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2 Out-of-the-Box OTT Films You May have Missed



Pareeksha(Zee5):  The heart is completely  in the right place. Pareeksha,director Prakash Jha’s best in years, is a heartwarming unabashed  tearjerker.It reminded me of one my favourite Shabana  Azmi starrers Bhavna (1984) where the  mother of a child goes to  extreme lengths (prostitution) to  educate her son. In Pareeksha  Adil  Hussain as the all-giving father Buchi an honest righteous rickshawpuller  , turns  a thief to  accrue money for his son’s  education in a posh school.Some of the rickshaw pullers adversities are  clearly excessive  and  the  school’s  stiff upperlipped  board  members are  pure caricatures. Jha wins us  over with the sheer velocity  of the emotions expressed. This is his most emotional films since Mrityudand  and by far the most pure-hearted.There are  no  ‘bad people’ in  the basti where Buchi’s prodigious child Bulbul(Shubham Jha, earnest, sincere)  is  the star. The film  opens  its arms to the  spirit  of  democratic amity and embraces  the underprivileged  section’s right to education with a disarming ingenuity.

Some of  the  poor  family’s  travails such  as  Buchi’s  wife(Priyanka Bose)  washing what looks  like brand new utensils and  Buchi  meeting the kindest cop in the world(Sanjay Suri) in  jail are stuff that  oldfashioned melodramas were made of.Pareeksha doesn’t shy away  from overt sentimentality. This,  according to me, is  the  film’s greatest strength.Buchi is shown to be unabashedly  emotional  and excessively  flexible in his  moral rectitude  when  it comes to his son’s  future. When Buchi turns  a thief  to pay for his son’s education, we are supposed to flinch. Not at  Buchi’s  desperate transgression but at our creaky  social structure which  fosters such  gross inequality.

My  favourite  moment  from Jha’s  stirring stimulating syllabus  is  when  Buchi makes his son  sit with the (privileged) boys on his  rickshaw and the father of one of  the boy’s  throws  a terrifying fit. It’s  a  brutally beautiful sequence  which ends with Buchi’s son tactfully offering to walk to school. I wish there was  more such  delicate moments to savour  in Pareeksha. Despite  the frequently clunky writing this is  a  film that wins you over with its persuasive emotional integrity. Adil Hussain  lifts the  sagging  portions in  the plot.  The last time I saw a rickshaw  puller  who was so dignified  and upbeat  in his poverty-stricken circumstances was  in Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zameen.Adil  Hussain is  clearly  the Balraj Sahni of this  millennium.

Afsos(Amazon Prime) :  On the theoretical level, this is a potentially interesting premise for a series. A morose man with a death wish who wants to end his life, but can’t. So he hires professionals to do the needful. That’s it!The talented Gulshan Devaiah plays Nakul, a man so obsessed with death he wants it at any cost. Gulshan gives the suicidal character his best shot. Not that he seems to have anything to be especially despondent about. Maybe he’s bored.

Director Anubhuti Kashyap and the show’s group of writers spend little time in preparing a back story for Nakul. Nor is his relationship with his girlfriend (Anjali Patil, wasted) given space to develop. There is more thought going into the lethal link that grows between Nakul and a coldblooded assassin named Upadhyay who is given the task of finishing off Nakul.Interestingly, the assassin Upadhyay is a woman and played by Heeba Shah who manages to make the character more dimensional than the comic book mood of the series suggests.  Heeba’s Upadhyay loves to listen to Beethoven and paint male models (some of them without clothes) in her spare time. It’s a character begging to have her own independent show some other time.

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