Tag Archives: Masaba Masaba

New Indian Shows + Movies by Women

Earlier this year, CNN’s Diksha Madhok reported that services like Netflix and Amazon have offered women filmmakers in India a platform they’re often denied within the country’s own film industry. Madhok stressed that India’s increasingly autocratic government has begun threatening many filmmakers on these services with imprisonment and fines.

Much of this is due to Indian women filmmakers focusing on films that criticize rape culture. Many are based on rapes and murders of women that have become high-profile news stories, and depict the failure of government and police to respond properly or with accountability.

Other criticisms that have resulted in women filmmakers being threatened include presentations of Hindu-Muslim romances. Political firestorms have also resulted from how religious imagery is used, or the inclusion of nudity. Madhok’s article discusses both women and men filmmakers, but highlights the particular plight and threat involved in topics that women filmmakers have very actively pursued.

India is hardly the only country where women filmmakers face issues like these, but right now it presents a huge number of potential viewers for streaming services. Those streaming services often decide that it’s in their immediate financial interests to simply adhere to what a government requires in order to have access to those viewers. Streaming services will very often choose market access over equality.

I’ve been meaning to compile this article for a while, so I want to take a break from what I normally write about to feature this. It’s a slow week for new projects overall, and that makes a great opportunity to go back and look at new Indian series and movies directed by women. The more interest there is in other countries for Indian films made by women, the more streaming services will continue to support their projects despite the Indian government’s interference.

These are several that I’ve featured in the last year. Find one that sparks your love for stories, and please give it a try:

INDIAN SERIES BY WOMEN

Bhaag Beanie Bhaag (Netflix)
directed by Debbie Rao

An aspiring stand-up comic pursues her dream job despite the disapproval of her parents. Reviews from India have been pretty favorable.

Beware heavy user brigading on review sites. There’s early upset that the show shares broad similarities to “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”. Apparently only one woman in the entire world has a story to tell about double-standards in the stand-up comedy industry, and having a second woman tell one that takes place 60 years later from the complete other side of the world is too frequent. I’m not sure what the logic is – that women could only possibly face bigotry in the stand-up industry once every 70 years globally? Point is: review brigading would be silly if it wasn’t so damaging, and if you’re interested in this, do what you like, watch it, and be careful about how much credence you lend user reviews on places like IMDB and Metacritic.

“Bhaag Beanie Bhaag” is directed by Debbie Rao. She’s directed on a few Indian series, including the very well received “Better Life Foundation”, “Pushpavalli”, and India’s version of “The Office”.

You can watch “Bhaag Beanie Bhaag” on Netflix.

Masaba Masaba (Netflix)
showrunner Sonam Nair

Masaba Gupta is an Indian fashion designer. Her mother is prolific Indian actress Neena Gupta. “Masaba Masaba” stars the two of them in a comedy where they portray…themselves. It’s entirely scripted and framed as a narrative comedy, so there’s no reality TV element here. The characters the two portray are simply fictionalized versions of themselves.

Showrunner Sonam Nair has written and directed on a few different Indian TV series.

You can watch “Masaba Masaba” on Netflix.

INDIAN FILMS BY WOMEN

Kaali Khuhi (Netflix)
directed by Terrie Samundra

Shivangi’s family moves to a rural village to look after her grandmother. Soon enough, she spies strange occurrences, even as residents of the village wind up dead. What’s a little girl to do but unravel a supernatural mystery?

This is Terrie Samundra’s first feature film.

You can watch “Kaali Khuhi” on Netflix.

Bombay Rose (Netflix)
directed by Gitanjali Rao

A deaf, orphan boy loses his job. A group of workers whisper about unionizing. An English teacher sets the table for her late husband every night. A Muslim man falls for a Hindu woman, each struggling to make ends meet. A single rose connects a city full of characters in a hand-painted animation that took 60 artists a year-and-a-half to make.

The absolutely awe-inspiring feat was helmed by writer, director, and editor Gitanjali Rao. This is her first feature animation, but her previous shorts “Printed Rainbow” and “TrueLoveStory” have earned praise and awards at Cannes and other festivals.

You can watch “Bombay Rose” on Netflix.

Cargo (Netflix)
directed by Arati Kadav

People who pass away appear on a spaceship, where a man named Prahastha takes care of them. He prepares them to move to the next life. He’s been doing this alone for a long time when an assistant arrives. It’s Yuvishka’s job to learn everything he knows.

This is director Arati Kadav’s first feature. In interviews, she’s described the film as fusing Indian mythology to Eastern sci-fi. She’s cited her influences as science-fiction writers Jorge Luis Borges and Ted Chiang, writers who have fused the abstracted edge of the genre to some of its most human moments.

You can watch “Cargo” on Netflix.

Dolly Kitty and Those Twinkling Stars (Netflix)
directed by Alankrita Shrivastava

Dolly is a wife and mother who is trying to hide a secret. Her cousin Kajal has just moved to the city. Kajal ends up working at a phone sex parlor under the name Kitty. The two alternately grow close and clash in their off-hours, winding a tricky path of trust and wariness of the other’s place in their lives.

