Director: Sonam Nair
Cast: Masaba Gupta, Neena Gupta
Streaming on: Netflix
I wonder how comfortable or uncomfortable would it be to play yourself (or a version of you) on screen? Netflix’s new original Masaba Masaba features renowned fashion designer Masaba Gupta and her mother actress Neena Gupta playing themselves (or a version of them). Masaba who turns actor with this series seems perfectly at ease in front of the camera. Her mother Neena who has become a go-to actress to play mom post Badhaai Ho, is the show-stealer. Whenever these two women are on screen, you simply can’t take your eyes off them.
The series is semi-autobiographical. It’s difficult to distinguish between facts and fiction. The treatment is bold and funny. It is refreshing to see a series about two strong, independent and successful women without preaching feminism gyan. Masaba is a character/person which is hardly ever seen in Indian content. The similarity flashbacks of adult Masaba and child Masaba are some of the nicest sequences.
The series has delightful cameos by some lovely women – Kiara Advani, Pooja Bedi, Shibani Dandekar, Malavika Mohanan and Farah Khan (my favorite cameo). Creator Ashvini Yardi, director Sonam Nair and her team of writers (Punya Arora, Nandini Gupta, Anupama Ramchandran) have created a funny and breezy, six-episode tale of a fabulous mother-daughter duo. The dialogue is top rated and the screenplay is crisp.
The series is set in the millennial & colorful world of fashion and production design brings this aspect out excellently. I assume some of the portions must have been shot at their real home and office. The use of Instagram in the narrative is done smartly. In a world of showing off on social media how cool your life is an addiction (sickness?), many people use it as a self-defense mechanism also.
However, sometimes, the semi-autobiographical story seems to saunter around on the surface level. It doesn’t really dig deep into the psyche of the characters where the real problems lie. Things are passed on as mere information that you need to get and move on with the narrative. No time to know these two women more for Neena has often shared her issues of being forgotten/sidelined by casting directors or filmmakers, the challenges of being a single parent etc. These things haven’t been given much attention.
The series has its flaws, but life too has them. But it seems to be an attempt to embrace those flaws and celebrate the mess as you navigate through it. Worth checking this one out.
Mirzapur season 2 review: Crazy game of power!
Mirzapur season 2 has more deceit, lunacy than its prequel; the third installment of the series is most certainly on the cards
Mirzapur season 2
Creator: Puneet Krishna
Directors: Gurmmeet Singh, Mihir Desai
Cast: Ali Fazal, Pankaj Tripathi, Divyenndu Sharmaa, Vijay Varma, Shweta Tripathi, Rasika Dugal
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
The hunger for power can make men and women do crazy things. The men and women here in Mirzapur season 2 seem borderline lunatics. Most of them are deceiving or have been at the receiving end of deceit. They have a gun with them all the time whether they’re outside or inside the home. Guddu Pandit (a splendid Ali Fazal) and Golu Chopra (Shweta Tripathi) are seeking revenge against the Tripathis – Kaleen Bhaiya (Pankaj Tripathi at his subtle best) and Munna Tripathi (Divyenndu Sharmaa).
There are many like them thirsty for the luring but thorny chair of power of Mirzapur. Vijay Verma (in a double role), Lilliput, Anjum Sharma, Pramod Pathak play these supporting characters of gun/ drug dealers and politicians. Nobody minds shooting anyone, anywhere and anytime – sometimes, out of sheer lunacy. In many ways, Mirzapur is Gangs of Wasseypur meets Omkara/ Maqbool. The liberal use of cuss words and wit blended with doubt, insecurity and revenge – the feelings that make humans take irrational actions.
The series depends heavily on its dialogue and performances from the actors. Writers Puneet and Vineet Krishna give their characters enough colorful words but it sounds like every character is speaking the same way. Having said that, the actors do their best to give their individual characters a touch of their own. Ali Fazal as the beefed up and broken raging bull is fantastic. Second season’s narrative revolves mostly around Munna Tripathi’s ambitions of becoming the King of Mirzapur. Divyenndu plays this hot headed idiot well.
The women in the series get more substance to play with than the first season. Isha Talwar, Rasika Dugal, Shweta Tripathi add a lot to their characters and the narrative. Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Rajesh Tailang, Amit Sial, Sheeba Chaddha, Anil George are good in their extended cameos this season.
