By Juhi Bansal

My love for movies and TV/OTT series is not a secret. This is one interest that often put in my parents’ bad books- even when there was only DD to watch I was a big content buff. I have watched every Bollywood release in the 80s and 90s at home on VCR or even in the cinema halls. Where do you think I got the genes? My father is an even bigger content consumer!

I (and the husband) consumed a lot of content even before the lockdown but now we relish it all the more. Here are some of my suggestions for picking your next series/ movie and binge watching during the lockdown. There isn’t a lot of variety in terms of genre- but I like my content like my reads- either intense and edge of the seat thrilling or light and pick me up. All the suggestions listed here have been watched by me personally over the last few years and I absolutely recommend them! This is work in progress and I will keep adding series/movies I like as I go along.

Since the list is very long you might assume I am recommending everything I have watched but that is so not the case. You might want to check here, here and here what is some of the other stuff I have watched but didn’t feel like recommending. All of the below are my absolute favourites.

Hotstar

Grey’s Anatomy (Medical Drama). It’s long (17 seasons worth!) so may take you forever to finish. Also, over the years the numbers of hook ups, breakups and death/departures will have your head spinning but at the very heart of it- it’s a medical drama. You will simply love the doctors and their spirit.

Homeland (International Political Thriller). Espionage, International Politics, pulse racing action, superlative acting- it’s a high budget, well researched, extremely well made series.

Modern Family (Comedy). It’s a laugh a minute sitcom. Each one in the truly “modern” family has their own quirks and I am sure you will love all the characters. Eleven seasons means I have literally grown up with the family.

Big Little Lies (Drama, Suspense). I read the novel a couple of years ago and have been in awe of Liane Moriarty since then. Her grasp on human relationships and emotions is uncanny. Season One is directly based on the book and is extremely well made. While the season ends where the book does, season two was commissioned because of its extreme popularity. Moriarty wrote another powerful story! Do watch the series even if you’ve not read the book. It almost entirely stands on its strong female characters each one better than the others. The ensemble cast (Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep and Zoë Kravitz), their portrayal of the characters (each with a hint of grey) and the gripping story line has these amazing women (including Moriarty) written all over them. For once a ladies show is so much more than estrogen and choosing between black and white.

Special Ops (Action, Spy Thriller). Very rarely do you come across a desi series which is so well made especially on International Espionage. I loved the writing, the characters (KK Menon is beyond great!) and the very knowledge that our country has such competitive spies.

Movies

Bala (Comedy): Ayushmann drives home a very important point while making you laugh your guts out.

Prime

Absentia (Suspense, Action) If you have watched Castle you are already aware of Stana Katic’s work. She is the central character in the series- a missing FBI agent who is declared dead in absentia because no body has been found. Both seasons revolve around her first getting found, then dealing with her loss of memory and the moving on of her family to uncovering what happened to her. It’s makes for a great watch- fast paced and full of action.

Jack Ryan (Spy Thriller, Action) To all Homeland fans out there- this one is a definite must watch. Extremely fast pace, edge of the seat thrill and real time locations make it for a perfect binge. Also, John Krasinki is extra dishy in the CIA avatar.

The Widow (Action/ Suspense) Nail biting adventure, Kate Beckinsale and mafia I bet you haven’t heard of before!

Modern Love (Romance). The series will not give you warm fuzzies or make you reach out for tissues. It will however, make you believe in love, or that each one of us deserves a shot at it even with our modern dysfunctional lives. Each story is heartfelt, redefines love and the line-up of actors is a big plus!

Good Omens (Comedy) Genius screenplay, hilarious writing. If I may, surpasses the book!

Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Comedy)  Season 1 and 2: Loved Rachel’s portrayal of Mrs. Maisel – a stark contrast to her previous role. Another favorite is Tony Shahloub, who continues to play eccentric characters and totally wins at them. Perfect for some alone time watch-ladies don’t forget that glass of wine!

