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With streaming slowly eating into the movie theatre business, we’ve heard several pleas from filmmakers and artists arguing the merits of communal viewing – how it gives movie lovers a joy that home viewing can never match. While many of us Film Companion subscribe to that line of thought, the threat of Coronavirus has left us no choice but to self distance and watch movies alone on our laptops, tablets and TVs. With theatres across the country shuttering, it may be a couple of weeks before you watch a movie on the big screen with people. Till then, the Film Companion team recommends a list of movies and TV shows that are more enjoyable when viewed alone. 

TRAPPED (TV Show) 

Streaming on: Netflix

On the best of days, most of us perceive Iceland to be a scarcely populated, near-deserted island with a population less than Andheri (East+West). It is, in short, the very embodiment of social isolation. So when a detective drama – triggered by the appearance of a mysterious corpse – is based in a “remote town” cut off from the rest of the world because of a snowstorm in an already-remote Iceland, the feeling of isolation feels multiplied. Trapped is one of those shows that weaponizes the alone-ness of the online viewing experience. You feel cold, lonely, paranoid and suspicious – all good emotions in context of an incredibly composed slow-burn thriller. – Rahul Desai

VAAYAI MOODI PESAVUM/ SAMSARAN AROGYATHINU HANIKARAN 

Streaming on: Zee 5

Hollywood gave us Contagion. Malayalam cinema gave us Virus. But one shouldn’t forget Balaji Mohan’s grossly underrated Vaayai Moodi Pesavum (2013) which showed us how a film about a dangerous virus could be turned into an  comedy. Aspects of the film seem almost prophetic of these days of social distancing thanks to the Coronavirus, a reason why many people are rediscovering the film now.  Like the ‘Mute Flu’ in the film, which causes people to suddenly turn mute, we’re seeing situations where any form of interaction requires planning and deliberation, making us all mute and silent in one way or the other. A tribute to silent cinema and Kamal Haasan’s Pushpak, the film works much better when phones and people are kept away to see long the viewer can go without a uttering a word, much like the characters in the film, just to get a sense of the suffocation one feels when the right to express (or move around freely) is taken away. – Vishal Menon 

DARKEST HOUR 

Streaming on: Netflix 

I don’t like to be that annoying friend who pauses during a film to rewatch scenes. Now is a good time to watch Darkest Hour by myself. I’d like to pause and rewatch all those scenes where Gary Oldman’s Churchill is having a one-to-one conversation with another character. For instance, his talks with his wife Clementine, the phone conversation with Roosevelt, the impromptu subway ride (it didn’t happen in real life, but feels like it should have). The film is about how a ‘great man’ saved Britain during World War II. However, these scenes also make it a film about how people can successfully rally together during a seemingly hopeless crisis.  – Ashutosh Mohan 

ALA VAIKUNTHAPURRAMLOO

Streaming On: Netflix

I’d like to watch this Allu Arjun starrer alone for a couple of reasons. One, masala movies that work brilliantly when watched in a theatre with crowd-energy can sometimes wilt in solitude. Will this prince/pauper story work on the small screen, too? And two, parts of the screenplay are brilliantly put together, and now that I know the overall story, it will be fun to see how these these narrative choices have come about – through the scenes that build up to them, and the scenes that follow. Oh, and ‘Samajavaragamana’. Soaring romantic ballads are something else when you have them all to yourself. – Baradwaj Rangan

HANNIBAL

Streaming on: Netflix

Three seasons of a show in which a cannibalistic psychiatrist (Mads Mikkelsen) sautés and serves up the people he dislikes whilst maintaining an insane amount of homoerotic chemistry with a criminal profiler (Hugh Dancy) isn’t exactly the kind of viewing experience you propose when there’s company. Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal gets gory and even downright disturbing, but unravels like a sleek cat-and-mouse game that never loses its grip. Watch it alone and you’ll find that it’s, pun intended, bloody good. And if you catch yourself nodding in agreement each time Hannibal mutters, “Eat the rude”, well, there’s no one around to judge you. – Gayle Sequeira 

