With theatrical operations suspended, many producers have opted for direct-to-web film releases. We analyse which of these are likely to be cheered by the stay-at-home families
By Ariba Neyaz & Anannya Srusti
Edited by Ruchika Shah
The Coronavirus pandemic has led to the temporary layoff of theatrical operations and film/tv productions, leaving the aam junta to bank on the Over-The-Top platforms as their prime source of entertainment.
There is buzz that theatres will resume functioning soon but many films are already in the pipeline for an OTT release, with Hindi films leading the way again.
Video streaming players like Netflix, Disney Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, Zee5 all have announced some big Hindi films premieres on to their platform in the coming period. Now, the pertinent question is how many of these films encourage family viewing? When it comes to theatrical viewing, it is often the family dramas/films led by big stars that attract such an audience. So, let’s explore the potential ‘family wooing’ ability of the upcoming Hindi film releases on OTT.
FILMS ON NETFLIX
1 Raat Akeli Hai
Director: Honey Trehan
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Shweta Tripathi
Release date: 31 July
Plot: An interesting crime drama which follows a small-town cop who investigates the death of a powerful landlord, with his family members strongly suspected of foul play.
Family Film: No – The plot of the film revolves around the mysterious death of a landlord leading to a complicated inspection of the plausible culprits. It is the directorial debut of casting director Honey Trehan that reunites the amazing duo from Sacred Games – Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte. Siddiqui has been making headlines with his acting prowess and Apte’s fine craft shines through her films. The trailer of the film ‘Raat Akeli Hai’ gives the sense of a dark and gloomy plot arc that clearly moves it away from the category of family film.
2 Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare
Director: Alankrita Shrivastava
Cast: Bhumi Pednekar, Konkona Sen Sharma, Vikrant Massey
Plot: A satirical comedy that follows two Indian women who unravel the complexities of life in New Delhi
Family Film: No – Alankrita Shrivastava’s filmography represent some strong women characters with scripts woven around them. Her films Turning 30  and Lipstick Under My Burkha  explore the moral obscurity that women experience. Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare is a tale of two cousins that portrays their journey of finding freedom. The film is produced by Ekta Kapoor and Shobha Kapoor under the banner of Balaji Telefilms that doesn’t hold a great record of producing family entertainers [films]. Generally, Bollywood films with strong feminist storyline don’t cater to families in the Indian scenario. The trailer of the film is not out yet, although its poster speaks out for itself.
3 Ginny Weds Sunny
Director: Puneet Khanna
Cast: Yami Gautam, Vikrant Massey, Mansi Sharma
Plot: A romantic comedy based on new-age-love that spins around Ginny and Sunny’s arranged marriage.
Family Film: Yes – Ginny Weds Sunny is the directorial debut of Puneet Khanna. Rom-com is a genre that is famously popular with cinegoers. Cinema in the Indian context is a source of escapism and mushy stories are one of the key factors that people associate with it. The plot of this film makes it a light watch and thus, can be watched with the entire family.
4 Bombay Rose
Director: Gitanjali Rao
Cast: Anurag Kashyap, Makarand Deshpande, Virendra Saxena, Shishir Sharma
Plot: A hand-painted piece of animation that displays three interwoven tales of impossible love, amidst the struggle of survival in a big city.
Family Film: No – Animated films without any popular voice cast struggles to get eyeballs. Although Bombay Rose has already sparked conversations due to its international fame, it doesn’t seem to have mass appeal. Therefore, this film can be considered as an individual watch.
5 Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl
Director: Sharan Sharma
Cast: Janhvi Kapoor, Pankaj Tripathi
Release date: 12th August
Plot: A biographical film that unravels the story of India’s first woman combat aviator who makes history by rescuing injured soldiers in the Kargil war.
Family Film: Yes – Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil War is a sensitive issue to be adapted in a movie as it has sentimental values attached to Indian hearts. A small promotional teaser released earlier by Netflix seems to have an emotional appeal as it narrates the journey of the real ‘Kargil woman’ Gunjan Saxena. The slideshow of her memorable family pictures is complemented with the voice of Janhvi Kapoor who invites the viewers to come and watch the film with their families. Also, the film is backed by Dharma productions whose forte has been spinning family worthy entertainment.
6 Tribhanga – Tedhi Medhi Crazy
Director: Renuka Shahane
Cast: Kajol, Mithila Palkar, Tanvi Azmi, Kunaal Roy Kapoor
Plot: A complex family drama that goes back and forth through three generations.
Family Film: Yes – It is a multi-generation film based on the story of three women from the same family with a universal appeal. Set in Mumbai, the film unfolds a complex tale of different lives from the same household, from the 1980s to modern times. Kajol is one actor whose fan base cuts through all tiers of age-groups. Produced by Ajay Devgn Films, this film has various factors that qualifies it to this list.
7 Kaali Khuhi
Director: Terrie Samundra
Cast: Shabana Azmi, Satyadeep Mishra, Sanjeeda Sheikh, Riva Arora
Plot: A horror thriller that traces the life of a 10-year-old girl who must save her village from the mysterious deaths.
