Ticket window: Movies and shows to watch out for in 2023
From Bollywood biggies making their digital debuts, to second and third seasons of popular web series, OTT space is set to be bolder, bigger, better
With Pathaan becoming the fifth Indian film to hit the Rs 1,000-crore mark, Shah Rukh Khan has emerged as the white knight of Bollywood in spite of the saffron dragons out to slay him. The Hindi film industry, for the last three years, has been guilty of delivering mostly unoriginal and uninspiring cinema, and actors, producers and directors are hoping a demanding audience won’t vote with their feet.
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Bollywood’s Badshah has two more films this year—Jawan and Dunki. While the former with SRK in a dual role (don’t miss the chase sequence) is about an ordinary guy framed for a mistake he didn’t commit, with the redoubtable Nayanthara playing a cop in Tamil director Atlee’s Hindi debut, Rajkumar Hirani's film highlights illegal immigration via the ‘Donkey Route’ to the US. But should six-pack Shah Rukh alone shoulder the burden of giving the Hindi film industry vitamin shots? Much hope is riding on the other big Khan, Salman, who will muscle up two large-scale productions this year—Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan opposite Pooja Hegde in April, followed in November by the `300-crore spy franchise Tiger 3 with old fav Katrina Kaif. Shah Rukh even makes a guest appearance: so much backslapping is going on among the golden oldies with Salman helping out SRK’s Pathaan in an action guest role on a train.
An anticipated big draw, Sunny Deol’s Gadar 2 with Ameesha Patel a commoner Hindu in love with an aristocratic Muslim beauty during Partition—is expected to be a tearjerker with or without a difference. Animal, starring Ranbir Kapoor and Bollywood newcomer and Tollywood veteran Rashmika Mandanna, is directed by Sandeep Reddy Vanga of Kabir Singh fame. Of course, there is no Bollywood without cosy insider Karan Johar whose Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani features Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt. Akshay Kumar and Tiger Shroff’s action-packed Bade Miyan Chote Miyan is betting on its redux while the Sam Manekshaw biopic starring Vicky Kaushal and helmed by Meghna Gulzar hopes patriotism will sell tickets.
Southern cinema was the big surprise of 2022 and is ready with an impressive line-up of films from Mani Ratnam, Allu Arjun, Sudeep and Pawan Kalyan. Not even politics can keep good old Kamal Haasan down: Indian 2 is his 2023 bet. Evergreen Rajinikanth will entertain his over 50,000 fan clubs with action-drama Jailer. Dulquer Salmaan will star in a series of gangster films, including King of Kotha, and Bilal, where the actor will team up with his father Mammootty for the first time. Even as stars across geography insist that cinema must not be jacketed on the basis of region or language, the audience is the winner now. Here’s a look at the biggest releases this year.
Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani
Release Date: July 28
Director: Karan Johar
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh, Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi
Johar returns as a director after his 2016 superhit film, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, to tell the love story of a rich boy and a middle-class girl, who fight against all odds, especially their parents, to be together. While the plot seems jaded, Johar promises “Rocky and Rani are going to redefine your usual love stories.” Guess who else is romancing in the film apart from Ranveer and Alia? Well, it’s Dharmendra and Shabana.
King of Kotha
Release Date: Onam 2023
Director: Abhilash Joshiy
Cast: Dulquer Salmaan, Aishwarya Lekshmi
Salmaan makes his return to the gangster genre with Abhilash Joshiy’s noir film set in
a fictional town. The project unites him with his childhood friend and director Abhilash, the son of veteran filmmaker Joshiy, who made many superhits with Salmaan’s father Mammootty.
Release Date: TBA
Cast: Rajinikanth, Mohanlal, Jackie Shroff, Sunil, Tamannaah, Shivrajkumar, Ramya Krishnan
Not much is known about the film except that its stellar star cast has Rajinikanth as Muthuvel Pandian,
a jailer, that the major portions of the film will be set in a prison, and that Jackie Shroff and Mohanlal will have cameo appearances. But it is a Rajinikanth film... what else does one need to know?