Watch Mirzapur Season 2 trailer:
There’s a lot of suspense and twists in the story to keep you engaged but the revelation loses its thrill due to delayed and poor execution. As it is, there are many crime dramas and thrillers streaming across OTTs for you to hone your guessing game skills. The characters mouth cuss words generously and blood splashes quite often. Mirzapur season 2 has its moments of brilliance but the ten episode series starts well, drops in between before picking up again in the last two episodes. Is the series engaging? Yes, absolutely. Is it a must watch? Not sure. The third season is most certainly on the cards.
Comedy Couple review: Breezy, romantic and funny!
Comedy Couple on Zee5 directed by Nachiket Samant stars Saqib Saleem and Shweta Basu Prasad in the lead roles as a stand-up duo.
Director: Nachiket Samant
Cast: Saqib Saleem, Shweta Basu Prasad, Pooja Bedi, Rajesh Tailang
Streaming on: Zee5
It starts with stand-up comedian Anubhav Singh Bassi performing at a laughter club in Gurgaon. The film’s lead pair Deep Sharma (Saqib Saleem) and Zoya Batra (Shweta Basu Prasad) are up next. They’re a stand-up duo. They perform together as well as are dating each other. They call themselves the Comedy Couple. The couple looks good together and are instantly likeable. There’s a certain ease with which both behave in front of the camera, especially Shweta.
When the couple is found smooching in the elevator, the society throws them out. Zoya comes to know that Deep alongwith their broker Timmy had told the society that they are brother and sister. They’re also faced with the situation of having to get married in order to get a house they like (because most Indian societies have issues with live-in couples).
Deep has a habit of lying to avoid complications and confrontations in life. He hasn’t told his parents that he has left his secured IT job to pursue stand-up or that he has been dating Zoya. Also, Deep doesn’t mind being an artist who doesn’t take a stand on social issues, saying sorry even if he’s not at fault. He’s just your average guy. His girlfriend also calls him that, in fact likes him for being average. She wants an ordinary, normal life, not an extraordinary one. And Deep fits the bill perfectly with his imperfections.
But when Zoya finds out about Deep’s lying habit, things between them begin to turn tense. These two being stand-up comedians help this film avoid the usual stretched out longing and belonging sequences. Instead they crack sarcastic jokes about each other when things start to fall apart. The jokes are not laugh-out-loud but funny enough to bring a smile on your face. The situations have a certain freshness to them, a lot of it also gets value addition from the film’s female lead.
Comedy Couple makes use of quite a few instances from the current Indian stand-up comedy scene where comedians were trolled, threatened, or arrested for cracking ‘anti-national’ jokes. There’s always a danger in such films becoming gag sequences than a story. Writers Bikas Ranjan Mishra, Kashyap Kapoor, Raghav Raj Kakker, Gaurav Sharma and director Nachiket Samant have successfully managed to put together a seamless narrative.
The affable comedy couple is supported by some equally funny supporting acts by Jasmeet Singh Bhatia, Aadar Malik, and Pranay Manchanda. Rajesh Tailang (different from his usual intense outings) and Pooja Bedi (seems like an extension of her role in Netflix’s Masaba Masaba) make cameo appearances.
Also read: Bandish Bandits review: A melodious treat
What do you need from a romantic comedy? A likeable couple and some romantic and funny moments that make you root for them to be together. Rom-com, a genre which has seen a decline in the number of movies being made for theatrical releases. To be honest, OTT seems like a more suitable medium for these films as it frees you from the censorship (self as well as CBFC), please-all-don’t-offend-any-thus-mediocre narratives and the financial aspects of theatrical releases which limits the storyteller from telling an authentic story. Nachiket Samant’s Comedy Couple on Zee5 is a breezy and funny two-hour watch on your nearest mobile phone.
5 travel and food shows for a perfect Netflix and chill!
The world is slowly getting back to normal, albeit the new normal, after the lockdowns are lifted globally. While some countries and Indian states have opened their doors for tourism, only time will tell when you actually step outside for a long trip to the destination on your travel list. But till you get to travel again, you can certainly watch a few travel and food shows to widen your scopes of travel, add new places to your list as well as get to know a bit more about the places, people and their culture before you visit.
Here, I am listing five travel and food shows that I not only thoroughly enjoyed binge watching, but they also gave me much more than I had expected – touching, hilarious, informative stories about places and people, food and culture.