Family Film: Can’t Say – Horror is a genre that stands on the blurry line when it comes to being a family entertainer. Kaali Khuhi is about a village with a history of female infanticides and mysterious deaths of its residents. Considering the line-up of its cast and a hazy horror plot, the film doesn’t seem to have a prominent mass appeal. The director, Terrie Samundra is known for internationally acclaimed films and is rather new to be termed a mainstream Hindi filmmaker. Perhaps it is difficult to give a definite verdict on whether this film is aligned to be a medium of community viewing or not.
8 Serious Men
Director: Sudhir Mishra
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Indira Tiwari, Akshath Das, Sanjay Narvekar.
Plot: A social-issue drama laced with dark comedy is about a father who capitalizes on his son’s new found fame.
Family Film: No – Serious Men is an adaptation of Manu Joseph’s book by the same title. The story revolves around a slum dweller who makes the country believe that his 10-year-old dim-witted son is a genius. While the plot is intriguing, but sadly, Mishra’s films are often clubbed in a niche category and generally struggle to appeal family audience at large. Unless, this film gets a strong word of the mouth, it’s hard to find to families getting together to watch this Mishra film.
9 Class of ‘83
Director: Atul Sabharwal
Cast: Bobby Deol, Bhupendra Jadawat, Hitesh Bhojraj
Plot: Based on the book ‘The Class of ‘83’ by Hussain Zaidi, the film unwinds the story of a policeman who gets posted as the dean of the police academy and decides to punish the corrupt bureaucracy.
Family Film: NO – Action thrillers are basically targeted at the younger lot and are more favoured by them too. Director Atul Sabharwal, who is known for Aurangzeb  has no career record of directing family dramas. Also, Bobby Deol is making his digital debut through ‘Class of 83’. The cast doesn’t inspire us nor does the story make one take notice. Overall, this film doesn’t fit in the criteria of family films.
Director: Anurag Basu
Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Abhishek Bachchan, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Sanya Malhotra, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Pankaj Tripathi
Plot: The story revolves around unavoidable jeopardies of life and has four different stories set in a quintessential Indian metro.
Family Film: No – Families generally don’t relate with dark comedy. This film’s cast also does not have strong family appeal. It might appeal the youth, but the entire household is unlikely to play this Ludo game.
Director: Girish Malik
Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Nargis Fakhri, Rahul Dev
Plot: The human-interest story surrounds the transformation of child suicide bombers in Afghanistan
Family Film: Can’t say! Well, think of terrorism and suicide bombers in Afghanistan, many are likely to turn a blind eye to such a film. However, Torbaaz is all about transformation. The lead character essayed by Sanjay Dutt gets a bunch of Afghani child suicide bombers under his wing and transforms their life by introducing them to cricket. The story is really inspiring but does Dutt still hold confidence with a family audience?
12 AK vs AK
Director: Vikramaditya Motwane
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Anurag Kashyap.
Plot: A Hindi drama film that follows the kidnapping of a star-kid by a brash film director.
Family Film: No – Considering the track record of the films directed by Vikramaditya Motwane, it seems unimaginable to put it under the tag of a family film. The cast of Ak vs Ak also lacks the prowess of creating the much-needed buzz. Hence, the film is unlikely to be called a family watch.
Films on Disney Hotstar
1 Laxmmi Bomb
Director: Raghava Lawrence
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Kiara Advani, Tusshar Kapoor, Sharad Kelkar
Plot: It is a remake of the Tamil blockbuster Muni 2: Kanchana (2011)
Family Film: Yes. Akshay Kumar is one of the biggest super stars of our country and his box-office success underlines his pull when it comes to family audiences. This Khiladi returns to horror comedy after the hit Bhool Bhulaiyaa . The rushes show Kumar dressed as transgender, that has naturally garnered great curiosity around the film. Laxmmi Bomb is arguably the most awaited Hindi film on any OTT platform.
2 Bhuj: The Pride of India
Director: Abhishek Dudhaiya
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Sanjay Dutt, Sonakshi Sinha, Sharad Kelkar
Plot: Set during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, it is about the life of IAF Squadron Leader Vijay Karnik, the then in-charge of the Bhuj airport who, along with his team reconstructed the IAF airbase with the help of 300 local women.
Family Film: Yes – With starwarlts like Ajay Devgn and Sanjay Dutt in a war film well, it will initially put off the family audiences, but Sudhaiya’s Bhuj is more than this genre. It celebrates the valour of 300 local Bhuj women whose contribution went a long way in ensuring the victory for India. Hindi films based in Gujarat are far and few, and this one has potential to cheer the entire family.
3 Sadak 2
Director: Mahesh Bhatt
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Aditya Roy Kapur, Sanjay Dutt, Pooja Bhatt
Plot: The film is about Ravi (Sanjay Dutt) helping Alia Bhatt’s character to nail down a controversial godman.
