2: watch: What movie did you see this year that you would recommend to a friend?

I had to struggle to pick a movie that I really liked partly because I watch so few. But during my flu doldrums last month, I watched three whole movies in quick succession and the mood of one of them stayed with me – Once Upon A Time in Mumbai.

It’s a gangster film which is not supposed to be based on the life of Haji Mastan, who I had not really heard of until I read that film is not supposed to be based on his life, and then read about him. Some people have not liked the semi-kitschy vibe of the film but it really worked for me in conveying the glamour of the time and of that world, with its Robin Hoodesque episodes, codes of honour, and power struggles. I thought Ajay Devgan was stupendous in his role, I’ve never really found him attractive before, but he hit the right spot for me with little gestures. I’ve also never got the attraction of Kangana Raunat but she was really stunning in this film. Emraan Hashmi apparently can play the role he did backwards, he’s done it so many times, but I thought he was fittingly creepy. One kind of hoped for his character’s redemption but unfortunately, it wasn’t so, and the rest is Bombay/Mumbai’s history.

Okay and somehow I have this weird sense of déjà vu while writing this, as if I’ve posted all been written before.

If so, I have another recommendation which is not a movie. The TV series Modern Family. It’s my happy thing to watch and I cannot get enough of it. One of the seasons in between I was disappointed; it seemed like their screenwriters had lost their sense of humour but season four is back to making me want more.

I like how it presents different family structures in a nuanced way, without typecasting. The most revelatory for me is the gay family. I have gay friends but have no close interactions with gay parents or experience of how a gay couple interacts with their immediate families. The series has normalized that kind of unit for me. Although theoretically I support it, I had a hard time imagining the texture of the relationships, how they play out in everyday life. I’m not entirely sure Cameron and Mitchel are representative nor do I think they are intended to be, but they are a sample.

Similarly with the much older husband-young hot wife dynamic. Apart from the character of Gloria being great fun, I like how their partnership breaks the stereotype and addresses it sometimes too but not always. There are other more familiar tropes like the weird dad and the squabbling sisters but they all have texture and unexpected quirks that go beyond a stereotype. One criticism of the show has been that both the adult female characters are stay-at-home moms; I didn’t even notice that not so much because stay-at-home moms are ubiquitous but because women who work in and outside the home are so much the norm that I don’t feel it necessary to have either type necessarily represented.

My favourite character is Manny. And then Haley. Oh dear, it was really hard not including Cam and Gloria in there. My least favourite characters are Lily and Luke, though they’re both improving, especially Luke, who now has a personality.

 If you watch the show, who’s your favourite character?