While people throng to SonyLIV for its cricket, tennis, and Shark Tank, the platform has over the years spun itself into a promising prospect. While it isn’t nearly as prolific as the top streaming platforms, it has, since the breakout success of Scam 1992, acquired and commissioned some of the most subversive, artistic, and compelling shows and movies in India. Following are ten shows and films that you must add to the increasingly weighty list of things to watch.
Set in Jalandhar, this show — one of the finest of last year — follows Omkar Singh (Pavan Malhotra), his wife (Supriya Pathak) and two sons (Gagan Arora, Sahil Mehta) who have their lives turned upside-down when the brother of a politician is gunned down in their compound. In his review, Rahul Desai notes, “Tabbar is a well-crafted ode to the trappings of middle-class morality.” Created and written by Harman Wadala, co-written by Sandeep Jain, and directed by Ajitpal Singh, this show is both Shakespearean in its drama and rooted in conviction.
In her review, Anupama Chopra notes, “The Malayalam film Kaanekkaane, (starring Tovino Thomas and Aishwarya Lekshmi) is about fathers and daughters, the singular, piercing love that parents have for children, the terrible things that even ordinary people are capable of, the delicacy of relationships, the way in which secrets and guilt stain and sour life, the destructive nature of revenge and the importance of forgiveness, which is eventually the only path to healing. It’s a lot to pack into one film. But director Manu Ashokan and writers Bobby and Sanjay weave the various narrative threads into a tight two hours. Kaanekkaane, which means As I Watch, is poignant but also sinister, tragic and suspenseful. It’s a keenly observed portrait of the worst and best impulses of human beings.”
This horror film follows Asha (Revathi), a clinically depressed woman who is grieving her mother’s death, while her son Vinu (Shane Nigam) is relieved that he doesn’t have to play caretaker. In his review, Vishal Menon notes, “Although wrapped within the structure of a horror movie, Bhoothakaalam is strongest when it zooms in on a fractured mother-son relationship following the death of the one person that was keeping them together… Bhoothakaalam feels so personal and so scary, even before the actual horror kicks in.”
4) Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum
An anthology film, Vasanth’s Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum (Sivaranjini And Two Other Women) follows three women across three decades jostling with the prospects of liberation. In his review, Vishal Menon notes, “Named after its protagonists Saraswati (Kalieaswari Srinivasan), Devaki (Pravathy Thiruvothu), and Sivaranjini (Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli), each of the 40-minute shorts cover the spectrum of middle-class life in suburban Madras/Chennai starting in the 80’s to a period around demonetisation. It is also the most complete Tamil anthology to have come out in recent years.”
Manoj Bajpayee’s performance in Devashish Makhija’s Bhonsle, as a havaldar named Ganpat Bhonsle who befriends a North Indian girl and her brother who are targeted among other migrants by local politicians, deserves its own analysis, such is its layering and moral complexity. Rahul Desai in his review called it an “expectedly diligent, carefully shaded performance”.
A Diwali dinner party hosted by a couple (Mansi Multani, Ranvir Shorey) goes awfully wrong when its centerpiece — literally — is a dead body. In his review, Prathyush Parasuraman writes, “The first half of Kadakh, directed by Rajat Kapoor, makes you feel like a hostage, like you are stuck within a naturalistic tableau you just want to get out of. Not because it is awful, but because it is uncomfortable.”
7) Karkhanisanchi Waari
A pesky Marathi drama, this dark-comedy follows a dysfunctional family (Mohan Agashe, Pradeep Joshi, Ajit Abhayankar, Geetanjali Kulkarni) on a road trip to scatter the ashes of the patriarch. Despite its edge, there is also a tenderness that buoys the film.
The second season of a The Viral Fever (TVF) show, acquired by SonyLIV, Gullak follows the Mishra Family (Geetanjali Kulkarni, Jameel Khan, Vaibhav Raj Gupta, Harsh Mayar). Noting it as one of the best web-shows of last year, Rahul Desai writes, “Once I got over the smug voiceover by the titular character (a piggy bank), I grew to appreciate the middle-class-vignette tone of this affectionate family dramedy. And the nothingness. The constant chatter. The anatomy of the Mishras’ cramped space.”
Venkat Prabhu’s time-loop drama starring Silambarasan, S. J. Suryah and Kalyani Priyadarshan is the story of a common man who gets enmeshed in a political murder plot. The marriage of mass and meaning, this film is exceptionally plotted, with the time-loop neither becoming repetitive or predictable. In his review Vishal Menon writes, “Maanaadu is entertaining not because the two leads are smart, but because they are ridiculously ordinary.”
Bhaskar Hazarika’s movie is described by Anupama Chopra as “the most haunting love story you will see”. Set in Guwahati, the film follows the affair between Sumon (Arghadeep Baruah), a young PhD student and Nirmali (Lima Das), a married pediatrician with a son — but this isn’t a physical affair in the way you imagine it. The joys of the flesh here are more literal.