Season 3: Everything is grander from Midge’s stage to her jokes to her outfits. Everything else is just meh. However, if you’ve watch the first two seasons this definitely calls for a dekko!

Made in Heaven (Drama) What an absolutely hard-hitting and beautifully put together series! Each story unravels the reality of who we really are as a society whatever the status. From log kya kahenge to muddled relationships to the constant struggle between right and wrong- Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti have woven real stories from dear old Delhi around the necessary evil that is shaadi! And to do it without violence, crude language and excessive sex scenes for the internet junta is a feat!

Mirzapur (Action) Don’t know whether I should recommend it or not. The story is so real, the acting impeccable and the subject hard-hitting. However, it’s extremely gory-nauseatingly so, if you’re squeamish it may not be for you. It’s Sacred Games *4 when it comes to gore.

Movies

Thappad (Social Issue) ‘BAAT KA BATANGAD!’, ‘RAI KA PAHAD’ or just a simple reminder that letting small mistakes slide may not be the best course always. I wept so much in the movie because every scene spoke to me. It’s a brilliantly written story. Every female character in the film has been etched mindfully. A beautiful film, a definite must watch!

Contagion (Thriller) A hair raising tale told in 2011 about what’ happening now in 2020!

Shikara (Romance) Such a heartfelt and poignant love story. Not sure if they got the facts right but Vidhu Vinod Chopra did end up making a beautiful movie. Do watch! Aadil and Sadia Khan what amazing characters!

Netflix

Breaking Bad (Action, Drama): It’s not a very long watch. A chemistry teacher and his ex-student make an odd pair who decide to cook and distribute meth. Starts as fun but the figurative sh** hits the fan soon enough. There’s a lot of action and a lot of drama!

House of Cards (Political Thriller) Watch it to see how sinister humanity can get especially when it comes to power and politics. Watch it for Kevin Spacey’s brilliant performance- if there was even an iota of love you felt for him, I am pretty sure it will vanish the moment you watch the series, so convincing is his portrayal of Frank Underwood. Ofcourse, the last season is a bit of a dampener, what with the sudden dismissal of Spacey, you feel the lapses in continuity here and there. Robin Wright does steal the show (there isn’t much competition) but I wouldn’t place the last season at the same level as the rest of the series. Watch it for the brilliant Claire Hale & Doug Stamper and for closure!

Broadchurch (Suspense, Police Procedural) Season 1. Setting is an idyllic small coastal town where everyone knows everyone. A young boy is found murdered and even though it’s someone you know, you don’t know who to doubt. Story unravels at a fast pace and leaves a spellbound most times.

Season 2 & 3 are equally good if not better. Definitely worth a watch. Alec Hardy’s Scottish accent gets a little hard to understand at times but what are subtitles for eh! I am so in awe of all these British thriller series and writing. Such talent- such beautiful portrayal of pain and relationships, of human nature and the evil within. If I haven’t said it enough- here’s another attempt- MUST WATCH!

Marcella (Suspense, Police Procedural) Marcella is a Netflix series in the “Nordic-noir” genre. Needless to say it is dark, chilling and heart-breaking. The protagonist is extremely flawed, judgmental, sociopathic and a terrible mother (by her own mission) but a brilliant police officer. Both seasons are brilliant- second tad better than the first and also darker.

Unbelievable (Police Procedural) The series is based on a true events. Two women officers follow a trail of complaints of sexual assault from women across states, something which their male colleagues have shrugged off as confusion or spite for their boyfriends. What breaks your heart is when during an interrogation of a young victim the male officers confuse and bully her into taking her statement back. It hits hard- women across the world face the same stereotypes but it’s also heartwarming to see the persistent officers take the cases to closure. Also, that young girl makes the men pay and how!

Sex Education (Young Adult Comedy). Funny and deep. Deals with teenage sexual angst and pressures in a non-preachy way. Also, parent-teenage relationships. Season 2 takes LGBTQIA discussion to a whole different level.

