Pakistani soaps Humsafar and Zindagi Gulzar Hai now on Netflix!

I finished up watching The Crown (so good!) and all of a sudden there were new recommended for me shows on Netflix.  Usually, Netflix turns over new content at the beginning of the month, but this time, it was mid-month.  My jaw dropped.

stoke

The Pakistani soaps Humsafar (Soulmates) and Zindagi Gulzar Hai (Life is a Rose Garden) are now streaming in glorious HD with subs on Netflix!  Netflix gave me an early holiday gift!  To say I was excited would be an understatement.

jonah-excit3ed  mm3dk_f-maxage-0

I was literally jumping up and down in my family room.

elf-santa

Why was I so excited?  I fell, and fell hard for Pakistani actor Fawad Khan when he debuted in the Bollywood/Disney film Khoobsurat with Sonam Kapoor in 2014.

khoobsurat-wallpaper_140982736850

At that time, I wanted to see more of his work, and there was nothing else on film, but he had done two soaps in Pakistan that were sensations in both that country and India.  ErosNow.com put all the episodes of Humsafar to stream on their site with subs and I was totally hooked.

humsafar2

These soaps are not like American soaps that are open ended.  These productions are just one season or about 25 episodes long.  They have a complete story arc.

526499-mahira-khan-raees.jpg

Humsafar also stars Pakistani actress Mahira Khan who will debut in the Bollywood film Raees opposite Shahrukh Khan next month.  (Bonus!  There’s another Mahira Khan soap on Netflix, Saqday Tumharay).

346242-humsafar-1331447861-566-640x480

In Humsafar, Mahira is the poor cousin of Fawad.  Her mother is dying of cancer and asks Fawad’s father to arrange their marriage so she knows her daughter will be taken care of.  It’s rich boy/poor girl with a love triangle and a scheming mother-in-law.  To me, it was absolutely fascinating to get a glimpse of life in Pakistan and Fawad is amazing.

zindagi_gulzar_hai_tv_serial_poster_timing_trp_2015

Zindagi Gulzar Hai is even better but was much more of a challenge to find with subtitles, and there were a few episodes I never could find with subs, but I watched anyway because I was hooked right from the first episode.  I am thrilled to be able to watch this with subs, and in high def since I was scrounging on Youtube and Pakistani sites to find the episodes in questionable quality.  Again, we have the poor girl (Sanam Saeed as Khasaf) and the rich boy (Fawad Khan as Zaroon) dynamic but both characters are flawed and complex.  It’s also hate-to-love which is just about my favorite romance trope.

zindagi-gulzar-hai-fawad-zaroon-1

Zaroon and Khasaf meet in college, and Zaroon is frosted that this arrogant girl bests him in the class rankings.  Khasaf thinks Zaroon is a shallow playboy, and Zaroon thinks Khasaf is a too traditional stick in the mud.  It’s just delicious to see their feelings change over time.  Your heart aches for Khasaf who has so many struggles in her life, but she’s also so prickly a character.  I loved what a spitfire she is.  Pakistani actor Javed Sheikh, who was SRK’s father in Om Shanti Om, plays Fawad Khan’s father.

chai

The proposal scene (which I can’t find with subs) is just the ultimate.  Khasaf can’t believe the guy who hated her through college now wants to marry her, but is convinced he’s changed when he catches hot chai in his hands when it’s about to spill on her.

 

But it doesn’t just end there — there’s more to the story as they adjust to each other in their marriage and have to accommodate for Khasaf’s career in the civil service.  The reason Khasaf scoffs at marriage and men is because of her complex relationship with her father who married a second wife to get a son, and abandoned his first wife and daughters.  I just loved getting to see these actors portray complex characters who grow and change over time.  Highly, highly recommend both soaps.  I’m going to enjoy watching those episodes I couldn’t find previously with subs, and trying Mahira’s other soap.  I love how Netflix is getting content from all over the world!

