India is currently at stage two of the novel coronavirus pandemic. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Janata Curfew’ nudge, malls and theatres closing and most companies allowing work-from-home, online streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video have become entertainment of choice for Indians choosing social distancing.
ThePrint asks: Is there enough on Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon to see us through coronavirus isolation?
Not everything online is good enough to watch. But some exceptions are — Homeland, Taj Mahal, Little Fires Everywhere
Senior journalist & former editor, India Today
Unknowingly, the world has already been marching towards a time of self-quarantine and social distancing. Facebook replaced real friends, Instagram stories became our version of get-togethers, Twitter became our lecture podium and streaming services became our virtual theatres in the dark.
Now as people are forced to discover the art of working from home and eating-in, temptation beckons.
The bad news is that not everything that is available on streaming platforms is good enough to watch.
But there are some exceptions: Claire Danes is returning to the final season of Homeland and where the war on terror first began, Afghanistan, with a new US president who wants peace, a renewed Taliban that is tired of war, and the same old Pakistan that cannot give up its meal ticket.
Also on Hotstar, Reese Witherspoon returns with yet another book adaptation, this time by Celeste Ng, and set in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Little Fires Everywhere may well remind you of HBO’s Big Little Lies and ITV’s Deep Water but in a good way.
On Netflix, there are some new Hindi originals which feature strong women characters that are meant to push our buttons. The ensemble piece Taj Mahal 1989, Ruchi Narain’s #MeToo film, Guilty, and She, written by Imtiaz Ali and directed by his brother Arif, starring the audacious Aaditi Pohankar have both sizzle and sensibility.
On Amazon Prime Video, dig deep into the regional movies, and discover new favourite stars and storytellers. From Dulquer Salman’s movies (Mahanati and Charlie are brilliant) to Vijay Devarakonda’s work (of course Arjun Reddy but also Dear Comrade), Amazon allows one to hear accents and see ethnicities not possible in mainstream Bollywood. So put on your headphones and stream away.
Tune into a streaming service with a difference — MUBI India, which puts out one curated film a day
Contributing Editor, ThePrint
Binge watching shows on digital streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video has been ruining marriages and careers. The people who complain they don’t have time to binge watch shows now have the boon of coronavirus. Save the world from an epidemic, break the chain of infection and watch shows. What’s not to like about this?
Personally, I will be checking out a streaming service with a difference, MUBI India, which puts out one curated film a day. But there’s also a long list of ‘watch later’ films and shows on existing services. I have a feeling I’ll have enough time to watch everything, considering a coronavirus vaccine is over a year away.
I’m currently savouring a British crime show called Inside No. 9 that’s not on Netflix in India but is there on Dailymotion. All the new Disney content on Hotstar also needs our attention.
Everyone seems to be watching the same popular shows under peer pressure because how else will they get the cultural references. As someone who is yet to see Game of Thrones or Sacred Games, may I suggest some of the detective shows I’ve enjoyed in recent months. They’re mostly fun, the whodunit is often incidental. These include Lucifer, Republic of Doyle, Shetland, Broadchurch, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Monk, Psych and Castle.
You are welcome, and don’t forget to wash your hands and clean your electronic devices with an alcohol swab.
Craving food in quarantine? Tune into Chef’s Table and Street Food on Netflix
Senior Copy Editor, ThePrint
Since Netflix came to India, and then Amazon Prime Video and Hotstar, India has seen a content boom.
By the end of 2020, Netflix will have 10.2 million subscribers, one of its biggest markets. It had 4,706 titles in India — that’s hours and hours of content. In just 18 months, Amazon Prime Video had doubled its Indian subscribers with 50 per cent of them reportedly in smaller towns and cities. Hotstar is a different ball game altogether, with 300 million active monthly users.
Now we also have Zee5, MUBI India and Disney Plus.
So, rest assured, no matter the progress on the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, we’ll have enough content to carry us through. And if you are isolating at home with restaurant and order-in cravings — all these platforms offer great food content.
Opt for Street Food on Netflix for great documentaries from South Asia’s streets that are shot like poetry. The India episode offers some Delhi chaat. If you want to know the people behind the food, tune into Chef’s Table — my favourite episode is on chef Mashama Bailey. You may ugly cry. Or watch Masterchef Australia on Hotstar for the comfort food watch while eating roti-bhindi. On Amazon Prime Video, watch the documentary Food Evolution (2016) for a controversial take on where our food comes from, is genetically modified organism (GMO) good and the science behind it all.
Final Space to Barry: Online platforms have all the dark comedy to get you through these dark times
We are only three months into 2020 and it has already been awful. In these truly dark times, if there’s anything that has brought me joy, it’s dark comedy shows. Somehow finding humour in unfortunate situations has been greatly comforting. Here are some shows I think would help everyone get through these dark times LOLing.
If you are too bored in quarantine, try Final Space on Netflix. This space-action thriller takes you so far away from this planet, you wouldn’t realise you’re stuck in the house.
You also have to try the eloquently-written, Golden Globe-winning show Barry on Hotstar. He’s an assassin hoping to become an actor, I don’t think the plot needs a pitch. And of course, there is Veep on Hotstar, the story of shrewd Vice-President Selina Meyers who would set the world on fire and then dance on its ashes, just to become the president.
If you’re willing to put the mainstream sitcoms on hold and explore the amazing world of dark comedy this quarantine, you have to try Fleabag, Rick and Morty, South Park and A Series Of Unfortunate Events RIGHT NOW. And if you want to feel like this isn’t the end of the world, get your hands on Black Mirror, it’ll perfectly illustrate just how good we have it right now.
It is a good time to look beyond streaming platforms, and ring up that old friend or obsessively check on your mom
No amount of shows on Netflix, Hotstar, Prime Video is enough to see us through the mass isolation period inflicted on us because of COVID-19.
How we talk about binge-watching television or online shows reveals what we think about it. “Oh, I didn’t do anything this weekend, I spent all of it binging this show.” Binging TV is seen as a vice. But more importantly, it’s a self-gratifying exercise just because there is a time constraint at play. In the usual, non-pandemic times, people hardly get time to binge one show after the other. So, if we can manage to find a day just to watch TV and do nothing else, it feels awfully rewarding.
But today, we are experiencing mass lockdowns and self-isolation due to coronavirus. The time constraints have been thrown out of the window.
This might be a great time to experience mind-bending South Korean horror classics or indulge in neo-realist Italian cinema, which ironically shows the full circle pandemic-struck Italy has come.
We are experiencing something none of us ever have, and are probably unlikely to again in our lifetimes. And it would take more than just binging TV to ensure we come out relatively unscathed after this. It might be time to look beyond streaming platforms, and ring up that old friend you haven’t heard from and obsessively check on your mom to ensure she’s washing her hands.
By Unnati Sharma, journalist at ThePrint