Bandish Bandits(Amazon Prime): Somewhere in the third or fourth episode of this well-intended thoughtful; series on the age-old tussle between classical and popular styles of singing,a ‘bipolar’ joke shows up when the film’s hero Radhe(Ritwick Bhowmick) a repressed victim of borderline abuse ftom his guru Radhe Mohan Rahod(Naseruddin Shah) is being forced into marrying a girl he doesn’t love.She wonders if he is gay. “No,I’m bi-polar”, answers Radhe, as if the two were afflictions in the same line of vision to fob off unwanted attention.

The awkwardly titled Bandish Bandits means well. It wants to bring out the dynamics of the conflict between Hindustani classical music and contemporary auto-tune kind of singing…In other words the raging war between the raw –refined and the studio-defined.

With due respects, Guruji needs to be spanked. As played by the indomitable Naseeruddin Shah he is a stubborn cruel unforgiving unrelenting cranky old man who treats his sons(Rajesh Tailang, Amit Mistry) like shit and his grandson Radhe like super-shit. Honestly the treatment that Radhe gets from his guru-grandfather qualifies as serious abuse. Here in the world of classical discipline, we are supposed to believe it is an exercise in self-discipline and in line with the pursuit of classical excellence.

The series peddles age-old prejudices and ‘cultural’ values as yardsticks of ‘traditional’ behaviour. Radhe is supposed to blindly do his grandfather’s bidding because well, you can’t say no to Naseeruddin Shah even if he behaves like an empowered infantile , a n infinitely more convention-clad version of Vikram Gokhale in Sanjay Bhansali’s Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam.

Newcomer Shreya Chaudhary as Radhe’s auto-corrected singer -beloved smokes and fumes to show the dilemma of a newcomer in a hurry to get somewhere in life. In the end she swears, ‘No short cuts and no auto-correction,’ as she heads to a music school. The series too required some serious revision in its vision of a changing world were rigid adherence to tradition only engenders catastrophe. While stalwarts like Naseeruddin Shah and Atul Kulkarni are brilliant in underwritten parts there is way too much of the young romantic lead who try hard to bring forth the intricacies of the drama that are sadly lost in translation. The lead pair and the intricacies.For me the saving grace were the performances by Sheeba Chadha and Kunal Roy Kapur. The one can say so much without a word. The other just can’t stop talking. Between the two extremities lies the world of creative conflicts that this series attempts to explore.

Breathe 2(Amazon Prime): In Mani Ratnam’s Raavan Abhishek Bachchan played Raavan. In Breathe 2, Raavan plays Abhishek. There are mindgames based on the expression of each one of Raavan’s ten heads, manoeuvring Abhishek’s character through a series of clumsy capital crimes . So mindless are these mindgames that one is grateful Raavan had only 10 heads.If there were more, this series may have extended itself into some more episodes. And Breathe would have killed us all with the sheer lack of breathing space in the plot.Abhishek Bachchan infuses an incommensurate degree of honesty into his messed-up role. Breathe 2 opens with a teenage girl at a jagran in Delhi being kidnapped by a masked marauder. We are quickly introduced to our psychiatrist-hero Avinash Savarwal(Bachchan) and his chef-wife Abha. Together the Shrink and the Cook couple should have given us food for thought(chef, shrink…food for thought,get it?). But the writers have no patience to let relationships and feelings grow in the plot.These are people in a hurry, though it’s never clear where they are heading.In Episode 1 itself the Savarval’s cute little daughter Siya(Ivana Kaur) is kidnapped. Though Abhishek’s Avinash has one big meltdown sequence in the first episode , I didn’t feel the couple to be majorly traumatized. Quite often you get the feeling that the couple believes itself itself to be in a find-your-missing-child video game where the players(sure that their kidnapped child would be returned to them) go from task to task like obedient team players.

Saiyami Kher as a practical unrepentant hooker makes intermittent appearances reminding us that s*x is a reality just out of the reach of the artificial characters of this series. These people belong to a soap opera that has long winded up its shooting. The happy hooker finally gets Abhishek into her bedroom and asks if he would like to eat something.I waited for a naughty answer.

“Agar aap banaake khilayengi,” mumbles our saintly hero coyly reminding us rudely that by this point, the script has all but forgotten Avinash’s chef wife. Food for thought, forgotten.

Masaba Masaba(Netflix): This oddball series marks the acting debut of dress designer Masaba Gupta, seems to be a new voice in an old jukebox. I hate to say ‘old wine in a new bottle’ because the main character that’s Masaba as Masaba is shown emptying out a booze bottle all alone in her room pretending to party at the start of the trailer.This little self-generated tamasha sets the mood for Masaba Masaba…Why the title twice? We may well ask .Is it because the series offers twice the entertainment quotient of other series? Masaba x 2 does have a slightly sweaty glam-glitz look and feel to it. The last time I saw this look and feel on the streaming platform was in the very watchable Four More Shots Please.There is no need to be apologetic about being part of the jetsetting crowd. At this time when they have nowhere to jet to Masaba Masaba seems a wee wistful a bit nostalgic, celebrating the times when women and men battled it out in chic hotel lobbies in outfits to match.The drinks flowed and so did the repartees. Now we have disheveled women and men speaking in disembodies voices on Zoom.Besides Masaba who plays herself, Neena Gupta plays her mother. They are seen to be squabbling a lot and I wonder how much of their real relationship is put on film?Is this a faithful bio-pic or a flight of fancy version of reality with the emphasis on ‘fancy’? The latter, I suspect.Besides Masaba & Mom I also saw some other talented actors hovering around for attention.Among them the talented and always neglected Neil Bhoopalam and Satyadeep Mishra. They play strong men pretending to be props.The men are clearly dispensable here.Masaba Masaba is a chic flick, not to be mistaken with a chick flick. It is about dressing up your dreams in the outfit of opulent conceit. Let’s see how far this conceit , so palpable in the trailer, takes the series when it streams later this month.