Check out this post on BrownGirl to get a sense of what a sensation both Humsafar and Zindagi Gulzar Hai were in Pakistan and India when they first aired.

sandstorm205

Another new addition to the Netflix line up is the excellent Israeli film Sand Storm.  It was the winner at Sundance for World Cinema last January.  It’s set in the Bedouin community in Israel. Sand Storm is a family drama where the father in the family marries a second wife, and his headstrong daughter has a secret affair with a boy from another tribe she’s met at college.  Such a great film!  The Q and A was fascinating with the Israeli director Elite Dexer.  She said that most audiences see the film as an intense drama, but when she showed it to the Bedouin community where she was allowed to film it, they laughed and viewed it as a comedy, especially the put upon husband dealing with two strong willed wives.

 

Check out AccessBollywood for an up to date list of Indian content on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Advertisements

What I saw and liked at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival

I have attended Sundance since 2008, but this year we were able to attend the entire festival, so we saw quite a few films.  I saw 22 feature length films, and several shorts.

This year was special because our friend Tahir Jetter‘s How To Tell You’re A Douchebag, his first feature, premiered at the fest.   It’s a romantic comedy set in Brooklyn.

I’m biased, but for a very limited budget, I thought it was great.  Here’s a balanced review from The Guardian.

It’s difficult for me to name just one film as my favorite from this year, because there were several standouts for me.   For my full list with reviews, here is my Letterboxd list for Sundance 2016

CFday25-580.jpg
CFday25-580.jpg
  1. Captain Fantastic — “Deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father (Viggo Mortensen) devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and re-enter society, beginning a journey that challenges his idea of what it means to be a parent.”  Viggo is AMAZING in this film as an extreme home schooling dad, in probably my favorite film.  I can’t think of anyone else more perfect for this role.  The young actor who plays the oldest son is also incredible.  A ★★★★½ review of Captain Fantastic (2016)

manchester-affleck

2. Manchester By The Sea – Kenneth Lonnergan’s film stars Casey Affleck and Michelle Wiliams.  Affleck has to return to his home town Manchester By The Sea when a family member suddenly dies.  You gradually learn why he is so reluctant to be the guardian for his 16 year old nephew.  Searing film that we will be seeing come Oscar time, to be sure.  Five stars!!  Lucas Hedges is great as the young nephew, but Casey Affleck’s melancholy superb acting had me sobbing — not just tears down my face but holding my hand over my mouth to keep quiet in the theater sobbing.  This is a masterful movie about real people and their grief.  A ★★★★★ review of Manchester by the Sea (2016)

3. The Birth Of A Nation – Nate Parker’s slave drama about Nat Turner’s revolt in 1831 deservedly was the most talked about film at the festival.  It won the audience and grand jury prize.  I expect it to win Best Picture at the Oscars.  Just an incredible film.   Nate Parker choked up with tears at our screening talking about how hard it was to get his film made, and it received standing ovation after standing ovation at the fest.  A ★★★★★ review of The Birth of a Nation (2016)

4. Ali and Nino – I LOVED this sweeping romantic epic set in WWI era Azerbaijan.  Ali is a Muslim prince who falls for the aristocratic Christian Nino.  Mandy Patinkin plays Nino’s father.  The director, Asif Kapadia, just won the Oscar for his documentary film Amy, and I loved previous Sundance doc Senna.  So glad to see a new narrative feature from him.  A ★★★★★ review of Ali & Nino (2016)

5. Hunt for The Wilderpeople   A hilarious comic romp by director Taika Waititi.  (I have great hopes for the next Thor movie after seeing this movie, and laughing through Taika MCing the Sundance award night.)  Sam Neill is more curmudgeonly than ever, and has a fantastic reluctant relationship with his foster son played by newcomer Julian Dennison.  The film is out in New Zealand already, so you can see for yourself in the trailer below:

6. Other People – A gay writer son comes home to help take care of his mother when she is diagnosed with cancer.  Molly Shannon is the mother, and you’ve never seen her like this.  She’s fantastic.

