headgear, which has emerged as the ‘it’ accessory du jour.

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Sheetal Mafatlal decodes turban fashion

Trust Gucci’s creative force, designer Alessandro Michele, to shake the fashion set out of its complacent slumber by showcasing an exquisite array of absolutely drool-worthy headgear. The game-changing creative head of the hallowed Italian luxury house turned the spotlight on the turban this season, by reinterpreting it in a no-holds-barred-glamazon format. The label’s Fall 2018 showcase in Milan saw a panoply of babushka hoods, pagoda hats and headscarves, that brought to mind exotic visions of the elegant hijabs and naqabs.

The fashion maverick Michele has dramatically changed the way we perceive accessories. A nifty headpiece can make or break an ensemble, and I’m totally digging the label’s multi-hued, bejewelled headpiece which is a reinvention of the ‘bandanna’ headband.

Over the years, I have thoroughly enjoyed wearing Michele’s accessories and ensembles, and his glittery and bold headdresses are my absolute favourite. Depending on my mood and the occasion, I have teamed my Gucci turbans with both, minimal and maximalist ensembles. Being a fan of the statement-making headpieces, I have often worn his bejewelled headbands as an alternative to a turban.

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Sheetal Mafatlal clicked by Vickram Singh Bawa

Donatella Versace at the Gianni Versace ‘Tribute Collection’ in Milano, sent out his signature butterfly print turbans and Baroque print head scarves, worn with wrap dresses, bodysuits and matching accessories – all epitomising the house’s intrinsic Va Va Vroom.

The headdress has evolved over the years, with the early 20th century witnessing a major revival of the fashion turban, this time, worn mostly by elite women as a symbol of their cultivated sophistication. These headdresses always evoked a sense of exotica with their draped styles, and were often dubbed as ‘Easterninfluenced headpieces.’ In Europe, the iconic designer Paul Poiret was majorly impacted by Orientalism, whose take on the accessory conjured images of a fabled harem.

The turban pioneer is said to be credited for having revived the headpiece in the early 1900s. While in the ’20s, it had an exuberant flapper connotation, in the ’30s and ’40s, the headdress became a synonym for unabashed Hollywood glamour. Who could forget Greta Garbo in The Painted Veil (1934) and Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)?

After many years, model Marisa Berenson approached the turban with a relaxed and louche glam touch of the swinging ’70s. When Yves Saint Laurent worked in post-war France, he added headdresses to complement most of his looks suiting all occasions – be it haute couture or ready-to-wear. A pleated lamé turban ornamented with a sequined palm leaf created by Nina Wood, worn with an Indian inspired evening outfit from YSL’s Spring/Summer 1982 haute couture collection, remains one of the memorable looks.

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Sheetal Mafatlal clicked by Vickram Singh Bawa

In recent times, a slew of fashion films and chick-flick TV series have reignited the season-less appeal of the turban. In 2010, Carrie Bradshaw, essayed by Sarah Jessica Parker, elevated the headdress to another level of exotica as she played out her life with her girl pals against the stunning backdrop of Abu Dhabi in the film Sex and the City 2. Fashion industry heavyweights like Miuccia Prada, Jason Wu, Vena Cava and Giorgio Armani have re-purposed the turban, making it relevant for the young women of today, season after season.

Also worth mentioning is Jean Paul Gaultier’s sari collection for Hermes in 2011, which he accessorised with jewel-toned headpieces. In Bollywood, veteran actress Rekha has been the biggest proponent of this chic essential for years now. Teaming it with her ‘more is more’ ensemble, she has time and again, worn the turban with effortless elan and her characteristic nonchalance, bringing to mind her larger-than-life on-screen persona of her ‘80s Bollywood films.

This ‘of-the-moment’ interpretation of the classic turbans ushers in a new wave of exotic glamour in a scenario of austere runway presentations and a pall of gloom lurking on luxury retail. When the going gets tough, the fashionable get bold, and a turban addition to any ensemble adds that touch of chic femininity and a ‘look-at-me’ sass, unrivalled by any other accessory or jewellery.

Sheetal Mafatlal writes an exclusive monthly column on fashion for CineBlitz.