Family Film: Can’t say – Not quite a sequel, but reportedly, Sanjay Dutt and Pooja Bhatt will reprise their roles from the first film that came way back in 1991. Pooja’s father Mahesh Bhatt, too, returns as the director after 21 years. It’s a unique and sought-after project where Bhatt directs both his daughters [from different mothers] in a single film. If this clicks, then it is most likely to be credited to Alia Bhatt’s star power. Trying to revive a 90s revenge formula in 2020, well, that’s going to one tough task. But we’re still in a bind to judge whether the family audience will hit the road for Sadak 2.
4 The Big Bull
Director: Kookie Gulati
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Nikita Dutta, Ajay Devgn, Ileana D’Cruz
Plot: It is a [financial] crime film loosely based on the life of a controversial stockbroker, Harshad Mehta.
Family Film: No – Abhishek Bachchan had pulled a rabbit out of the hat by playing Dhirubhai Ambani-like character in Guru . However, his character in The Big Bull is likely to be flawed. Junior Bachchan has largely struggled to lift a film on his own shoulders. If well made, it might still earn critical praise, but the bulls and bears story might not fit into the family equation.
5 Khuda Haafiz
Director: Faruk Kabir
Cast: Vidyut Jammwal, Shivaleeka Oberoi, Annu Kapoor
Release date: 14th August
Plot: Romantic action thriller inspired from real incidents. It is about a husband’s search for his missing wife in a foreign country.
Family Film: Can’t say. Although the trailer is gripping, Vidyut Jammwal hasn’t yet carved his name in the household arena. Despite addressing a social menace, Jammwal is the quintessential action hero. Khuda Haafiz looks like another action thriller from Jammwal. The film will have to deliver more than just stunts for it to be labelled a family film.
Director: Rajesh Krishnan
Cast: Kunal Kemmu, Gajraj Rao, Vijay Raaz, Ranvir Shorey
Release date: 31 July
Plot: The film revolves around a red suitcase full of cash which lands in the hands of Nandan Kumar (Kunal Kemmu) only to be chased by a notorious gangster, an honest cop and a minister.
Family Film: Yes. The film was announced last year and it’s hilarious trailer was received warmly. Yet, strangely, Fox Star Studios pulled the plug from its scheduled theatrical release date last year. Back then it was buzzed that Fox deemed it fit to release on Disney Hotstar. Strangely though why has it taken more than year for Lootcase to arrive? Nevertheless, better late than never. In a lockdown phase, what does this world need? A good dose of humour: Lootcase has all the makings of one.
FILMS ON ZEE5:
Director: Prakash Jha
Cast: Adil Hussain, Priyanka Bose, Sanjay Suri
Release date: 6 August
Plot: The plot revolves around a rickshaw driver in Bihar who aspires to give the best of education to his son and his efforts of getting admission in a private English medium school.
Family Film: NO – Although it has an endearing story, but it is always a tough pareeksha [examination] for talented artistes like Adil Hussain to draw in family audiences to their films. At best, such films might warm the critics, but that seldom appeals the masses.
2 Mee Raqsam
Director: Baba Azmi
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Aditi Subedi
Release date: 21 August
Plot: The film is primarily based on a father-daughter relationship, inspired by the relationship actor Shabana Azmi shared with her father and celebrated poet Kaifi Azmi.
Family Film: No – Naseeruddin Shah has since ages been the face of parallel cinema. But now the lines between such films and mainstream genre has blurred. This film could appease Kaifi Azmi fans but the probability of Mee Raqsam charming families appears grim.
Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia
Cast: Vidyut Jammwal, Shruti Hassan, Amit Sadh
Release date: 30 July
Plot: The film is about the rise and fall of four friends’ rustling operations across the Nepal-India border.
Family Film: No – The film is most likely a skip for the families since the plot might not appeal to all members. Yaara has been waiting in the wings for long. Audience or not, Dhulia might just be relieved that his film is finally getting a release.
FILMS ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO
1 Shakuntala Devi
Director: Anu Menon
Cast: Vidya Balan, Sanya Malhotra,Jisshu Sengupta
Release date: 31 July
Plot: Biopic on the life of late human calculator, mathematician, author Shakuntala Devi
Family film: Oh yes – Balan’s made a successful career essaying slice-of-life intense characters. Her appeal can be gauged from the fact that she was once hailed as the Khan among female artistes. After a few quiet years, (by her standards), Balan had roared to form with Tumhari Sulu  and Mission Mangal . Though her characters in both films were widely apart, they largely brought out the responsible family woman in Balan. Coming to this film, she plays a highly intellectual woman, Shakuntala Devi, however director Anu Menon harps more on the troubled mother-daughter relationship. It’s pointless to even say how this is an ideal family film. It’s riveting trailer has all the more built great anticipation around the biopic.
CONCLUSION: Out of the 22 films contending for the category of ‘upcoming OTT releases worthy as family entertainers’, only 7 projects as per our review were strong contenders. However, we are not closing any doors on films that didn’t fit our bill. The promising factor is that there is a variety of films on offer from the marquee OTT platforms…genre, star power is all immaterial. We do hope that the subscribers and their families binge watch each of these films.