7. Green Room – Patrick Stewart as the villainous owner of a Neo-Nazi punk rock club.  I don’t need to say anything more.  Anton Yelchin and his punk band have to escape a green room at the club after they witness a murder.  There’s a trailer already for this incredibly intense thriller.

Now we get down in the list to films that were good, but not my favorites.

8. Belgica – Two brothers run a hip nightclub in Belgium.  Predictable what happens, but the music was particularly good on the soundtrack.  Many parallels to the refugee crisis.

9. Morris From America – Craig Robinson and his son, played by Markees Christmas are the only black people in their entire German town.  Markees young 13 year old character loves rap and is incredibly sweet.

10.  Southside With You – This is the story of Barack Obama and Michelle’s first date when she was his mentor at his summer job at the law firm, Sidley Austin in Chicago (my husband’s firm.)  I really liked this film, even if you couldn’t even tell it was filmed in Chicago.

11. Sand Storm – set in a Bedouin village in Israel.  Everything changes when the father in this family drama decides to marry a second wife.  Really compelling story, with a debut Israeli director.  This clip shows the moment the first wife must welcome the second bride:

12.  Halal Love – Four tragicomic interconnected stories about how devoted Muslim men and women are trying to manage their love life and desires without breaking any religious rules.  This film set in Lebanon was really entertaining and super interesting.  I did not know before this film about “temporary” halal marriages.

13. Brahman Naman  A raunchy sex comedy set in the ’80s in Bangalore.  The film is in English and is sort of an Indian American Pie.  Naman and his friends are all on their college quiz team, which evidently was a huge thing.  Was not expecting an Indian movie where the opening scene has Naman masturbating in the door of a fridge!

14. Mapplethorpe:  Look At the Pictures  This fascinating documentary just started airing on HBO this week.  I really didn’t know that much about him, other than remembering Jesse Helms ranting about him in the ’80s.

15. Holy Hell was an amazing documentary filmed inside a cult.  The director was the official videographer of the cult for years, and had incredible footage.  The Q&A with several former members of the cult who were in the documentary was particularly powerful.

16. Life Animated – moving documentary about a family with an autistic son, who they finally are able to reach through his love of Disney animated movies.

And now the disappointing films on the list.

17.  Love and Friendship – Based on an unfinished novel by Jane Austen.  Had some really hilarious zinger lines, and it was very fun to see Chloe Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale in this movie.  But it dragged and could have used tighter editing.  Hopefully they tightened it up for theatrical release.

18. Certain WomenThree stories of women in the modern AmericanWest.  Performances were great, especially the acting of the Native American lonely rancher (Lily Gladstone).  But oh, my, god was this movie like watching grass grow.  So slow.

19. Yoga Hosers – Midnight movie starring Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp’s daughters as clerks of a Canadian convenience store.  It was worth seeing just to see  Kevin Smith choke up talking about coming back to Sundance with this movie.  It was amusing and silly, but Brat Nazis?  Really?

20. Jaqueline (Argentine) – decidedly quirky doc film within a film.  I fell asleep during it to be honest.

21. Swiss Army Man – I have NEVER seen so many people walk out of a movie at Sundance!  People in the 4th row walked out 1/2 an hour in!  This was my 23 year old son’s favorite movie, and my husband hated it.  But it’s like a train wreck that you can’t help but watch.  Daniel Radcliffe is a farting corpse that Paul Dano rides like a jet ski to escape a deserted island.  And that’s just the first 10 minutes.  The trailer just came out, so you can see for yourself with this truly bizarre film.  I shouted “WHAT?!!!” when “The Daniels” won the jury prize for directing at Sundance.

But Swiss Army Man is a screening I will NEVER forget.  It was worth it just to say I was there!

22. Christine – Rebecca Hall plays Christine Chubbock, a Tampa TV reporter who committed suicide on air.  The acting was very good, but again, the tempo of the film was slow for me.

Overall, a very strong year at Sundance.  Again, here’s my full list with reviews, here is my Letterboxd list for Sundance 2016, including the shorts.