Remake of Driving Licence (Malayalam, starred Prithviraj Sukumaran)
Release Date: February 24
Director: Raj Mehta
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Emraan Hashmi
Yet another addition to the long list of Akshay-starrer remakes will see him collaborate with Hashmi for the first time in this comedy-drama about a superstar who needs to get a new driver’s licence from an RTO officer, who is also a superfan. A misunderstanding leads to a war of words between the two, eventually escalating into a feud which is played out in front of the country.
Kaathal: The Core
Release date: TBA
Director: Jeo Baby
Cast: Mammootty, Jyothika
While the core of the film is still anybody’s guess, one thing is sure that it won’t be just another film. Coming from Jeo baby, the director of The Great Indian Kitchen, it will star Mammootty, who is on a golden spree when it comes to picking unique scripts. It will also mark the return of the extremely selective Jyothika to Malayalam cinema. Kaathal, clearly, has everything going for it.
Release Date: August 11
Director: Sandeep Reddy Vanga
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Rashmika Mandanna, Anil Kapoor
In his second outing as a Bollywood director after the controversial hit, Kabir Singh, Vanga returns with a promisingly captivating crime-drama, at the centre of which is a complex father-son relationship played by Anil and Ranbir, respectively. That the film will be packed with action, revenge and thrill is evident from the poster featuring a long-haired, heavily bearded Ranbir in a bloodied look, wielding an axe. Mandanna will play the actor’s love interest, a role that was originally offered to Parineeti Chopra.
Release Date: December 22
Director: Rajkumar Hirani
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Taapsee Pannu
After being the first choice for the iconic characters Rancho from 3 Idiots and Munnabhai from Munnabhai MBBS, Shah Rukh finally stars in a Hirani film, who returns to direction after 2018’s hit Sanju. Dunki is inspired from the rampant use of an illegal backdoor route called ‘Donkey Flight’ by Indians to immigrate to countries like Canada and the US.
Satyaprem Ki Katha
Release Date: June 29
Director: Sameer Vidwans
Cast: Kartik Aaryan, Kiara Advani
The hit pair of Kartik Aaryan and Kiara Advani from Bhool Bhoolaiya 2, one of the few successful films of 2022, will reunite as Satyaprem and Katha in this musical love story. While the premise is still under wraps, the film, which was originally titled Satyanarayan Ki Katha, made news soon after its announcement, when the makers changed the name to “avoid hurting sentiments”. It also marks the Bollywood debut of National Award-winning director Sameer Vidwans, best known for his Marathi film, Anandi Gopal.
Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan
Remake of Veeram (Tamil, starred Thala Ajith)
Release Date: April 21
Director: Farhad Samji
Cast: Salman Khan, Pooja Hegde, Shehnaaz Gill
After Shah Rukh Khan, a lot of hope is riding on Bollywood’s bhai to revive the Hindi film industry, who will play an ageing elder brother to two siblings who must wait to marry until he becomes attached. The last time Salman’s career took a hit, it was Wanted, a remake of Tamil film Pokiri, that propelled his career to newer heights. Considering his last blockbuster was Tiger Zinda Hai in 2017, Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan, his seventh remake, is likely to restore him, and Bollywood, to their former glory.
Remake of Kaithi (Tamil, starred Thala Ajith)
Release Date: March 30
Director: Ajay Devgn
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Tabu
Having worked together in nine films, Devgn will direct Tabu for the first time in the action-thriller, in which a recently released prisoner is on his way to see his daughter after 10 years, when he is arrested midway and must avoid death at every corner to finally reunite with his family. While it’s a remake, Devgn is said to have taken certain creative liberties, including casting Tabu—the indomitable force who continues to give the young female actors a run for their money—in the role of an inspector that was played by a man in the original, and introducing a romantic track.
Bollywood’s imagination continues to be derivative, making critics wonder if the well has run dry. Barely two months into the New Year, remakes are big players—Akshay Kumar’s Selfiee is based on Prithviraj Sukumaran’s Driving Licence (Malayalam) and Kartik Aaryan’s Shehzadaa is a remake of Allu Arjun’s Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo (Telugu). The biggest redo of the year, Salman Khan’s Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan, is an adaptation of Thala Ajith’s Tamil film Veeram. Hindi adaptations of southern films are almost as old as the entertainment business. One of the earliest remakes was Dilip Kumar’s 1967 comedy Ram Aur Shyam, an adaptation of the Telugu hit, Ramudu Bheemudu.