Writer-director Alankrita Shrivastava has hit the ground running in recent years. Her “Lipstick Under My Burkha” won award after award on a major festival circuit, and she wrote nine episodes and directed two for Amazon original series “Made in Heaven”.

You can watch “Dolly Kitty and Those Twinkling Stars” on Netflix.

Bulbbul (Netflix)
directed by Anvita Dutt

Set in India during the 1880s, a 5 year old girl named Bulbbul is married off to a man decades her elder. After several years, the man’s younger brother Satya, whom she initially assumed to be her intended husband, is sent to London. Satya returns to find his family missing, and Bulbbul the only remaining survivor. He’s told his family was taken by a witch, just as some villagers have been.

I watched and reviewed this last year. It’s a deeply gothic inversion of horror with a message and aesthetic I loved, and a superb performances by Tripti Dimri and Paoli Dam. The truth is that there’s no horror that can match the ones people enact on each other, and the film makes its horror a hero. To paraphrase writer-director Anvita Dutt, “Bulbbul” is less about what happens, which you can infer pretty early on in the film. It’s more about how it happens, and why it’s cathartic.

Dutt has primarily worked as a screenwriter and songwriter on Indian films. “Bulbbul” is her directorial debut.

You can watch “Bulbull” on Netflix.

Shakuntala Devi (Amazon)
directed by Anu Menon

Shakuntala Devi was someone who could calculate just about anything in her head. She became known as a human computer, and demonstrated her ability for crowds. She later became a writer in India. This included what’s considered the first study of homosexuality in India, one that argued for its decriminalization. She passed away in 2013. The film is an energetic biographical take on her life.

Writer-director Anu Menon has come to prominence more recently in the Indian film industry.

You can watch “Shakuntala Devi” on Amazon.

Tribhanga (Netflix)
directed by Renuka Shahane

“Tribhanga” follows women of three different generations in India, and tells the stories of how each raised the next. The title is derived from the name of a dance pose that’s often described as simultaneously beautiful and imperfect.

The film was originally envisioned as a smaller production, but gained momentum (and a Netflix deal) as major producers joined.

Director Renuka Shahane is a popular Indian actress. This is only her second film listed as director after 2009’s well-received “Rita”.

You can watch “Tribhanga” on Netflix.

Guilty (Netflix)
directed by Ruchi Narain

A songwriter’s boyfriend is accused of rape. What follows plays out both on a personal level and in the media. It’s a bit difficult to get as much information about the film as I’d like, but it’s supposed to look into aspects of victim-blaming.

It’s advertised along the lines of a thriller over whether the accusation is real or not. That gives me some pause. I don’t know how it intends to handle an accusation like this. I’m wary of the potential of a twist that might undermine belief in the victim, though this worry could be unfounded just because of the “thriller” nature of how it’s being advertised.

You can watch “Guilty” on Netflix.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you like what you read on this site, consider subscribing to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

New Shows + Movies by Women — August 28, 2020

Movies are starting to make it back to theaters, but here in the U.S. going back right now is irresponsible. So long as coronavirus continues to be a threat, and the Trump administration refuses to treat it seriously, I will not be covering theatrical debuts. More than 180,000 people have already died in the U.S. from COVID-19 – over a fifth of the world’s deaths from this – and our number is likely drastically under-counted.

It’s irresponsible to encourage people to go to the theater when doing so will only mean they risk their own health, the health of their families, and the health and safety of those they meet on a day to day basis. Among others, this puts low-wage workers across the service industry at considerable risk. They’re not our martyrs so we can enjoy a popcorn.

I’ll continue to cover movies that debut theatrically only when they make it to home viewing options. I wish I could see a point when this would change, but it seems a long way off right now.

SERIES

Masaba Masaba (Netflix)
showrunner Sonam Nair

Masaba Gupta is an Indian fashion designer. Her mother is prolific Indian actress Neena Gupta. “Masaba Masaba” stars the two of them in a comedy where they portray…themselves. It’s entirely scripted and framed as a narrative comedy, so there’s no reality TV element here. The characters the two portray are simply fictionalized versions of themselves.

Showrunner Sonam Nair has written and directed on a few different Indian TV series.

You can watch “Masaba Masaba” on Netflix.

Love in the Time of Corona (Freeform)
directed by Joanna Johnson

This miniseries is composed of 4 half-hour(ish) episodes about love and relationships during COVID-19.

Joanna Johnson wrote and directed several episodes of “The Fosters”, and created TV series “Hope & Faith” and “Good Trouble”.

You can watch “Love in the Time of Corona” on Freeform.

MOVIES

Lingua Franca (Netflix)
directed by Isabel Sandoval

An undocumented Filipina is working as a caregiver for an elderly woman. She’s paying a man to marry her so she can get her green card, but he backs out of the agreement. She becomes involved with the grandson of the woman she cares for, but the man doesn’t know that she’s transgender.

Star Isabel Sandoval also wrote and directed the film. This is her third feature. Sandoval is trans, which feels important to highlight only because of the subject matter of the film.

You can watch “Lingua Franca” on Netflix.