Umbrella Academy (Comedy, Action). Amazing line up of characters, brilliant story line and some great music!

Sinner (Season 1) (Suspense, Psychological Thriller) Cora Tanetti stabs a man in broad daylight with tens of people watching including her husband and three year old son. While she confesses to the murder it appears she may have done it in a mad frenzy because she doesn’t seem to know the victim. Each episode unfolds and leaves you thrilled, shocked and sometimes with goosebumps. I haven’t seen a series like this in a while. The Sinner is not just a whodunit or your average FBI mindhunting (I’ve seen tonnes of them and can now sleep walk through most motives)…

Based on a novel by Petra Hammesfahr (I am so adding her second book to my reading list) your head goes for a spin as the story unfurls. Jessica Biel as Cora who is going through life as a zombie and Bill Pullman as the Detective who is convinced there is more to the story than meets the eye but comes with his own ghosts, carry the story in tandem and how…

Sacred Games (Action, Suspense). Very few Indian series hit home when it comes to storytelling along with the right mix of WTF moments. Sacred Games is based on a novel by Vikram Chandra. I have not read the book so not sure how much of the series is based on the book but the characterization is beyond expectations.

13 Reasons Why (Young Adult Thriller) This series will shock you, it will shake you and sometimes even depress you. High school senior, Hannah commits suicide and leaves behind tapes with 13 reasons why she took the extreme step. If you’re a girl it will resonate with you. If you’re a teenager of either sex you might actually be living it right now. She does go through some of the normal teenage angst we’ve all endured, sometimes she even over-reacts, but as you go along you’ll realize why she did it. The series is not exactly whodunit but leaves your skin tingling long after you’re done with it. Bullying, peer pressure, boy troubles, career apprehensions, fear of letting the parents down and slut shaming- if you’ve ever been on the receiving end you’ll identify with Hannah and every other kid in the series.

PS: Haven’t watched seasons 2 and 3 so won’t recommend them.

Never Have I Ever (YA Comedy) What a brilliantly made series! Mindy Kaling take a bow! An ABCD teenager deals with the loss of her dad while living her American high school life. We laughed, (I) cried and swooned with Devi and her high school friends (love interests, plural!) and her super awkward American Desi community. Hope there is a Season 2.

Movies

Bandersnatch (Action)- it’s not so much the writing but the whole experience- the user driven story telling that’s interesting. The first of it’s kind where the audience decides how the story will progress.

Andhadhun (Suspense, Thriller) Please tell me you have seen this movie or I will be mighty disappointed! If you have then you know why it features on my recommendations. If you haven’t, drop everything you’re doing and go watch it now! One of the best movies ever made in India in the genre.

Badhai Ho (Comedy) How does Ayushmann do it- chooses the wackiest of movies and drives home a point- all the while acting the shiz out of his role. Badhai Ho is as much laugh riot as it is a tear-jerker (I guffawed as much as I wept). From the uber cute parents- I loved how the father dotes on the mother- the caustic dadi- the lower middle class North Delhi setting and the fun UP/Haryanvi accent there is never dull moment in Badhai Ho.

Article 15 (Action, Social Justice) Yes I realize almost all my suggestions are AyushmannKhurana movies. Must be doing something right! It’s not a role he portrays often- serious, intense but he does it with aplomb and ease. It’s a story about the blatant flouting of Article 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) and how one police officer sets out to change the world around him!

Some stuff that you may want to rewatch (I am hoping you’ve seen these already- if not, first order of business!)

FRIENDS (Netflix)

Kapoor and Sons (Netflix)

Kahaani (Netflix)

Hindi Medium (Netflix)

Tamasha (Netflix)

Lunchbox (Netflix)

Dil Dhadakne Do (Prime)

HIMYM (Hotstar)

The Big Bang Theory (Hotstar)

Avengers (Hotstar, Prime)

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