In the Eighties, Ek Duje Ke Liye, Himmatwala and Tohfa rode the coattails of the trend. Three decades on, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn hitched their stars on remakes to boost their careers. Between 2009 and 2015, audiences came away with mixed feelings after watching Wanted, Ready, Bodyguard, Singham, Rowdy Rathore, Kick and Drishyam. Aamir Khan’s Ghajini was a highlight in 2008. SRK is the only star who hasn’t made a southern remake, except for a guest appearance in Billu (2009).
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Once the pandemic shut down theatres, it was no surprise that the industry resorted to tried-and-tested formulas when OTT too made survival tough. And the unprecedented success of Shahid Kapoor’s Kabir Singh (2019), a remake of Telugu film Arjun Reddy, was the validation Bollywood needed to unleash a flurry of remakes. Last year, there was Vikram Vedha, Jersey, Good Luck Jerry and Mili, all of which bombed except the Hrithik Roshan-starrer. Akshay Kumar’s Cuttputlli, a remake of Tamil film Ratsasan, trended at number 1 on Hotstar. This year, which has already seen a couple of releases, there’s Devgn’s Bholaa about a freed prisoner’s complicated journey back home to meet his daughter and Aditya Roy Kapur’s true-crime film Gumraah—both adaptations of Tamil films Kaithi and Thadam, respectively.
Like politics and industry, Bollywood has been forever guilty of nepotism. This year isn’t likely to be any different. The majority of debuts, especially under big banners, are those of starkids, starting with SRK’s little girl Suhana Khan, Sridevi’s daughter Khushi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan’s grandson Agastya Nanda, who will be launched together by Zoya Akhtar in The Archies. Sanjay Kapoor’s daughter Shanaya gets a dream debut in Bedhadak, which has been produced by Karan Johar. It also stars television actor Lakshya Lalwani and Gurfateh Pirzada of Class fame. Hrithik Roshan’s cousin Pashmina Roshan and Salman Khan’s niece Alizeh Agnihotri will appear together in Ishq Vishk Rebound and a yet-to-be-titled film by Soumendra Padhi, respectively. The noteworthy outsider debut is that of Shehnaaz Gill of Bigg Boss fame in Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan.
Release Date: TBA
Director: Zoya Akhtar
Cast: Suhana Khan, Agastya Nanda, Khushi Kapoor
The first-ever film adaptation of the American comics of the same name, which has a massive fan following, will see the most anticipated debuts of the year. In a press conference, Akhtar admitted feeling a bit pressured about the Netflix musical. “A: it’s coming out in India, B: I am making it,” she said about the series set in the 1960s that follows the lives of seven teenagers and their interpersonal relationships.
Release Date: December 30
Director: Shashank Khaitan
Cast: Shanaya Kapoor, Gurfateh Pirzada, Lakshya Lalwani
In what is considered to be a dream debut, Sanjay Kapoor’s daughter Shanaya will be launched by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions that has been responsible for making stars out of the likes of Varun Dhawan, Sidharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt and Jhanvi Kapoor. In a quintessential ‘old wine in new bottle’ scenario, Bedhadak is a romantic drama featuring a love triangle among close friends.
The common wisdom in films and literature is that sequels are never as good as the original. It hasn’t, however, stopped writers and filmmakers, time and again, to try to push their creative envelopes in search of BO gold. Hopes are riding high on part three of Salman Khan’s Tiger franchise and second instalments of Mani Ratnam’s magnum opus Ponniyin Selvan and Allu Arjun’s Pushpa. Khan returns as the titular RAW agent six years after Tiger Zinda Hai, giving the audience a quick glimpse of the character in SRK’s Pathaan. Equally making the pulse race in expectation is Pushpa: The Rule, the sequel to Allu Arjun’s dynamite 2021 film, Pushpa: The Rise, which was the highest-grossing Indian film of the year.
Not as exciting, but also in line are Sunny Deol’s Gadar 2: The Katha Continues and Kamal Haasan’s Indian 2. The nostalgia angle is Deol reuniting with Anil Sharma, the director of Gadar: Ek Prem Katha after 22 years. Haasan will work the sets with S Shankar a quarter century after the release of the original vigilante action film. Up for laughs are comedy franchises Ayushmann Khurrana’s Dream Girl and Fukrey, both waiting to conquer the silver screen with their second and third instalments, respectively.
