After a pretty dull year at the movies, last week felt a little like old times with a big-ticket movie releasing every other day on a streaming platform. The truth is, most of them turned out to be rather disappointing. But we got to see some of our favourite filmmakers and performers back at work and at this point, that's we'll take anything. If you haven't caught up with all the releases yet, we hope to make your life easier by telling you what to start with and what to skip.
There were a couple of Diwali releases in the theatre as well which got limited releases. Rohena Gera's excellent Sir which was meant to release in March when theatres shut down is now playing. There was also the Hindi release Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari, starring Diljit Dosanjh, Manoj Bajpayee and Fatima Sana Shaikh. In Tamil, there was Biskoth and Irandam Kuththu. In this piece, we're only ranking the films that released on streaming.
Here are the Diwali 2020 releases, ranked from worst to best.
Where: Disney Plus Hotstar
Laxmii starts off as loud and unfunny and goes on to becoming offensive. There aren't any redeeming qualities in this Akshay Kumar-starrer. The film is meant to be a combination of horror and comedy but nothing here is scary (there's a lot of unintentional horror, if that counts) or funny.
Earlier this year, Netflix released Krishna and his Leela, a surprisingly fresh modern love story with interesting female characters. The film was co-written by Siddhu Jonnalagadda who also starred in it. He's also the co-writer and actor of Maa Vintha, but this film shows none of the promise of Krishna and his Leela. In fact, it feels like a test project where they made all their mistakes before creating a far superior film. Maa Vintha is in the same space as Krishna – young, indecisive people falling in love. But the problem here is that it tries too hard to be cool and millennial. A dad while giving his confused son love advice says silly things you read on T-shirts like – Your life and your beer should always be chill. I say skip this and watch Krishna and his Leela instead.
Where: Amazon Prime Video
This one is particularly disappointing because the film has so much going for it. Rajkummar Rao and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub are such fine performers, and in theory, I'd love to see them both as sparring PT teachers in a comedy. Then there's director Hansal Mehta, who only a few weeks ago gave us the stunning Scam 1992. Again, in theory, you can't go wrong here. But sadly Chhalaang is a slog. The two leading men start off by trying to one-up each other to win the affections of the new computer teacher. And then suddenly the plot pivots and tries to be too many other things at once. I wasn't sure which teacher to root for because there's nothing particularly likeable or wrong with either of them. You just want someone to win quickly so that it can end.
Where: Disney Plus Hotstar
The opening slate of Mookuthi Amman acknowledges its various inspirations – films like Bruce Almighty, Bedazzled, Groundhog Day, Wild Wild Country, The Story of God with Morgan Freeman and directors Shankar and Rajkumar Hirani. For the first half of Mookuthi Amman, a comedy with a corrupt godman at its centre, you can clearly see how writer-actor RJ Balaji has drawn from these films. The little world he creates of TV reporter Engels Ramasamy (Balaji's character), his three sisters, and his god-fearing mother, is sweet and fun. But once the film becomes about the godman, who is a bit too cartoonish, the laughs run out and the tone gets preachy.
Ludo pales in comparison to many of Anurag Basu's earlier works, but it also retains a few of the things you've probably liked about those films. At 2 hours, 30 minutes, the film is too long and unwieldy and though all the actors of the ensemble cast are terrific, all their characters aren't equally interesting. But I'd still stay, hang in there. Just when you find yourself drifting, Basu throws in something wonderfully absurd that will force you to crack a smile. It's worth sitting through some of the film's messy bits only to see Rajkummar Rao break into a Mithun dance every time he's sad. Or to see Pankaj Tripathi fall in love with his nurse. There's also Pritam's lovely soundtrack that binds all the stories together. These flourishes make Ludo worth your time.
Where: Amazon Prime Video
Filmmaker Sudha Kongara's Soorarai Pottru is based on the early life of Air Deccan founder Capt GR Gopinath and his book Simply Fly. It's a classic underdog story that follows the predictable beats of a biopic. So when its protagonist Maara faces an avalanche of disappointments, you know he'll eventually be okay, and that doesn't make you any less invested in his journey. This is largely thanks to Suriya's captivating performance. When he's on his knees at an airport, begging fellow passengers to help him pay for his air ticket so that he can meet his dying father, you want to reach into the screen and give him the money. What's as riveting as Maara's success story with the airline, is his love story. Suriya and actress Aparna Balamurali, who plays his wife, have some of the best scenes of the film and definitely the best movie proposal you've seen in a long time.