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Mahesh Bhatt: You should learn what trusting a director means from Sridevi

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt recalls working with the late actor Sridevi, her commitment to work and her native charm that made her stand apart from the other leading ladies of those times

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Mahesh Bhatt recalls working with the late actor Sridevi on their film Gumraah

“She was the diva of the 80s who did the Tohfaas and the Himmatwaalas and you came into your own with path-breaking films like Arth and Saaransh. How did your paths cross?” asked a young writer who is chronicling the life of Sridevi, an actor par excellence, whose rise to the top was slow and steady, but the end, sudden and tragic.

I first met Sridevi in the dark auditorium of a cinema hall. She was up there on the silver screen. The film was Balu Mahendra’s Sadma in which she was paired opposite Kamal Haasan. What hit me about her persona was her earthiness. That undefinable native charm which was the unique attribute of this enigma, made her stand apart from the other leading ladies of those times.

The leading ladies who rose to the top in Mumbai had, because of westernisation, lost their feminine mystique. Most of them were modelling themselves on the western icons who appeared on international magazines or in Hollywood films. Since our leading ladies were monkeying the West, the core Indian audience was feeling deeply unfulfilled. Sridevi brought India back into Indian movies. This ‘India’ness became her springboard to super-stardom. For me, her best performance was in her husband Boney Kapoor’s Mr India, which was directed by Shekhar Kapur.

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Sridevi in a still from the film Mr. India (1987)

“Let’s take Sridevi for this role, she is not only a star, but an actor of your kind,” said the late Yash Johar, the founder of Dharma Productions. After Naam, Aashiqui, Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahi and Sadak, I too had become a bit of a star director. The reputation that I am an actor’s director became a bridge for Sridevi and me to meet and work in the early 90s in Gumrah. Working with Sridevi was a memorable experience.

The character of Roshni from Gumrah was a lot like Sridevi herself. All great performances are drawn out from the body of an actor. A good director is like a good gardener. He brings out the beauty of a plant from the DNA of the seed, by merely watering it and protecting it. I did not force-feed my ideas into this acting machine. I merely created an environment for her to bloom, which she did. Gumrah was a mediocre success, but if at all people remember that film, it’s because of her heartfelt performance.

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Movie poster of Gumrah directed by Mahesh Bhatt and starring Sridevi and Sanjay Dutt. Courtesy: IMDb.com

“You should learn what trusting a director means from Sridevi, never did she question me for presenting her in the most deglamourised way in the jail portions of Gumrah,” I said to an actress in the 90s, when she was giving a hard time to my assistants by refusing to wear a “non glamorous” costume which the film demanded.

When I look back on her glorious innings in the movie world, I cannot help but conclude that long, successful career arcs do not happen by chance. They are fuelled by courage and discipline, and the ability to take risks. “Not taking risks is a bigger risk Madam,” I remember telling her when she was voicing her concern about some producers, for shedding her glamorous persona in Gumrah. My conviction was the lodestar which saw her all through the making of Gumrah.

How can I forget what she did during the shooting of the climax of Gumrah? “She has got very high fever Mahesh. I think we will have to cancel the shooting and break down the set,” said Yash Johar, as soon as I entered the massive prison set where a fight sequence was to be shot inside a water-tank. Yashji’s apprehensions were right.

There was no way I could ask this star to step into a water tank and participate in a fight sequence with Sanjay Dutt and Bob Christo. But the idea of re-erecting that massive set which cost a fortune was also weighing us down. But there was no way out.

“There is a way out. I am calling for my doctor, I will take an injection, get my fever down and shoot. Period. Just make sure that we keep the fans far away from me,” said Sridevi with a dead-pan face.

Tales of such magnanimity of film stars seldom reach the world. Demonising superstars is a profitable business. For me, the memory of Sridevi presenting Alia with her first award would have been an ideal image of a happy ending to our association. The body posture of Alia, awe-struck to see this diva bestow her with this prestigious award, is so life-affirming. But life makes you live on its own terms.

I had first met her in Centaur Hotel in a room full of roses, when Yashji and I had gone to sign her for Gumrah. It was her birthday. Little did I know then, I would one day see an image of Sridevi on a cold TV screen, lying dead, in a sea of flowers. Movies have a happy ending, this is real life.

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Mahesh Bhatt: Blind obedience to authority has become the norm; we have become a population of sheep!