HELEN

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video 

Helen works at a fast food joint and one day, after a late night shift, she accidentally gets locked in the freezer. This 2019 Malayalam film is a tense survival drama and to fully understand and feel Helen’s trauma as she slowly freezes to death, it’s best to experience it alone. Also, this movie needs your undivided attention, especially the bits that lead up to the main incident. There are scenes that may seem trivial and a mere build-up to the big accident but don’t lose focus because you may miss crucial clues that eventually lead to the climax. – Mohini Chaudhuri 

COLD WAR 

Streaming on: Netflix

A country-hopping love story spanning the years after World War 2 may feel grand and sprawling, but everything about it is intensely personal – from how it was inspired by the story of director Pawel Pawlikowski’s own parents to the intimate 1.37 aspect ratio that draws you in and holds you captive. The yearning between Wiktor (Tomasz Kotz) and Zula (Joanna Kukig) is an emotion best experienced alone, culminating in a last line that is indescribably moving, one you’ll want to sit with it for hours in the silence after the credits roll. – Gayle Sequeira 

MODERN FAMILY 

Streaming on: Hotstar 

Like people keep rewatching Friends, this is my go-to-watch-while-eating show. (There are days I am excited to eat only because I will get to watch another episode) It’s too funny and quite real, and honestly, if I were watching it with someone I would be concentrating on them- are they laughing when they are supposed to? Why are they not grinning ear to ear like me? What is wrong with them? Humour that is situational and subtle must be enjoyed by the self, I think. – Prathyush Parusuraman  

MINDHUNTER

Streaming on: Netflix

The show is set in 1970’s. Two FBI agents, Holden Ford and Bill Tench, are tasked with interviewing serial killers to help them get a better understanding of their psychology so that they can resolve open cases. The series is based on a true crime book written by John E Douglas and Mark Olshaker. The serial killers and the cases shown in the series are based on real-life incidents. Knowing that these killers really exist or existed is bound to give you the chills. These guys aren’t fictional and even the conversations between the detectives and the killers are taken from the real interviews. After each episode, watch the real interviews with the real serial killers online. What is scary is that sometimes you end up empathising with the serial killer! There are scenes that make you pause and introspect… and that’s why the show is not ‘company friendly’. It’s a great watch when you are trying ‘social distancing’. – Eshaa Wardhan

BANDERSNATCH 

Streaming on: Netflix

The memes have already compared the Coronavirus crisis to ‘A Black Mirror Episode that Sucks’, but if you missed Charlie Brooker’s perverse prank when it came out in 2018, now is a good time. Designed as a Choose Your Own Adventure story with multiple endings depending on the decisions taken by YOU, Bandersnatch follows Stefan Butler, a young programmer in 1980s England, who is trying to adapt a cult science fiction novel into a video game for a gaming development company called Tuckersoft. Although technically you can watch it with your flatmate, solo viewing is advisable given how intensely personal the whole exercise is. Isolation is key to understanding the protagonist’s predicament, as he goes deeper and deeper into his own past—and the mystery author he worships—in order to create his masterpiece. At one point, my birth date popped up in one of the scenes to denote an important day in Stefan’s life. Crazy coincidence or just algorithm? With Brooker you can never tell. 

Warning: Not for the fainthearted. – Sankhayan Ghosh 

THE ORPHANAGE (2007)

The Orphanage is a terrifying gothic thriller about a young mother who moves her family back to an estate where she was raised. The estate used to be an orphanage. One day, her son, who is chronically ill and has an over-active imagination, disappears.  What happened to him? There are several possibilities, each filled with suspense and dread. The Orphanage is J. A. Bayona’s debut film – he went on to direct Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom. And why should you watch it alone?  Because it will scare you so badly that you might forget momentarily, the real horror unfolding outside your door! – Anupama Chopra

PUSHPAK

Streaming on: YouTube 

The story about an unemployed guy (Kamal Haasan) living all by himself somehow makes for an apt solo watch. The best part about this movie is that it’s just pure emotion and comedy. The simplicity of this film does it for me every single time I watch it. One of my favourite moments is when Pushpak gets a taste of the ‘better life’ but still can’t settle in because he misses his original chaotic world. Kamal Haasan makes you feel his struggle and pain with no dialogues. And in times like these, we probably need to realise that you don’t need all the power in the world to express and communicate. – Vinisha Tauro

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