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My Netflix recommendations: Mai: A Mother's Rage (2022), The Fame Game (2022), Aranyak (2021) and Delhi Crime (2019)

The recent troubles Netflix is experiencing implies that most of the content doesn't appeal to subscribers. While there certainly is questionable content, there is enough on there to keep them satisfied for a long time. I love the fact that good filmmakers have been given the opportunity to showcase their work on a widely accessible platform, where they otherwise would have gone down in obscurity. So in that regard, Netflix is an incredible streaming service. However, I do need to point out that Netflix does a real bad job of pointing you towards these gems. Navigating on Netflix is a real drag, especially if you aren't really sure what you are in the mood for. I am sure there are more good shows and films on there, and hopefully I will be able to find them and steer you towards them. For now, definitely check out the titles underneath.

Mai: A Mother's Rage (2022)

For a cinematic feature that is about a mother and her grief, there is surprisingly very little melodrama present. 

If you are familiar with Indian cinema and television, that is quite remarkable, since drama is part of being Indian. But make no mistake, the drama that is present is super gripping. In a large part, that is because of how the story is written. You may think you know how events play out, the show never fails to surprise you. The level of tension and suspense is high and events move along in a very fast pace. Still, the story would be nothing without the performances. And they are phenomenal, especially from the lead, Sheel Chaudhary played by Sakshi Tanwar. 

While her character is stricken with grief, she still manages to work and get to the bottom of the death of her daughter. The total opposite of her husband, who can't even communicate properly with her. I can't state enough  how impressive it is the way Sakshi manages to display strength and despair at the same time. But she is a woman on a mission and almost doesn't care who comes in her way. Think John Wick and Liam Neeson's character in Taken, only without the combat. She is relentless and very fierce, but most important very intelligent. The way she manages to get out of incredible dire situations is inspiring.

The show also feels realistic and modern. When it needs to, it will confront you with certain topics as in real life and not shy away from it. I am not a huge fan of wokeness, but I can certainly appreciate the fact how mature the show is when handling these usually highly sensitive topics. They do give you food for thought without forcing you to think about them. If you choose to ignore them, it won't negatively affect your viewing experience.

Definitely a must-watch if you like good thrillers!

The Fame Game stars Madhuri Dixit. For most, she is a blast from the past. She was a huge Bollywood star in the Nineties. In fact, she is quite similar to the character, Anamika Anand, she is playing.

At first, you might think you are dealing with some sort of glorified soap opera. And while it certainly falls into the same trappings, it does manage to get above that and put enough in to keep things thrilling. The mystery is pretty compelling. Sure, the show takes a lot of time exploring the people part of the household and the red herrings, but that is what makes it fun. You get to see them from different sides. Whereas in one scene you are rooting for them, you will be angry with them the next. I really liked how the show allows you to deduce of what is going on, but at the same time also crushes the evidence presented to you. Things aren't always what they seem.

Madhuri Dixit has evolved considerably. She was always charming, graceful and beautiful. But in this series especially, she has proven to be an immense acting powerhouse. I really like this kind of resurgence and would like to see more of this with other actors and actresses.

Overall, you will have a grand time as long as you are willing to endure the slow burn. I promise you, you will be rewarded.

Aranyak might be an Indian show, it easily could have been a Spanish or French one. But of course it being Indian does make it extra special. While I understand that most Indians prefer the Bollywood masala productions, this series is proof that India easily can compete with Hollywood. 

The show doesn't waste time into thrusting you into the adventure. And once you are in, it very rarely lets up. The acting is superb. Honestly, it is so much better than what you see in Bollywood productions. More real and grounded. The characters therefore are so much more believable. Take Kasturi Dogra played by Raveena Tandon. You aren't going to like her, initially. But damn, she will grow on you. If you would ask me the titles she has been in, I wouldn't be able to tell you without looking them up. She often played the love interest and the damsel in distress. Well, Kasturi Dogra certainly isn't that. She is the one who wants to take action and be on top of everything. You, better, don't get in her way. 

Enter Angud Malik played by Parambrata Chattopadhyay. He also is put on the case, but is met with a lot of resistance. Dogra doesn't feel she needs help, but soon she realizes that he is the best ally, partner she could have to tackle the case and other issues they have to deal with. Their interactions are very enjoyable and easily the heart of the show.

The mystery itself, naturally, is incredibly compelling. I binge-watched this one setting. Do I need to say more?

Delhi Crime is about a heinous crime that truly happened in 2012. I remember this since it was on the news here in The Netherlands. The public protests and outrage was of such magnitude that they demanded a change. And for a while it looked like it did. Ever since, Indian women have been on the forefront in their fight for protection and equality. So that has been a good thing. But for the rest, only the future will tell if terrible crimes like these will be a thing of the past.

We follow, DCP Vartika Chaturvedi played by Shefali Shah, who is hands-on with this special case and seems to be doing whatever she can within her power. It's obvious this series depicts the police as very willing to solve the case, but where they seem to get distracted or derailed by politics and bureaucracy. No sign of corruption whatsoever. Now, I don't know enough about them to say whether that element is left out, but I do believe that the truth must be somewhere in the middle. 

Still, if you had lost hope, this show might recover it a little. You are shown how effectively the police are in hunting the criminals. You will sit on the edge of your seat because it truly is unnerving at times. Especially after you get to hear what has happened to the poor girl, Deepika. The way she was raped. It truly exposes how evil these criminals were. No wonder people got outraged. But I liked how some characters in the show are wondering what made this case so special. They said, that these things happened all the time, but now suddenly they had to go out of their way to solve the case. As disgusting as the question is, it is the right one. Every crime should be taken seriously and solved accordingly. The truth is that there is more going on in the world and many reasons why it can't happen. The show very subtly gives you an idea of what happens behind the curtains.

Anyway, from start to finish the series is a real thrilling affair where the whole cast act their pants off. Truly remarkable show!

Update 24/11/2022:
The second (shorter) season might be less thrilling, it still delivers a horrifying tale of terror and crimes that are truly heinous. This season does feel rushed and is less edgy and impactful because of it. I am not sure why this season is shorter. On the one hand, it does wrap up the story quite nicely, but also fails to address some of the personal drama concerning some of the characters. In the case of the daughter DCP Vartika Chaturvedi I didn't care. She finally got what she wanted and still manages to be defiant for no good reason at all. Neeti Singh's problems though deserved more attention. It's a theme that has been done to death in cop shows, but one that still manages to frustrate me. Don't people realize that sometimes certain professions come with the risk of not seeing your partner as often as you want them too? Imagine finding mutilated bodies of innocents, but then get confronted with the question of why you weren't on time to eat dinner. 

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