Release Date: November 10
Director: Maneesh Sharma
Cast: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif
The third instalment in the Tiger franchise and fifth in the shared spy universe will take the stories of Indian spy Avinash Singh Rathore and Pakistani secret agent Zoya Humaimi forward from 2017’s Tiger Zinda Hai. While action-packed sequences and adrenaline-induced chases are guaranteed, watch it also for the Pathaan-Tiger reunion once again.
Pushpa: The Rule
Release Date: TBA
Cast: Allu Arjun, Rashmika Mandanna
Pushpa: The Rise that came out in December 2021 rose not just above expectations, but also the pandemic panic. The gritty, dark story of a low-wage labourer making it big in the world of red sandalwood smuggling took the entertainment industry by storm, with the film making over thrice its budget. Expected to be firecracker of a sequel, Pushpa: The Rule will chronicle his reign in the illegal trade and whether or not he manages to hold on to it despite the increasing number of enemies.
Ponniyin Selvan 2
Release Date: April 28
Director: Mani Ratnam
Cast: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Trisha Krishnan, Vikram, Karthi
Adapted from Kalki’s epic novel, the sequel will continue to focus on Arul Mozhi Varman (Jayam Ravi) and his journey to becoming the Chola empire’s greatest ruler, Rajaraja Chola I, and delve deeper into how conspiracies within the Chola kingdom unfold. It is also expected to follow Padmini’s (Aishwarya) revenge of those who killed her father Veerapandian, the Pandya dynasty king.
John Wick: Chapter 4
Release Date: March 24
Director: Chad Stahelski
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick
The legendary hitman John Wick—once retired, but brought back into the underworld, thanks to an unforgettable and cruel entry of the masterminds of the crime world into his personal life—is on a revenge streak. Boasting a killcount of over 300, Wick is far from done yet. He is in no mood to take it easy as he seeks out the most powerful players in the underworld—from New York to Paris, Osaka and Berlin—to establish his supremacy once and for all.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Release Date: May 5
Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel
The Avengers have done the impossible—beaten Thanos—with the Guardians of the Galaxy helping to save the world. The beloved band of misfits has settled on the planet, Knowhere. But they can’t rest long, as Rocket’s turbulent past and Peter Quill’s lost love haunt the team. Now they are on a dangerous mission to save one of their own as they put their very existence to test.
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Release Date: May 19
Director: Louis Leterrier
Cast: Vin Diesel, Tyrese Gibson, Charlize Theron, Jason Momoa
The end of the chapter begins for the long-standing Fast & Furious franchise. This is meant to be the first of two films that will end the main saga. The manipulative and psychopathic antagonistic Cipher is back, who is set to turn into a cyborg. This time around, Cipher is aided by Dante, who seeks revenge from Dom for taking away his family.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Release Date: June 2
Directors: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K Thompson
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Jake Johnson
In this superhero-sci-fi, our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man ends up in the multiverse, where he is pitted against Spider-People, charged with protecting its existence. And not everyone here is as friendly or as neighbourly. While everyone clashes on how to handle
a new threat, Brooklyn’s Miles Morales has to convince the Spider-People that he is the true hero that they need to save the world, especially the people Miles cares about.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
Release Date: TBA
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas, Mads Mikkelsen, Phoebe Waller-Bridge
The titular archaeologist is on a new adventure that incorporates time travel. So even as the swashbuckling Indy approaches retirement and faces a world he doesn’t recognise, he is tasked with going back in time to keep an apocalypse from happening in the future. With a backdrop of Nazis and the erstwhile Soviet Union, this film has enough action in store as Indy dons his hat to make sure a sacred artifact that has magical powers doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One
Release Date: July 14
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Henry Czerny, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson
The action-thriller is the seventh entry in the long-running Mission: Impossible series. Senior Field Agent Ethan Mathew Hunt is back doing what he does best—handling highly sensitive and deadly international missions, which are deemed impossible. Ethan, skilled at breaking in and out of secure facilities without being detected and using his mastery of stealth and surprise to battle his enemies successfully, is up for yet another mission taking on the world’s nastiest masterminds.
