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Worth Checking Out On The OTT



A Simple Murder(SonyLIV): The young desperately  ambitious   couple  in this  fair-to-fine series Manish and Richa typify the can’t-do-without-can’t-do-with  type of  relationship where sparks fly and bullets roar.No matter how  many times this hotheaded couple  is torn apart by circumstances(read: screenwriters, and there are  two of them here) Manish and  Richa cannot let by-guns be  by-guns. To  our  amusement they are  constantly  at each  other’s  throat,  with guns drawn.

Bhai, nozzle na lag jaye!  This is  a  couple with greed  guiding them into a ruinous  self-destructive relationship.As Manish and Richa, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub and Priya Anand  bring a  dash  of  chutzpah to the table.Ms Anand looks  pretty in  close-ups, of which she gets plenty. There  is  another pair of love birds in the series  who are on the run from the girl’s powerful politician papa.

Honour killing, anyone? I must say the killings in A  Simple Murder are undertaken honorably.The violence is  interestingly staged  ,and one chase and shootout in a Cineplex is  an instant classic. Made  me wonder why the narrative squanders away  time in superfluous banter  which includes lyrics from songs thrown between two murderous ruffians, in  a mood of lethal playfulness.The aforementioned  ruffians are played by Amit Sial and Sushant Singh.Both masters  of  their craft, they infuse their characters and situations  in the plot  with a purpose and an energy  beyond what it deserves. Sial is  specially superb  with his  raucous  mix of ruthlessness and mischief.If there is  a next season I want to see much more  of Sial and Singh.

Gopal Singh as a cop  who  may not be as corrupt as  he seems, does a rare thing with his  character: he  turn  a  stereotypical  Simmba into  something  more.Yashpal Sharma as  a  gangster moonlighting as a  goodman is also very funny even when he knocking down  victims with ill-concealed glee.But the  glistening surface  some of  the performances is  weighed down  by what  lies underneath.Attempts to be sharp and  alert  are  successful only to a point. After  a  while it falls apart.The midriff  sags  and  the grand finale  is  so  clumsily staged it negates  almost every good thing that crops up in  the plot once in a  while.

Mee Raqsam(Zee5) : In the idyllic village of Mijwan there lives a Muslim girl whose heart beats for the Bharat Natyam dance form. Bharat Natyam??!!! Her family and the village community are aghast. Yeh to kafiron ka kaam hai. How can a decent 15-year old do….this!! Shame!!!

I loved the twinkle-eyed irreverence embedded in debutant director Baba Azmi heartwarming nugget. Brimming over with affection warmth and humour Mee Raqsam takes a tender and evocative look at the risky task of cultural crossovers in India , without any political agenda.

When the films’s bright intelligent protagonist Mariam takes to Bharat Natyam her favoured mood is neither green nor saffron. Writer-director Baba Azmi portrays Mariam’s relationship with her father (Danish Hussain) with the same indelible affection that one saw between Ashok Kumar and his screen-daughter Sarika in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Aashirwaad.The shared moments of filial action suffuses the heart with a feeling of pure love seldom seen in our cinema. When Danish Hussain’s Salim catches his daughter trying out some Bharat Natayam postures at home she coaxes him into joining her . For a few precious second it’s just the blissful beti and baap giggling and dancing.My favourite moment between father and daughter is the one just before Mariam’s big climactic dance recital when ‘Abba’ Salim insists on putting alta(red colour) on his daughter’s feet reasoning, ‘Ammi ko manaa karti kya?’. The tender moment embodies the widower father’s determination to play the roles of both parents.

Watching this father from an ultra-conservative community stretching himself to give his daughter the freedom to be be happy, to live her life the way she wants to, I was reminded of a 2015 British film Eye In The Sky where an impoverished Kenyan father lets his little girl do what she wants in their home but warns her to be reined-in before the villagers.

In Mee Raqsam the father goes further. He takes on the local frowners and lets his daughter dance on stage. Here is where politics seeps into this uncontaminated film. While Naseeruddin Shah as a hardliner Mullah is a masterclass in restrained bigotry his Hindu counterpart a middling politician Jayaprakash (Rakesh Chaturvedi Om) is purely uni-dimensional villainy insisting as he does on calling Mariam ‘Sultana’ and insulting Mariam’s father at every given opportunity.

I wish we could magically erase the dirty politics that separates the two communities and bars a young girl from pursuing her dreams. But then, as in art so in life the beautiful and the ugly must co-exist.I would rather carry with me Danish Aslam’s look of pride on seeing his daughter achieve her dream than the hardliner’s evil look of disappointment as his diabolic designs are decimated by the magic that can only happen in cinema. Mee Raqsam celebrates the triumph of love innocence and amity over the religious divide. An unassuming but relevant drama reflective of our times.

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