The Verdict: Manoj Bajpayee outdoes Manoj Bajpayee.
We live at a time when films and TV shows — across languages, across platforms — are vying for our attention. In this new column to be published on the first of every month, I will single out The Best, The Worst and The Most Unexpected across Indian film and television in the month gone by. Consider it a report card. We begin with June, which began and ended with one actor.
The Family Man (Amazon Prime Video)
It broke the subtitle barrier. Season 2 of The Family Man delivered action so riveting that it compelled a Hindi viewing audience to watch a series where half the conversations took place in Tamil. That’s never happened before. The series created by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK stars Manoj Bajpayee — his brow heavy with an eternal “what now?” weariness — as a secret agent perpetually struggling with work/life balance. The ensemble is great, the show is an immediately bingeworthy ride, and its action sequences — staged in long, unbroken takes — set an impressive new benchmark. This is masala done right.
In the year of Satyajit Ray’s birth centenary, Netflix gave us an anthology series called Ray, where filmmakers adapted a handful of the master’s short stories. Vasan Bala took a simple, well-observed story about the fickleness of fame and faith and turned it into a zany riff on the nature of fandom, with movies and religions both needing bhakts. Bala’s Spotlight is a self-reflexive trip that speaks in movie quotes and skewers its own star, certainly, but pays even truer tribute by pointing out where the pretender goddess from Ray’s Devi might have ended up today. This is literally a cult film.
A tender coconut delivered to a man’s doorstep is poisoned by a neighbour. This leads to a murder mystery set around the many residents of a housing society. The idea is promising, but this overwritten, over-long series — created by Vikas Bahl — is a noisy, torturous bore populated by shrill caricatures and dogged by bad jokes that need laugh-tracks. Anything but tender.