Release Date: July 28
Director: Nia DaCosta
Cast: Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Samuel L Jackson, Zawe Ashton
This Marvel outing brings together the unlikely trio of Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel, Kamala Khan aka Ms Marvel and Captain Monica Rambeau. While Captain Marvel has proved her mettle time and again, Kamala is still coming into her own, and Monica is unaware of her powers. Born in different timelines, the three were never a team till a danger to their world leaves them with little option than to join forces and save the universe as The Marvels.
Heart of Stone
Release Date: August 11
Director: Tom Harper
Cast: Gal Gadot, Jamie Dornan, Alia Bhatt
Planned on the lines of James Bond and Mission: Impossible, Gadot leads this female espionage thriller. It sees Alia Bhatt make her Hollywood debut. CIA agent Rachel Stone stands between rogue AWOL agent Parker, whose intention is to bring Rachel’s global peace-keeping organisation to its knees.
Dune: Part Two
Release Date: November 3
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Javier Bardem
It picks up where Dune: Part One left off. Baron Vladimir Harkonnen has just survived a last-ditch assassination attempt, and is longing for revenge. Paul along with Chani and Fremen must figure out a way to fulfil his father’s wishes and bring peace to the planet, Arrakis. Blessed with the power to predict the future, Paul forecasts a terrible time ahead for Arrakis. And it is up to him to use this power
to keep the danger from getting real.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Release Date: November 17
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Peter Dinklage, Viola Davis
With the 10th annual Hunger Games fast approaching, the young orphan Snow, who lives with his grandmother, is alarmed when he is assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird. While he takes up the task, the others are not that happy with his role. They would do anything to keep him from completing it. Snow must race against time and use all his intellect to survive in this game of life and death that will ultimately reveal who is a songbird, and who is a snake.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
Release Date: December 25
Director: James Wan
Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren
After a fall-out between the step-brothers, Atlantis finally has a new king in a semi-god. But the king can’t rest on his past laurels. Danger lurks in the deep sea and also on land. The king must choose his battles wisely, while he faces new and returning dangers with the ruthless pirate and high-seas mercenary Black Manta seeking to avenge his father’s death.
The Little Mermaid
Release Date: May 26
Director: Rob Marshall
Cast: Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Melissa McCarthy, Javier Bardem
In a Faustian bargain, a young mermaid trades her melodious voice in exchange of legs, with the hope of meeting her Prince Charming, in the fantasy-adventure film. But then with bargains, one always stands to lose something. While Ariel is swept by her love for the land-locked Prince Eric, the evil Ursula has other plans for her.
Release Date: March 3
Director: Michael B Jordan
Cast: Irwin Winkler, Charles Winkler, William Chartoff, David Winkler
Adonis beat his father’s killer in Creed 2. This boxing saga of Adonis Creed and Rocky Balboa, is the ninth outing in the Rocky franchise, though Sylvester Stallone isn’t a part of the project. In the third series, Adonis is a wildly successful boxer and has a great family life. Danger to it all comes in the form of his childhood friend and jailbird Damian ‘Dame’ Anderson who is out of prison. Damian is a former boxing prodigy and wants to fight Adonis to make a comeback. Spoiler alert: “I need to let go of your fear.”
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Whenever they run into a creative block, Indian film directors turn to history and mythology for
a get-out-of-jail-free card. Historical films coming soon to theatres near you are biopics of Veer Savarkar played by Randeep Hooda and Atal Bihari Vajpayee essayed by Pankaj Tripathi. Ajay Devgn will play football coach Syed Abdul Rahim, considered the architect of modern Indian football. Of course, who else will play Indira Gandhi except Kangana Ranaut, who does look rather Indira-sh with the trademark white streak in her coiffure, but no prizes for guessing the ideological spin. There’s also Om Raut’s Adipurush and Samantha Ruth Prabhu’s Shaakuntalam, both Hindu mythological sojourns. While Adipurush is a retelling of the Ramayana starring Prabhas and Saif Ali Khan, Shaakuntalam recreates the poetic world of Kalidasa’s romantic epic of love, virtue and, of course, swans.
Release Date: April 14
Cast: Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Dev Mohan
Set in Kashyapa Kanumalu (Kashmir), the film that revisits the mythological story of Shakuntala and Dushyant, who fall in love only to be separated by a curse, is already scoring high on the VFX meter with its trailer. The dreamy landscape with deer, squirrels and other animals prancing around, makes for an enchanting backdrop for the stunning lead pair. Allu Arjun’s six-year-old daughter Arha will make her acting debut as prince Bharata in the film.
