This weekly blog series, published each Friday evening, features five films from streaming services which you can access for free using your library card. The five selections this week are from Bollywood.
Bollywood takes its name from Hollywood. There is a B instead of an H at the start of the word. B is for Bombay where most of these films are made. Bombay has since been renamed Mumbai but thankfully Bollywood did not change to Mollywood! Bollywood movies are colorful and soulful with a beautiful blend of music, drama, dance, comedy, action and emotion. This concoction is what makes a typical Masala Bollywood movie. However, there is a parallel trend in Hindi cinema where the movies are more realistic with pertinent social themes and serious acting. Such Independent films are termed Art movies.
This is a unique Indian film which boldly breaks barriers and deals with the themes of disability, sexuality, inclusion and self-acceptance. The main protagonist, a teenager named Laila Kapoor, brilliantly portrayed by Kalki Koechlin, suffers from cerebral palsy. She goes to New York University for a semester of study and lives in Greenwich village with her orthodox mother Shubhangini, played by Revathi. She has feelings for both Jared (William Moseley) who helps her in her creative writing class and Khanum, a blind young female activist played by Sayani Gupta. This movie is a coming of age story where the heroine navigates different experiences and figures out who she is and what she wants from life. Kalki won the National Film Award (Special Jury Award) and the Screen Award for Best Actress (Critics) for her role in this film.
Parched is a movie set in rural Gujarat untouched by modernism and change. It is a patriarchal and misogynistic society where women are told to tolerate abuse rather than divorce their husbands. Child-marriage is the norm and women are considered subservient to men. The movie is about three friends; Rani, Bijli and Lajjo who are there for each other and share the trials and tribulations of their lives. Rani is a widow , Bijli is a prostitute and Lajjo is considered barren as she cannot have a child. Lajjo’s husband is abusive and knows that they cannot have a baby due to his own medical problems, yet, he blames his wife for not being able to give him a baby. Rani understands the plight of her young daughter in law Janaki, who is abused by her husband Gulab. The movie has a hopeful and liberated ending. The cinematography is captivating and Gujarat is captured in all its beautiful hues.
This movie directed by Ramesh Behl has a star-studded cast. A group of revolutionaries are trying to free Goa from Portuguese rulers. Amitabh Bachchan, also known as the big B, the angry young man and the superstar of Bollywood plays the lead role of Ramdas aka Ronnie. He watches his dad die, killed by another revolutionary. Ronnie starts hating the freedom fighters and becomes a gangster. He, however, has a change of heart and then helps the rebels to free Goa from an oppressive rule. This is a typical Bollywood masala movie which has super-hit and widely popular songs. The song “Samundar mein naha ke aur bhi namkeen ho gayi ho” which literally means “You have become saltier after taking a dip in the ocean” is a fan favorite to this day. This song was picturized on Amitabh Bachchan and the supremely gorgeous Zeenat Aman.
This is a brilliant modern-day adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It is interesting that a story set in Victorian England is still very relatable and has similarities and parallels to an Indian family. The Bakshis live in a town in Punjab and Mrs. Manorama Bakshi’s greatest concern is to find suitable grooms for her four daughters; Jaya, Lalita, Lakhi and Maya. Guests have come to town to attend a wedding and all the single eligible bachelors are pursued. Jaya and Balraj, a wealthy Londoner of Indian descent fall in love. Balraj’s friend, William Darcy, a wealthy American played by Martin Henderson is attracted to Lalita but his pride will not let him admit that. The story spans three countries and is shot in beautiful locales. The director, Gurinder Chadha of Bend it like Beckham fame, has made a film with a sparkling repartee between the main characters, many musical dance sequences, and a great cast.
This movie is based on the real-life terrorist attack inside the Taj Hotel at Mumbai. Lashkar-e- Taiba, a Pakistani based terrorist group, planned and conducted four days of murder and mayhem inside this hotel. 170 people were killed in this terrible event which occurred on November 26, 2008. Director Anthony Maras brings those details to life on screen and follows the human stories of guests and staff trapped inside. Dev Patel plays Arjun, a valiant waiter who helps people escape to safety. This movie premiered at the Toronto International film festival.