Kaala Paani | Cast: Mona Singh, Amey Wagh, Ashutosh GowarikerDirectors: Sameer Saxena and Amit Golani | Hindi | Netflix
Every big city on Earth is built on the graveyard of a jungle, says the big, bad CEO of the big, bad multinational corporation who has been deprived his moment of triumph by the original inhabitants of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The company’s founder would have landed in a helipad in the middle of an environmental buffer zone in the jungle, cleared of the Orakas, members of a tribe who call the islands their own. The question is, as a Swaraj Mahotsav takes place on the island and thousands of tourists descend on Port Blair, will the Orakas survive? More importantly, there is a deadly virus that is being borne through the water, and the cure is with the Orakas. It is a battle where only the fittest will survive, says the lieutenant governor of the territory (played brilliantly by the director Ashutosh Gowariker). He is quite sure who the fittest are. But should he be so sure? As the Orakas gather to consult, they are clear: First they came for our trees, they say. Then they came for our land. Then our bodies. What should they do now? “Then we fight,” they say. And how, leaving one to wonder how development is measured. There are multiple strands in the story—a doctor who looks for the simplest explanation (Mona Singh, extraordinary again), a police officer looking for a posting to the mainland (Amey Wagh), two young lovers, and an island native who is out to make a quick buck. Set in the post-pandemic world of 2027, no doubt to avoid comparisons to what is happening in the islands currently, the series is a mix of high corporate intrigue, climate change, and the hazards of upsetting the balance of nature. Nature always wins, says the series, even when it is pitched against the forces of modern development.
Why watch it: A smartly written thriller (credit to Biswapati Sarkar, formerly of The Viral Fever) that is able to keep the multiple stories afloat as it moves towards its inevitable water-borne climax.
Cooking for Change
Lessons in Chemistry | Cast: Brie Larson, Lewis Pullman, Aja Naomi KingCreator: Lee Eisenberg | English Apple TV+
Set in the 1950s and early 1960s, Bonnie Garmus’ novel is as much about science as it is about home science. The series adaptation is a delightful if sobering look at the misogyny that accompanied accomplished women, especially in science, a few decades ago. Elizabeth Zott is a chemist of prize-winning proportions but is unable to get her due because of her lack of a doctorate (the result of an assault) as well as the overall infantilising sentiment of the time. Fellas could be fellas whatever they did, but women had to be Little Miss Perfects, looking after home and children, while looking delicious. At one level it is about gender, but at another level it is also about two kinds of minds—the unstructured jazz mind and the structured orderly mindset. It is also about the age-old female dilemma: work or home, or both. Zott’s neighbour, Harriet Sloane, played by the wonderful Aja Naomi King, puts it best when she says to her soon-to-be single mom friend: “You think you can’t do it, then you expand. You do it. It’s called being a mother.”
Why watch it: For Brie Larson’s epic performance. Whether she is dealing with grief at home or humiliation at work, her face channels the tiniest of sentiments