Release Date: June 16
Director: Om Raut
Cast: Prabhas, Saif Ali Khan, Kriti Sanon
A retelling of the episode from the Ramayana where Rama defeats the demon king Ravana and rescues his wife Sita from Lanka, the film made news soon after its trailer launch last year, unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons. The CGI and VFX, particularly the 10-headed avatar of Saif Ali Khan as Ravana, drew massive flak, and the fact that the film is made on a budget of `500 crore didn’t exactly help.
Release Date: December 1
Director: Meghna Gulzar
Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra
If there is one person who is acing the biopic game, it is Vicky Kaushal. He impressed the audience with his portrayal of Sardar Udham Singh in Shoojit Sircar’s 2021 biographical period drama on the revolutionary. He’s set to do it again with Sam Bahadur, in which he bears an uncanny resemblance to Sam Manekshaw, India's first Field Marshal. This is Vicky’s second film with Meghna after Raazi, and also the second time he will don the Indian army uniform after Uri: The Surgical Strike.
Main Atal Hoon
Release Date: December 25
Director: Ravi Jadhav
Cast: Pankaj Tripathi
It takes the grace and gravitas of an actor like Tripathi to play a statesman like Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The actor is already garnering praise for his looks in the poster, where he can be seen wearing not just Vajpayee’s quintessential white dhoti-kurta layered with the Nehru jacket, but also the politician’s ingenuous smile. The film, helmed by three-time National Award-winner Jadhav, will be released on the birth anniversary of the former prime minister.
The Good Wife
Director: Supra S Varma
Cast: Kajol, Alyy Khan
An adaptation of the 2009 American series of the same name, the Hindi version of the political drama will see Kajol’s OTT series debut as the Hindi version of Alicia Florrick. The story is centered on
a housewife who, after 13 years, returns to work as a lawyer with her old love who gets shot in a courtroom. In the original, her husband is a sleazy but ambitious state attorney who goes to jail and later becomes the governor of Illinois. The high-voltage series, which has all the hit elements of a successful show brimming with doomed romance, lots of sex, deviant role play, ruthless mentors and ambitious attorneys, ran for seven seasons and won five Emmys. Whether Kajol be India’s answer to Julianna Margulies will become clear this year. She has big high heels to fill.
Guns & Gulaabs
Directors: Raj and DK
Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Dulquer Salmaan, Adarsh Gourav, Gulshan Devaiah
From the directors of the recent hit series Farzi, comes yet another crime thriller, a pun on Guns N’ Roses. Set in the 90s, this vintage crime and romance drama has Rajkummar Rao and Dulquer Salman. The writer-director team is best known for directing the Hindi spy series The Family Man, starring Manoj Bajpayee as an intelligence agent with a banal outside life and a parallel life as a crime fighter. Rao’s deadpan style is bound to bolster the comedy part.
Indian Police Force
Directors: Rohit Shetty, Sushwanth Prakash
Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Shilpa Shetty, Vivek Oberoi
Platform: Amazon Prime
Shetty’s debut OTT series revolves around IPS officer SP Kabir Malik, who is trying to track down the terrorist mastermind behind a series of bomb blasts around the country. Even though Oberoi is not new to the long-format series after delivering a successful Inside Edge, the action-thriller from the cop universe will be Malhotra’s first web series. He also played a spy in this year’s OTT release Mission Majnu. Watch it for Shetty’s car-toppling, intense chases, larger-than-life signature style.
Made in Heaven Season 2
Directors: Nitya Mehra, Zoya Akhtar, Prashant Nair, Alankrita Shrivastava
Cast: Arjun Mathur, Sobhita Dhulipala, Jim Sarbh
Platform: Amazon Prime
The hit drama series is on its second run—a bolder, more scandalous version of the first season that exposed the hypocrisy and faultlines in the Rich India story in the backdrop of the great Indian wedding. It continues the saga of wedding planners Tara Khanna played by Dhulipala, who is her own woman rather than tycoon Adil Khanna’s wife, and her gay friend Karan Mehra played by Mathur, who fix the nuptials with Made In Heaven. Dhulipala also stars in The Night Manager with Aditya Roy Kapur and Anil Kapoor. She is betting on Series 2 to become a “conversation starter”. The first season got an Emmy nomination too.
