I’ve long maintained that Indians suffer from the most virulent form of movie madness, but after attending the Netflix Tudum global fan event in Sao Paulo, I think Brazilians might outdo us.
Tudum (a reference to the two-note tone that plays each time the logo appears on the Netflix app) is an event held to celebrate the streaming platform’s titles and content creators.
Over 10,000 fans gathered as some of the biggest names in global entertainment — including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gal Gadot, Chris Hemsworth and Alia Bhatt — took the stage to talk about their work. The cast of The Archies, Zoya Akhtar’s latest, was there too, and danced to a song from the film.
The event lasted over two hours and the energy was electric. I saw young women weeping and screaming. And I marvelled at the fandom that Netflix’s storytelling had developed, in just over a decade since its first original show, House of Cards (2013), was launched.
Netflix also screened trailers for major upcoming releases, including the spy film Heart of Stone (starring Bhatt and Gadot) and The Archies.
The latter has triggered a slew of comments online, about nepotism (the film marks the debut of star children Suhana Khan, Khushi Kapoor and Agastya Nanda), relatability (it’s a reimagining of the iconic American comic-books’ world) and Anglicisation (the coming-of-age story is set in 1964, in a fictional hill station called Riverdale, with a predominantly Anglo-Indian community. The teens spend their time dancing, skating and cycling.)
The word elitist has been tossed about.
This is a criticism Zoya has been grappling with since her second film, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), which was about three young men finding themselves through a road trip across Spain. The allegations grew louder with the release of her third film, Dil Dhadakne Do (2015), in which members of an affluent, dysfunctional Delhi family find themselves and each other during a European cruise.
But the truth is that Zoya started her career with a searing portrait of show-business, Luck by Chance (2009); easily one of the best films about the Hindi film industry. Her last feature film was the excellent Gully Boy (2019), about a rapper from the slums who battles his way to success. Her credits as writer and director include Made in Heaven, an Amazon Prime series about the wedding business, which serves as a sharp critique of class, and features a moving and insightful portrayal of what it’s like to be a gay man in urban India. And the last show she and her writing and business partner Reema Kagti created was Dahaad (released on Amazon Prime last month).
This is the story of a young policewoman chasing a serial killer. The material isn’t startlingly original, but Zoya, Reema and co-director Ruchika Oberoi use the familiar tropes to create a suspenseful and terrifying portrait of how patriarchy and bigotry render women so dispensable that a man can kill dozens without anyone noticing.
Dahaad is set in dusty, small-town Rajasthan. There is no glamour here. What drives the plot is the incredible strength of sub-inspector Anjali Bhaati (played by an impressive Sonakshi Sinha), a warrior who won’t give up.
The beauty of Zoya and Reema’s work lies in its incredible range. There aren’t many storytellers who can create both a desi version of The Archies and Dahaad. This is a superpower that deserves applause.