In an exclusive column for CineBlitz, veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt writes, “It’s only when you question authority, and refuse to blindly follow those in the seat of power, that you create enduring works of art which resonate in the hearts of people years after they have been created.”

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“Do you know more than the sages and the seers of this great country? Who are you to debunk the centuries old belief in Punar Janam (reincarnation)? Not only does it run counter to the beliefs of the millions of people of all faiths across the world, but it is also a guaranteed recipe for a Box-Office disaster,” said the patriarch of Rajshri Productions, Seth Tarachand Barjatya, waving his finger angrily at me. I had been summoned to the home of the Barjatyas on a Sunday morning by the late Raj Kumar Barjatya, to have a heart-to-heart conversation with his father, who was undoubtedly one of the tallest icons of the entertainment industry, and on whose shoulders Rajshri Productions had touched dizzying heights.

“Sethji is unhappy with the climax of Saaransh. He feels that he must meet you and prevail upon you to relent and change the climax of the film. I singularly lack the conviction to neutralise his demands. Moreover, please understand that each one of us is a prisoner of his or her own beliefs,” he had said to me meekly, moments before my conversation with the patriarch of the Rajshri empire began.

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Movie posters of Arth (1982) and Saaransh (1984)

Maybe the late Raj Babu had put these thoughts in my mind because of my reputation which preceded me. The stories of me not yielding to the pressures of the film industry and changing the climax of Arth had become a part of Bollywood folklore. Raj Babu did not want us (Sethji and me), two fiercely opinionated individuals, to cross swords and disrupt the filming of Saaransh, which was racing towards completion.

“Why can’t the child that is born to this paying-guest be the reincarnation of the old couple’s dead son?” he asked. “Are you a sadist?” His question came from concern because his knowledge about the INDIAN audience was indeed far, far more and deeper than a filmmaker like me who had just one hit so far.

“Because my character of B B Pradhan (played by Anupam Kher) is an agnostic. Sir, if you stop believing in the life hereafter and put everything into what you possess into this living moment, you will truly awaken to the grandeur of life. This is the Saaransh of my film, Sir.” I remember, calmly, but firmly replying to him.

It was this unshakable conviction of mine which had infuriated the patriarch. Sensing the emotional temperature plummeting Raj Babu stepped in and acted with a sagacity which was indeed rare to find. I still remember his words, “Sethji, we have always believed in backing the director’s vision.

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Tarachand Barjatya (L) and Rajkumar Barjatya (R)

Look at the conviction of this young man, let us be bold enough to go ahead with his conviction, or else we will land up with a film which is neither here nor there.” Had it not been for Raj Babu, Saaransh wouldn’t have seen the light of day and become what it went out to become.

It was his faith in me that created this enduring classic. It was because of this unorthodox end which I had insisted upon, that Saaransh won the special Jury Award in 1984 at the Moscow Film Festival. My movies like Arth, Saaransh, Janam, Zakhm were born because of my fierce belief in the truth which was embedded in their DNA.

I often tell this to my junior writers and film directors to resist much and obey little. It’s only when you question authority, and refuse to blindly follow those in the seat of power, that you create enduring works of art which resonate in the hearts of people years after they have been created.

But sadly today, blind obedience to authority has become the norm. We have become a population of sheep. It’s heartbreaking to see young people conform so easily. Irreverence is the lifeblood of a flourishing society. People who obey blindly push society into the graveyard. The film industry must welcome and embrace those who are anti-authority because it is on their shoulders that the multi-billion-dollar film industry stands where it is. Where would we be without the irreverent spirit of the film makers of the bygone days?

Recently, when I launched the trailer of Ashvin Kumar’s No Fathers in Kashmir in Sunny Sound Service, I realised as long as there are filmmakers who have the guts to choose truth over illusions, our industry is safe.

There are two kinds of filmmakers. Ones that comfort the jolted and ones that jolt the comforted. Alas, the wheels of the Box-Office are run by these who pander to maintain status quo, and do everything to keep the illusions and the old prejudices of our society going. And then there is this microscopic minority of the latter.

These are the filmmakers who choose to tell the truth and resist the demands of the marketplace to manufacture illusions and lull the people to sleep. In this post-truth age, the need of the hour is to create a space for this brave lot.

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