The One and Only Ivan (Disney+)
directed by Thea Sharrock

A gorilla has been raised by humans. He performs in a circus, yet dreams of being free in the wilderness where he grew up. When a baby elephant arrives freshly captured from the wild, he begins to question why he’s there and plan their escape.

Thea Sharrock is the director of “Me Before You”. Prior to that, she directed episodes of “Call the Midwife” and “The Hollow Crown”. The film is based on a book by Katherine Applegate. This release got moved up a week, so it’s something I missed in last week’s feature.

You can watch “The One and Only Ivan” on Disney+.

Given (Crunchyroll)
directed by Hikaru Yamaguchi

Four men started a rock band together. Soon, they formed two romantic pairs as well. “Given” follows their trials and triumphs in romance and as bandmates. It was adapted from the manga as a series last year. The film premiering now is a sequel to that series which adapts the manga’s second arc.

Director Hikaru Yamaguchi oversaw the series and returns for the film.

You can watch both the series and the new film for “Given” on Crunchyroll.

The Roads Not Taken (Hulu)
directed by Sally Potter

Javier Bardem stars as a man suffering dementia. His daughter, played by Elle Fanning, helps him through his day, as he lives fragmented parallel versions of his life that don’t match up.

You may know writer-director Sally Potter best for her 1992 adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando”, starring Tilda Swinton. Most directors of classic and stunningly unique films from this era would be remembered, their name immediately recognized like a Terry Gilliam, Jim Jarmusch, or Richard Linklater. Not so for Potter and a number of women who came to directing in the 1980s and 90s. The indie fringes and the places where avant garde and meta could burrow into the mainstream were reserved for men.

In the 90s, a man who had directed a film as visionary as “Orlando” would’ve been embraced, championed as a counter-culture auteur, perhaps by someone like Harvey Weinstein. When a woman like Sally Potter did it, there was no follow-through by powerful producers, no corresponding interest in what she did next, no financiers or studio heads chasing her down with dreams of Oscar-season ad campaigns. I wonder at the career Sally Potter might have had after “Orlando”. How would film be different if doors had been thrown open for her and other women directors the way they were being thrown open for men?

I featured this previously when it came to rental. This is the first time it’s hit a subscription service.

You can watch “The Roads Not Taken” on Hulu, or see where to rent it right here.

Rogue (VOD)
directed by M.J. Bassett

Mercenaries have to rescue a woman in Africa, facing off against the rebels who kidnapped her and a group of man-hunting lions.

I’ve always thought Megan Fox got maligned for doing what she could to haul a number of disasters across the finish line: “Jonah Hex”, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Transformers” movies included.

I named her role in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” one of the Most Thankless Roles of 2014 since she was the only human being involved in that mess who actually seemed to be putting forth any effort, yet she was uniquely blamed for failures that she had nothing to do with. So if she wants to go fistfight lions, it’s not like I ever judged Liam Neeson for fistfighting wolves.

Director M.J. Bassett has a long history helming clever genre fare, having directed multiple episodes of “Ash vs Evil Dead”, “Power”, and “Altered Carbon”.

You can see where to rent “Rogue” right here.

DieRy (VOD)
directed by Jennifer Gelfer

Marie is an Instagram model. An obsessed fan steals her diary, and decides to target anyone they perceive as a threat to her. Marie needs the help of those around her, who may also be her prime suspects.

This is director Jennifer Gelfer’s second feature, after 2018’s “The Second Sun”.

You can rent “DieRy” on Amazon.

DOCUMENTARIES

The Vow (HBO docu-series)
co-showrunner Jehane Noujaim

NXIVM was a cult whose leader was convicted of sex trafficking and racketeering. It posed itself as a self-improvement movement, but the organization behind it served as a way to recruit women into a form of sexual slavery to leader Keith Raniere and his inner circle.

That inner circle was successfully prosecuted on various charges – the most famous member being former “Smallville” actress Allison Mack.

“The Vow” describes the investigation and downfall of NXIVM through the recollections of various members, and some of those who attempted to rescue family from the cult.

Episodes will release weekly, with the first having premiered on August 23.

Jehane Noujaim showruns and directs with Karim Amer. Noujaim is an Egyptian director. I’d highly recommend her 2004 documentary “Control Room”, which examines how the United States waged a propaganda war to legitimize its invasion of Iraq, with a special focus on U.S. efforts aimed at de-legitimizing the Al Jazeera news network. She’s directed a number of documentaries, as well as producing and directing on Hulu’s “Ramy”.

You can watch “The Vow” on HBO.

Driven to Abstraction (virtual theatrical)
directed by Daria Price

Knoedler was an art dealership and gallery in New York City. The business sold more than 60 faked paintings, often for millions of dollars each. The dealership and gallery closed in 2011 under FBI investigation.

This is director Daria Price’s second feature documentary.

“Driven to Abstraction” examines both these events and the state of the high-priced art world that allowed them to happen in the first place.

You can watch “Driven to Abstraction” through its virtual theatrical release. This means you can stream it at home, but you purchase a ticket as if you’d gone to the theater. This allows you to support independent, arthouse, and local theaters as if you’d purchased a physical ticket.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, consider subscribing to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.