Rocket Boys Season 2
Director: Abhay Pannu
Cast: Jim Sarbh,
The first season portrayed the efforts of Dr Homi J Bhabha and Dr Vikram Sarabhai, played by Sarbh and Singh respectively, to make India a world power. In Season 2, India is already a nuclear power and the Pokhran nuclear test in 1974 has happened, defying international pressure. The CIS is spying on India and the test preparations are going on in top secret. Sarabhai is given the go-ahead by Indira Gandhi, played by Charu Sarkar, to create his own team, including Dr APJ Abdul Kalam (Arjun Radhakrishnan), Dr Homi Sethna and Dr Raja Ramanna to carry out the test. Rocket Boys 2 is a nationalist chest-thumper, which has the two scientists realising that only
a nuclear India can save its independence from enemies on its borders.
Mumbai Diaries Season 2
Director: Nikkhil Advani
Cast: Konkana Sen Sharma, Mohit Raina, Natasha Bhardwaj
Platform: Amazon Prime
The first season revolved around the trauma of the 2008 Mumbai attacks and how the doctors and staff of the Bombay General Hospital dealt with the tragedy, as it turned into a battleground between policemen, doctors and the terrorists. In Season 2, the medical staff goes back in time as an unprecedented natural calamity strikes the city. Spoiler alert: The 2005 Mumbai floods, killing thousands and destroying homes.
Directors: Reema Kagti, Ruchika Oberoi
Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Vijay Varma and Gulshan Devaiah
Platform: Amazon Prime
A serial killer is on the loose in a small Rajasthan town. As bodies of murdered women keep turning up in public toilets, the police as usual dismiss them as suicides. It is left to sub-inspector Anjali Bhaati (Sinha) to crack the mystery after a similarity in the cases intrigues her—long-night calls and
a boyfriend no one has ever seen. What is the killer’s game plan? A cat-and-mouse game ensues between her and the killer who is found to be duping women into marrying him and absconding with their money. Dahaad is the first Indian web series to premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Directors: Raj and DK
Cast: Varun Dhawan, Samantha Ruth Prabhu
Platform: Amazon Prime
Citadel India is the desi part of the global spy-thriller franchise Citadel made by the Russo brothers. The science-fiction series stars Richard Madden as agent Mason Kane and Priyanka Chopra as agent Nadia Singh. Described as an “action-packed spy series with a compelling emotional centre” and “an expansive and groundbreaking global event comprising a mothership series and several local language satellite series”, the franchise series are shot in the Alps, India, Spain and Mexico. Dhawan and Samantha play the spies in the Indian version, which is set in the 1990s.
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Manisha Koirala, Aditi Rao Hydari, Richa Chaddha
Can you have a Bhansali production without opulence and high drama? The series takes its name from Heeramandi, Lahore’s notorious red-light district, which was patronised by Mughal aristocrats attracted by the dancing girls and courtesans. Set in the colonial period, when the British built the brothel Anarkali Bazar for the empire’s soldiers and policemen, Bhansali’s bazaar is guaranteed to have tearjerker moments, though his romance with history can be as whimsical as the ladies of his Heeramandi.
Mirzapur Season 3
Directors: Karan Anshuman, Gurmeet Singh and Mihir Desai
Cast: Pankaj Tripathi, Ali Fazal, Shweta Tripathi
Platform: Amazon Prime
The psychopath Munna Tripathi is dead. Guddu Bhaiya (Fazal) gets his revenge and is now the undisputed king of Mirzapur’s underworld where drugs and guns are the keys to the empire. Tripathi’s Kaleen Bhaiyya, wounded and angry, plots revenge to regain his power. Meanwhile Munna’s wife Madhuri, played by Isha Talwar, becomes the chief minister of the state and is determined to bring down her husband’s killers. Dimpy and Robin get married. Spoiler query: Does Madhuri fall in love again? Will Beena, Kaleen Bhaiyya’s wife, be murdered after the identity of her child’s real father is revealed? Mirzapur is the most popular web series of India, followed by Sacred Games.