(From L to R) Fatima Sana Shaikh, Danesh Razvi and Sarika
So, we dressed up for nothing, asked Fatima Sana Shaikh to no one in particular as she was ushered off the stage along with the cast and crew of Modern Love: Mumbai at Amazon Prime Video’s unveiling of its amazing slate for the year. She was not the only one. Such was the parade of lovelies, male and female, that only the major stars got a word in edgeways. And despite the advent of streaming services, it is clear that cinema stars still rule. So, whether it was Vijay Sethupathi (who stars with Shahid Kapoor in Raj and DK’s next series Farzi) or Naga Chaitanya, who makes his streaming debut in the horror series Dhootha, or Vidya Balan (who announced yet another collaboration on a movie with Abundantia Entertainment, the ensemble thriller, Neeyat), and Ajay Devgn who announced a licensing deal for his next five films, it is clear that when a streaming service wants to flex its muscles, it borrows some from cinematic stars. Even the great Manoj Bajpayee and Pankaj Tripathi, as well as Ali Fazal, all three who found and re-found fame on streaming, were made to assemble in a queue and engage in tedious banter with Abhishek Bachchan, who hosted for a bit. The entire evening was mostly hosted by Karan Johar, who is equally popular with the rival Netflix, but had to be strategically whisked off the stage when his bête noire Kangana Ranaut was called on stage to announce a collaboration. Johar used the hosting gig to joke about getting bigger budgets with its international executives in attendance, but there is more than a touch of seriousness to it. Bollywood knows streaming is the future for most of its entertainment with the big-budget spectacles. It is still very much reliant on the Khans for its noisy big-budget event movies, whether it is Aamir Khan’s remake of Forrest Gump, Laal Singh Chaddha, scheduled for August, or Salman Khan’s Tiger 3 intended for the year-end. Akshay Kumar’s Bachchhan Paandey and Ajay Devgn’s Runway 34 didn’t stand a chance against the onslaught of The Kashmir Files (which has triggered a demand for realistic movies) and KGF2 which has established that no one re-does the 1970s-style Amitabh Bachchan movie better than the southern film industries. Yet, the hierarchy continues.
100 Per Cent
The Indian version of the French hit Call My Agent! was less than funny, primarily because it pulled its punches. There were barely any jokes about some of the absurd demands actors make (the extent of their entourages alone can make for one season), the lesbian track was oddly vulgar, and every episode had a happy ending. The British version of the show is written by the spiky John Morton and is altogether sparkier. Its actors are happier to laugh at themselves, the theatre is an ever-present challenge to even big stars, such as Dominic West, and the issue of pay parity can threaten to split even a couple as happy as David and Jessica Oyelowo. The Americans and French are portrayed in broadbrush stereotypes, but sometimes a break from wokeism can be fun.
Playing Happy Families
The success of Gullak on SonyLIV has convinced Bollywood that family sitcoms, once the staple of Doordarshan and the early days of the satellite revolution, need to be rediscovered. Not surprisingly, clones of Wagle Ki Duniya and Sarabhai V/S Sarabhai will soon be everywhere. From this week’s release on Disney+Hotstar, Home Shanti, to the forthcoming Amazon Prime Video series Happy Family Conditions Apply, it’s raining small families and their big dreams. And two sisters who were once our beloved staple on TV will be shouldering these two. Supriya Pathak plays the soon-to-retire school principal of Home Shanti whose husband is a poet with a penchant for cricket and procrastination. Her sister, Ratna Pathak Shah, will be heading Happy Family, it seems quite in the Mrs Sarabhai mould (given the makers are the same). One of the greatest joys of streaming services is the return to leading roles of two such fine actors we cannot get enough of.
Scene and Heard
All those wondering what happened to A Suitable Boy’s Kabir Durrani, well, wait no more. The young Mumbai-based actor Danesh Razvi will soon be seen in two Amazon Prime Video series—in Modern Love: Mumbai, he has a crush on the gorgeously ageing Sarika, and in Anu Menon’s Neeyat, he is one of a stellar ensemble cast at an exiled billionaire’s birthday party gone wrong. And in case we want more, he will also be seen with Sonam Kapoor in another murder mystery set in England, Blind. When it rains, it is a flood.