Somebody Feed Phil
I stumbled upon Somebody Feed Phil while having dinner one night and surfing through Netflix. Took me a while to get used to the host Phil Rosenthal (creator of Everybody Loves Raymond) and his jolly good fellow persona. But once I connected with him, I absolutely binge watched all three seasons till I tired my eyes.
Phil is an affable person, considerate, foodie, and has a childlike enthusiasm towards people and food. Being the creator of a world famous sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, the humor quotient on the show is top notch. During his world trip to eat food, Phil visits all the possible food places from street food stalls to fine dine restaurants, meeting people as peculiar as him with their unique stories and food.
The most lovable part of the show comes when Phil interacts with his equally funny parents over Skype. Their conversation is like a cherry on top in every episode. Season 4 of Somebody Feed Phil starts streaming on Netflix from October 30. This is my favorite show of the lot.
Jack Whitehall: Travels with my father
Loved the family angle used in a travel show (Somebody Feed Phil) and I could not resist watching this show soon. Jack Whitehall: Travels with my father is one of its kind travel and food show where comedian and actor Jack Whitehall takes his 70-something father Michael Whitehall on a trip during his gap year. In the first season, the lads and dads trip takes place in South East Asia. Jack does antiques of taking his father to places he’d hate the most without telling him – cheap hostels for stay, yoga classes, drag shows, camel rides, a Magic Mike night and more.
Michael is a grumpy yet curious man and often his eccentric and unpopular opinions on culture, foreign lands, foreign people, foreign food and of course his son are what make this show fun to watch. The banter between father and son is often hilarious. At times, I doubted whether it’s all scripted or the polar opposite personalities of father and son genuinely bring in the friction and fun. Whatever maybe the case, this lads and dads trip is worth a watch. The duo goes from South East Asia in the first season, Europe in the second, Los Angeles in the third and Australia in the fourth season.
Street Food Latin America
I absolutely loved Street Food Asia that landed on Netflix in 2019. Most humane and inspiring stories were the highlight of the show. Later I found out about creator David Gelb’s other fine works like Chef’s Table. I am fascinated by Latin America from whatever I have seen on television shows and films. I think there’s a cultural resonance between us Indians and South Americans. Both of us are eccentric yet emotional people, developing countries, history of colonialism, and both cultures have fascinating foods for all occasions.
Street Food Latin America keeps the moving stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things at its core. The street food is humble yet delicious. The stories are often women centric and are inspiring. What’s great to see is that in spite of all the adversities in life, the smiles on people’s faces are heart-warming. After all, there’s nothing more democratic in this world than street food. Do watch it.
Restaurants on the Edge
This is a typical TV broadcast show and has over-enthusiastic hosts talking animatedly. A trio of a designer (Karin Bohn), chef (Dennis Prescott) and an entrepreneur (Nick Liberato), give a complete makeover to a restaurant which is in a complete mess. Over two seasons, the trio travels to Malta, St. Lucia, Slovenia, Austria, USA, and Canada to name a few.
Moving stories of the restaurateurs/owners and the awe inspiring makeovers given by the expert trio, especially designer Bohn, is (as it should be) the highlight of the show. The episodes are 45 minutes to one hour long. I’d often watch an episode over lunch and another over dinner. With only six episodes per season, the show ended with I wanting more.
Paul Hollywood’s Big Continental Road Trip
This is more of a travel and cars show. In spite of having world renowned baker Paul Hollywood as host, the show hardly features food. Hollywood is a racing enthusiast. He travels to Italy, Germany and France to drive a variety of cars – modern supercars to vintage cars to delivery vans. If you like history and culture, this show will be a fun ride for you. It was amusing, at times baffling to see some of the cars and cultural connection with them.
Like an Italian on the show says, Germans want to make cars that are classy and powerful like them. We Italians make cars that make a lot of noise, just like the Italian people. Then you wonder and see that all Italian models – the Lamborghinis, the Ferraris, the Maserati’s all indeed make a lot of noise. Paris, the most romantic city in the world, sees some of the worst traffic jams. Also, the fashion capital of the world (Paris) has a really poor sense when it comes to designing their cars. It’s paradoxical, it’s historical, it’s phenomenal, it’s everything packed into one hour episode of each country and some of its famous cars. Take this ride for sure.
Bonus: You can also check out The Chef’s Table, Taco Chronicles, Ugly Delicious, The Truth about Alcohol, and Coffee for All on Netflix.
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