REVIEWS

A guide to the latest Indian and international films and web series

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It’s hard to imagine how something as basic as a spelling bee competition – in which contestants are required to spell words of varying degrees of difficulty – can make for an entertaining documentary. But that’s where Sam Rega’s Spelling the Dream succeeds. Rega profiles a group of aspiring competitors of Indian descent preparing for this very American competition.

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Four suspects are apprehended for a conspiracy to murder. Their target is Sanjeev Mehra (Neeraj Kabi), a reputed news anchor at a Delhi channel. At the Outer Jamuna Paar police outpost, much to the chagrin of his senior officer, Hathi Ram Chaudhary (Jaideep Ahlawat), a pot-bellied policeman with poor prospects, is assigned the high profile case.

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The first season of this girls-in-the-city show ended with the BFFs breaking up with each other. The new season of Four More Shots Please! opens four months later with the quartet reuniting on the banks of the Bosphorus in Istanbul. The reconciliation happens fairly quickly, but the rest of the season swings from one emotionally charged event to the other.

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The untimely death of the youngest member of the Naik Raikars, Goa’s leading business family, sets the police and political power into a tailspin. Was it suicide or was Tarun Naik Raikar murdered?

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After a shadowy start, Asur starts to build, sucking you into a dark and dangerous world, ending each episode with a dramatic hook. The story unfolds on two timelines. The web series opens 11 years ago, in Varanasi. A boy and his father are on a boat during an initiation ceremony, which ends in tragedy.

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State of Siege: 26/11 on Zee5 is an exhaustive recreation and re-imagining of the attacks on Mumbai in November 2008. Created by Abhimanyu Singh and directed by Matthew Leutwyler, the eight-part web series systematically sets up the key players in this life-changing and horrific event: the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists at the attack sites, the handlers in Lahore, the victims, the police on the ground and in the control rooms, the National Security Guard commandos prepping and strategising for the final encounter, and the media that breathlessly chased breaking news.

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In an episode towards the end of the Hotstar series Special Ops, an officer from the Research and Analysis Wing likens the intelligence-gathering organisation’s service and relationship with the country’s rulers to a game of chess. He speaks of pawns and officers, kings and protectors. Several episodes of this eight-part thriller, created by Neeraj Pandey (A Wednesday, Baby, Aiyaary), are spent placing the players on the chessboard.

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The newest Netflix stand-up comedy special Ladies Up has a nightclub style setting and 15-minute sets featuring a female comedian each. The first of four episodes, Recently Empowered, is hosted by Prashasti Singh. The 32-year-old comedian, who describes herself as an “UP transplant”, made a switch to stand-up six months ago. Using Hindi and English, Singh blends urban issues with the experiences of a daughter of the soil

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This ‘tribe’ is too cool for school, more focussed on music band practice and throwing shade to the new student at St Martin’s College. Nanki (Kiara Advani), the lyricist, is a rebel without a cause. She’s dating the lead singer and college heartthrob VJ Pratap (Gurfateh Singh Pirzada). Hardy, KP and Tashi make up the rest of the band.

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Vidhu Vinod Chopra use the device of a love story to zoom in on the status of Kashmiri Pandits forced out of their homes and living as refugees in other parts of India. With the rise of militancy, around 400,000 Pandits were forced to flee from the state in late 1989-1990. 19 January 1990 is known as the day of mass exodus, chillingly conveyed in Chopra’s drama via a convoy of trucks snaking along winding mountain roads.

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