Tag Archives: Shakuntala Devi

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 — July 31, 2020

Do you like British TV? If you do, this week is basically the holiday of your choice in July. Three subscription services are debuting new British series in the States. Each of them has actually aired in the U.K. a few months previously, but there’s a deep rabbit hole of politics when it comes to U.S.-based services locking out many British shows from airing concurrently in the U.S.

Of course, the most important highlight of the week for many is Canadian. This would be the long, long-awaited return of supernatural punch-and-banter-em-up “Wynonna Earp” for its fourth season. I’d like to remind everyone that this is an incredibly important event in all our lives, and “Wynonna Earp” makes for a perfect momentary escape in between calling Congresspeople and creating new swear words at them. “Wynonna Earp” is showrun by Canadian producer Emily Andras.

Let’s get to the brand new shows:

NEW SHOWS BY WOMEN

In My Skin (Hulu series)
showrunner Kayleigh Llewellyn
directed by Lucy Forbes

“In My Skin” follows a teenager named Bethan who’s simply trying to hide her disastrous home life from her friends at school. It sounds like a simple idea, but what I’ve seen of it looks touching, funny, and the filmmaking has a terrific emotional command of its moments.

The show was originally ordered as a short film in 2018, written by Kayleigh Llewellyn and directed by Lucy Forbes. BBC Wales picked it up as a series, which debuted this year – again with Llewellyn writing and Forbes directing.

It’s Llewellyn’s first series as the lead writer. Forbes has been a British mainstay in recent years, directing all of “Bad Cramps” and a number of episodes for “The End of the F***ing World”.

The trailer’s brief, but you can try this scene for a better idea of the show’s feel.

You can watch “In My Skin” with a Hulu subscription.

Frayed (HBO Max series)
showrunners Nicole O’Donohue, Sarah Kendall

In the late 80s, a very rich London woman loses both her husband and their wealth. Her only solution is to head back to Australia to live with family. There are a few big problems: she hasn’t been there in 20 years, she’s lied to her children about her past, and she’s lied to her family about her present.

O’Donohue is a film producer who shifted into doing more TV in 2017. Jennifer Leacey directs the final 2 of the series’ 6 episodes. Most deeply involved is creator, writer, and star Sarah Kendall. Kendall is a Welsh comedian who’s appeared in Britain routinely in stand-up, sketch comedy, and satirical performances.

You can watch “Frayed” with an HBO Max subscription.

Get Even (Netflix series)
showrunner Holly Phillips

Four girls at a British private school form a group to expose bullies. When one bully they’ve exposed winds up murdered, is it a coincidence or are they being framed? The show is based on a series of books called “Don’t Get Mad” by Gretchen McNeil.

Showrunner Holly Phillips is known for a number of British teen drama series including “Nearly Famous”, “Dead Gorgeous”, and “The Athena”.

I included the much, much better British trailer that doesn’t try to make the show look exactly like every other teen series on Netflix (I get that they have a formula, but sometimes they mangle things in a bit too hard to appear to fit it).

You can watch “Get Even” with a Netflix subscription.

NEW MOVIES BY WOMEN

Black is King (Disney+)
co-directed by Beyonce, Jenn Nkiru

“Black is King” is a visual album in the form of a full-length movie. It’s based on the music in Beyonce’s “The Lion King: The Gift”, the soundtrack album for “The Lion King” remake. That album includes performances by 070 Shake, Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams, and Tierra Whack, among many others – I assume many of those performances will make it into “Black is King”.

Beyonce is arguably the best known musical artist in the world. The nature of the project means eight directors are on board. She’s obviously the over-arching voice making decisions here as the producer, writer, director, star, composer, and the only person in the room at any given time who is Beyonce.

Jenn Nkiru is one of the other directors. She’s a Nigerian-British music video director who’s helmed vids for Kamasi Washington and Neneh Cherry.

You can watch “Black is King” with a Disney+ subscription.

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” with an Amazon Prime subscription.

Bull (Hulu)
directed by Annie Silverstein

This looks exceptionally good. It takes place outside of Houston, where a frustrated teen breaks into an aging rodeo performer’s home. They’re both struggling; they both live in an area forgotten in poverty. He takes her on for help, and she begins to learn about his job.

This is director Annie Silverstein’s first narrative feature. She’s previously directed documentaries – “March Point” featured troubled Swinomish youth who were learning about filmmaking, and appeared on Independent Lens in 2008. “Rush” followed soldiers using high-adrenaline activities to readjust to life as civilians.

I featured “Bull” once before when it became available for rental, but I wanted to make sure and feature it again now that it’s on a subscription service.

You can watch “Bull” with a Hulu subscription, or find other streaming services where you can rent it for $4 and up right here.

Summerland (VOD)
directed by Jessica Swale

Gemma Arterton’s made a name for herself in a few franchises, but it’s always been the under-the-radar work where she’s shown an incredibly complex range. “Summerland” tackles the story of a novelist during World War 2. She unexpectedly has to take in an evacuee from London. His father’s at war, and London became untenable for children during the London Blitz bombing campaign. Many families were asked to take children in and care for them during this time. Arterton’s Alice hides a secret, that she couldn’t be with her romantic partner – another woman.

This is writer-director Jessica Swale’s feature debut.

You can rent “Summerland” for $4 from Amazon, or $7 from Vudu. For whatever reason, some services that are supposed to have it (like Google Play) are dragging their heels on it going live, so if you have a preferred one, search it there first.

NEW DOCUMENTARIES BY WOMEN

The Speed Cubers (Netflix documentary)
directed by Sue Kim

There’s a worldwide following for competitive Rubik’s Cube solving. The main focus is on breaking speed records. Two of the leading competitors are Max Park and Feliks Zemdegs. “The Speed Cubers” follows their journey to competition, as well as the friendships younger competitors like them have found with each other.

This documentary short (about 40 mins.) is directed by Sue Kim. It’s her first listed major project.

You can watch “The Speed Cubers” with a Netflix subscription.

Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind (virtual theatrical)
directed by Martha Kehoe, Joan Tosoni

Gordon Lightfoot is a Canadian folk singer who was a leading musical artist in the 1960s and 70s. You’d probably recognize a number of his songs within a few bars. “If You Could Read My Mind” tracks his career and asks Lightfoot to look back on his life.

Director Martha Kehoe started as a producer of Canada’s Juno awards (think their version of our Grammy Awards) and has since produced and directed a range of documentaries on figures in music and comedy. Joan Tosoni has primarily directed on awards shows and reality TV competitions (such as “Canadian Idol” and “Canada’s Got Talent”.)

“Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind” is seeing a virtual theatrical release. This means that you can watch it online just like you would on a streaming service, but you do so by selecting a real theater that receives your ticket purchase. This splits the cost of the ticket between theater and distributor just like if you’d purchased a physical ticket. It’s a way of supporting independent theaters during the COVID-19 pandemic, while still being able to physically isolate in the comfort of home. You can select a theater and watch the film right here.

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.